Teens Explore Their Identities and Responsibilities as Jews and Americans at a Leadership Conference Sponsored by Yeshiva University

Nov 2, 2004 — Yeshiva high school students from around the United States gathered Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at a retreat center in the Poconos for “One Nation Under God,” a leadership development conference sponsored by Eimatai, an initiative of Yeshiva University. This project is designed to help teens balance their dual identities.

“We want to challenge high school students to consider their place in relation to America, its politics, culture, and social issues,” said Judy Goldgrab, coordinator of educational leadership projects at YU through its Max Stern Division of Communal Services.

At the conference, students explored how Jews approach American civic life, including issues such as voting for leaders, tzedakkah priorities, and devoting time to Jewish and non-Jewish causes. In keeping with the Nov. 2 national elections, one conference program involved students in a campaign to elect a “role-model American Jew,” according to Ms. Goldgrab.

View Eimatai Conference photo gallery

“Two advisors presented differing views on how best to balance American and Jewish identities, and at the end of the conference students voted for the candidate who best represented their personal perspective,” she said.

Eimatai Yeshiva High School Leadership Conferences are an outgrowth of Torah Leadership Seminars, a popular YU program during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s that identified and developed future leaders from among Jewish teens at public high schools.

In 1999, a group of YU college students suggested a revised model of leadership development programming that would provide an open forum for student leaders to encounter complex communal issues and to empower students to realize their visions. Since then, Eimatai Leadership Conferences have tapped scores of student leaders.

Past conferences have focused on pertinent issues of the day, such as interaction with non-Orthodox Jews and learning about Jews from around the world. Conferences also aim to motivate students to create initiatives at their schools, synagogues, and communities. Recent projects have included letter-writing campaigns and a student-led rally—attended by some 4,000 high school students—to support Israel.

For more information, please contact Ms. Goldgrab at 212-960-5400 ext. 6015.

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