Annual Report 2017-2018

Moving Traditions is now starting earlier, opening new pathways at the critical transition from pre-teen to teen, taking on leading edge sexuality education, and expanding to more teens — at more re...

Renewing and Expanding Moving Traditions

“My parents pushed me to join—and now I really value Rosh Hodesh. Since I started I’ve been a lot happier. Seeing these girls once a month, it’s something I look forward to.”
— Phoebe, 8th Grade
Moving Traditions Participant

Teens need us. Now more than ever, teens are confronted with greater academic and social pressure, at an earlier age and a faster pace than ever before. In these turbulent times, teens are asking big questions about their identities and society.

At Moving Traditions, we believe Jewish values and community can offer powerful guidance.

However, this generation is less likely to continue in Jewish life after b’nai mitzvah, and they spend more time on screens than with friends.

Moving Traditions recognizes that to keep teens healthy and connected with Jewish life, we need to link enduring Jewish values to the everyday challenges they face. That’s why we take a whole teen approach, training adult mentors and providing teens — 20,000 to date — with guidance and a supportive community of peers.

At Relevant Times & In Relevant Ways

Inspired by our positive impact and driven by investments from the Jim Joseph Foundation, Project Accelerate, and others, we are now building on our success.

Moving Traditions is now starting earlier, opening new pathways at the critical transition from pre-teen to teen, taking on leading edge sexuality education, and expanding to more teens — at more relevant times and in more relevant ways.

Opening New Pathways to Help Jewish Teens Thrive

By addressing the joys and challenges of middle and high school in safe Jewish spaces, more teens are growing up confident, compassionate, and connected to Jewish life.

B’nai Mitzvah
Healthy Sexuality and Jewish Teens
Trans and Nonbinary Teens

B’nai Mitzvah

“I benefited from understanding where my daughter and I were similar and different in our perspectives, stressors, and emphases.”
— Parent of a 6th grader
Moving Traditions B’nai Mitzvah Program

Becoming and Parenting a Teen

Finding the perfect outfit. Being a host and a guest. Meeting parental expectations. The b’nai mitzvah is exciting and it is terrifying.

The b’nai mitzvah is exciting and it is terrifying.

How can b’nai mitzvah preparation address the psycho-social issues that families care about, while they are most active in Jewish life?

This question inspired Moving Traditions to create a new b’nai mitzvah program for 6th and 7th graders and their families, exploring what it means to become a teen and to parent a teen in America.

Transformative Experiences at a Younger Age

Moving Traditions and our program partners have found that teens in our Rosh Hodesh and Shevet Achim groups are profoundly transformed by drawing on Jewish wisdom and social and emotional learning to explore key issues in their daily lives.

While congregations excel at preparing b’nai mitzvah students to read the Torah and lead the service, few focus on the interpersonal issues connected to the coming of age ritual, which are so central to families.

For the first time, this program, designed by rabbis and social workers, extends Moving Traditions’ successful approach to b’nai mitzvah education.

We are now pilot-testing the program — following Moving Traditions’ rigorous, research-based process — in collaboration with 19 congregations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York so that it will be ready for national launch in the 2018-19 program year.

Through the Carol Lowenstein Moving Traditions B’nai Mitzvah Training Institute, we are training clergy and Jewish educators, providing them with the educational tools they need to lead sessions for families and pre-teens that address the complicated joys and challenges of this phase of life.

Healthy Sexuality and Jewish Teens

“We’ve gone from somewhat distant friends to being brothers. Ultimately, by learning about the world in the group, you learn about yourself and how you can be a better person.”
— Levi, 10th Grade
Moving Traditions Participant

News stories of sexual harassment and rape are difficult for adults and even more so for teens. Compounding the challenge, most children now stumble upon online pornography well before puberty.

Unfortunately, few schools provide sexuality education that helps teens explore and resist sexual objectification and understand and practice securing consent.

With this backdrop, Moving Traditions is stepping up as a leader in the arena of sexuality education for Jewish teens. We have the experience, knowledge, and trust of teens, clergy, camp directors, and Jewish teen educators, and we are inspired to tackle this challenge.

Moving Traditions is now training our adult mentors and other Jewish educators to use our new program materials to help teens lay the foundation for healthy sexuality — with self-knowledge, and relationships based on the secular and Jewish values of intimacy, respect, pleasure, good communication, and reciprocity.

We envision that, as a result, Jewish teens will live more satisfying lives and they will be inspired to pursue affirmative consent and intimate justice, creating more equitable relationships and communities.

Trans and Nonbinary Teens

First Jewish Online, Ongoing Group

Where do Jewish transgender, nonbinary, gender fluid and questioning teens go to talk regularly among themselves about the issues they most care about, with the guidance of an adult mentor?

Moving Traditions is thrilled to announce a new and exciting answer to this question.

For teens that identify as girls or guys, we have a track record of creating fun, safe spaces that draw on Jewish and gender teachings to honestly explore issues they deal with every day — such as friendship, academic pressure, and sexuality.

Now Moving Traditions, in partnership with Keshet, is offering this experience to Jewish teens exploring gender and identity beyond the binary, using online conferencing technology for 90-minute gatherings each month.

Judaism in Gender/Gender in Judaism

Guided by Rafi Daugherty, a Jewish transgender adult mentor, participating teens are benefiting while co-creating an experience that Moving Traditions will replicate for others.

“It’s an excited and energetic group. They are enthusiastic about exploring Judaism in a gender context and exploring gender in a Jewish context with other teens who share these aspects of their identities,” said Rafi.

Once a year the teens will have the opportunity to meet in person at a Keshet LGBTQ and ally teen Shabbaton, co-sponsored by Moving Traditions. Keshet partnered with Moving Traditions in the research and teen recruitment for this program.

Together, the teens in the Moving Traditions trans and nonbinary group are forging a community based on empathy, trust, friendship, and Jewish wisdom.

National Impact

Together, with our partners and the guidance of Moving Traditions, more Jewish teens are growing into adulthood with confidence, compassion, and a lifelong commitment to Jewish community.

Board of Directors

Hope Suttin, Chair
Jonathan Krasner, Vice Chair
Sheryl Kaye, Secretary
Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Treasurer
Madelyn Bucksbaum Adamson
Rabbi Carole Balin
Rabbi Darcie Crystal
Rabbi Dena Klein
Mike Markovits
Deborah Meyer, CEO
Lori Perlow
Renée Sackey
Sally Gottesman, Former Board Chair and Co-Founder


We deeply appreciate the generous support from the many individual contributors to Moving Traditions and from the following institutions:

Alan B. Slifka Foundation
Combined Jewish Philanthropies
Crown Family Philanthropies
Dobkin Family Foundation
Dorot Foundation
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund
Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles
Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Jewish Federation’s Women of Vision Foundation of Greater Philadelphia
Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Palm Beaches
Jim Joseph Foundation
Lasko Family Foundation
Leifer Family Fund
Lucius N. Littauer Foundation
Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Supporting Foundation
Project Accelerate
Rose Community Foundation
Star Family Foundation
The Michael and Carol Lowenstein Foundation
The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation
UJA-Federation of New York
Westchester Program Services Cabinet



Deborah Meyer, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Jennifer Anolik, Curriculum Manager
Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Chief of Education and Program
Robin Cohen, Chief of Finance and Operations
Rabbi Tamara Cohen, Chief of Innovation
Jillian Finkelstein, Data Specialist
Sarah Fox, National Program Manager
Stephanie Freedman, Manager of Recruitment & Mentoring
Lisa Gersten, Chief of External Relations
Liz Kaufman-Taylor, Database Administrator
Mimi Levine, Assistant to the CEO
Robyn Levitan, Director of Program Development & National Counsel
Lyn Manus, Finance & Development Specialist
Adam Oded, Development & Communications Manager
Ben Schindler, Chief of Field Operations

Regional Staff

Laura Hyman, Boston Director
Beth Tigay, California Director
Julia Papiyan, California Program Specialist
Lisa Alter Krule, Chicago Director
Jennifer Kraft, Colorado Director
Nicole Nevarez, New York Director
Eve Berger, Philadelphia Director

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