Mar 28, 2006 — Seventy-five high school students from across the country recently attended a groundbreaking conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on, Community: Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? The three-day leadership conference was a combination of discussion groups and activism training program that addressed the challenges of boundaries and gave the students tools to develop their own framework for a better understanding of their own communities.
“Our goal is to challenge young people to develop solid, well thought out opinions about difficult issues,” said Judy Goldgrab, director of the Eimatai Leadership Project under the auspices of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future.
Some of the challenging topics that were addressed included, “How do young people define their community? How do Orthodox Jews relate to non-Orthodox Jews, converts or interfaith families?”
As part of the conference, each school develops a program to implement in their school and/or community. Two Eimatai advisors serve as mentors for each school and guide them through the needs assessment for their project.
Each of the nine participating schools returned home armed with plans to make a difference in their communities. The Ramaz Upper School created project Food for Friends, which aims to help Israeli families with Shabbat meals. Students from Yavneh Academy of Dallas, TX decided to adopt a public school in south Dallas to create interactions with students, mentoring and encouraging dialogue to deflate racial tensions.
“Eimatai was an amazing experience,” said Jordana Kaminetsky in grade 11 at the Weinbaum Yeshiva High School of Boca Raton. “It really instilled in me the leadership qualities that I hope will help me develop into the leader I want to become.”
Workshops are designed and taught by undergraduate and graduate student advisors from Yeshiva University who create dynamic and relevant programs. The Eimatai advisors serve their designated school throughout the year to assist in the implementation of the project and provide any support necessary.
The innovative solution-based focus of the Eimatai Leadership Program has resulted in the launch of many successful projects. In past years students in Atlanta held a raffle to fund a school scholarship; Houston students held a day of awareness and education about domestic violence held at local synagogues; and in Westchester, students organized a rally of 4,000 of their peers in support of Israel.
Aviva Tobin-Hess in grade 11 at Ramaz Upper School said, “The conference made me realize the importance of community, leadership and made us aware of available resources to enhance our school as well as community.”
After presenting their respective projects to the gathering, students voted on a project that his/her peers presented. The school which received the most votes was awarded a small microgrant to jumpstart their project. Yeshiva University’s Eimatai mentors are enthusiastic about continuing their involvement with each school. The management skills learned by the Eimatai advisors serve to enhance their own education growth and leadership abilities.