Who would have thought that public high school teens would opt to take a Jewish course to help fulfil their high school credit requirements? Yet that is exactly what is happening at Torah High, a supplementary Jewish school that offers a variety of courses for high school credits.
Many Ottawa teens are discovering their Jewish identities and making positive connections with their community at Torah High, a school that offers a variety of courses on Jewish topics such as ethics and philosophy. A face lift of Torah High has replaced the old model – a social, recreational program that dabbled in informal discussions about Judaism – to a serious program that offers a credit in exchange for teens’ fulfilling academic requirements that meet the Ontario Ministry of Education guidelines.
Since taking on the role of NCSY Ottawa’s executive director this fall, I have shared my passion for strengthening and developing new programs. I am pleased to say the changes have taken hold and are gathering momentum as the programming is attracting a larger swath of Ottawa’s Jewish teens. While the course requirements must meet ministry guidelines, the material is nevertheless relevant and interesting, and all classes are taught in an exciting interactive format in a casual environment.
Classes always include free food and take place in Centrepointe at the NCSY Teen Centre, which is outfitted with large flat-screen TVs, PS4, Xbox, couches, computers, Wi-Fi, and an ice cream tub machine. Teens get the best of both worlds – an environment that allows them to investigate and delve into their Jewish heritage with courses delivered by highly qualified teachers, while socializing with like-minded peers in an environment that is just hip and cool enough to make it appealing.
NCSY Canada, whose mission is to connect, inspire and empower Jewish teens and encourage passionate Judaism through recreational and educational programming in a more informal context, is also growing. School clubs for Jewish teens have been launched, where teens meet in their home high schools for an hour of casual discussion and socializing.
A record number of Ottawa teens also signed up for NCSY’s annual Shabbaton in Niagara Falls in November where they spent a Shabbat together with teens from Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton for an amazing, inspirational experience.
Other notable events include: the launching of Learn n’ Earn, also in November, which is a six-week pilot program where teens get together to learn Jewish themes with mentors in exchange for a monetary stipend; and a Havdalah party that marked the end of the Shabbat Project weekend, October 27-28, a grassroots movement that aims to attract as many families across the religious spectrum and from a multitude of backgrounds as possible to celebrate one Shabbat together.
NCSY and Torah High are also looking ahead to the summer, offering early bird deals on NCSY’s summer programming, among which is the organization’s flagship and highly popular TJJ trips, where teens tour Israel for four weeks.
So, while modern culture offers the transient taste of fun to Ottawa’s Jewish teens, NCSY and Torah High are able to cut through the fast-paced noise of modernity to offer something meaningful to Jewish high school teens in Ottawa.
To register for Learn n’ Earn, or one of NCSY’s summer programs, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.