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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

RampageWired

The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

RampageWired

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“When a Jewish teen does something Jewish” : Focus on KCTeen, BBYO, KUSY, and KCNCSY & JSU.

Whether you are a teen or a parent, you are bound to encounter at least one Jewish youth group throughout the four high school years. It is no secret that hundreds of teens from all walks of life consider participating in events and programming from various youth groups a highlight in their lives. But amid all the excitement, a simple question arises: Who is making all this happen? What inspired them to dedicate a large portion of their lives to keeping these groups alive? 

 

Let’s peel back the curtain to learn more about these 5 passionate individuals and the distinct Jewish youth groups they support. Each one has its unique story, while all working towards one common goal.   

 

KCteen

    Rabbi Avremi Baron and Mrs. Mushky Baron have led the Kansas City chapter of Cteen since 2021. There were over 150+ participants as of October 2023, and with events like “Sushi in the Sukkah” “Kosher Color Festival,” and a huge NYC Shabbaton, it is safe to say KCteen is growing fast and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. When asked to describe KCteen to someone who has never heard of it before Mrs. Baron tells us “In short, it is a Jewish teen community open to anybody.” Rabbi Baron further explains that labelling KCteen as a “community” instead of a youth group highlights the difference in their goal. He says “What KCteen is aiming to do is create a community, offer lots of programs for lots of different teens, and make everyone feel a part of something.” 

Rabbi Baron teaches about the Shofar during a Cteen Jr event. (Photo taken by Mitzvah Memeories)

 

    The Barons explain that KCteen and Chabad are on a global scale and aim to be “a place where everyone can feel comfortable” and “have the opportunity to live their best Jewish life story, at your own pace.” KCteen is looking to offer that, while also having a fun time. 

 

    Mrs. Baron shares a few of the reasons why they landed on moving to Kansas City. Aside from having lots of her family in Kansas City,  Baron explains that after learning that there are 1,800 Jewish teenagers in Kansas with only 37% being involved in programming (2021 Study), they were inspired to join in and bring something fresh to Kansas. 

“By adding Torah and Mitzvot” we not only improve as Jews on a personal level, but also “help fight the spiritual war, and directly help Israel and the IDF ” she says.  “I want to be a part of inspiring the future of the Jewish people, and that starts with the youth” adds Rabbi Baron. 

 

    In addition to current events, KCteen is planning a new opportunity for teens called “the friendship circle” which “takes the phenomenal fun programming we have now, and puts into action teens not just having fun, but also giving back to the community”  in the form of teaming up with special needs children. “It will give the special needs children a great opportunity to be part of the community, and for the teens, it gives them a chance to give back and grow as people.” 

 

    Rabbi Baron finishes by saying, “Our mission as KCteen is to build a vibrant Jewish community in both quality and quantity. Where Jewish teens are proud to be who they are, that’s the goal”.

 

BBYO 

    Amy Ravis Furey is the Senior Regional Director of BBYO’s Mid America Region. When asked to briefly describe BBYO, she tells us it is a “pluralistic Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve teens in meaningful Jewish experiences” that delivers “fun, meaningful, and affordable experiences that inspire a lasting connection to the Jewish people.” BBYO Kansas City Council is comprised of 4 chapters, engaging over 190 Jewish teens in the Greater Kansas City area. Teens can experience consistent local and regional programming such as dances, sports, conventions, and dinners. The America region includes other councils from Omaha, St. Louis, and Minnesota.

 

    Furey was inspired to work with BBYO after she had positive experiences as a teen herself. She says, “As one of only a handful of Jews at my school in Kansas  – I could never fully belong. My body was too short and squat, my hair was too curly and dark. I longed to forge a more meaningful connection with Judaism, but I didn’t know how. And then my world widened  – I discovered BBYO.” She explains that BBYO gave her “a language of hope and optimism, and gave me purpose and connection with others just like me. I experienced community, true belonging, and joyful celebration.” 

 

     Furey wants to inspire and bring Jewish teens together during good and challenging times. “Jewish joy and Jewish community and support are at the heart of what we do.”  

 

She adds, “I have a deep commitment to growing the next generation of Jewish Kansas Citians.”  Furey continues,  “I can leverage the resources, relationships, and expertise I have gained, to take BBYO and this Region to the next level. I want to lend my talents to a place where Jewish teen engagement is embraced and invested in.”

 

KCUSY

     Ben Novorr is the Director of Youth & Family Programming at Beth Shalom and is the leader of the United Synagogue Youth for the Conservative Movement which is a youth group affiliated with (but not exclusive to) the conservative Jewish movement. Ben has been working at KCUSY for a year and a half and looks to offer “different and unique Jewish cultural programming.”

Ben Novorr relaxes in the USY lounge inside Beth Shalom. (Photo courtesy of Ben Novorr)

    Novorr’s passion for helping students develop Jewish identity started when he was in college. He was heavily involved with KU Hillel and says that there he was inspired to pursue a career intertwined with Judaism. Later he began working for Hillel where he “saw the power of youth groups” and learned “how to develop leadership potential.”  Later he developed relationships with staff at Beth Shalom and then applied to become the director of KCUSY.

 

     Novorr mentioned the advantages of youth groups working directly with a synagogue, explaining that “KCUSY can synergize with the synagogue (Beth Shalom) community” and has access to a wide range of resources. The youth lounge is located within the synagogue and in addition to offering local and regional programming all around the Midwest, KCUSY is well known for hosting lounge nights. Novorr shares that “we held a session to help teens process and educate them about what’s going on (relating to the initial terror attacks in Israel) to be together as a teen community and discuss how it is impacting us.” Novorr adds that in the future he would love to continue collaborating with other youth groups to bring everyone together and “Carve out a niche” explaining he wants teens to feel that they “can’t miss this event.”

 

      Novorr explains that his goal is to show that “All Jewish teens have a home at USY.” Additionally, he says, “It is not a competition between any of the youth groups, to me it is a win when a Jewish teen does something Jewish” and that “building the Jewish future is absolutely the most important thing.”

 

KCNCSY & JSU

     Kansas City’s chapter of NCSY and JSU (Jewish Student Union) looks to bring inspiration for Jewish middle and high schoolers through a diverse range of engaging programs. While I was unable to contact representative Madi Fidler at the time of writing, I can say that the goal of NCSY is to connect Jewish teens through events and programming, Israel and Jewish education, and regional conventions. JSU on the other hand focuses on outreach to Jews in non-Jewish schools who otherwise would not have a Jewish school environment. This club serves as a valuable resource for teens looking for a place to feel comfortable and proud of their Judaism. 

 

      In conclusion, no matter which programs you choose to attend, Jewish life for teens in Kansas City is thriving. Every leader’s goal is similar, bringing light to the future of Judaism. Although they may go about this goal in different ways, the positive outcome is clear and amazing to see.

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About the Contributor
Ethan Hobbs, Videographer
Ethan Hobbs is a sophomore at HBHA. This is his second year on RampageWired. Ethan is an experienced videographer, photographer, and graphic designer. In his spare time he enjoys playing sports, hanging out with his friends, and running his business. Last year, Ethan and others from the Publications team took a trip to New York for the CSPA journalism conference. At the conference Ethan received an award for a 2022 videography project and took many classes to advance his skillset. Ethan is looking forward to applying what he learned on this trip into another successful year of publications.