In the spirit of Im tirtzu, ayn zo agadah (If you will it, it is no dream), there has been a quiet but growing educational miracle taking place over the last eight months.
It is called ‘The Kabbalat Torah Academy’ and it is breaking new ground in the Cape Town Jewish community. Getting a teenager to clean their room is hard enough. Now imagine trying to get a group of 12 or so teenagers to commit to an 18-month post-bar/batmitzvah course dealing with Jewish ethics and leadership. But that is precisely the dream conceived of by the leadership of Progressive Movement here in Cape Town. And that dream has been a living and breathing reality for the last eight months.
The ‘Kabbalat Torah Academy’ (KTA) has been gathering steady momentum. Some 12 young men and women have put up their hands to say HinenI, ‘Here I am’ and have given of their time, their energy and their thinking to create a cohort of remarkable young Jews who are equipping themselves to be future leaders of our community.
KTA has two components to it: Ethics and Hadracha (Leadership). Every three to four weeks, the cohort gather under the watchful, energetic and creative eye of their ‘Madrichim’ — their leaders, all of whom have extensive leadership experience in the Jewish community and in the Jewish Youth Movements.
The goal of the KTA is to activate these teens Jewishly, by asking them to grapple with some of the ethical dilemmas of our time. These dilemmas are filtered through the lens of progressive Jewish thinking, and always referencing our sacred texts. No topic is too controversial and no punches are pulled. The KTA group have not only merged together as a strong cohort, but they have stepped up to the task magnificently and are engaging powerfully with the ethical challenges thrown at them. Whether it is issues of gender, sex and sexuality, euthanasia, ethical consumption or taking a life, the group have not shied away from asking the hard questions and looking to our Jewish texts for some of the answers.
Alongside the ethical thrust of the programme, each session includes some hands-on leadership skills. The group have been exposed to dealing with conflict, handling feedback, planning a programme, the concept of dugma ishit (leading by example) and utilising games as a teaching tool. These are hard skills they are learning that will stand them in good stead for any path they choose to take in life.
These are wonderful young Jews; deep thinking, critical and sensitive and it has been a privilege to watch them step up to the task and already take up some leadership roles within the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation.
Watch this space.