Giving the Next Generation Access to Their Dreams

By Jill A. Goldstein

Imagine if you could share your professional passions and talents with the next generation? Do you remember when you were figuring out how you wanted to spend the next phase of your life?

For most of middle school, high school, and college – NFTY and Television News were my life:  Junior youth group + morning announcements, NFTY-STR + teen news competitions, double majors in broadcast journalism + Jewish history, newsroom internships + TYG advising.

So, earlier this year when a friend gave me the opportunity to share my professional experiences in the Television News field with current Reform Jewish teens, I jumped at the chance.

The inaugural cohort of NYC Teen Fellows focused on television journalism. I joined Michael Solmsen, a Senior Producer at CBS Evening News, Rabbi Leora Kaye, filmmaker and Jewish educator, two URJ youth department staff members, and about 9 teenagers.

What made this experience special for me (as I hope this was special for the teen participants – but I can only speak for myself!) was being able to give back in a way that went beyond staffing a NFTY event for a weekend. Of course, NFTY events need staff and that is important – but just as this program was targeting teens who may not be involved in NFTY, my professional life and odd work hours prevents me from being able to staff the typical weeknight or weekend events.

Almost no internship experience provides such a small ratio of professionals to students, and very few television news outlets have opportunities for high schoolers. I was able to provide tools that they otherwise would not get, access to a real-world environment and to network with Jews enjoying successful editorial and technical careers in television news.

We tackled the shooting of a 12-year-old in Cleveland and the scandal surrounding Brian Williams. We questioned how someone, as a Jew and a journalist, approaches the conflict in the Middle East? In graphic instances, what video would you show, or not show? What is fair, and is that important? What does Judaism say about being fair, and, how hard do you push to present an unbiased account of the facts? Does it matter if all of the facts are shared? And, who is responsible for what facts and how they are shared?

These are real questions journalist face every day, and they are not easy for even the most seasoned professionals to tackle sometimes. NFTY and the URJ’s various youth programs teach a wide assortment of leadership skills, and we allowed them to demonstrate and apply them in a tangible way.

In a profession wrought with stress, immediate decision-making, and ethical choices with reverberating ramifications that can shape how larger society is presented with and accesses information – we didn’t want to scare these teens away from television journalism. But we did want them to flex their intellectual muscles, and to consider how Jewish wisdom might help them become stronger journalists.

I feel lucky to have had the chance to give back to the programs that helped shape me, and in such a specific way. (Of course, if you want to read how these programs helped me get “a real job,” check this out.) But, the point is, I hope that these opportunities for former NFTY-ites or former URJ Campers to give back with their talents and experiences become less rare.

It shouldn’t have to take a friend on the “inside” to apply for a grant to create a whole fellowship program. It only takes a few moments to reach out to local congregations or youth professionals, to offer up whatever special talents you have to share. You could just find your next great coworker and give the next generation of journalists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, and more, access to their dreams.