Are You Smarter Than Jay Rapoport?

Are You Smarter Than Jay Rapoport?
Blogging from Orr Shalom high school retreat at OSRUI
December 2, 2017

At Temple Sholom’s annual Orr Shalom high school youth group retreat at URJ Camp OSRUI, members of the Orr Shalom youth group board create and lead their own programs for their peers throughout the weekend.

This year, as part of our 150th anniversary sesquicentennial celebration, the retreat weekend began with Shabbat dinner at Temple Sholom with Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Corp. In a short but rich conversation before Shabbat services, Eboo asked the group if they think we own the term social justice. Is it possible for any group, with any values – teens protesting abortion was one example – can claim to be doing social justice work? Eboo discussed the experience of spending 95% if our time with people who agree with 95% if our values – and that interfaith work comes from engaging with people don’t fit that description in ways that build on the 5% we may have in common.

Building on Eboo’s interfaith work, the teen board decided that this year’s retreat theme would be “intra-faith” Judaism, exploring different branches of Judaism (reform, conservative, orthodox among others) building on their studies this year in Crown Family High School with Rabbi Gellman and Youth Engagement & Curriculum Coordinator Caleb Bromberg of Jewish texts and American/reform Jewish history.

Our Shabbat morning program at retreat was “Are You Smarter Than Jay Rapoport?” the first of three student-led programs about the three major branches of Judaism. Similarly to the game show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?,” teen teams competed against Jay answering questions about Reform Judaism.

Impressively, the teens held their own on questions about the origins and statistics of Reform Judaism: When was Reform Judaism founded? (1810) Where is the biggest reform community? (Michigan) What percentage of American Jews live in the Midwest? (9) Where was the biggest Seder held? (Nepal)

Throughout the game, we addressed common misconceptions, like which movement came first (Reform preceded orthodoxy, which preceded conservatism) and how many millennial Jews have a Christmas tree in their home (37%). We also got into a deep discussion about the somewhat controversial policy of our reform seminary, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, about their requirement (among other value statements) that applicants may not be in an interfaith relationship. Teens raised points similar to ones raised by professionals and clergy in our larger community as the debate around this issue has gone on over the last few years.

Over the course of spending Shabbat at camp with our teens, we have been impressed with their strong bond as a group, the depth of their learning in Crown Family High School this year, and the special place Temple Sholom clearly has in their lives.

In the end, one group of teens proved themselves at least as smart as Jay Rapoport, Director of Lifelong Learning…until they tried to break the tie by challenging him to an eating contest. (He politely declined.)