Imagine receiving a letter from your younger self, reminding you of your day school experiences, your dreams and aspirations for the future, and the connections that shaped your life while reinforcing your deep-rooted Jewish identity.
The Jewish Youth Pledge (JYP) does just that. JYP bridges the gap between the indelible mark left by the Jewish day school experience and the challenge of maintaining meaningful alumni connections as students transition into adulthood. By offering Jewish teens and young adults the opportunity to make a lasting commitment to their heritage, JYP not only fosters a powerful sense of Jewish identity but also strengthens the bonds between alumni and their cultural roots.
The Jewish Youth Pledge was established not only to connect young Jews back to their own formative experiences but also, most importantly, to provide organizations with the invaluable opportunity to stay connected with their alumni into adulthood.
Prizmah has collaborated with the Jewish Youth Pledge to integrate this groundbreaking stewardship initiative into middle and high schools, and since its founding two years ago, JYP has partnered with nearly 50 youth organizations and day schools, with over 14,000 Jewish teens and young adults having taken the pledge.
Through the Jewish Youth Pledge’s free, 20-40 minute turnkey digital programming, day schools can begin to cultivate strong bonds with their alumni. In addition to nurturing alumni connections, the Jewish Youth Pledge offers numerous benefits:
- Opportunities for reflection and self discovery
- Enhanced school pride and loyalty
- A solid foundation for future engagement
- A source of inspiration and motivation
To participate, students compose letters to their future selves, reflecting on their experiences and aspirations. The letter writing process begins with a powerful prompt:
“I hereby pledge to act today and throughout my lifetime to strengthen the Jewish people and Israel. I make this commitment because I have a responsibility to ensure that my generation writes the next chapter of the Jewish story and remains a strong link in the chain of generations.”
Then participants are asked to write to their future selves, answering questions such as, “If you could meet yourself in the future, what would you hope to hear that you had accomplished or contributed?”
These letters are preserved in a digital time capsule, and a text message is sent to participants every two years to remind them of their commitment. On the fifth, tenth, fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries of their pledge, participants receive the full version of their letter, creating a deeply moving connection between their past and present selves.
Knowing that student privacy is of the utmost importance for schools and families, all information entered into the time capsule is retained and controlled by the school through access to the backend. Additionally, the students’ letters to themselves are kept private—no one else can read it. It is shared only with the students themselves when they receive their letter back in future years.
JYP can be easily incorporated into immersive experiences that Jewish day school students already participate in, such as trips to Israel, Shabbatons and graduations. The pledge plays a critical role in sustaining Jewish day schools’ rich cultural and educational heritage by fostering a strong sense of identity, belonging and continuity.
Writing these letters often evokes powerful emotions in students as they reflect on their growth, experiences and relationships within the school. The letters also offer an opportunity for students to express gratitude and appreciation for their teachers, friends and family members who have supported them throughout their educational journey.
The impact of JYP is evident in these anonymous excerpts from students’ letters:
“As I pen this letter, I am surrounded by my dearest friends—those who have supported and encouraged me throughout the years. I hope to continue to treasure these friendships and remember the sense of community our school provided.”
“Just got back from Israel, and I hope I have been back a few times since the eight-grade trip, which was so much fun. I hope I have never forgotten about my Jewish identity and stayed in touch with the teachers that got me to where I was in eighth grade.”
“Always remember that you are a Jew and always will be a devoted Jew. Your parents and grandparents and generations before you worked hard to get you to the place you are today. Do not stress things and never forget about the place where you grew up and the community that is so special and the friends that you found at school.”
Now is the time to begin connecting your alumni as they transition into adulthood.
To learn more about the Jewish Youth Pledge or implement it in your school, please visit jewishyouthpledge.org Embrace the power of the Jewish Youth Pledge and secure a vibrant Jewish future for generations to come.