History and Mission

URJ Youth Programs: Inspiring experiences for youth

 

The Union for Reform Judaism has provided young people with immersive Jewish experiences in North America and around the world for more than 75 years.

Based on progressive, Jewish values, Inspired Engagement is the Reform Movement’s distinct way of engaging youth. Integration of shared values is what sets our youth programming apart, empowering and supporting young people in their search for meaning, on their own terms. Our goal is to take each experience from a “one- off” transactional connection to a committed, transformational, on-going relationship that ultimately leads to an increase in the number of young Jews choosing to be Jewish, living Jewish lives, and impacting the world in positive ways.

Camping
In 1951, the URJ opened the doors of our first camp with an eye to creating memorable experiences for Jewish children each summer.  With fifteen camps across North America, URJ operates the largest, most successful Jewish camping program in the world. Building on the success of the pioneering Six Points Sports Academy in North Carolina, in 2014 the URJ added another specialty program: the Six Points Science & Technology Academy in the Boston area. And, as part of our commitment to engage Jewish youth earlier and earlier, 2014 marked the debut of Camp Harlam Day Camp in Philadelphia.

NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
For 75 years, has offered thousands of young people the opportunity to explore and live Reform Judaism. Through programs that are offered by nearly 500 Reform congregations, 19 geographic NFTY regions, and on a North American level, teens are encouraged to forge Jewish identities in consonance with the values of Reform Judaism. Participation in NFTY helps teens build confidence, friendships and leadership skills through experiential youth-led educational programming including social justice projects, worship, and community-building initiatives. NFTY is open to teens in grades 6 to 12.

Israel Programs
Since 1958, thousands of high school students, college students, and grads have travelled to Israel on URJ Israel programs. From NFTY in Israel Teen Tours, to Taglit-Birthright Israel, to our NFTY-EIE Academic High School Semester in Israel, our programs have transformed the lives of over 30,000 young people by turning a spark of interest into a journey of exciting challenges, wonderful new friends, and a lifelong involvement with Judaism.

Mitzvah Corps Social Action & Service Travel Programs
The network of regional Mitzvah Corps programs began in the 1960s as a way to help Jewish high school students develop a deeper understanding of social justice within the context of Reform Judaism.  Teens can select hands on social justice experiences in many international locations including Costa Rica, New Orleans, and for the first time, in Israel.  Teens develop a peer community as they explore contemporary social issues, and work together to make a difference in the world.


 

URJ Youth Programs are a core component of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE). The CYE marshals the resources of the URJ, as well as congregations and institutions of the Reform Movement and beyond, to engage a majority of youth in Reform Jewish life in meaningful ways.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is a dynamic network of Reform Jewish congregations, lay leaders, clergy and professionals, which represent the largest and fastest growing constituency of Jews in North America. Our progressive, inclusive approach unites thousands of years of Jewish tradition and values with modern Jewish experience to strengthen Judaism today and for future generations. Through programs, consultations, resources, and networking opportunities provided by the URJ, we help strengthen our nearly 900 member congregations, welcome spiritual seekers through audacious hospitality, engage Jewish youth, deepen Jewish learning, energize worship, pursue tikkun olam (social justice), connect with Israel, and develop inspired leadership.