Teen learning is a crucial piece of the Temple Isaiah lifelong learning program. During their year of B’nai Mitzvah year and after, we seek to intensify our students’ knowledge about important Jewish topics, give them social opportunities to be together as a group, and to allow them to explore Judaism in a way that is meaningful to them personally.
We have three programs for our teens: Gesher for 7th Grade, Next Dor for 8th–10th Grades, and Dor V’Dor for 11th and 12th Grades. All three programs meet from 6–8pm on Sunday evenings.
Gesher means bridge in Hebrew, and our Gesher program is a bridge from our Religious School Sunday morning programs to our teen programs. Students in the Gesher program have an opportunity for intensive learning about the Holocaust and the modern State of Israel (the formation through current issues). As part of the learning process, the class takes a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum each spring. While the topics are serious, the teachers in the Gesher program teach through creative and interactive means.
In addition to the education, through the course of the year the Gesher program holds Gesher Community Days in which students participate in activities that are off-curriculum and can be social, social action, or informal learning opportunities. This allows the students to spend time together in a more relaxed setting and build on friendships formed in the earlier years, while also welcoming in new students.
The name of our Next Dor program is a play on the Hebrew word “dor” which means generation. In this program we help students understand that Judaism is theirs to carry forward with them. Through 8th, 9th and 10th Grades we present students with information that engages and challenges them, helping them understand Judaism on an adult level, and where they fit into the Jewish community as Reform Jews.
The first hour of Next Dor is the core class with students divided by grade. Because of the importance we place on these years of learning, each grade’s core class is taught by our full-time educators and clergy. After a brief break, students are able to choose electives, 5–6 week courses on a variety of topics including cooking, Israel, Jewish Humor, Torah study, social action opportunities, and many more options, depending on student interest and available instructors.
The highlight of the Next Dor program is the annual Ben Topus Shabbaton. At this program, the Next Dor students join with the Dor V’Dor students for a weekend of fun and learning at a nearby retreat center. The Ben Topus Shabbaton is named in honor of a Temple Isaiah student who epitomized the ideals we teach and was tragically taken from us at the age of 18. The retreat seeks to be a place where we keep Ben’s irrepressible spirit and love of learning alive.
The end of the 10th Grade year in Next Dor is celebrated with our Confirmation ceremony in the late spring. While we know learning is never complete, those students who stay in our program through 10th grade are appropriately celebrated and honored through this meaningful milestone.
Dor V’Dor, generation to generation, is our post-confirmation program for 11th and 12th graders. Through monthly meetings, the Dor V’Dor facilitator uses student input to guide and lead discussions about the issues students are facing and will face, as they move on to young adulthood. The participants in Dor V’Dor continue to deepen their Jewish knowledge and learn how to make important life choices using Jewish identity and values as a guide.
The Dor V’Dor students also participate in the Ben Topus Shabbaton each year.