By Randi Benesch
After our son’s bar mitzvah, we hoped that was only the beginning of his Jewish journey- knowing there is so much more for him here in this world of spirit and deep tradition. As he embarked on this journey of Jewish adulthood, we hoped he would always be proud of his Jewish identity and enjoy the freedom to explore and connect with what’s meaningful for him.
We walked a delicate line figuring out what role we would play in his exploration journey. I strongly encouraged him to continue connecting to Judaism in some way, but let him decide the path. During that same time, I was grateful to be working at the JCC and saw the creation of the 4Front programs. I was so excited when my son was old enough for me to introduce him to these opportunities.
Our son’s 4Front journey started with STAC (Students Taking Action for Change). With an interest in government and politics, this was the perfect fit for him. He found like-minded Jewish friends who shared this same passion and learned about government through a Jewish lens. This was the seed that was planted in him back in 9th grade that undoubtedly helped him pursue his passion as he heads off to college as a Political Science major.
His next experience was with the Social Innovation Fellowship. During Covid, I was grateful that this program helped him stay connected to his peers, working together on a project that could help our local community. I loved watching Jake slowly realize that entrepreneurship could be both for earning a living and making a positive impact on our world. His team won the Demo Day which gave him a sense of pride and accomplishment and fueled him to want to participate in another 4Front program.
He was selected as a Diller fellow which became a transformational experience for him. The year-long Diller program connected him with Jewish friends locally and abroad and taught him invaluable leadership skills. Getting off the plane after their summer Israel trip, he immediately told us he was applying to be the Junior Counselor for next year’s Diller cohort. That’s when we knew this experience undoubtedly was a positive one for him. We saw his self-confidence grow, his connection to Judaism deepen and special life-long friendships blossom. And now, as a junior counselor for Diller, we are seeing him evolve into a role model and spirited leader. In so many ways, these skills and experiences will undoubtedly help him to make a smoother transition into college and adulthood, and help him to always and forever feel proud of his Jewish identity.
4Front has given us, as parents, an easy way to provide opportunities for our children to have fun, grow, learn, make new friends and connect more deeply with Judaism. By watching our children have these impactful experiences, it has also deepened our own connection to Judaism. If you, like me, are hopeful your teen continues their Jewish journey after their b’nai mitzvah, I encourage you and your teen to check out the 4Front programs. There is truly something for everyone. It’s an incredible way for Jewish young adults to find a meaningful connection to Judaism and feel a part of our global Jewish community.
Randi Benesch lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband Adam and two teenage children, Jacob and Mollie. She serves on the board and is a member of Columbia Jewish Congregation, and volunteers with the 4Front Advisory Committee and the Professional Roundtable for Na’aleh. Professionally, she is an independent fundraising and board development consultant for non-profit organizations. Previously she served as the Director of Advancement for Baltimore Center Stage, and as the Managing Director of Arts and Culture for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore.
Registration is now open for our 2023-24 Signature programs! Visit Teen Programs | 4Front Baltimore for more information.