Reach. Teach. Ignite. Fueling Passion for a Jewish Future.

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Fifteen-year-old David lives in Petaluma. His paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. His dad ended his Jewish education after his bar mitzvah. When David’s parents moved to Sonoma County they chose not to affiliate with any Jewish institution. David knows he is Jewish but is not engaged in Jewish life.

Sara’s family did not affiliate with a synagogue until she was 8, when her parents decided it was time for her to start religious school. She goes “because she has to” but does not understand how what she is learning is relevant to her life.

Hannah, a lauded religious school teacher for 20 years, is seeking new ways to engage her students, and make Jewish studies come alive for a generation of Googling, Facebooking tweens.

These are real challenges faced by families and educators. Young generations of Jews with fragile connections to the Jewish community, Israel and the Jewish people. Passionate educators wanting to transform curricula to better reach their students.

The BJE is addressing these challenges, and more, by redefining Jewish education in Northern California. We’re creating a renaissance of Jewish learning and engagement, with innovative and accessible programs that resonate with students like David and Sara.

We reach David in Petaluma through programs like the Jewish Teen Alliance (JTA). David joined the newly formed local youth group and will soon travel to Poland and Israel with the BJE’s Shalhevet, and connect with his personal heritage in a way he may not have discovered otherwise. Teens like David live throughout the Bay Area, and JTA is reaching them with programs designed and led by teens. What makes JTA assisted programs so successful at engaging teens? JTA trains our passionate and dedicated teen educators and empowers them to bring Judaism to their peers in their local communities.

How do we teach Sara and her family about the abundant rewards inherent in connecting with Jewish community? By reimagining religious school education. The BJE’s NESS program (Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools) is working with five synagogues to reshape and rejuvenate their youth education programs from the ground up. Entire communities — educators, parents, lay leaders and clergy — are engaged in making religious school educations vibrant and vital for the next generation of Jewish learners.

We support educators like Hannah by providing leadership and expertise. We lead with state-of-the-art professional development and new technologies, both of which encourage collaboration, assessment and innovation. We ask big, fundamental questions in order to clarify our goals and help educators re-imagine how they approach their work. We promote excellence and inspiration so our teachers can do the same for their students.

There are more tough questions. How do educators instill a connection to Israel when traditional approaches to teaching about Israel are no longer effective? How do we build enduring opportunities for families with special needs, so those families are welcomed within their Jewish communities? How do we reach families with young children and impart the strength and vivacity of our traditions early on?

The BJE is revitalizing Israel education with programs like BASIS, a cutting-edge model for engaging teachers, students and families in Israel education. Last year 11 Bay Area schools sent 245 students on BASIS-supported Israel exchange programs, and 73 members of school leadership teams attended a week-long seminar for educators in Israel. Our day schools are “twinning” with schools in Israel, and our students are using technology to learn alongside their counterparts in the Jewish state.

We lead a trailblazing initiative for families with special needs that includes every Jewish school and institution in the North Peninsula. From synagogues to camps, we are ensuring that Jewish learning is accessible and welcoming to students of all learning abilities.

For our youngest learners, we designed “Focus on Excellence.” The BJE’s educators, hand in hand with preschools in the Bay Area, defined what excellence in Jewish early childhood education means. We support our preschools by identifying excellence and measuring success, which is leading to a higher standard of early childhood education.

The BJE is pioneering programs that reach Jewish children, teens and families where they live, work, socialize and play. We’re helping our educators build vibrant, original curricula that make Judaism relevant and alive for a new generation of learners. Throughout the Bay Area we’re igniting a passion for a Jewish future.