SRE Training Within Jewish Youth Movements

There are 10 Jewish youth movements in the UK and thousands of young people take part in their activities every year. Youth movements have a key function in terms of socialization for Jewish young people.  During the summer months JAT is invited to run SRE sessions at many of the youth movement camps. SRE sessions at camp have some unique qualities, which are explored below.

Group dynamic
From the start of camp young people are usually arranged in friendship groupings. Every day there are opportunities for the group to reflect on the day and share experiences and feelings about camp. SRE sessions are run in these established groups, which means a level of trust and supportiveness between young people may already be in place. Groups are often mixed boys and girls and some young people have said they appreciate hearing the perspective of the opposite sex. A youth leader remains with the group during SRE sessions. Youth leaders (madrichim) are often fairly close in age to the young people and have a relatively informal relationship with them. Many of the youth leaders have attended JAT 'Training the Trainer' programmes themselves so can support the SRE sessions with older teens and run sessions themselves with younger age groups.   

Camp environment
The group dynamic is part of the overall atmosphere at camp which is friendly and informal. Unlike school there are no uniforms, bells or desks. About half of the young people attending camps go to Jewish schools and about half attend non-Jewish schools. JAT also deliver SRE at several Jewish schools and work with each school to establish what content will be acceptable. For example, some schools ask that demonstrations of using condoms are not included in the teaching whereas this is often acceptable at camp. It is also possible to use a wider range of language at camp as part of discussions about what words are acceptable. School SRE is taught in single sex groups in Orthodox Jewish schools whereas camp sessions are often mixed.

Part of the appeal of camp for young people is that they can meet new people. New relationships are sometimes formed during camp and this makes the SRE sessions all the more relevant.

Style of SRE
Before each camp, SRE sessions are discussed and agreed between JAT and the camp organisers. Session plans are adapted to the time available, age and maturity of the young people and the denomination of the particular youth movement. Because young people attend different schools some of the content will be revision for some but new to others.

Free of the school timetable it is possible to have more in-depth discussions at camp. There is also less pressure to impart knowledge and the chance to spend time building skills and exploring Jewish values relating to sex and relationships. For example, a session about personal boundaries and pressures with a Year 8 group includes a practical activity about communication styles exploring the difference between passive, assertive and aggressive communication. This is followed by sharing a quote from Rabbi Hillel, and exploring the meaning and implications. See session extract below.

Rabbi Hillel (5 mins):
Hand out Rabbi Hillel quote and ask someone to read it out. Ask them what they think the first line means in the context of communication etc.

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?"

Explain that only you can stand up for your feelings. You have to express what you want to do and what you don't want to do.

Ask them what they think the next line means

"If I am only for myself, what am I?"

Explain that when you express your feelings, you have to do it in a way that respects the other person. This means listening to them too.

Ask them what they think the final line means

"And if not now, when?"

Explain that sometimes they might not be sure what they want to do. When this is the case they need to say they're not sure and that they need time to think. If this is the case maybe speak to someone you trust for advice.

Through their specialist knowledge JAT can design sessions that tap into particular areas of knowledge, experience and interest that young people have relating to their faith and more specifically to their denomination.  For all young people the SRE sessions at camp are uniquely different to 'what' and 'how' they learn in school.

For more information visit JAT.