I enjoyed Rabbi Shalom Baum’s letter in response to the article “Is Half-Shabbos Really No Shabbos?” (fall 2012) on the dangers of calling teens who text on Shabbat michalilei Shabbat. But the question that remains is, what are we doing to turn our teenagers on? How can we expect our teenagers to stay on the correct path if we aren’t attracting them to it?

First and foremost, we have to stop focusing on teens being turned off. The Torah’s ways are inherently attractive; we need to think about how to draw teens to Torah instead of ramrodding them.

Secondly, in our schools, we must stop testing in Judaic studies classes. I know this sounds radical, but plenty of educators practice this and it works. Stress is one of the main causes of teen resentment. Of course our Torah classes must be attractive, inspiring and relevant as well.

Finally, parents need to develop and share their excitement for mitzvot. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, talks about bringing the excitement of erev Shabbat into our homes. When it comes to our discussions of mitzvot, we must reframe our tone to one of enthusiasm, excitement and zest.

Our teens aren’t failing; we are failing our teens, and we must do a better job.

Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Teen rabbi at Boca Raton Synagogue
Boca Raton, Florida

This article was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Jewish Action.
We'd like to hear what you think about this article. Post a comment or email us at ja@ou.org.