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Beth-El Happenings

The photos with this article show Better Together Seniors and teens enjoying activities throughout the year.

By Ramona L. Brand

Better Together is Better than Ever!

 During this past school year, our teen program has been intertwined with Better Together, a program developed by a well-respected national foundation and operated in partnership with The Jewish Education Project, that fosters meaningful connections between teens and senior citizens.

Over the past eight months, our 13n teens and eight “Silver Liner” seniors have been building relationships through engaging meetings.

These meetings have been varied and exciting, which have revolved around text study, personal interviews, conversations, cooking, and enjoying meals together.

They attended a documentary screening which included a personal reception with the producer and director, at the Virginia Holocaust Museum and explored themes of conservation, eco-Judaism and Tikkun Olam at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

The Better Together Shabbat morning at the Temple Beth-El in March was a true highlight, during which the cohort members together read Torah, gave the D’var Torah they had written together, were honored with an Aliyah, presented congregants with T-shirts they designed and sponsored the Kiddish lunch.

Most importantly, the teens and seniors bonded over this year and built valuable relationships, filled with warmth, humor and understanding.







The teens participated in the Better2Write essay program and here are some of what they had to say about the experiences over this year.

  • “The Better Together program gave me the opportunity to learn what it is like to be in a real, loving Jewish community. The program did this by showing me how to have a better relationship with elder members of my synagogue community, allowed me to feel like I belonged at Saturday morning Shabbat services and helped me better understand what Judaism is really about. I have learned that it is important for the Jewish community to come together and bond.” Emma Wallach
  • “At first, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to do or what to talk about, but soon I found myself unable to stop. Our conversation started when the lady I was paired up with told me that she knew my grandma, and my mom. I got to tell her about my family, and eventually, I got to talk about myself, and that’s when I really got to connect to her.

“It turned out that our teen years were practically identical, as  she was extremely shy and didn’t talk with anyone but her friends who were in BBYO. I am extremely shy, and don’t talk to anyone but my friends, so it was very insightful to know that someone from a world so different from mine today, had the same story, yet she had many words of wisdom too, as she has made it through this tough time that I am currently in.

“After sharing our lives and struggles, she told me about how things went for her, how they changed for the better, and how it seems so small now. It was nice to know what to expect, and all the changes that would happen though it might not feel like it now. After hearing the same story told by someone with more experience, I felt a sense of hope and relief from listening to her talk about  her life that seemed to mirror mine.” Chloe Dollins

  • “Understanding the perspectives of our elders is incredibly important in creating an open and interesting world for myself and the younger generation to explore.” Ezra Kamras
  • “Every teen should have the opportunity to make these connections with seniors, and I believe that every senior should have the opportunity to foster relationships with teens. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has different perspectives, so when we come together to share them, we all gain a better understanding of the world we live in.” Jacob Farzad

We are immensely grateful to Better Together for this opportunity .

Local Winner of the Better2Write Contest

We are thrilled to announce that Julianna Crockett, an eighth grader at our Religious School and member of the Better Together Teen Program is the First-place local winner of the Better2Write program.

Julianna will receive a generous scholarship toward the Jewish Summer Camp of her choice.

Her essay will be submitted to the National contest where it will be eligible for further prizes.

In addition to being a member of the Teen program, Julianna is a Madricha in Beth-El’s Grade 1 class. She attends Short Pump Middle school where she loves her theater class and was in the school play. She also has an interest in computer science and will be attending the Center for Informational Technology at Deep Run next year.

Julianna will use the grant to attend Capital Camps this summer. She is a member of BBYO. Julianna loves the Better Together Program and one of her favorite things is seeing some of her senior citizen friends at Shul.

In the Better2Write Essay contest sponsored by Better Together, our teens in middle and high school wrote a 2-4 page essay, article or short story reflecting upon their intergenerational experiences.

The essays were submitted to three independent judges. After reading 13 essays the judges submitted their independent ranking of first, second and third choices. The Better Together program coordinators calculated the scores and were excited to inform Julianna that hers was the winning Essay. Mazel Tov Julianna!

To read her winning essay, visit see the article – Winning Better-To-Write Essay in the May Beth-El articles.

 May Religious School Calendar

Wednesdays: May 1, 8; Sundays: May 5, 12

Pre-K meets: May 5, 12; Teen Program: May 12

Better Together Closing program: May 12;

Confirmation Shabbat: May 3, 6 p.m.

3330 Grove Avenue, Richmond, VA 23221

Confirmands, Carter Morgan, and Theo Hirsch will proudly celebrate their Confirmation Service. Join us as they reach the culmination of their Religious School years and declare their commitment to Jewish life. Theo and Carter will assist in leading services, share their wisdom with the congregation and read from Torah. Mazel Tov to them both and to their families on this momentous occasion! Kol HaKavod!

For questions about Religious School, Young Family, Teen, and Better Together Programs, contact Ramona Brand, r.brand@bethelrichmond.org