Sunday, August 2, 2015

Supporting the shul's college students

After a long time with very few children, our synagogue now has many kids, and is going to start having its first Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in a year or two. (Hold the date for David’s Bar Mitzvah, by the way: 12/14/24.)

Some of those kids may continue with some Hebrew School, but 5 years later they’ll be going off to college, and I’d like to support the kids continuing to practice Judaism at college and keep their families connected to the shul. Some families tend to drop synagogue memberships after the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and having a sensible program for supporting kids in college might help keep those families connected for longer, particularly when finances get strained by college tuition.

Lots of organizations give scholarships to college kids, so we could look at that idea. It would have to be significantly less than the dues revenue coming in from those families, or funded separately somehow. Should it be tied to taking Jewish Studies classes?

Assistance with going on a birthright trip to Israel?

Gift certificates for Jewish books? Kids still read in college, right? The PJ Library program is great for little kids, and we could create a college version.

Care packages? Shabbat candles and candlesticks (if the college allows candles), Chanukah candles and menorahs, Passover seder kits, mezuzah for the dorm room door, apples and honey — there are lots of possible needs that could be met. Would we ask parents to cover the cost? Should the shul provide or subsidize everything? Some kids will connect with the college Hillel, which will meet most of those needs, but others won’t. Do we focus on items for the student by themselves, or items they can share with fellow students?

1 comment:

Ed said...

Care packages are a good idea, and you could probably do a fund-raiser specifically for them—when and if you get enough kids, I would imagine that the younger kids could do a fund-raiser of the bake-sale/car-wash kind for the care packages to college kids. You might ask parents to throw in shipping costs, or be responsible for otherwise getting the goodies to the kids.

Our current shul has summer (and, I think maybe, winter-break) college-kids-are-back shabbos services, with the returning kids leading. I think this is a nice idea to go along with whatever else is going on. We also have summer trips (the last two years they have gone to Haiti to build houses) which are not specifically for college kids but do attract them. It would probably be difficult for a not-huge shul to arrange those, but you could look into it.

I have a vague impression that college kids these days stay in touch with each other on social media; the shul could... dunno? Ask one of them to be a liaison?