by Rabbi Charles Simon
"Retaining Our Post B'nai Mitzvah Students" was conceived at an FJMC Rabbinic Keruv Think tank in Atlanta in the fall of 2009, and is intended to stimulate local, regional, and International thinking about how the Conservative/Masorti Movement can retain its post B'nai mitzvah population. As a result, a lay/professional committee was organized with the intent of placing this item on the agenda of our communities and providing them with a number of ways to address teen engagement depending upon their resources and demographics. Special thanks go to Fern Chertok and Leonard Saxe from the Cohen Center at Brandeis University for the gathering of data. Many synagogues lack the resources to sponsor a Hebrew high school or USY program. In addition, a number of synagogues simply have been unable to develop strong USY or Ramah contingents. Even when they do, these efforts don't necessarily engage the entire post B'nai mitzvah population. It might be possible to empower our communities to more fully address the challenge of teen involvement and to ensure Jewish choices and enrich the Jewish capital of our teens if each community recognizes that one size can never fit all and the engagement of youth is each community's responsibility. While the more formal Movement efforts will hopefully continue to gain in strength they do not obviate the need for creative, aggressive local efforts. The paper begins with a brief analysis of the situation followed by a number of specific suggestions from selected colleagues.