Kharkov's Milestone

This week the teen club at Beit Dan, Kharkov’s JCC, had a milestone, one that we hope to see more of throughout Ukraine. Organized by two volunteer leaders of the Jewish Youth Association we initiated our first teen board, or as we call them teen madrichim.

What is a madrich? From the Hebrew root derekh which means direction, a madrich is a leader that shows the way. And that is just what these four teen leaders want to do.

Over the past two years, as the teen club has been built and developed in Kharkov, teenagers have engaged and been inspired by Jewish traditions, culture, and community. When asked why they now want to be leaders, their answers were simple: “we love community, and we want to add to it,” “we want to learn to create and develop programs too,” and “we’ve seen other leaders, and have been inspired, now we want to inspire.”

This process of empowering teenagers is a test for everyone involved. For the teenagers it is a test to see how much they are willing to be initiators rather than observers. For the volunteer leaders they will be learning how to pass on the knowledge that they have accumulated over the years to the next generaion. And for the community, as a whole, it is an experiment of training leaders in their adolescent years to think about major issues.

Before the meeting ended, I mentioned a small project that I wanted to do. Simple – make a video of the four teen leaders saying Shabbat Shalom to our partner organization, BBYO. Their answer was less simple, “Why just the four of us?” They wanted this Friday’s program to be the entire club making a 3 minute video, about who we are and what we do, and share it with BBYO.

I think we are already passing the test.


This year, we are trying to connect Jewish teenagers, like those in Kharkov, in Ukraine to each other through seminars and retreats and to BBYO international. Every week, I will be showcasing a different community and their teen club. Help us strengthen the Jewish world by connecting Jewish teens to one another. Learn more by clicking on the following link.

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