My name is Daniel Weisskopf, and I am a junior at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School. During the 2022-2023 school year I had the distinct privilege of learning as a Hartman Teen Fellow. This pluralistic program ran for the first time this past year as a way for North American Jewish teens from every background, including Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and Unaffiliated Jews, to come together and analyze modern facets of society – from both the perspective of Jewish texts and ourselves. The program enabled teens who attend Jewish private schools and those without formal Jewish education to learn and grow together. Throughout the two shabbatonim, three trimesters of electives, and monthly beit midrashim (learning sessions), brilliant scholars taught us about identity, Jewish Peoplehood, faith and practice, ethics, and power and vulnerability. We also bonded through fun and engaging activities such as laser tag and escape rooms. Furthermore, we built relationships, forming an inclusive pluralistic Jewish community. Our relationships have continued beyond the Fellowship and have expanded our social networks.
The Hartman Teen Fellowship has taught me to expand my view of the world, be more open minded, listen to every member of society, and engage in thoughtful and respectful discourse. The skills and topics fellows learn throughout the year have a wide-reaching scope and last far beyond the duration of the program. When I arrived at the opening shabbaton, I was surprised to find a lack of participation from Chicagoland Jewish teens. I feel our community can benefit greatly from more Chicagoland Jewish teens learning from and experiencing the Hartman Teen Fellowship. It is my hope that more Jewish teens, from Chicagoland and beyond, will join me in the program in order to learn more about themselves, the diversity of North American Jewry, and the relevance of Jewish thought in the modern day. As we grow our Hartman Fellowship community, I feel confident in the future of North American Judaism.