After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from one of the top journalism schools in the country, I have chosen a career path: informal Jewish education.
Yes, it’s true. This lover of writing and copy editing, headlines and deadlines, has decided to spend her time teaching teenagers about Judaism, leadership and responsibility.
I will be the Senior Youth Advisor at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Ill., working with USY (high school) and Kadima (middle school).
My parents’ friends have asked many questions about how a journalism school graduate will fit into this role. To me, it makes perfect sense.
1. It’s all storytelling. Journalists take pride in telling and retelling people’s stories, but so does Judaism. We read great stories in the newspaper and on news Web sites, but the great stories and archetypes got their start in the Torah and in other traditional Jewish writings. It is my goal to help inspire Jewish young adults to find and develop their own stories, as well as search for the stories among their peers.
2. Communication is key – especially in a non-profit. I’ve spent the past 11 years of my journalism career (it all began in sixth grade at the Schechter Scoop) learning the arts of communication in writing, speaking, photography, video and social media. These are crucial in the journalism world, but also essential in non-profits. Our youth need the skills to communicate properly with each other and with adults to accomplish their goals.
3. Spread the word? Piece of cake. Teens today are on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, some on Twitter, listservs and otherwise all over the Internet. Journalists are trained to reach readers on multiple platforms, but so should Jewish educators and youth leaders. Educators aim to spread the word that Judaism doesn’t have to be the old, stale religion our parents learned, but that it can be exciting, entertaining, fast-paced and funny. Youth leaders, like journalists, need to use every tool available to them to get their peers interested in coming to events and programs.
4. Everyone needs an editor. Writing is probably one of the last things that many teenagers want to do, but yet they’ll need to write hundreds of essays, speeches and college applications. Luckily for them, they’ll have an informal educator trained in brainstorming ideas, organizing thoughts, writing clear prose and then editing it down.
5. Who? What? Where? When? Why? The “Five W’s” don’t apply to only writing journalistic pieces. These are also the Five W’s of planning an event. You’ll find answers to these questions in the first two paragraphs of a newspaper article, but you should also find them on a flyer or event invitation planned by a teen leader. But these questions go even beyond articles and flyers. Journalists are trained to ask questions of everyone, because any given answer could lead to a great soundbite or a whole new story idea. Informal educators – and youth leaders, too – need to know how to be interested in people, ask questions and remember the answers. Pretty flyers and popular Facebook events are only part of the way to get people involved – the other way is to really care about people, get to know them and plan events that cater to their needs.
6. Journalism is really just teaching, anyway. If you’ve ever learned about hunger in Ethiopia, corruption in politics or a new species of cicada, a journalist probably taught it to you. Educators and journalists both have the responsibility to collect accurate information and disseminate it in the most effective way possible. Maybe that’s why journalists love what they do – because it combines their passion for writing with their passion for sharing information to help others.
The past four years at Medill were extremely valuable to me, and I thank all my professors and classmates who taught me everything. Now, I look forward to working with a talented group of teenagers and a supportive group of adults in my new community. And as much as I look forward to teaching, I look forward to learning from these adults and teens as well.