A ‘JOLT’ of Jewish learning for teens

Whitney Gartenberg

By Whitney Gartenberg

When asked why I make time in my busy schedule for Jewish Opportunities and Learning for Teens (J.O.L.T.), my initial response is “How could I not?” I prioritize J.O.L.T. because it is a great activity that helps me expand my knowledge of Judaism and Israel and stay connected with friends.

J.O.L.T.’s amazing faculty includes youth directors, rabbis and community educators, all of whom enjoy working with teens and are passionate about teaching. With at least 10 classes per trimester, all focused on Judaism or Israel, it’s hard to decide which ones to take. The good news is that what you can’t get to in one trimester, you can take in another.

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In the previous year, I took “Mitzvah Projects & Beyond” second hour, every trimester. This class really spoke to me and helped me see how large of an impact mitzvahs can have on a community. Performing mitzvahs and creating service projects were a great way for me to learn about different Jewish values.

But I didn’t only learn about the values in Judaism. I also explored the diversity of Israel socially and through its food in “Israel Through Cinema and the Arts” and “Culinary Map of Israel.”

With Israeli films as our material, the discussions and debates were anything but boring and always had me leaving feeling more knowledgeable than when I came in. “Culinary Map of Israel” on the other hand, always left me feeling full after preparing delicious Israeli dishes in the B’nai Amoona kitchen. Not only was the cuisine appealing, but so was the conversation while chatting with friends from schools and congregations all over St. Louis.

Last year, J.O.L.T. participants came from 14 different schools and eight different Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox congregations. With free time before the start of each Thursday class, catching up with friends from other schools was a blast. This year I will be starting John Burroughs School as a freshman and leaving my Ladue classmates. With high school sports, homework, and other extracurricular activities, J.O.L.T. will be a great place for me to stay connected with friends from my old school.

So back to the question- why do I make time in my busy schedule for J.O.L.T.? To me J.O.L.T. is an activity that can help each student find a personal connection to Judaism and Israel through amazing classes taught by even more amazing instructors with great friends from all over the community. This type of connection and experience is phenomenal, and one that I suggest all Jewish teens should make.

Whitney Gartenberg is entering her freshman year at John Burroughs School.