Jan 30, 2018
Rebecca Ruberg and Keryn Price

Choose Your Own (Summer) Adventure

As camp-kids through and through, we are constantly amazed at how today’s teens can spend their summers. Some of them, like we did, “live ten months for two” to escape to their home away from home. But a new type of teen is emerging, one who is both thrill-seeking and knowledge-hungry, eager to explore an interest or passion, to volunteer, or just to find a space to escape from it all.

In a recent survey conducted by Rosov Consulting of the New York Teen Initiative incubator programs, 75% of teens said they were looking for summer experiences that sounded like fun. That may not be surprising. But 63% of teens expressed that they actually wanted to learn something from the program. Jewish program providers have become savvy to this new type of teen and their need for something more beyond the “conventional” summer experience. A plethora of trendy, contemporary, and diverse programs have emerged as a result.

For six weeks last summer, we hopped between the 10 programs incubated by the New York Teen Initiative. The New York Teen Initiative is jointly funded by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jim Joseph Foundation, and operated by The Jewish Education Project with a goal of increasing the number of teens participating in Jewish summer experiences. Each program offers something unique – from working in a lab to repelling to road tripping to filmmaking. Collectively, these programs shared a central goal: showing teens that there is more to staying engaged in Jewish life beyond their Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration.

In six weeks, we experienced Jewish life in new and practical ways: we meditated on the beach with Sababa Surf Camp, laced up our hiking boots to camp in the wilderness at Eden Village Food and Farm Trip, and helped seniors download apps for their iPhones at DOROT Summer Teen Internship Program. In Israel, we brushed up on our sheepherding at Roots Israel Service Learning Adventure and spent a day on the job in Startup Nation through Next Step: Israel Internships. As we immersed ourselves in the world of these teens, we realized, first hand, that FindYourSummer.org’s tagline “Experiences for every teen” is more than just lip service – there really is a program out there for every interest and personality.

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Barry Schwartz comments, “Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” As options for teens continue to grow, we asked ourselves, “How can we help each person connect to the right Jewish summer programs?”

With this, FindYourSummer.org’s Summer Planner was born.

The goal of Summer Planner is to help narrow down choices while continuing to offer an ever-growing list of unique activities. It is an all-in-one tool designed to help the user browse through the FindYourSummer.org catalogue of 380+ programs and craft their summer without feeling overwhelmed.

Say you’re a parent with a teen who loves to travel and they’re entering 10th grade. Seems simple enough to find a program, right? Well, then add into the mix that you’ve decided you only want them to travel domestically, Kosher food is a priority, and also, it would be ideal if there was financial aid available. Now it gets a little more complicated to find with a simple Google search. However, with FindYourSummer.org, all you need to do is punch in your criteria and there’s a number of applicable programs at your fingertips.

Now you’ve found over twenty programs that your teen might love. With Summer Planner, you can save them all in your planner and send them to your teen or partner to figure out the best fit. If scheduling conflicts are a concern, you can check out multiple programs on your very own calendar. If you’re searching for programs for more than one teen, you can put labels on each program to keep you organized as you plan.

So whether your teen wants to fly to Israel to learn about science and technology or you think they need to pad their college application with an internship, don’t let the paradox of choice scare you away from making a decision. Choose both. Throw in a week of surfing while you’re at it. The world – or at least summer – is yours.

Rebecca Ruberg is Project Director, New York Teen Initiative and Keryn Price is Marketing and Communications Manager, New York Teen Initiative, at The Jewish Education Project.

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