Find Your Place & Get Involved at Touro Synagogue!
Becoming B’nei Mitzvah is not a ‘finish line’ – it’s just the beginning of your life as a Jewish adult! Now that the stress of your Torah, Haftarah, and D’var Torah are behind you, it’s time to connect with one of the many, many opportunities for leadership development, continuing education, and community-building already available to you!
Whether you want to keep learning about Judaism, grow and refine lifelong transferable professional skills, help plan and execute social events and holiday celebrations for your peers, or all of the above – we’ve got you covered! Check out all these great opportunities available to you right now, and be in touch right away if you are ready to get involved or have any questions!
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TaSTY / NFTY SOUTHERN / CAMP & ISRAEL
TaSTY: TaSTY (Touro and Sinai Temple Youth) is our 8th-12th grade youth group in partnership with Temple Sinai. For anyone interested in planning fun social events with other Jewish teens, organizing community service opportunities, getting together for holiday celebrations, or learning what it means to serve on committees or elected boards, TaSTY is the perfect opportunity to do so!
TaSTY is a part of NFTY’s (North American Federation of Temple Youth) Southern region. Dozens of our local teens attend conclave weekends and other regional events throughout the year – a great way to reconnect with camp friends and meet other Jewish teens from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, western Tennessee, western Alabama, and the Florida panhandle!
Israel Programs: Do you know how many incredible opportunities there are for Jewish teens to travel to Israel? Whether for a summer or a semester, don’t let the opportunity to participate in one of these lifechanging programs pass you by (especially with so much financial aid available!)
- Yallah! Israel (formerly NFTY in Israel): During the summer between 10th and 11th grades, take the trip of a lifetime with your camp/NFTY friends! Spend five weeks hiking, swimming, digging, and eating your way through the sites and cities you’ve heard about your entire life.
- URJ Heller High (formerly NFTY-EIE): Want to take an adventure that most people your age would never consider? Check out Heller High At a Glance and let us know if you want to talk to someone from Touro who has attended in the past!
Alexander Muss High School in Israel: Build life-long friendships, develop independence, and earn college credit on one of AMHSI’s incredible study abroad programs. Don’t just learn history – live it!
CELEBRATING JEWISH LIFE
As the Jewish calendar rolls around again, we always strive to provide meaningful and fun chances for our teens to get together and celebrate joyfully. High Holy Days, Chanukah, Purim, Passover – we’ve got them (and their delicious foods, of course) all covered and want you to join us!
LEARNING & TRAVELING
8th/9th Grade Wednesday Night Program: Join your peers on Wednesday evenings at Touro Synagogue for socializing, learning, cooking, and community service – dinner is always served! You’ll also travel with Rabbi Silverman and other educators to Birmingham and Selma, AL, for a weekend dedicated to learning about the Civil Rights Movement and the role Southern Jews played during it.
Teen Civil Rights Trip: In 8th or 9th grade (offered every-other year), Touro teens embark on a weekend-long trip to Birmingham and Selma, AL, visiting museums, institutes, and sites of historical and cultural importance to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Along with hearing first-hand stories from those who were present at critical moments of our nation’s history, they also connect with their peers (and camp friends!) from local synagogues to celebrate Shabbat and enjoy some downtime after a long day of learning and discussions. Teens from Temple Sinai and Congregation Gates of Prayer are welcome to sign up for this trip as well!
10th Grade Confirmation: Cap off your formal education at Touro Synagogue with Rabbi Bauman and Confirmation class – an opportunity to synthesize and put to practice all of the Jewish values, stories, and knowledge you’ve acquired over the years. For nearly 200 years, Touro teens have been confirmed in our sanctuary each spring – now it’s YOUR turn!
11th/12th Grade Atzmi: You might have “graduated” from our formal youth education programs at Touro Synagogue, but there’s still more in store for you in your last two years of high school! Atzmi (Hebrew for “myself”) is a chance for 11th and 12th graders to continue learning about and discussing important Jewish topics – over dinner with Rabbi Silverman at delicious local restaurants. And the best part is it’s on us!
L’Taken Social Justice Seminar: In 10th or 11th grade (alternating years), Touro Teens have the opportunity to participate in the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar of the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. Over a long weekend, students learn about the most pressing issues facing our country and the Reform Jewish understanding of what should be done to address them. The weekend culminates with in-person visits to the US Capitol, where we meet with and deliver personalized policy statements to our elected officials in Congress. Ask anyone who has participated in L’Taken – they’ll tell you how incredibly valuable and worthwhile it is!
LEADERSHIP & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Madrichim Teaching Assistant Program: Have you ever thought about being a teacher, rabbi, cantor, counselor, or any other job that works with kids professionally? If so, the Madrichim Teaching Assistant Program at Yamim Yafim and Uptown Hebrew are for you! Learn about the skills and techniques that help make someone a great educator for children of all ages and developmental levels; observe college-age and adult role models as they teach Torah stories, Jewish holidays, and Hebrew (plus much more!); and then plan your own mini-lessons to try your own hand at teaching with support and guidance from Rabbi Silverman and other teachers. And as a little lagniappe, you can earn a small stipend or receive community service hours for your hard work!
Worship Service Leadership: Through their B’nei Mitzvah services and t’filah time at religious school and/or camp, many Touro teens have already experienced being a prayer leader for their Jewish community; now, whether it’s your first time ever or your first time in a while, we want to give you the chance to return to that sacred role and lead our congregation in worship again. Nervous about taking on too much? Feel like your Hebrew skills are a bit rusty? Have no fear – we’ve got you covered, no matter how you want to participate:
- Chanting Torah: with a quick crash course in Hebrew and trope, you can be ready to take a Shabbat morning aliyah and chant a few lines from the Torah in just a few weeks (and without all those other B’nei Mitzvah pressures this time)!
- B’rinah Service Leader: each Saturday morning, Touro Synagogue hosts B’rinah, a collaborative Shabbat service between clergy and lay leaders rooted in tradition and full of music and joy. We would be thrilled to work with any Touro teen who is interested in being part of our service leadership one week – we’ll find the right sized section to assign you, we’ll guide you through all of the practice and preparation needed, and then we’ll watch you stand at the lectern and take your place as a leader of our prayer community. Don’t be nervous about considering this – it’s not a performance, it’s just prayer leading!
- Touro’s Band and Choir: Like to sing? Play an instrument? Talk to Cantor Margolius about joining our band or choir! We would love for you to help make our congregation sound even more gorgeous than it already does!
Dream Street: Dream Street is a five day/four night camping program for children 8-14 years old with physical disabilities held on the grounds of Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS and sponsored by NFTY’s Southern Region. For nearly 50 years, Dream Street has provided a chance for campers from Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and West Tennessee to experience all of the magic and endless fun of sleepaway camp while having their individual needs met safely and easily. Serving as a Dream Street counselor means contributing to those campers’ life-changing experience and expanding your understanding of what it means to build a loving, inclusive community founded on Jewish values for the benefit of all. To learn more about Dream Street and how you can apply to be part of their team, visit www.dreamstreetms.org.
Henry S. Jacobs Camp Solelim Program: Solelim is the Staff-in-Training Program for teens following 11th Grade. Throughout the summer, Solelim participants develop leadership skills through creating camp-wide programs, shadowing the different departments and programmatic teams, and working directly with campers. There are now two options for Solelim: a four-week program and a six-week program. If you are interested in learning more or have any questions, reach out to HSJ’s Associate Director, Carolyn Harari!
”Anne Frank: A History For Today” Docent Training: As Jews, we have a special, sacred, and heartbreaking relationship with Anne Frank and the indelible mark her diary has left on the world. Since February 2022, Loyola University New Orleans has hosted the traveling exhibit Anne Frank: A History For Today, on loan from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands; it will continue to host the exhibit for the next several years, and all Touro middle schoolers will have a chance to visit and experience it with their peers.
Touro Teens are invited to train as docents for this incredible exhibit and then sign up to guide visiting students from local schools, social clubs, and religious organizations through it. Together with the staff from the Anne Frank House and Loyola University, docent trainees hone their skills at sharing sensitive information, answering deep and difficult questions, and fostering an experience imbued with empathy and love.
Still looking for something to tap into? There are always new opportunities and programs coming to our attention which we’ll be sure to share with you as soon as possible. And if you discover any opportunities on your own that can strengthen your Jewish identity and develop your leadership skills, tell us about it – we want to help support you!