Determined to hold onto the spirit of being together as friends and as Jews, more than 100 Bay Area teens will soon reunite at the pool party they dreamed of while in Israel earlier this summer.
The party is the first of many activities designed to strengthen the Jewish identities of area teenagers, said Yael Lazar-Paley, who recently became the first director of teen programs at the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education.
"Unless there is an active Jewish community waiting for teens when they return, a trip to Israel may just become another enjoyable experience which will be forgotten with the passage of time," said the Jerusalem-born director.
Lazar-Paley, who spent the last 20 years working in Jewish education in the United States, was in Israel this summer studying at the Melton Center for Jewish Education in Jerusalem. She met with teens participating in BJE's six-week Summer in Israel Youth Program for a Shabbat afternoon brainstorming session. They shared a renewed sense of commitment to their Jewish identity. And they planned ongoing activities, including the pool party.
According to estimates of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, there are 16,000 Bay Area Jewish teens between ages 13 and 18. However, most are not involved in organized Jewish activities, according to Robert Friend, chair of the culture and public affairs subcommittee of the Jewish Community Endowment Foundation. In addition, a JCF study revealed a strong desire for programs for teenagers.
In order to increase teen involvement, JCEF decided to finance Lazar-Paley's appointment with a $70,000 seed grant to the BJE. Marking the first joint effort of its kind, the grant was awarded in cooperation with the JCF, Camp Tawonga and local synagogues. The Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation gave an additional $25,000.
Lazar-Paley will be working with other Jewish agencies and synagogues to institute pre- and post-Israel trip activities and other programming for teens in the five-county area served by the JCF.
Initially, she will be working with teens who just returned from the Israel summer program. She will coordinate activities with the Israel Experience Project, a new project designed to increase teen travel to Israel.
"There is no question that one of the best times to bring teenagers into our community is following the excitement of a trip to Israel," said Friend. "This is an area which has never really been targeted before."
Later, the director will implement programs for teens throughout the community. Lazar-Paley, whose motto is to plan with teens, not for them, said, "In order for programs to work, teens must have a stake in them." Teens will be doing major planning for an October weekend retreat at Camp Tawonga, near Yosemite.
The JCEF grant to the BJE was one of 18 awards totaling $1,100,150 recently allocated to local, national and overseas Jewish organizations and projects. Other grants include:
*$100,000 in seed funding to establish a San Francisco Israel Center to consolidate travel and local Israel programming in one office.
*$100,000 in second-year seed funding to the BJE's Family Education Project.
*$200,000 in final, second-year seed funding to the JCF's restructured Human Resource Development department to strengthen volunteer leadership in the Jewish community.
*$50,000 in seed funding to the Jewish Home for the Aged for a feasibility study on developing a managed-care plan at the Home.
*$235,000 to the Jewish Family and Children's Services toward camperships and nursery school subsidies for newly arrived Jewish emigre children.
*$40,000 to the Jewish Vocational Service to purchase eight new workstations and upgrade existing workstations at the computer-assisted design and drafting lab, doubling the agency's capacity to train emigres with engineering and drafting backgrounds.
*$50,000 in seed funding to Lehrhaus Judaica toward creating a communitywide Jewish adult education consortium, co-sponsored by the JCF.
*$26,000 in a matching grant to the Mid-Peninsula Jewish Community Day School and the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School. $13,000 in one-time seed funding will go to each school to jointly purchase science textbooks, provide teacher training and purchase computer-video equipment.
*$15,000 in final funding to the Jewish Day School of Sonoma County: $10,000 will be used for second-year seed funding of the school's Hebrew-Judaic program; an additional one-time grant of $5,000 will cover the costs of classroom furniture, outdoor and office equipment.
*$4,000 in a final, third year of funding to the Mid-Peninsula Midrasha, a Jewish studies program for Mid-Peninsula high school students taught by Stanford University faculty and graduate students.
*$28,150 in seed funding to the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal to establish a Jewish community center in St. Petersburg, Russia.
*$30,000 in one-time seed funding to the Graduate Theological Union to conduct an interfaith education program for rabbis, clergy and lay leaders in Jewish and Christian congregations.
*$18,000 in seed funding to the Northern California Board of Rabbis to hire a part-time executive-program director.
*$45,000 to JVS to provide short-term vocational training scholarships.
*$60,000 to Mount Zion Health Systems Inc. for second-year funding of Ruach Ami: Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, which provides spiritual support for Jews living with illness.
*$23,000 in a capital matching grant to aid in construction of the Tuolumne River Environmental Resource Center at Camp Tawonga, to provide a permanent home for environmental education at the camp.
*$6,000 to Seeds of Peace, a summer program that brings 120 teenagers from Israel and Arab countries to live together in the United States.