While a large portion of Jewish teenagers will become b’nai mitzvah, many drop out of Jewish life soon after. And Moving Traditions, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the social and emotional well-being of Jewish teens, gets it.
Life as a teenager can be overwhelming. The myriad social and academic pressures that teens face increasingly contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. In fact, a 2019 Pew Research poll found that 70 percent of teenagers see mental health as a major problem for themselves and their peers, ahead of issues like bullying, drug addiction and alcohol consumption.
Moving Traditions plays a critical role in helping teens navigate these challenges. The organization places Jewish teenagers (8th – 12th grade) in groups of no more than 12 of their peers. The groups meet monthly to explore topics that range from navigating social media to handling stress to understanding and expressing emotions. A trained adult leader facilitates the sessions.
“The curriculum takes Jewish wisdom and Jewish role models and brings it into everyday life and the issues that teens are facing every day,” explains Jen Kraft, Moving Traditions’ Colorado Director. “When teens gather together in a small group and have their heritage in common, it’s a space for connecting in a powerful and authentic way.”
The intimate, safe nature of the group experience not only encourages self-discovery and self-confidence, it strengthens connections with other teens within the Jewish community. Though the program is designed to last for two years, Kraft says that it is not uncommon for the groups to continue throughout high school.
Moving Traditions is currently accepting 8th and 9th graders for their three teen programs: Rosh Hodesh (girls), Shevet (boys) and Tzelem (non-binary teens).