Gratz Innovates With New Programming for Jewish Teens

The Jewish Community High School (JCHS) of Gratz College is launching two innovative new programs on Thursday nights this fall to engage Jewish teens through STEM and the arts: the Jewish Startup Workshop (JSW) and the Jewish Creative and Performing Arts Program (JCAP).

JSW is geared to Jewish teens interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation. It is a great fit for young people who may have an idea for a startup, who have thought about launching an app or who are simply ready to figure out how to impact the world in their own way — through the lens of Jewish ethics and values. Students will work in teams to design innovative solutions to real-world problems through hands-on learning with social innovators, entrepreneurs and STEM professionals in the Philadelphia area. JSW facilitators and coaches will guide the teens through a lean startup process to develop their concepts and to design them using digital technology.

JCAP is the new weekly program for teens passionate about artistic expression. Through JCAP, teens will have the opportunity to focus on music, drama and fine arts (including a range of mediums and techniques). They will learn from professional Jewish artists, while making connections to Jewish culture and identity through their chosen area of specialization. There will be collaborative performances and exhibitions, as well as service learning components, enabling teens to use the arts to give back to the community. The JCAP faculty includes Deborah Baer Mozes (theater); Chana Rothman and Ken Ulansey (music); Marlene Adler, Karen Singer and D’vorah Horn-Greenberg (fine arts).

Starting in September and continuing through the spring, JSW and JCAP sessions will take place weekly on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Gratz College Mandell Campus in Melrose Park, Pennsylvania. These programs are open to Jewish teens in grades 8 through 12, and will complement JCHS’s existing weekly Sunday and Tuesday programs.

“We are thrilled that JCHS is adding these new opportunities for Jewish teens on Thursday nights. Because we have communal funding for JCHS [from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia], we are committed to offering teens options that are substantially different from what synagogues generally offer,” says Rabbi Erin Hirsh, Gratz College interim president. “In our Sunday and Tuesday weekly programs, for example, this includes five levels of Hebrew and college credit courses.

“Now, we are adding JCAP and JSW on Thursday evenings. These are true magnet programs — designed to attract creative teens who love STEM, social innovation and the creative arts, but who have never explored Jewish identity in those contexts. That’s a gap because the world abounds with Jewish artists, STEM pioneers and creative problem solvers who explicitly understand their creative work as a dimension of their Jewishness. We hope teens who belong to synagogues will continue to come to JCHS, but these are also great programs to invite ‘unaffiliated teens’ to be part of.”

Learn more about all of Gratz’s teen programs on the JCHS website. To apply to a program or to obtain more information, contact Naomi Housman, director of innovation and development. JCHS is generously sponsored by Gratz College and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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