Tossing the ball around in the dark

The youth group that I’m an advisor for is having it’s annual shul-in (sleepover) tonight.

As I write in the dark, one group of teen girls is giggling at picture on facebook. One boy has spilled Sprite on himself. The rest of the group is enjoying watching Garden State. This evening we’ve eaten pizza, tossed a football around, listened to good music, discussed how it’s depressing that most young people don’t know who Bob Dylan and Neil Young are, and laughed when the football hit someone in the head. (He’s ok).


During this evening’s programme on Israel’s security wall/fence/call it whatever you want, it’s an ugly eyesore and a hassle either way… I wound up having to do a bit of educating. Turns out the kids didn’t know much about Israel’s changing borders, what the security wall is, how the conflict started, or much else. I don’t blame them. It’s not their fault. They sure as hell won’t learn it in school, and I’m pretty sure these things aren’t discussed much in religious school. Most of them don’t watch the news regularly, and if they do, there’s too much misinformation.

So where are they supposed to learn about this? Youth group? Camp?

That’s fine and dandy, and I love teaching about Israel in an informal setting, but it seems to me that with something this important, there needs to be a bit more importance and imminence emphasized, and youth group alone won’t do that.

So where can they turn?… The dinner table? Do I pray that they pick up newspapers, read on their own, and draw educated conclusions based on what they’ve read? Do we burn them out with Israel programming at youth group?

I think it’s important that the kids discover the importance of remaining in touch with what’s going on, while at the same time not feeling that they’re being force-fed.

So was tonight a successful evening? The kids are having a good time right now, watching an amazing movie. They learned a little bit, and I experienced more of the angst that is common to all youth group advisors. The girls have tired of facebook and are now going back to Garden State. Two of the guys are now tossing the ball around in the dark.

But that’s not the point. Or is it?

Toss the ball around in the dark.


  1. POLJ says:

    Nicely said. I will post this in my Shabbat thoughts if that is alrighty by you.

  2. Alex says:

    Some of them will feel overloaded, some will take the initiative to seek out more information, and some will wait until you serve it to them on a platter. They’re kids…that’s how it works. As it is, most of them don’t have enough time to toss a ball around in the dark. That’s a success in and of itself.

    Being aware is a wonderful thing, but at that age they have to be inspired into it. Otherwise, they’re the funnel. Wait…funnel, sieve, sponge, and…um…the other one. (Can you tell I’m no longer as up on my Pirke Avot as I used to be?) Anyhow, you personally can’t make Israel a dinner table conversation or a big focus at their schools. The most you can do is try and spark a deeper appreciation and hope that it catches.

    And, speaking from experience, Jesse, you tend to be pretty good at that sort of thing, so don’t freak out too much.

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