No matter our religious affiliation or our allegiance to a particular college basketball team (which can be a religion to some), it’s hard to ignore the impact that the late Coach John Wooden had on many Southern Californians. An anonymous author wrote one of the poems that Coach Wooden loved to recite from memory:
“No written word nor spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be,
Nor all the books on all the shelves.
It’s what the teachers are themselves.”
Coach Wooden saw himself first and foremost as a teacher and as a role model for how we all can become leaders by example.
Up to the age of 13, parents are their children’s most powerful role models. Our kids watch everything we do, soak it up like sponges, and do their best to copy our values and our behaviors, trying them on like a suit of clothes.
When children reach the age of 13, development experts tell us, parents have pretty much exhausted the influence we have on the creation of their lifetime values. Teens develop as individuals and move towards adulthood, and they are far more likely to be influenced by peers and slightly older role models. It’s not that they don’t love us or need us any more; it’s that they don’t believe we can connect with what they’re thinking and experiencing.
We want our kids to grow up with a rich Jewish identity; therefore, it’s important that we provide high schoolers with a community to which they can relate. It must be infused with Jewish values and filled with Jewish role models that will guide them through the emotional roller coaster ride of the teen years.
TALIT Nation @ the Bureau strives to provide this environment for the teens of Orange County and surrounding areas. “TALIT Nation has the feeling of being a youth group,” says David Lewis, CEO of the Bureau of Jewish Education, “but it’s so much more than that. Led by our energetic and experienced staff members who serve as role models, participants have experiences that transform their ideas about what it means to be Jewish.”
Last year, the TALIT Nation community grew to 260 high school teens. This year, the Bureau plans to introduce new experiences that will appeal to students getting ready for college. Lewis is especially excited about the new “college connection” theme for 11th grade students, who are getting ready to choose where to apply and can benefit from an overview of options for Jewish life during college years. Social Action Sundays will provide opportunities for teens to understand the impact they can have on their world.
More details about the upcoming plans for TALIT Nation and other Bureau programs are available online at www.bjeoc.org or through the Bureau at (949) 435-3450.