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11-30- Voices of Jewish Youth 
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2005 blog


Voices of Jewish Youth

San Diego Jewish Times, November 30, 2005

By Donald H. Harrison 

They are the kind of teens who would make any Jewish parent or grandparent  kvell –bright, articulate, and committed to Jewish life.  Why, we wonder, can’t there be more teenagers just like David Rubenson, 15, of Canyon Crest Academy; Carlos Escaba, 17, of Bonita High School; Sara Saad, 17, of the San Diego Jewish Academy, and Galia Besquin, 17, of Torrey Pines High School?

I asked these four for their advice on this issue during a meeting of the San Diego Coalition for Jewish High School Youth groups hosted Sunday, Nov. 6, by Congregation Beth Israel.  In essence, they asked a question back.  How important is that really to our community?  How much money do we spend to bring Jewish youth together in our far-flung community?

Escaba, a congregant of Ohr Shalom Synagogue, noted that he grew up as a member of the Ken Jewish Community, the center in Bonita that caters especially to Spanish speaking Jews.  “I think it is good to spend your money on youth, and to develop it,” he said, recommending more community money be spent on such programs as the Scott Stone Trip to Israel, the Jacobs International Teen Leadership Institute, Jewish summer camps, and groups such as the youth council.  He said that such focused spending by the community can prevent Jews from getting “off-base when you are young.”

Galia Besquin, 17, who also is affiliated with the Ken and Ohr Shalom, like Escaba participated in the Scott Stone and JITLI trips to Israel during successive summers. “My first priority (for spending community resources) would be the youth because in the end we are the ones who should keep the religion going,” she said. “Without us, I guess, the religion wouldn’t continue at all. So if we encourage the children to be involved in Judaism, they will teach their kids and so on.  I think this is very important.”

Besquin recommended that more money be allocated to underwrite activities of the various youth movements such as United Synagogue Youth, National Federation of Temple Youth, B’nai B’rith Youth Organizations, the Jewish Community Center youth programs and “anything that will bring teens together from every community and that will keep us together.”

Sara Saad, who is affiliated with Chabad of Poway, added that emphasis should be placed on Jewish camps, “where lots of kids get connected to Judaism” as well as on Jewish day schools.  “I think that is where we learn a lot of our heritage.”

David Rubenson, a member of Congregation Beth Israel, suggested a different approach.  He recommended that money be used to underwrite artistic endeavors—be they movies, books, poetry—that could explain Judaism to the general community, while making Judaism more fun for Jewish youth.  “I mean I love Temple,” he said, “but there is only so much I can take before I keep looking at my watch and hoping it ends.”

While the youth placed their emphasis on expanding activities for youngsters, their priorities didn’t neglect other segments of the community.

Escaba and Besquin, for example, recommended that money be appropriated to support outreach to the unaffiliated.  Saad said it is “important to take care of our seniors” and also to have more Jewish education programs for adults so that they, in turn, can educate their children.

But who can blame the students for being preoccupied with successful programming—or lack thereof—aimed at their peers?

“I think that the Jewish community should know that there are events for Jewish youth of San Diego, because many people think that there isn’t anything happening and there are,” said Saad.  “Lots of events keep on being planned but nobody shows up to them, and I think it is important that everyone should come and be involved to make the Jewish community stronger. Everyone says they want it stronger but in the end nobody shows up.”

Agreeing, Besquin commented: “We are all Jewish, we all come from the same ways, so I don’t understand why we can’t all come together and form a big group of Jewish people instead of concentrating on our (separate) thing.  We all come from the same religion, we are all built up on the same culture, same heritage; I don’t understand why it is so complicated to get us together and get along.”

Rubenson emphasized that not only youth, but adults, as well should forge unity.  “If our parents aren’t involved, I mean our faith is going to be lost,” he said. “What got me involved in Jewish events was that a lot of women in my family were strong about the Jewish faith.”

Concluded Escaba: “We are not that many Jews in the world, so I think that it is very important for us to stay united and to stay involved in our community.  As long as we stay united in our community, everything will be great.”