How do Jewish Youth Groups Impact Jewish Teens?


NFTY board and participants engage in a musical program and discuss the deeper meaning of some songs. Photo by Sydney Kraus.

Zach Hardy, Writer

A Jewish community is an important part of Jewish life anywhere in the world, but unfortunately, not all Jews are lucky enough to have a community like HBHA and the JCC. This is where Jewish youth groups like the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and United Synagogue Youth (USY) come in.


Jewish youth groups give Jewish teens an opportunity to find a community of people just like them. It provides a place where they can get away from their normal lives and go to a place where they feel like they truly belong.


NCSY is one of the many Jewish youth groups that, as Asher Glass, a junior at HBHA says, “brings Jewish teens from all over the country together.”

Jewish teens and their mentor gather at the airport for a youth group event. Image from Asher Glass.

Glass, when responding to a question about what NCSY and the community it creates means to him, said “It [NCSY] has a major impact on me because I get to meet so many people from everywhere that are just like me when it comes to Judaism.”


Another great part of these youth groups is how they bring people of different sects of Judaism and different types of observance together. While NCSY is primarily an orthodox group, it still brings in all types of Jews. Glass states, “There are… many teens that are more [or] less religious than me, but NCSY brings all of us together.”


Youth groups not only offer a place to connect, but they also offer leadership and community service opportunities.


Aviva Clauer, a senior at HBHA, participates in USY, a Conservative Jewish youth group. She serves on the regional board. “For me, the biggest thing is that USY has given me an outlet to connect to other Jewish teens my age and be involved in Jewish life and culture,” said Clauer.


Clauer stated, “I really appreciate having the ability to connect other teens…[and] being able to go to every convention and… lead a program regardless of if it’s yours or not.”


Clauer also expresses the value of being a leader in the community. She says “Going to a convention and being able to prepare myself to go in front of everyone… [and] lead people and connect with them… it’s helped me understand a lot better, how to be a leader in a way that is engaging to peers my age.”


Sarah Malter, a senior in high school and the president of the National Federation for NFTY Missouri Valley (MV) region says that being in a leadership role has “helped me grow as a person… I’ve learned a lot of skills… a lot of management skills of people and myself and how to delegate… 


Malter elaborates on the leadership experience NFTY has given her “It’s given me the opportunity to become comfortable in a leadership position.”

A NFTY teen (Sasha Albright) carries the Torah during a service at a NFTY event. Photo by Zach Hardy.

These leadership opportunities that Jewish youth groups offer help raise a generation of Jews who know how to lead, and more importantly, want to.


I am part of the (NFTY), which is a reform youth group, and I am also part of the NFTY MV regional board. This position has given me an opportunity like no other to work on and grow my leadership abilities through experience and hard work.


The feeling of writing, planning, and leading a program, then watching the participants engage and enjoy it is like no other. The moment all of your hard work pays off is when you see your creation making joy and building a community for others. 


After the event, I realized how life-changing these groups are. They allow us to connect with our Judaism on a deeper level, while also providing us with the tools and leadership skills that we need to succeed in and outside of our Jewish life.


Jewish youth groups are an essential part of building the Jewish communities around us. Jewish teens grow into Jewish adults, ready to uphold the community’s values along with their own while leading with pride. These groups and these people are what make our community, and many others like it, exceptional.