Time is ripe to reach out to teens

Power brokers in the Jewish community are freaking out. Too many teenagers, they say, are failing to stay connected to Judaism.

As youngsters, they go to religious school. And most celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah. But as soon as they enter the heart of their teen years, many fall from the Jewish vine.

At least eyes are open. And no one is blaming the teens themselves.

It's just that Jewish teens in the Bay Area have been offered little opportunity to remain or become meaningfully connected with the Jewish community.

Programming has been mostly non-existent or non-enthralling.

Many teen programs have been staffed by entry-level young adults whose enthusiasm is often eroded by low salaries, part-time status and the bottom-of-the-barrel budgets.

But that's not even the major problem.

The overriding factor is that many Jewish institutions and agencies have been slow to wake up to the fact that they need to put more time, energy, money and training into this realm.

Thankfully, it's starting to happen. And as it does, the quality of programming will pick up and more teens will engage.

That's not to say there aren't teens today who do get connected.

But the profound spiritual, intellectual and social impacts they are experiencing ought to be sampled by a wider teen audience.

That's where the two-year-old Teen Initiative comes in, pushing for high-quality teen programming.

And a new $1.1 million grant from the Goldman Fund is going to help as well, taking an important first step of elevating the profession of those who work with teens.

More steps like these are needed — and would be welcomed.