Youth and Teen Programming

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Youth and Teen Programming

Ongoing Programs at University Synagogue

Mechinah (7th grade) - We have designed a Mechinah curriculum where students open themselves to unfamiliar places, people and ideas. This curriculum is based on the full-length documentary film, Road to Eden, about Jewish musician Dan Nichols, and his journey through the Deep South during Sukkot. Throughout the year, students will watch videos and news segments, read stories and poetry and delve deeper into Torah. They will visit museums, parks and beaches, tour communities of other faiths, other sacred spaces and social action organizations. They will meet agents of change from the community. This is an interactive class meant to be seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled and felt. Mechinah meets Sunday mornings, 9am – 12pm AND Tuesday evenings, 6pm – 8pm (dinner included).

8th grade Tichon Class – Our 8th grade curriculum is centered around Jewish identity and is organized in four parts: My Self, My Community, My World, My Faith. Students engage in self-exploration about their relationship to their own communities, how their local Jewish community fits into the larger Jewish and non-Jewish world, and finally, how these relationships affect their own faith. 8th grade meets Tuesday evenings, 6pm – 8pm (dinner included).

9th grade Tichon Class – 9th graders are introduced to the concept of philanthropy, in the form of a group giving circle. They engage in some personal values exploration, set goals, learn the basics of an allocation process, learn how to review grant proposals, engage in group decision-making, and do some light fundraising. They raise real money, and are responsible for deciding as a group how that money is allocated. There are currently over 130 teen philanthropy programs taking place across the country, and these teens give away 1-2 million dollars annually. This will be the fifth year of the University Synagogue 9th Grade Philanthropy Board, and each year the program gets stronger and the teens become more committed. 9th grade meets Tuesday evenings, 6pm – 8pm (dinner included).



Religious School Retreat for Dalet – Mechinah (4th – 7th grade)

Once a year, we take students out of the city, away from the synagogue, and experience our Judaism in a unique and special way. This is a wonderful opportunity for your child to spend time with his/her classmates in an informal Jewish learning environment. We’ll celebrate Shabbat together, play games, enjoy the outdoors, dance, do some art, play sports, do the ropes course and engage in a variety of Jewish camp activities.

Retreats are some of the most positive and memorable experiences we can give our children: retreats give them a chance to explore Judaism in an “outside-of-the-classroom” environment and allow your rabbis, cantor, and educators a comfortable opportunity to get to know your children better. Retreats impact how our students feel about their classmates as friends, and provide a unique environment to build community. Our retreat – literally, a withdrawal – allows our students’ bodies, minds and souls to be refreshed. The retreat is a mandatory part of our 4-7th grade curriculum and is required for all students. There are no regular classes that Sunday.

2019 Retreat: February 1 – 3 at Camp JCA Shalom, Malibu, CA

Madrichim: Teaching-Assistant Program

The Hebrew word madrich means leader or counselor.  It is derived from the word derech, which means path or way.  At University Synagogue, our post b’nei mitzvah students have the opportunity to learn about leadership as they guide younger students along their Jewish educational path.  Madrichim at University Synagogue can work with specific grades, specialists, or in the Education Office.  In addition to “classroom time,” Madrichim will have an orientation and five meetings throughout the year to reflect on their work experiences, and learn Jewish lessons of leadership.  If you have a 9-12th grader who is interested in becoming a madrich, please contact the Director ASAP.

Hadrachah: 8th grade Leadership Track

On Sunday mornings, 8th graders will come and spend time in the Religious School engaging in hands-on active leadership training. The morning will be spent in two different capacities: they will spend time doing leadership activities, games, discussions and role play scenarios. They will learn skills such as conflict resolution, balance, and stress management. The other part of the morning will be spent IN a Religious School classroom where they will assist teachers, lead activities and get to put some of these skills to the test.

This program is designed to get students ready for the Madrichim program which begins in 9th grade. If you have an 8th grader who would like to be involved, please contact the Director.

Twinning Program for 8th graders

Three years ago, we were thrilled to introduce a new program to our eighth-grade families this year. University Synagogue now participates in the Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles School Twinning Program, the only initiative in existence that connects schools in Los Angeles with schools in Tel Aviv. Middle school students from Los Angeles travel to Tel Aviv and students from Tel Aviv come to Los Angeles. Visiting students live with a host family and study history, literature, language, pluralistic Judaism, Zionism, and the sciences at their partner school. The cultural and educational exchange between students transforms school cultures, transcends the distance between Israel and L.A., and creates a shared Jewish identity and destiny.

There are currently 19 schools in Los Angeles, 19 in Tel Aviv, and one in the Baltics that are part of the program. University Synagogue is in a Los Angeles cluster with Temple Isaiah and Leo Baeck Temple, and together, we will be partnering with Ironi Yud Daled School in Tel Aviv. This cluster program is the embodiment of the Twinning Program’s ultimate goal: creating relationships and uniting Jewish communities around the world.


JR UNITY is our junior youth group for 6th-8th graders. JR UNITY is an opportunity for middle-school students to spend time together socially and to make our world a better place. JR UNITY is open to all 6th-8th grade students - there is no fee to join. Come to one of our events and let us know what you want to do this year!  Calendar available in September.


Our Synagogue’s Senior Youth Group (9th-12th grade) is complete with a dynamic leadership team and enthusiastic members who are seeking to create fun and exciting programs for the synagogue youth.  From Havdalah on the beach, creative Shabbat services, laser tag and sleep over, regional wide weekend events at Camp Hess Kramer to a limo scavenger hunt around Los Angeles, UNITY covers all of your social, cultural and religious needs.  UNITY also takes social action seriously as we are creating opportunities to help clean up the environment and fight the genocide in Sudan.  Come join UNITY and be a part of life-changing group. Calendar available in September.