Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles, CA
What are the boys like in your Shevet Achim group?
Most of the guys in my first cohort are in 8th grade. Their lives are heavily programmed. In addition to homework, they are involved with sports, model UN, and many of the boys have parents in the entertainment industry so they are going to the Grammys, the Emmys, etc. They have a lot in their lives which draws them away from synagogue involvement.
How have the guys experienced the group?
Overall the experience has been really positive and the parents have given me positive feedback. The curriculum is really helpful as a framework. We used the first four meetings to focus on the topic of “manhood” and what it means to them. It was compelling.
What have you done beyond the curriculum?
I have used the symbol of fire and we have carried Tiki torches up to the roof to have our meetings. Also, I talked to them about some of the things that I associate with Jewish male creativity, such as comic books and street art. This enabled them to talk about the role of myth and how we are inspired through fantasy to think about bravery and courage, strength and weakness, and other male-associated themes.
What, in particular, was valuable about the National Training Conference?
The National Training Conference was enormously helpful. The training introduced me to other guys and to the Shevet Achim curriculum and helped me to think creatively about how I would lead the group. I also liked many of the pop culture examples of masculinity, like the use of the “Pyramid of Greatness” from the show Parks and Recreation to spark conversation about traditional male values. Hearing from other guys who are working with teens, seeing how other educators approach this work – it all makes me a better educator.