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The Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future



The Challenge

Connecting and engaging teens with their Judaism is a CFJF priority. Today's teens are very different from the teens of past generations. Innovations like cell phones, social networks and video games have made them accustomed to being in control and having instant gratification. And the internet has given them a unique understanding of — and ability to interact with — the larger world.

According to the 2004 study "Understanding Jewish Teens and How to Increase Jewish Teen Engagement," Jewish teens are more alienated from organized religion than their non-Jewish peers. Meanwhile, although teens claim that their Jewish views are heavily influenced by those of their parents, they differ in some important areas. For example, a BBYO study notes that only 32% of Jewish teens think it is "extremely" or "very" important to marry a Jewish spouse, as compared with 60% of Jewish parents.  Given all these reasons, it's imperative that the Jewish community develop innovative programs that appeal to teens.

The Solution

In Pittsburgh, we've created exciting programs that benefit teens and engage them with the Jewish community for the long term. Examples of local agencies' programming include: J-Serve, a Teen Community Service Day that drew an extraordinary number of participants; a local installment of the much-acclaimed Diller Leadership Fellows, a national project encompassing educational/leadership sessions and a peer trip to Israel; and the Samuel M. Goldston Teen Philanthropy Project, a grant making and leadership development program for emerging teen philanthropists.

CFJF funding support will continue to engage more teens in teen-focused community activities, along with camping and trips to Israel that help young people form a lasting relationship with their Judaism. To ensure a vibrant Jewish community of tomorrow, CFJF will enable us to make substantial investments in programs that can accomplish this today.

The Rats

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"A synagogue was infested with rats.

The rabbi called in an exterminator, who said he'd get rid of them, but a week later, the rats were back.

The rabbi had the exterminator in again, but a month later, the rats were back. He called in the exterminator for the third time, but this time the exterminator said, 'I don't think I can help you.

These are very stubborn rats.' The rabbi was about to give up, when suddenly an idea came to him. 'I know!' he said. 'I'll just bar mitzvah them all, and then they'll never return!' "