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Teens and Trust

Item Number  61014


Author: Rabbi Steven Bayar and Fran Hirschman
Grades: Adult
Format: Softcover book


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Based on their many years of experience, the authors share their knowledge with those who struggle to help Jewish children emerge into adulthood. Through examination of case studies, this book provides both theoretical and practical knowledge for anyone who works with Jewish youth.

Chapter 1
OUR INITIATION

Once upon-a time. the two of us, an orthodox teacher of secular studies, later turned principal, and a reconstructionist-trained Conservative rabbi, entered the wonderland of Jewish education. We entered it because we loved the subject matter:

    Humash literature, values and ethics, Pirke Avot, grammar, and Mishnah. We stayed because we fell in love with the kids. We became effective (we hope) and felt fulfilled because we learned that what mattered was how we connected to the kids and helped them when they needed us. We wrote this book for several reasons. First, we realize that most of us in

    Jewish education start out with minimal training, supervision, and support. As isolated individuals we each are forced to “reinvent the wheel.” We face problems that seem unique, and we devise individual responses of which we are often unsure. Our decision to present workshops, first individually and then together, at such professional gatherings as the annual Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education (CAJE) since 1982, has shown us that other Jewish educators are relieved—and surprised—to find that their problems have been faced by others. And they are grateful when we discuss the mistakes and the failures as well—and the professional growth to which they have led. The realization that you can learn from the mistakes (and occasional successes!) of others without repeating them is one reason for Teens & Trust.

    A second reason is found in the Talmud, Taanit 7a: ‘1 have learnt much from my teachers, and from my colleagues more than from my teachers, but from my students more than from them all.” Teachers are taught to respond to prindpals and supervisors; principals look for guidance from colleagues, experts, journals. But more often than our education textbooks would have us believe, the answer lies with the “talmid’. Learning to look at our students as teachers and guides through the increasingly more complicated world of adolescence is another reason for Teens & Trust.

    Finally, this book is a therapeutic reckoning. After a combined total of almost thirty years in Jewish education, we felt a need to step back and evaluate. Some professionals do this during a sabbatical or leave of absence, or at a midlife career change. We—like most others in Jewish education—don’t receive the luxury of the first two. And this book (alomg with the writing and lecturing we have begun in the last few years) is an attempt to ward off the last option. We love Jewish education—especially when it makes a difference.

This book is for anyone who deals with teens or preteens in a Jewish context—teachers, principals, guidance counselors, camp or youth group workers, rabbis, or students going into one of these fields. Although many of the cases presented involved the intervention of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, or competent rabbinic authorities, this book is not aimed at them or intended to replace their particular expertise. In fact, many of the cases in this book, particularly those dealing with such areas as suicide, eating disorders, or abuse, are meant to alert the educator to what is beyond his or her expertise.

This is not a cookbook; no recipe here will exactly duplicate your situation. This is a collection of possibilities to be explored by the creative chef—seasonings have to be individually adjusted and adapted. Teens & Trust is also supposed to be an alarm clock—to wake you up to possibilities you might otherwise have overlooked. We tried to be (often painfully) frank when we “blew it.” We hope this encourages our readers to do the same and to be aware that it is often the misstep or missed opportunity that becomes the greatest source of insight if pain and disappointment are not allowed to divert us from the lesson to be learned.

Finally, working with teenagers is rewarding. Building a trust relationship that allows us to promote Jewish values in their lives is a rare and exhilarating privilege.

This book is also a collaborative effort on several levels. Our book reflects the help and input of our the help of our publisher and friend Joel Grishaver and the team he is part of at Torah Aura Productions and our colleagues from CAJE.

The cases in this book are actual examples of the ways different educators reacted to the problems of the adolescents they encountered. Most of the cases resulted in enhanced participation in Jewish activities, better trust relationships with the educator, or meaningful changes in the adolescent’s life. Every case contributed to the growth and development of a better Jewish educator.

Some of the students involved attended yeshivot, some day schools, some supplementary schools. All had one thing in common: a situation or lifestyle that needed someone outside the family whom they could trust. While the different ideologies and movements approached them with different attitudes, the basic problems and needs of adolescents remained the same.
  
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