Goal: To inspire post-b’nei mitzvah students to remain engaged in temple life and school so that they will continue to invest in Judaism. Additionally, participants in this program serve as role models for the younger children, encouraging the youngsters to keep learning and participating in the temple.
The Madrichim Program is for seventh-twelfth graders (approximately ages 12-18). Sixth grade students, who have already had the experience of older aides in their classroom, receive a form at the end of sixth grade inviting them to sign up for the program. The children are asked to attend a workshop, conducted by Rabbi Pasternak, Director of Religious Education, prior to the first day of Hebrew school. Through a workshop experiential, the madrichim are asked to analyze classroom situations and make decisions about how to handle them. Madrichim are asked to be at the school on Sunday mornings to assist in the classrooms, art room, music and dance programs and in the school office.
Explain how the program did or did not help you reach your goal:
The goal is constantly reached. Madrichim rarely drop out of the program and by sixth grade, students are already asking to be madricihm next year—before the form is even sent out!
Number of potential participants: 40
Number of actual participants: 33-35
Year program began: 1994
How did you measure success?
The success of the program is watching the Madrichim mature, gain confidence, take ownership of the program and be responsible for its success. A benefit of the program is that it increases attendance in the Hebrew high school.
What did you learn from this program?
Madrichim want to be a part of the learning process and to share their knowledge. Children are interested in the behind the scenes of running a classroom and a religious school, including preparing and teaching lessons and special event programs.
Did you make any changes after your initial foray into this program? If so, what were they?
Founded in the 1990s, the program is constantly evolving with fundamental changes to accommodate the zeitgeist. Madrichim, which translates to guides, was changed from Student Teacher Aides because it better reflects the role. In addition, using Hebrew allows the school to bring more Hebrew into the learning process. Originally only open to Hebrew high school students, we decided–because of student interest—to open the program to seventh graders as well as children of temple members who did not remain in the school post-b’nei mitzvah, as inclusion was an incentive to stay involved in the temple and religious school. We felt madrichim would continue their learning, including being part of Sunday morning t’filah. We also allow children who could not commit to being present every Sunday but need a minimum number of community service credits in secular school to be temporary madrichim.
If you could run the program again, what changes would you make?
We would offer longer workshop at the beginning and a workshop during the semester to get feedback from the madrichim about how things are going. There are plans for Jewish-themed fun trips.
Is there anything that would be important for another congregation to know if they were to implement this program or something like it?
The cooperation/support of the religious school teachers, the director of education and the temple administration are essential to succeeding.
How much did it cost the congregation? How much did it cost the participants?
The students do not get paid but our temple provides bagels and juice in a break room. At the end of the year, madrichim get gift certificates to a local establishment (e.g., the donut shop), plus recognition at a Shabbat service.
What were the roles/responsibilities of the people implementing the program?
The religious school director schedules, assigns and evaluates the madrichim with input from the teachers.
This summary is part of the Campaign for Youth Engagement, which endeavors to address the challenges of engaging teens and families post-b’nei mitzvah. To read others like it, search keyword “youth engagement,” and click here for the next one.
To learn more about leadership training and development opportunities for teens, refer to the plethora of NFTY resources.