May the force be with you – Academy BJE working towards community engagement

This week we have Rachele Schonberger, Principal and Co-CEO of Academy BJE, NSW Board of Jewish Education guest blogging at the JCA.  This is her take on inspiring and connecting with her students.

With the ever present concern that the new generation is growing up without the community focus of their predecessors and losing their engagement with their Jewish identity, the need to connect with the Gen Y’ers, Millennials or Gen Z’ers is ever present. As Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said “Make no mistake about why these babies are here – they are here to replace us.” This therefore begs the question, what will we be replaced with?

With this in mind, one organisation working hard towards continuity is Academy BJE, who in 2011, are continuing to provide current and exciting programs to meet the ever growing needs of Jewish children attending state schools across NSW.

As the numbers of students rise in the state school system, with the support of JCA, Academy BJE is meeting the challenge of ensuring every student receives a Jewish education. 

Late last year, BJE created the “Kanagajewjsn Facebook” page, attracting over 270 high schools students to date. “Friends” can now receive exclusive invites to regular coffee nights at Max Brenner, Sunday sessions, leadership weekend and camps. BJE has employed the non traditional strategy of social media, communicating in the same medium as their targeted audience. Their reward is the development of a two way communication channel and the creation of a Jewish social network for all high schools students in NSW, an immeasurable resource in the challenge to capture teenager attention.

BJE further support their online presence with a revamped website. Not only does the secure log-in area enables parents to glimpse photos and videos of their children in Jewish studies and Hebrew classes, students have the ability to access Jewish content in the comfort and privacy for their home, such as   Academy BJE music, which provides the opportunity to learn festival songs.

Academy BJE also operates within the philosophy that exposure to Israel sparks an interest in the local Jewish community, and their Discover Israel Program (DIP) continues to gain momentum. This year BJE plans to take thirty year 10 students on tour of a lifetime. A past participant summed up the experience:

“Israel made me more conscious of my identity. I discovered more about not only my Jewish roots but myself in the 6 weeks in Israel, than I ever have. The different types of people we bonded with and the incredibly diverse places we had the opportunity to visit brought to my attention how lucky we are to be Jewish and to be given this experience. I now have a stronger connection to Israel and have come to a stage of satisfaction with who I am as a Jew living in Australia.”

It seems this multi-pronged approach is succeeding. Supplementary Jewish Education occurs in seven schools in Sydney which have a large number of Jewish students. These programs have proven to be so popular that new ones have been written to target specific age groups.

The big question posed though is this approach sustainable and how will we know that the enthusiasm in the community encouraged during school won’t fade when tertiary education and careers become the priority? It may be a question only time will answer.

How would you suggest the engagement of the Jewish youth be encouraged in our community? Log into wordpress to leave your comment here.

Academy BJE can be contacted on 9365 7900 or via their website www.bje.org.au