Invitation to Gesher, Fall 2017

Dear families,

I am writing to announce the launch of a renewed and re-imagined program for our post Bar and Bat Mitzvah teens at Temple Israel. I am hoping to garner all of the support from our 13-17 year olds as possible. Please read the following and let me know if you have interested family members.

Traditionally called “Gesher,” Temple Israel has, for several years, offered a variety of programs for its teens. In the past few years, this program has disappeared and we have decided to take this on. Growing up, I witnessed two types of peers in my Bar/Bat mitzvah class: one group of kids had a legitimate interest in maintaining ties with the Synagogue community, and we were involved in USY, a confirmation class, went to services, led services, volunteered and stayed involved. The other group disappeared, often with their families, after they graduated from Hebrew school.

For this former group of interested teens, I am saddened that we are now not offering any options for ongoing involvement. Equally frustrating to me, personally, is that no one is reaching out to those kids who move away from the Temple community, often until they are married with children, before becoming involved again.

My concern is that a program which pitches itself as “more Hebrew school” will be of no interest to teens. Likewise, I fear that a “social only” club will lose track of the mission of continued involvement and development of a Jewish community for our younger adults. Hence, I have thought up a 3 year “Gesher” program, to start this fall at TIP, culminating in a confirmation service for our high school Juniors.

The group will meet one Sunday a month for 9 months of the year. The first hour will be a discussion loosely based on the curriculum, The second hour will be dinner and hanging out. If the discussion is amazing, we will talk for longer.

Briefly, this will have a rotating 3 year “curriculum” with each year having a different focus. Year one will focus on what it means to be Jewish. We will look at Jewish traditions, why they came to be. We will discuss, for instance, which holidays are important to us personally. They we will look at the overlooked holidays, and why they were important to our ancestors. We will ask each each member to define Judaism for themselves. We will ask them to make a personal wish list of what they want from their Jewish community and ask them to think about how they plan to contribute moving forward Year two will focus on the Holocaust. This will be a mature, young adult look at the war, its impact on Jews then and now. We will look at the map of the world then and now, and how this reshaped modern Judaism. We will also watch some movies (Schindler’s List for instance), and discuss. Year three will be all about Israel. We will discuss the geography, the history, we will discuss the many wars since Israel came to be in 1948, and discuss the ongoing threats to our homeland and where they are coming from. We will talk about the change in perspective on College campuses regarding Jews in the past 10 years and how our group members might deal with pressures in college as young Jews. Finally, our “graduating” class will lead a Friday night confirmation service and be recognized for their ongoing commitment by the TIP community.

We will strongly encourage attendance to be close to 100%. This is a commitment from each teen (and the adult “mentors”) to take this seriously, and hopefully take some pride in this program. We will charge a small fee, with 100% of the money going to this program. This money will pay for food, materials, and even help with transportation costs should we go on some “field trips” (Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC was mentioned by one brainstormer, many other ideas are coming). I hope that the group will also send care packages to our college friends who graduated from TIP Hebrew School twice a year on Chanukah and Passover. We will try to establish “penpals” in Israel. We will offer field trips to Boston to hear Jewish musicians, and perhaps attend events if they seem interesting to the group. We will be open to ideas and we will rely on our group to make the group fun and interesting. No one will be teased, singled out, left out, or made to feel anything but welcome. Everyone will be encouraged to bring in materials to share.

There will be NO homework unless the group decides that they wish to do homework. If the group is interested in USY we will look into involvement there, too.

We are looking to recruit all post Bar/Bat mitzvah teens of all ages and years in school. Even students who will only have 1 or 2 more years of high school are encouraged to join us as we build this program.

So who are we?
Brian Hyett is a gastroenterologist here in the Seacoast. Originally from Brookline, MA, he and his wife Amy relocated to New Hampshire seven years ago from Boston. His three daughters attend the Hebrew school at TIP. After leading the Brotherhood at TIP for several years, he decided to change direction and focus on our younger Temple members. Brian taught high school Science and middle school English before going to medical school and has a keen interest in teenagers and thinks often about how tough a world this is for them to be growing up in. He is getting involved in this program because he has a passion for learning and teaching, and really enjoys the company of people of all ages. He feels that he can share his passion for involvement in the Jewish community with some young friends. His grandfather escaped Russia in 1908 when Jews were being persecuted and snuck out on a hay wagon to come here via Ellis Island. He feels strongly that he carry on the traditions his family risked their lives to save.

Andrew Share is a transactional attorney and the Managing Partner of the Manchester, NH office of Nixon Peabody LLP, an international law firm of 600+ attorneys. Originally from Portsmouth, he lives in Brentwood, NH with his wife Elisa (a singer/songwriter/photographer) and their 2 boys, Aaron and Avry. Andrew is a lifelong member of Temple Israel and has witness the growth of the congregation as it has expanded beyond just Portsmouth residents to welcome the greater seacoast area (and beyond) and hopes that this perspective can help bridge our younger generations with our more seasoned congregants.

Rebecca Schwartz is very excited to start working with the Gesher program! She is a registered nurse, and recently moved back to the seacoast after a few years of travel nursing. She grew up a part of the Temple Israel community and is grateful for the support it has given her over the years. She is now happy to have the opportunity to give back. Becca feels that programs which encourage involvement are important in maintaining the sense of reliance in our Jewish community. No matter what age you are, the Temple can be there for you in one way or another, and having programs available like Gesher is a key part of that. To quote Rebecca, “It feels great to be involved!”

We will be having a welcome meeting at Temple Israel this year. Please email the Education Committee at if your child is interested (or they can email Brian Hyett directly via the Temple Membership Directory), as we would very much like to gauge interest in this program.

We are looking forward to working with all of you!

 Brian Hyett and the rest of the Gesher team, Andrew Share and Becca Schwartz