Midwest NEXTwork Convening Trains Those Engaging Young Adults

Contact: Jason Edelstein, (510) 239-1102

Chicago, IL - To support professionals and volunteers who work to engage young adults in Jewish life, NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation partnered with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network to convene a Midwest NEXTwork gathering last week in Chicago, IL. The gathering brought together more than 50 Midwest professionals from the NEXTwork—NEXT's national network of young professionals engaging young Jewish adults—and members of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, including ROI Community and REALITY participants, for networking and workshops on best engagement strategies. The engagers represented 31 organizations from 14 metropolitan areas.

The Midwest Convening was an opportunity for engagers to further develop cross-organizational and cross-city networks, while learning how to effectively reach new members of their community, and bring change and innovation to their workplace. Engagers acquired tangible new tools and skills through master classes with experts, offered in three areas: 1) Organizational Change, focused on the immunity to change framework and change management; 2) Branding and Communication, focused on strategies and techniques to create and communicate a brand story; and 3) Peer Engagement, focused on best practices in welcoming new members to a community, one-on-one engagement, program design, and evaluation.

“The convening emphasized, created, and expanded meaningful relationships,” says Aaron Nielsenshultz, Special Programs Coordinator of Congregation Beth Torah in Kansas City. “By coming together in this setting, engagers are able to build on their ideas and learn the tools to try new engagement strategies. It is very rare that you have a clear new next step or direction after a conference, but NEXT and the Schusterman Philanthropic Network practice what they preach and put the community in the community’s hands.”

Speakers included Steve Yastrow, President of Yastrow & Co., Toby Rubin, Founder and CEO of Upstart Bay Area, Eva Stern, Director of Training for Jewish Outreach Institute, and Morlie Levin, CEO of NEXT.

“The convening created and strengthened the knowledge sharing, creativity, and sense of community amongst a wide array of professionals and volunteers from across different networks—with different experiences and backgrounds,” says Levin. “It is imperative that we help train and resource these key engagers. They are the relationships builders for hundreds of thousands of Birthright Israeli alumni and their peers, and commonly connect these young adults to Jewish opportunities in communities.”

NEXT consults with Jewish communities and supports professionals and volunteers throughout the country to help them engage and welcome young Jewish adults. In particular, NEXT believes that training and building strong networks of successful engagers helps Jewish communities become more accessible to the hundreds of thousands of Birthright Israel alumni here in the US. Six previous NEXTwork convenings from Los Angeles to Cincinnati to Atlanta have brought together more than 145 individuals across the country. This marked the first convening done in partnership between the organizations.

Adds Jane Charney, Assistant of the American Jewish Committee in Chicago, and a convening participant, “After learning about new strategies and processes I’m feeling reenergized about parts of my work that I’ve been trying to restructure.”