Creating Inclusive Teen Experiences

An inclusive teen program benefits everyone.


A teen community is stronger when individuals feel a sense of belonging and their value is celebrated; Removing the Stumbling Block

But building such a program will be challenging if you don't personally embrace a philosophy of inclusion. Unless you truly believe in the value of inclusion across every experience, you are bound to get stuck in notions such as, "Having her there takes something away from the other teens," or, "They shouldn't always have to look out for him." Until teen educators embrace the value of inclusion and recognize that an inclusive community is a stronger community for everyone, such fallacies will persist. 

A true highlight of my work as a Jewish Educator is leading experiences with teens. I have relished each opportunity to teach, guide, mentor, counsel and support this age group for over twenty years. And I am exceptionally proud of the unique model we have built in our congregation. We have created a structure that affords all students, regardless of ability or need, the opportunity to participate fully. Including overnight experiences. And it works.

Synagogues across North America lament a significant decrease in engagement with Jewish life post-bar and bat mitzvah, but when you ensure that any post b’nei mitzvah program is fully inclusive, you maximize opportunities to continue learning, growing and engaging with Jewish life experiences. Further, there is opportunity to socially engineer relationships between teens every step of the way, thereby maximizing their potential for developing strong Jewish friendships. 

Professor Steven M. Cohen of HUC-JIR states, “Jewish educators should have an explicit mission to bestow Jewish friendship networks on children and adults who are increasingly unlikely to find them on their own.”

Inclusive teen experiences are possible. Teens with disabilities are entitled to the same Jewish opportunities that their peers experience.  

Contact me to learn more about how to build an inclusive teen community.

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