Contact: Jason Edelstein, (510) 239-1102
Cincinnati, OH – A cohort of professionals from around the Ohio River Valley will begin a yearlong initiative, the NEXTwork Hub, to help them better engage Birthright Israel alumni and their peers throughout the region in Jewish life. Designed by NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, with funding from the Covenant Foundation, the NEXTwork Hub kicks off March 10th and will build a network of professionals in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Columbus, Dayton, and Lexington to learn new skills, build their professional capacity, and enhance their Jewish knowledge.
“This will be a truly empowering and inspiring experience for this inaugural cohort of engagers—the professionals who interact directly with young Jewish adults in their communities,” says Rabbi Ari Weiss, Senior Director of Jewish Education at NEXT, who developed the curriculum for the monthly in-person seminars. “Within the Hub, they will have the opportunity to grow together and think creatively about the best ways to help shape the Jewish journeys of young adults. It will be exciting to see their evolution and the outcomes they achieve throughout the year.”
NEXT sees the Hub as a way to provide sustained support and develop even stronger relationships with and among Ohio River Valley engagers. The first Hub seminar will examine “Relational Judaism” in the context of young adult engagement. Other seminars will address knowledge of Birthright Israel alumni and their peers; experiential education; program design, marketing and branding; and how to connect Jewish young adults to Jewish community, among other areas. Experts and practitioners will lead each in-person session, working directly with the engagers to teach best practices. Beyond the monthly seminars, the Hub includes mentorship and chevruta study among the participants. The Hub’s curriculum was designed to adapt the inclusive values articulated in the Taglit-Birthright Israel educational platform for local engagement.
Morlie Levin, CEO of NEXT, notes that effectively training and supporting engagers is critical to engaging the nearly 250,000 Birthright alumni in the U.S.
“As the number of Birthright Israel alumni steadily increases, we understand that engagers are the crucial, direct link to these young Jewish adults,” says Levin. “By resourcing engagement leaders and creating a strong network, we can help create communities with a vibrant ecosystem of Jewish opportunities for Birthrighters and their peers. And for engagers, the Hub is an opportunity to elevate their professional skills in numerous areas—including program design and stakeholder management—which will help them greatly in their current work and throughout their professional life.”
The Hub builds off of NEXT’s efforts over the last two years to develop its national network of engagers, known as the NEXTwork. Throughout the year, the NEXTwork brings together engagers from different organizations to further advance the skills, strategies, tools and careers of the people who actually make Jewish journeys happen. Weiss explains that the Hub offers a structure to go even deeper in a targeted region.
“Each Hub seminar will address a different area of engagement and will help the cohort collectively advance their skills and share successes and challenges,” adds Weiss. “The idea is to create the best environment for them to learn as a team and share their best ideas for engaging young adults. With this model, these participants have the potential to change how an entire region reaches and engages its young Jewish adults.”
Adds Stacie Klein, Young Adult Division Director of the Columbus Jewish Federation, “Because Jewish communal work is still relatively new to me, I’m seeking professional development from the NEXTwork Hub to grow my skill sets. My Jewish community has continuously provided me opportunities to engage and thrive, and I’m excited about sharpening my skills as I give back through my work. Deepening my understanding of Relational Judaism and fostering conversations about big, Jewish topics are two sessions I’m particularly excited to attend!”
The Hub is indicative of NEXT’s strategy to consult with communities and leaders to create more and relevant opportunities for young Jewish adults. This includes sharing information about national young adult engagement trends; best practices for creating programs and do-it-yourself opportunities for Birthrighters; and census-like data about young Jewish adults in communities. Additionally, if a pilot initiative such as the Hub achieves positive outcomes, NEXT will look to adapt the model to other regions as well.
NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation helps turn ten day trips to Israel into lifelong Jewish journeys. Building on the Birthright Israel experience, NEXT empowers communities, professionals, and Birthrighters themselves to create meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults.