Beginning in January 2001, Young Judaea youth in grades three through eight will meet at the Stroum JCCâ€™s Mercer Island Facility for after-school programming once a week.
The Center is among the first JCCs nationwide to forge a direct alliance with Young Judaea, as part of a pilot program launched by the JCCA and Young Judaea in June 1999, aimed at increasing and improving services to Jewish youth.
Much of the credit for the new partnership goes to Robin Wehl, former associate director of Seattleâ€™s Young Judaea program and now youth programs director at the JCC. While still at Young Judaea, Robin met with JCC assistant director Rick Nelson and the New Yorkâ€“based JCC/YJ Partnership project director Allison Halpern to discuss a program that would work for the JCC.
“There was some overlapping programming, and Robin felt it could work so much better if they collaborated,” said Halpern. “The whole concept is that since both groups are non-denominational, they serve all Jews, but Young Judaea doesnâ€™t have a natural home. We all feel that with the JCC behind us, by having Young Judaea be an element of the programming, more kids will be made aware of it.”
“Both of us were trying to do the same thing, and realized that if we came together weâ€™d have a really strong program,” said Wehl, who will be the point person at the JCC for the program. Wehl and her staff will work closely with Suzy Sostrin, the new Young Judaea assistant director in Seattle, to develop joint programming, while also promoting Young Judaea offerings in JCC program literature and recruiting new members from JCC member ranks.
JCC kids are expected to benefit from the program in many ways. For $25, they can join Young Judaea, participate in all YJ programs, and receive the youth group newsletter, while enjoying a curriculum rich in Judaics. “Young Judaea uses Israel as a kidâ€™s stepping stone to Judaism,” said Wehl. “Weâ€™re hoping to make the kids knowledgeable about Israel through creative programming and informal education. The kids are very excited. There hasnâ€™t been a lot of programming for them.”
Another aim of the partnership is to make more JCC kids aware of Young Judaeaâ€™s Year Course in Israel, a 10-month study and volunteer experience for recent high school graduates. As an incentive to encourage JCC youth to apply for the program, the national JCC/YJ Partnership launched a Year Course Fellowship program this year, awarding 14 scholarships of $1,500 to seven JCCs nationwide, to be awarded to candidates interested in the Year Course. The Stroum JCC was among those chosen to receive the fellowship.
“The criteria was an area where not many youth were going to Israel, a good contact person and a large JCC,” said Halpern, who worked with the JCCA and Young Judaeaâ€™s national director in New York to select fellowship recipients. “I knew Robin and the regional Young Judaea would be really excited and would help to fill those spots.” The scholarship will help cover some of the cost of the program: about $12,000 for the year. Other scholarships and financial aid is also available from Young Judaea and the Jewish Federation.
For more information about the new partnership or Year Course, call Robin Wehl at 206-232-7115, ext. 254, or Suzy Sostrin at 206-448-9237.