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Saturday, February 4, 2006

Reform Judaism's boy problem.

Hot on the heels of Doug Muder's commentary on ways Unitarian Universalist congregational culture can be overly feminized comes Debra Nussbaum-Cohen's article in the New York Times about another liberal denomination's difficulty keeping boys involved. She writes:

Rabbi Michael Friedman, director of junior and senior high school programs at the Union for Reform Judaism, which serves [Reform] congregations, recently surveyed all of the movement's youth group, leadership training, camping and Israel programs for teenagers and young adults.

Attendance records since 2003 showed that girls accounted for 57 percent to 78 percent of participants in each activity.

Rabbi Friedman said there had been a major cultural change in the past 25 years.

"The change has been not only who the leaders are but also in their leadership style," he said. "Before, it was always a man high up on a bimah wearing a big robe in a deep voice, a model of leadership that was male-only and top-down."

"With growing egalitarianism, which I totally support, we've seen a major cultural change," Rabbi Friedman said. "Those synagogues now have everybody sitting in a circle with someone playing a guitar sharing feelings. It's much more participatory. These are all good things, but they are styles that women may be more comfortable with than men.

"I don't think boys have a problem with it, but they don't necessarily see themselves there."

("Reform Jews Examining Ways to Retain Their Young Men," Debra Nussbaum-Cohen, New York Times 2.4.06, reg req'd)

I have two related questions for people familiar with the youth programs in their congregations: What's the gender balance like in the groups and classes for teenagers? And what's the gender of the group's leaders?

On a related note, Unitarian Universalists will want to participate in the UUA Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth, a revisioning process that involves surveying young people and adults about their experiences and needs. Especially if you have been frustrated by programs or services in the past, please share your perspectives.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 4 February 2006 at 2:55 PM

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February 7, 2006 11:07 PM | Permalink for this comment

Our congregation is doing OWL now, and it's 1/4 to 1/3 boys -- and the teacher ratio is the same. I don't know about regular Sunday School, but I know some men teach.

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