This file is designed to give you some general activities which will not require a great deal of preparation at the beginning of your programming and can be used in conjunction with the more extensive programming on Jewish Ethics. The ideas are adapted from our own experience with groups of teenagers and students.
To start the New Year off right
The group sits in a circle. Ask the participants to think of something that they've never done before and that they would like to do this year. You should give them about five minutes for this, and then anyone who would like to share some of his own plans--what led him to make such plans, and his intended means of accomplishing them--should feel free to do so.
Next, ask them to think of something that the group has never done together and that would be good to undertake. Each participant should propose an idea free from group criticism or commentary.
An open discussion should follow this "round table" during which all the suggestions are examined and the most useful ones selected. The activity concludes with the construction of a project unifying the ideas agreed upon by the group.
1. Use the activity with the Magen David as featured in the Sukkot activities file below.
2. Draw a set of scales, half on each of two sheets of paper. Mark the left sheet: "What I achieved this year" and the right-hand sheet: "What I would like to achieve next year". Mark in 5 answer spaces above each scale. Make copies for all your group.
Each participant fills out their sheets - ask them to try for at least 3 answers on each. They do not need to write their names on their worksheets.
Create pairs or - if the participants already know each other well - groups of five. They can juxtapose sheets and compare. Ask them to discuss their ideas, review what is similar and what is different. Each sub-group designates a reporter.
Group Review: the reporters present the findings, with additional comments where necessary from other participants. Discuss trends and problems.
Situate the exercise in a Jewish context as well as the general one. Ask, too, what will be "new" about this year.
1. Tashlich ceremony as a group
Tashlich, or the ceremony of expiation of sins against the Almighty, recited over flowing water, can be performed as an exercise before Rosh Hashana - or during the Ten Days of Penitence - with the object of teaching the group / class about personal responsibility for behavior and freedom of choice in Jewish tradition.
Use this pretext to bring your teenagers together, work through one of the above exercises and then go to Tashlich together. Review emotions afterwards.
For younger children, art design of greetings cards for the New Year can focus, too, on the Hebrew messages and their significance.
For teenagers, this can still be interesting if everyone designs cards using computer graphics and there is some involvement in the printing process, such as use of silk screen printing.
Gila Ansell Brauner, Barbara Weill