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Jewish teen-education programs gear up for the new year

There are several informal Jewish teen-education programs throughout the state, most based at the local Jewish Federation or JCC, and supported by a Jewish Federation, JCC, and/or Jewish community foundation. Curricula run the creative gamut, from the arts to community service to text-based study, ethics, and Holocaust education, and from Jewish Superheroes, sports figures, and comedians, to Torah Yoga to political activism – all through a Jewish lens and tailored to teens’ interests and schedules. All designed to encourage post-bnei mitzvah to continue their Jewish journey and stay engaged in the Jewish community, many programs also offer opportunities for leadership and philanthropy.
Pluralistic and open to all Jewish teens, regardless of synagogue affiliation, level of observance, or prior Jewish education, the programs typically meet one evening a week; some include an additional Sunday afternoon.
Full details are available on each program’s website.

Eastern Connecticut 

Jewish Community High School

Grades 9-12
Jewish Federation of
Eastern Connecticut 

Tracy Todd, Director 


(860) 442-8062
The JCHS year comprises three semesters, with the second semester dedicated to community service, as an opportunity for participants to fulfill the community-service graduation requirement of some Eastern Connecticut public high schools. JCHS meetings being with dinner and conclude with dessert and socializing.
This year, JCHS is offering classes on a variety of topics, taught by area rabbis, including “Rock and Roll: Jewish Themes and Influences;” “Jewish Humor from Adam to Adam Sandler;” “Life on the Line: You Make the Call!;” “Jews in the News;” and “Jewish Life.”

The 2012 graduates of Mercaz.

Eastern Fairfield County
Merkaz: The Community
High School for Judaic Studies
Grades 9-12
Jewish Center for
Community Services of
Eastern Fairfield County
Marjorie Krubiner, Director
(203) 372-6567
Through interactive activities, facilitated discussions, debates, films, the arts, guest speakers, experiential programs, field trips, and interviewing area Holocaust survivors, interfaith clergy, and lay leaders, students address many of the “tough questions” about identity, community, Jewish engagement, and personal choices. Merkaz students experience, witness, and hear the stories of many members of our community, getting a unique opportunity to interact with them “up close and personal.”
Course offerings include social action, Holocaust education, digital storytelling, meditation, conversational Hebrew, dance, film, and art. Learn about Israel, contemporary issues, leadership and ethical dilemmas. College- application and preparation classes are available for juniors and seniors.

Greater Hartford
Jewish Teen Learning Connection
Grades 6-12
Zachs Campus, West Hartford
Heather Fiedler, Executive Director
(860) 727-6110
After a two-year review process, the former Yachad: Greater Hartford Jewish Community High School marks its 18th year with a new program name, office location, and curriculum. Rebranded as Jewish Teen Learning Connection, the program offers classes and activities at several locations throughout the region, including the Farmington Valley and East of the River. Schedule options include full-semester and one- and two-month “minimester” for juniors and seniors.

MAKOM members of TACT (Teens Acting for Community and Tzedakah) volunteered at the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen in new Haven last November; from left to right, Shlomi Davidi, Nisan Davidi, Sarah Teitelman, Alex Schwaber, Hannah Krystal.

Greater New Haven 
Grades 8-12
JCC of Greater New Haven
Ruth Gross
(203) 387-2522, ext. 310
This is a year of transition for teen education in Greater New Haven. DeDe Komisar joins the staff of the JCC of Greater New Haven in the new position of Cultural Arts Programmer of the JCC’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning. She will focus on developing informal Jewish teen- education opportunities through arts, literature, theater, and film.
The JCC will continue to offer several classes created under the MAKOM umbrella. Anat Levitah Weiner will facilitate “Adopt-a-Survivor,” a seven-month program that pairs Holocaust survivors with high-school students, who capture and preserve the survivors’ stories. Weiner will also continue to head up TACT (Teens Acting for Community and Tzedakah), the leadership youth council that plans and promotes community-service activities.
For 2012-13, teens can choose one or two hours of classes, with “Teen Schmooze” in-between.

Kulanu Stamford participated in the April 2012 March of the Living. From left to right,
Noah Barr, Brandon Temple, Jacob Mallar, Bennett Leads, Sophie Koster, Emilie Pollack, Betsy Stone, Lauren Pollack, Joan Fanwick, Kayla Sodaro, Caroline Watson.

Grades 8-12
UJF of Greater Stamford,
New Canaan and Darien

Elise Passy, Director 


(203) 321-1373
After an 18-month review process, Kulanu is being reintroduced as a more flexible, student-driven program.
“We want each student to create an experience that reflects who he or she is as a person,” says director Elise Passy, while meeting the educational goals of the Kulanu “community of learners.”
Students will have a range of scheduling and course options, and can engage in leadership and decision-making roles.
Tuition has been reduced from $675 for the year to a starting cost of $36 per month.

For 2012-13, new offerings include:
•    Hebrew for High-School Credit (additional tuition)
•    Community Youth Choir for 3rd- to 8th-graders, meets before Kulanu on Wednesday evenings
•    “The Jewish View: A TV Show Made by You for Teens Like You:” Students in several North American Association of Community Hebrew High Schools (NAACHHS) affiliates work with Shalom TV to write, film, and edit their own TV show, to be aired on Shalom TV.
•    Community-service program
•    Teen Israel Education project, in conjunction with the Stamford JCC, will meet monthly, culminating in a group trip to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on one Sunday a month and then AIPAC policy conference in March, 2013.

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