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Rosh Hodesh Session Summaries

Rosh Hodesh 8th Grade Summaries

The Woman and the Moon: Getting to Know Rosh Hodesh and One Another

This gathering is designed for a Rosh Hodesh group’s initial meeting. It introduces participants to the concept of Rosh Hodesh and rituals associated with the holiday. In this meeting, participants start working toward creating a comfortable and supportive environment for the group. While getting to know each other, they will also spend time reflecting on their own identities and how those identities change based on context (e.g. at school versus at home, at Rosh Hodesh, etc).

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Feel more connected and comfortable with the rest of the group
  • Be able to identify key elements of Rosh Hodesh
  • Be able to describe what to expect from the Rosh Hodesh program
  • Describe their identities, and how they portray themselves in different contexts

Be You!: Being our Confident, Powerful Selves

This gathering focuses on one of the most significant concerns for teen girls: self-confidence. Participants will explore cultural and social messages about the connections between gender, self confidence, and beauty, as well as learning Jewish wisdom that teaches how to balance being confident with being humble. Participants will leave with a toolkit of helpful tactics for feeling confident and powerful in their everyday lives.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe their positive traits
  • Describe the cultural and social elements that impact how girls feel and talk about themselves
  • Describe a Jewish approach to healthy self-esteem
  • Employ short-term tactics and identify long-term approaches for feeling confident
    about themselves
  • Feel more connected to at least one other group member

Better than Perfect: Real Jewish Girls

This month, we will discuss the unique pressures associated with being a girl in today’s world and how they affect Jewish girls. We will take a critical look at expectations of and stereotypes about girls perpetuated by the media, culture, and our own peers and families. Then, we will strategize together about how to be authentic in a culture that often pressures girls to be “perfect.”

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss social and cultural expectations and stereotypes about what it means to be
    a “good” or “perfect” girl
  • Identify the unique pressures related to being a Jewish girl today
  • Learn strategies that help girls act as their authentic selves

All of the Feels: Understanding and Expressing our Emotions

This month, we will talk about emotions: how they affect us, the role they play in our relationships, and how to understand our emotional responses. Through an art exercise, we will explore those emotions that are easier or harder for us to identify and feel. We will also look at what Jewish teachings and culture have to say about our emotions.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the emotions that they feel
  • Learn healthy and helpful ways to communicate emotions to others
  • Develop strategies for how to respond to emotions

Pink, Blue, Complicated You: Talking Gender, Challenging Norms

This gathering , we will discuss what “gender” means and learn new gender terminology. We will also explore messages about gender norms we receive regularly from media and society. We will then cast our minds back to the first appearance of gender in the bible: Adam and Eve. Together, we will think about how to navigate gender norms in our lives.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Define basic terminology related to gender and sex
  • Identify the messages about gender norms, codes, and stereotypes we receive from
    the media and society about characteristics and roles of girls and women
  • Identify and critique a foundational Biblical source of Jewish messages about gender
  • Describe the way in which gender norms affect teen girls

Loving Our Bodies: #nofilter

This gathering focuses on body image and self care. We will talk about the aspects of the media and culture—for example, the fixation on dieting—that exist to make women and girls feel insecure about their bodies and link success with appearance. Through Jewish text study, mindfulness, and games, we will then explore ways in whichwe can take good care of and feel great about our bodies.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Appreciate their bodies for all that they do and allow them to do
  • Describe the media’s effect on girls’ body image
  • Understand how to make healthy and kind choices surrounding self-care

Teen Stress? Oh Yes!: Creating Calm in our Lives

Being a teenager can be stressful. This month, we will reflect on the major and minor stressors that we each face and how stress affects us. We will talk about when and how to ask for help from peers, family members, and others when dealing with major stressors. Drawing from Jewish wisdom and ritual as well as contemporary “stress-busting” techniques, participants will leave with strategies for addressing stress in their lives.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the physical and emotional impact of stress on teen girls
  • Identify the strongest stressors for teen girls and for themselves
  • Use positive strategies for coping with stress

How It Is, How It Could Be: Family Feuds, Empathy and Communication

This gathering, we will use the parent/primary caretaker-daughter relationship as a way to think more broadly about communication and empathy in close relationships. We will think about what it means to honor a parent or primary caretaker, as well as what makes these relationships complicated. Through role-play exercises and discussions, we will also think together about how we can contribute to a positive relationship with our parents/primary caretakers.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the challenges of parent/guardian-teen daughter communication
  • Identify and practice communication techniques that foster empathy, respectful dialogue, and compromise
  • Use the concept of shalom bayit as a model for thinking about healthy relationships

Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Wrap!

This month, in the fashion of a siyum—a Jewish celebration held upon the completion of studying a body of work—we will celebrate and reflect upon the past year of Rosh Hodesh. We will draw on the traditional siyum features of reflection, anticipation, and celebration, with an added component: appreciation! Participants will have a chance to share what they admire about one another and think about how they have changed over the course of the year.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on their experience of the year in and outside of Rosh Hodesh
  • Think ahead to next year and identify topics of interest for future Rosh Hodesh sessions
  • Demonstrate appreciation of themselves and of others in the group

Rosh Hodesh 9th Grade Summaries

Becoming a High Schooler

Judaism places a lot of importance on transitional periods. Havdalah marks the end of Shabbat and beginning of the week. Twilight, the period between sunset and nightfall, is thought to have mystical qualities. In this session, guided by Jewish wisdom about transition, girls will reconvene after a summer apart and explore the transition from middle to high school. They will draw from Jewish wisdom to discuss what of their middle school selves they are leaving behind, what from middle school they are taking into high school, and how they are changing, orhow they hope to change as a high schooler. They will also consider how their relationship to Judaism has changed over time along with ways that they might like their Jewish practice to evolve.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe what to expect from this year of Rosh Hodesh
  • Reflect on the transition from middle school to high school and how they feel about
    this change
  • Feel empowered to choose how to practice Judaism in a personally meaningful way

Beyond Squad Goals: Having Healthy Friendships

During high school, the relationships that teen girls form with friends are often as strong and as influential (if not moreso) than the relationships they have with their family. In this session, girls think critically about the characteristics of healthy friendships and the messages the media, peers, and family members communicate about friendship between girls. Then, by means of a friendship bracelet/pin-making project, they identify Jewish values connected to friendship that resonate with them.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe characteristics of healthy and supportive friendships
  • Identify the messages they receive from media and society about the relationship
    between friends
  • Identify Jewish values connected to friendship
  • Practice active listening and empathy in their friendships

Bring It! Navigating Conflict in Friendships

Girls often consider conflict as something that, if entered, will end a relationship. However, conflict, and more specifically, assertive communication within conflict, is a powerful tool that can help girls ask for what they need from friends and cultivate stronger relationships with people in their lives. In this session, girls discuss conflict, explore Jewish wisdom related to conflict and try out new, assertive communication techniques through an active role-play activity.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the various types of conflicts that participants experience with friends
  • Reflect on the ways participants feel about and react to conflict and consider how girls are socialized around conflict
  • Understand ways to work through conflicts in order to create positive relationships
  • Feel empowered to address conflict in their relationships and to view conflict as a means to improve their relationships

I Choose You: Being in Intimate Relationships, Part 1

Girls receive many messages from the media and their peers about what they should do in an intimate relationship. Most girls have also spent years observing the intimate relationships modeled by their parents/primary caretakers. In this session, participants take a critical look these messages and spend time thinking about elements and characteristics they would like to have in intimate relationships in their own life (with no pressure to use that knowledge on any particular time frame).

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe what a romantic relationship is, what intimacy is, and how it relates to other relationships they have experienced in their lives
  • Be able to identify different types of intimacy possible in romantic relationships (and have the understanding that the level of intimacy they want might change at any time)
  • Describe how messages from media and society about relationships are limiting and not applicable to every person and every relationship
  • Draw from Jewish wisdom to help with making decisions about how we form and deepen relationships

I Choose You: Being in Intimate Relationships, Part 2

An important part of being in a healthy, intimate relationship is having the ability to establish boundaries with a partner. In this session, girls spend time thinking about their own boundaries and the primary communication style they use, or might use, in intimate relationships. They are introduced to Jewish wisdom related to respecting boundaries, discuss the warning signs of an abusive relationship in which a partner crosses set boundaries, and practice assertive ways to articulate boundaries.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on their own boundaries and communication styles within romantic relationships
  • Understand how to use assertive communication to articulate personal boundaries in a relationship
  • Understand that there are various real-life romantic/sexual pressures facing girls, especially in high school, and think through how to handle these pressures

Social Media

Social media is an ever-present part of most teens’ lives; it is a place to document their lives, express their identities, and, perhaps most importantly, to hang out with and keep in contact with friends. Social media has the power to connect teens and also the power to make teens feel left out and drained of energy. In this session, girls reflect on the joys and challenges of social media as well as the ways social media affects their ability to be present. They leave with tools for how to achieve health and balance when it comes to using social media and technology.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on the role that social media plays in their lives and on the joys/challenges of
    social media
  • Explore how social media affects their ability to be present
  • Describe how social media and technology affects their friendships, romantic relationships, and relationships with family members
  • Strategize about how to create and maintain balanced and healthy habits related to social media and technology use

Self-Care

Carving out time from the week for rest is an important part of Jewish practice. However, teen girls’ busy schedules composed of a rigorous course load, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities, often make rest and self-care seem like a luxury. In this session, girls discuss self-care as a necessary part of their lives and as key to their academic, social, and personal well-being. They leave with practical ideas about how to build self-care into their weekly schedule.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe what self-care is and how it can benefit them
  • Identify activities and practices, including Jewish practices, that make them feel good
  • Feel gratitude toward their bodies

Vision and Purpose

Many teen girls receive pressure to pursue perfection instead of learning from failure and setbacks. When girls are open to feedback and risk taking, and when they embrace the idea that intelligence, talent, and ability can be developed, they are more likely to grow. In this session, girls reflect on the various turning points they have experienced in their lives and explore the growth potential that exists in failure and setbacks. They respond to a Jewish teaching about the importance of making authentic decisions and begin to think about their unique purpose.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on various turning points that they have experienced in their lives so far
  • Consider that intelligence and ability can be developed over time and that failure is an opportunity to grow
  • Feel inspired to begin cultivating a sense of purpose

Closing Session

To cap off the year of Rosh Hodesh, the closing session engages girls in a reflective Havdalah ritual. Instead of marking the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the week, this ritual marks the end of Rosh Hodesh and the beginning of the summer. Girls will reflect on the ways that they and the group have changed and grown. They will also have the opportunity to share gratitude with one another.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on how everyone has changed over the past year
  • Reflect on their experience in Rosh Hodesh over the past year
  • Feel proud to be in an all-girl identified setting and to acknowledge the power, support, and potential of being in an all-girl identified setting

Rosh Hodesh 10th Grade Summaries

Practicing Self Compassion

Many high-achieving teenage girls think of self-criticism is a motivator. However, recent studies show that teens with high levels of self-compassion report less anxiety and depression, especially when facing academic stress. In this session, teens will explore how they might practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion in their lives. This exploration will be guided by the themes and rituals around renewal and forgiveness offered by the Jewish high holidays. Teens will also reunite after summer vacation and prepare for a new year of Rosh Hodesh.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reconnect with other group members and share experiences from summer vacation
  • Revisit group guidelines and revise, if needed, for the upcoming year
  • Explore themes and rituals around renewal and forgiveness offered by the Jewish high holidays as a way of cultivating self-forgiveness and self-compassion

Jewish Cultural and Spiritual Identity

By 10th grade, many teens have begun to reflect on the role that Judaism plays in their life. A recent Pew Study on Jewish identity reports that contemporary Jews connect to their religion in diverse ways, from observing Jewish law and being a part of a Jewish community, to living an ethical/moral life, to having a good sense of humor and more. In this session, participants explore questions like “how am I Jewish” and “what makes me Jewish?” They think about how their Jewish identity connects to their other identities and look at pop cultural and feminist ideas about God and spirituality. Finally, they use artistic expression to reflect their personal feelings and ideas related to spirituality and God.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Respond to the questions “how am I Jewish?” and “what makes me Jewish?”
  • Reflect on how their Jewish identity relates to other parts of their identities
  • Introduce participants to Jewish feminist approaches to God
  • Explore personal feelings and ideas regarding spirituality and God

Food

In our Jewish lives, we are surrounded by food: from seders to simchas, Shabbat challah to the latke/hamentaschen debate (https://bit.ly/1NKC9Kp), food permeates Jewish holidays and celebrations. Even people who identify solely as “cultural” Jews have their culinary touchstone like bagels, pastrami, and halva. At the same time, many teens raised as girls receive conflicting messages about eating from family members and the media, linking what and how much they eat with their body image. In this session participants will critically examine the messages girls receive about food from Judaism and from the media. They will then reflect upon their own personal relationship with food, inside and outside of Jewish contexts.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Explore how food and eating connects to Jewish cultural identity and religious values
  • Encounter and critique cultural ideas and stereotypes about Jewish women and girls and food
  • Describe what it means to have a healthy, meaningful relationship with food and eating

Achievement Culture

Over recent years, the rates of stress and anxiety reported by teen girls have increased. Psychologist, Lisa Damour says “we put so much on girls’ plates and [have] taken nothing off. Girls are now unbelievably good students…incredibly successful…and yet we also expect that they will be agreeable and helpful to the people around them, and they will also be adorable.” Similarly, author Courtney Martins writes, “[Girls have grown up] hearing they could be anything, but heard they had to be everything.” In this session, participants will take a critical look at the pressures they face to achieve (placed upon them by teachers, parents, and themselves), talk about the challenges of achievement culture at large, and strategize about how to respond to all of these pressures.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss achievement culture and its effect on teen girls’ mental health
  • Identify the ways in which friends are a source of support for one another during high school
  • Strategize about how to balance their own needs with the needs of friends and family and how to balance working toward achievement with self-care
  • Brainstorm about how to respond to the pressures associated with achievement culture from a personal and community/societal perspective

Drugs, Partying, and Risk Taking

Teens have, over the years, garnered the reputation for being impulsive and making bad decisions. However, modern researchers have found that teen risk–taking is largely motivated by teens’ desire to learn more about the world. In this session, teens will explore the risks they take in their lives, how they make the choices to take those risks, and how risk-taking affects them. The focus will be on risks associated with alcohol, drugs, and parties. However, the tools associated with risk taking in these situations (checking in with one’s feelings, having the language to set boundaries) can be applied to many other scenarios as well.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Explore how to make thoughtful, healthy, and safe decisions in risk-taking situations – in this case when drugs or alcohol are present
  • Reflect on personal “fallback setting” and how to check in with themselves in a new or stressful social situation
  • Explore the messages that teenagers raised as girls receive about drugs and alcohol from media, society, and Judaism

Pleasure and Consent

In the first episode of the Netflix show, Big Mouth, Jessi comments that “puberty for boys is [portrayed as] the miracle of ejaculation and for girls we’re just a yarn-ball of aching tubes.” This session puts a spotlight on the often-disregarded topic of female pleasure. Participants will consider the messages they have received and internalized about pleasure. They will also reflect on what makes their body feel good, the language they use to talk about genitals, what consent looks like in real life, and how to communicate with a current or future partner about sexual boundaries.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify and discuss external messages about women, pleasure, and sex as well as internal knowledge and decision making
  • Acknowledge and appreciate that their bodies have the potential for pleasure
  • Reflect on their own intimate and/or sexual decision making
  • Feel inspired to build a deeper understanding of trust and sexual consent

Sexualization and Objectification

Many teen girls witness sexualization and objectification, from hyper-sexualized people in the media (advertisements, tv, films, video games, comic books and more), to cat calls, to institutional dress codes, to internalized pressure to be sexy. In this session, participants learn about the concept of sexualization and reflect on how it affects them in their lives. They will draw inspiration from a woman from the bible (Vashti) who refused to be sexualized. And finally, they’ll explore ways they can practice agency when making decisions about how they present themselves and behave.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify ways they can combat sexualization in their own lives and be the subjects of their own stories (school, family, friendships, and intimate relationships)
  • Describe how sexualization in the media affects their lives, choices, relationships, and their ideas about what is sexy, desirable, natural, and healthy
  • Feel they have body autonomy—for girls to feel entitled to have agency when making decisions about and experimenting with how they visually present themselves and how they behave
  • Describe how Jewish wisdom can help them navigate sexualization

Resist and Repair

What with the March for Our Lives movement and the Women’s March, there are more and more examples of teens engaging in changemaking efforts today. Activism is beneficial for teens; psychologist, Lisa Damour says that teens wo participate in activism are able to develop professional skills, connect to social networks, and become more confident in their own capacities. In this session, teens learn about the rich history of Jewish women’s involvement in tikkun olam (repairing the world). They reflect on the emotions and circumstances that drive people to become activists and learn about the process of change-making. Finally, participants will consider the role that activism currently plays in their life and what type(s) of activism and changemaking might be personally fulfilling to them.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the history of Jewish women activists and consider the role of historical and contemporary Jewish women and girls as change making
  • Describe a range of emotions and circumstances that motivate change makers to act
  • Reflect on the role activism and change making currently play in their life and what type or types of change making might be personally fulfilling to them (e.g., marches, walkouts, online campaigns, organizing, volunteering, tzedakah)

Closing

To close this year of Rosh Hodesh, this session draws on the mikveh ritual as a structured way of reflecting on the transition associated with the end of the year of Rosh Hodesh. Participants will learn about and possibly personally experience a mikveh ritual. They will reflect upon the past year and the transitions they are experiencing in their lives, offer gratitude to their fellow Rosh Hodesh participants, and think about what is to come.

Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on how everyone has changed over the past year.
  • Reflect on their experience in Rosh Hodesh over the past year.
  • Feel proud to be in an all-female setting and to acknowledge the power, support, and potential of being in an all-female setting.
  • Experience the ritual of mikveh as an experience that honors transitions associated with the end of the school year and the end of this year of Rosh Hodesh

11th-12th Grade

In 11th and 12th grade, Rosh Hodesh groups will explore themes such as exploring healthy risk-taking, deepening one’s sense of identity as a Jewish woman, cultivating mindful habits (learning how to show up for yourself and for others in the group), building leadership skills, and transitioning to college. Sessions cover the following topics:

  • Session 1: Connecting to Ourselves and Each Other
  • Session 2: Being Present
  • Session 3: Growing Out Not In
  • Session 4: Driving
  • Session 5: Hineni: I Am Here
  • Session 6: What’s Your Jew-Ish: Exploration of Your Jewish Identity
  • Session 7: Vision For Myself
  • Session 8: Closing: Gathering For the Seniors
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