B’nai Jeshurun, New York, NY
A life-long New Yorker and graduate of Vassar College, David Lieberman has led Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood Groups at B’nai Jeshurun in New York City for six years. Through the B’nai Jeshurun teen program David leads service based teen trips to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, New Orleans and Israel. In addition to his work as a Jewish Educator, David is an EMMY award winning documentary film and television editor whose work include We Could Be King, Magic Camp, Notes from Liberia, and the ESPN show Hell Week. This year he is hard at work on a new feature documentary about women’s lacrosse on a Native American reservation.
David Lieberman talks about the very real challenges the teen boys grapple with in his Shevet Achim groups.
I’m in my third year of mentoring a group of teen boys at B’nai Jeshurun in New York and I can honestly say that the discussions that we’ve had have been intense. A couple of the guys in the group were at a party with a lot of drinking. They saw a sexual assault at the party where an intoxicated 15-year-old boy was the perpetrator. The police were involved. After they began to talk about the events of the party, we discussed personal boundaries, respect, and sexual consent. We also talked about alcohol and drugs. This wasn’t a “just say no” talk – but a talk about the reality that people in high school drink and smoke and how important it is to put checks on yourself so that you don’t harm yourself or others.
In addition to these conversations, some of the most impactful and intense talks we’ve had have been around the issue of rage. Teen boys wrestle with what to do with their feelings of anger. Sometimes they feel like they want to break free from conformity and parental control and just destroy things. We talked about how you can be free without being destructive.
In all of our conversations, we stress how Judaism teaches us to be balanced – to be honest about our deepest human desires and, at the same time, to control our impulses. How do you walk the line between what you want to do now and what is sensitive to the needs or desires of others? Asking that question is a core Jewish value that we address in the Shevet Achim program.