Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Federation: 'Empower the Jew in You'


November 24, 2017

Fifty Central Florida teens in grades 8 to 12 gathered Oct. 30 for “Empower the Jew in You,” a Community-wide Teen Education Evening organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando (JFGO). Congregation of Reform Judaism hosted the event.

This peer-lead educational program by JFGO’s Jewish Teen Education Network (JTEN) was designed to provide insight and resources for local teens to identify and stand up to anti-Semitism. JTEN educators moderated the discussions with curriculum created by the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council. The program included clergy and Jewish professionals from Congregation Beth Am, Congregation of Reform Judaism, BBYO North Florida Region, Chabad of Greater Orlando, Congregation Ohev Shalom, Temple Israel and Temple Shir Shalom.

With anti-Semitism on the rise in schools, teens came away from the discussion with a better understanding of the assistance and resources available to them right now in the community and through the Federation.

Jennifer Cohen, JFGO’s director of outreach and engagement, said it was “inspiring to see all of the clergy and Jewish professionals attending the program and ready to provide help and support.”

Attending and participating in some aspect of the program included, Rabbi Hillel Skolnik (Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation), Rabbi Joshua Neely (Temple Israel), Cantor Kim Singer (Temple Shir Shalom), Amy Geboff (Congregation Ohev Shalom), Cantor Nina Fine (Congregation Beth Am), Jayme Epstien (BBYO North Florida Region), Dr. Sheryl Sacharoff (Congregation of Reform Judaism), Lauren Oback (Congregation of Reform Judaism), Rabbi Steven Engel (Congregation of Reform Judaism), Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer (Congregation of Reform Judaism), Rabbi Ed and Bracha Leibowitz (Chabad of Greater Orlando) and Daniel Nabatian (Jewish Student Union/JOIN Orlando).

At the conclusion of the evening, teens completed a survey gauging their interest in future JTEN/Federation programming and topics that are important to them. More than 40 percent of those who attended expressed an interest in serving in a leadership role a future JTEN program.

“It was amazing to be in solidarity,” one teen said of the Oct. 30 event. “It was very helpful in understanding what it means to be a Jewish teen, and how to speak up,” said another.

Cohen said the Federation looks forward to using the survey results “to provide deeper and more meaningful experiences for all local Jewish teens.”

This was the fifth Community-wide Teen Education event organized by the Federation.

JTEN provides opportunities for Central Florida teens to come together for shared learning and educational experiences, regardless of synagogue affiliation. JTEN offers grants to synagogues for Jewish educational opportunities, resources and networking opportunities for Jewish educators, and grants for organized teen Israel trips made possible by the Ronald Colman Israel Scholarship Fund.  To learn more, contact Jennifer Cohen at jcohen@jfgo.org.


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