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Emma Clair Furey made her entrance into the world at 6:46 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9, weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces and measuring 16 ½-inches long. She has a lot of dark brown hair and blue eyes.

This year’s first Jewish baby, the daughter of Amy Ravis Furey and Brian Furey, was born at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. But the Fureys never thought she could be 2011’s first Jewish baby of the year because she arrived almost six weeks earlier than planned. Ravis Furey’s “due date” with Emma was originally estimated at Feb. 19.

Needless to say the hours leading up to Emma’s birth were more than a little stressful for the Furey family. Emma’s older brother, Michael, who is 2 ½, was also premature, so the Fureys and their doctors thought there could be another early arrival.

“My water broke with my first pregnancy at 34 weeks,” Furey said. “We hoped it wouldn’t again, but in the back of my mind I always knew it was possible again with this pregnancy too,” she said.

The shared vision/individualized Jewish path coordinator at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, who also serves as the youth group adviser, Ravis Furey actually attended worship services and “a really great youth group program” just hours before her water broke. When that happened at 2:30 a.m., they proceeded to the hospital.

Once there, the medical team decided to inject Ravis Furey with two steroid shots. The steroids are expected to provide benefits for the lung development in premature infants as well as reduce the risk of respiratory distress syndrome and other potential complications.

After Ravis Furey received the steroid shots, the medical team began inducing labor. Just a couple of hours later little Emma was born.

“It was crazy, it all happened so fast,” Ravis-Furey said.

Mom was feeling so well after Emma was born that she left a message at The Chronicle just 30 minutes later to report the birth, hoping her baby was the first Jewish baby of the year.

“Once we knew Emma was healthy and well, it was just too cool to pass up trying,” Ravis Furey said.

As her older brother was named after his late grandfather Michael Ravis, Emma received a family name as well. Her middle name, Clair, is the maiden name of her paternal grandmother, the late Glynis Clair Furey.

At press time little Emma remained at SMMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care unit. Mom reports Emma’s health continues to improve, but they don’t know yet when she’ll get to go home.

“Emma is wonderful. We feel very blessed knowing that, since there are many other babies in the NICU who aren’t doing as well. She is nursing well and she is really alert. We are just taking it day by day, waiting for her to get bigger and stronger, but she is for sure taking steps in the right direction,” Ravis Furey said.

Coincidentally, last year’s First Jewish Baby Leo Covitz was also born on Jan. 9.

“We’re really good friends with the Covitz family,” Ravis Furey said. “We were actually supposed to be at his birthday party the day that Emma was born.”

Family receives gifts

As 2011’s First Jewish Baby, Emma Clair Furey and her family received the following gifts from Chronicle advertisers:

• $25 gift card from BRGR Kitchen + Bar
• $25 gift card from Cosentino’s Price Chopper
• One free night stay at the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza
• A Shalom Baby gift basket from the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City
• Two tickets to the Feb. 26 performance of the Vienna Boys Choir at Johnson County Community College
• ‘It’s a Girl’ cigars from Cigar & Tabac, Ltd.

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Kansas City’s Brenda and Howard Rosenthal will be presented with the Enid and Harold Boxer Memorial Award by NCSY, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, at its Ben Zakkai Honor Society Annual Scholarship Reception Sunday, Jan. 30, in New York.

The award is named after Enid and Howard Boxer, who created NCSY as a continent-wide youth movement.

BZHS is an alumni “Hall of Fame” whose new members are nominated by, and voted on, by its current members based on the nominees’ service to NCSY and the Jewish community. The society’s main function is to raise funds for scholarships for high school NCSYers for summer programs in North America and Israel and for teens to continue their Jewish education after high school. The society has helped pay tribute for more than 40 years to esteemed NCSY alumni and community leaders who have demonstrated their dedication to Torah and their service to the Jewish people.

Over the years, NCSY has played an important role in the lives of both Brenda and Howard.

“NCSY has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has been a guiding force which has grounded me and now our children on a path of leadership, kindness and Jewish values. I can’t imagine who I would be were it not for NCSY,” Brenda said.

Howard said he is proud to see “how our children have become role models due to their involvement in NCSY.”

“The leadership in this organization is incredible. The values imparted to our children through NCSY have instilled a love for their community, Judaism and Israel,” he said.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of married couples met in NCSY. That actually wasn’t the case with Brenda Fogelson and Howard Rosenthal, however. They met in sixth grade at the Phoenix Hebrew Academy, before there was an NCSY in their community.

By the time they reached the eighth grade, they had established the Ohr HaMidbar NCSY chapter and were both awarded the “Torah im Derech Eretz” award at regional convention. They participated in every convention, conclave and program West Coast NCSY had to offer. Not only did they grow Jewishly, but they influenced their families to do the same!

Howard finished high school early, won Regional NCSYer of the year honors and went off to study at Bar-Ilan University in Israel completing his studies at Yeshiva University. Brenda was named National “NCSYer of the year” and Regional “NCSYer of the Decade,” continuing her studies at both Touro and Stern College in New York.

After graduation, the Rosenthals moved back to Arizona and studied medicine at the University of Arizona. After completing orthopedic residency at the University of Kansas and a Fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the couple joined the staff at the University of Kansas, Howard as an orthopedic oncologist and Brenda as a heart transplant coordinator. They decided to establish Kansas City as their home and played a giant role in rebuilding a once proud Orthodox community that had fallen on hard times.

The Rosenthals play pivotal roles in their synagogue: Beth Israel, Abraham & Voliner, the only Orthodox congregation between St. Louis and Denver, The Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy and numerous communal agencies. As medical director of the Mid-America Sarcoma Institute, Howard is the only Orthodox orthopedic oncologist in the country. Past president of his synagogue, the kollel and head of the rabbinic search committee, he continues to serve as the ba’al koreh and ba’al tefilla. A national vice president of the Orthodox Union, chairman of the Menorah Medical Center and a board member of the Jewish Heritage Foundation of Kansas City, he is also professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Medicine and Biosciences at Kansas City and associate professor of surgery at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and is widely published in medical literature.

Brenda has served as president of BIAV, on the board of HBHA and is a driving force behind the Kansas City Chevrah Kadisha. The Rosenthal home is packed with teenagers every Shabbat. It has been said that hundreds of Jewish adults can say that they spent one-seventh of their teenage years at the vibrant Rosenthal home!

Aside from Brenda’s ample volunteer work, she is a nurse practitioner in a large internal medicine practice, as well as surgical assistant to Howard. Most important, the Rosenthals have instilled an abiding love of Torah in their children; Aryn, Daniel, Naftali and Davida.

At the reception, the OU will also pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Bernard Lander, the founder, and for 40 years, president of Touro College. Dr. Lander died on Feb. 8, 2010, at the age of 94.


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Each year middle and upper school students of the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy return from winter break, excited to be back in school. Why, one might ask? Because they participate in Winterims, a week of unique extracurricular classes not usually offered during the regular school year.

“It took a lot of hard work to plan the Winterims this year,” Middle and Upper School English Department Chair Cynthia Knight said. “But it was worth all the work. I loved seeing the students explore and excel outside of their comfort zones. The students try something new and always end up loving it.”

There were over 30 classes offered for this year’s Winterims. Some of these classes included International Jewish Cooking, Winter Camping, Archery, Braille, How to Win at Scrabble and Creative Writing. Eighth-grader Moriah Abrams took part in the Braille class taught by James Wilcox.

“After learning something as simple as the alphabet, I have a new appreciation for the visually impaired. We go by our days reading everything from a speed limit signs to nutrition facts. It isn’t as easy for the visually impaired.”

Many students took advantage of the “Winter” in Winterims by participating in the Winter Survival class. The class ventured out into the cold each day to learn new techniques of how to survive the harsh environments of the outdoors.

“We learned everything from how to pitch a tent to knowing what clothes to wear in order to stay warm,” Freshman Jacob Margolies said. “The best part was making hot chocolate every day.”

For the first time since Winterims began six years ago, one of the classes offered was student-led. Eighth grader Sophia Porter taught students about the art of Henna, after two high school students expressed an interest.

“I was so excited to be asked,” Porter exclaimed. “I love Henna art and I couldn’t wait to share my love with others.”

During this week long class, 13 students learned how to mix Henna and apply it to their hands and arms.

There were also many dance classes offered during the Winterims week. At the end of the week, students who participated in the dance classes put on a showcase. Jazz, Hip-hop and swing were among the classes showcased in the performance.

“It was so much fun to dance center stage,” senior Molly Oberstein-Allen explained. “The swing dance we performed was energetic, colorful and definitely brought back memories to the parents in the audience. This year was my last year for Winterims, and it was certainly the best.”

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In celebration of 18 years of service to the community and in appreciation of the community’s strong and generous support, the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education will present a free public film series, to take place one Thursday evening each month from Jan. 20 through June 23. The six featured films are part of MCHE’s Witnesses to the Holocaust Archive project. (For complete schedule, see below.)

“The films in this series,” says Fran Sternberg, Ph.D., MCHE’s in-house historian and director of university programs and adult Education, “serve as a powerful reminder of the lessons and implications of the Holocaust and the significance of memory in the transmission of history as well as a fitting acknowledgment and validation of the individuals in our community whose lives were directly touched by the Holocaust.”

MCHE Executive Director Jean Zeldin, who served as coordinator of the original video project, said The Witnesses to the Holocaust Archive plays a critical role in preserving a precious historical resource.

“Our goal in presenting this film series is to highlight and share the treasure trove of memory that MCHE has collected and recorded over the past 18 years. We also hope it will encourage people to visit our Resource Center and avail themselves of the opportunity to view the individual testimonies, which are, after all, a community legacy,” Zeldin said.

Each film will be preceded by a topic-appropriate introduction and followed by a “question and answer” session, facilitated by Sternberg and members of the Holocaust Education Academic Roundtable (HEART), MCHE’s symposium for university educators. A light reception will follow each program and DVD copies of the evening’s featured film will be available for purchase after the each screening. There is no charge for admission; reservations are requested for planning purposes by calling (913) 327-8196 or e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The film series is partially funded by a grant from the White Theatre Grantor Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

MCHE’s local history

Sternberg notes that since the 1930s, more than 200 Holocaust refugees and survivors have come to call the greater Kansas City area their home and “our community is the richer for it.”

Recognizing this, soon after its founding in 1993, MCHE undertook its first major project: the production of 48 videotaped interviews of local Holocaust survivors, refugees and witnesses. The project was conducted in cooperation with the Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University, and supported by grants from the William T. Kemper Foundation, the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation, and the Oppenstein Brothers Foundation.

Since 2006, grants from the Jewish Heritage Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany have enabled MCHE to digitize the original full-length videotapes, to edit them into lengths suitable for classroom instruction, and to craft teaching tools to enhance their educational value. Outpost Worldwide provided technical and editorial expertise as well as special consideration to MCHE in the production of the videotapes and films.

The film project is supervised by Sternberg and Jessica Rockhold, MCHE director of school programs and teacher education, who also provided voice-over narration. Five of the films are organized around specific Holocaust-related themes: Kristallnacht, Ghettos, Auschwitz, In Hiding, and Liberation. The sixth film – The Holocaust: Through Our Own Eyes, which will be shown first — presents an overview of the Holocaust and the events leading up to it. All of the films make extensive use of excerpts from the 48 videotaped interviews.

While many Holocaust education centers in the United States have collected and recorded first-person testimonies, Sternberg said MCHE is one of very few centers to have combined those testimonies with maps and archival and personal photographs into films with significant educational and public appeal.

While the full-length interviews, the edited interviews and the topical films are the heart of the archive, they are supplemented by a variety of additional materials: 50 audio-taped interviews of local survivors and refugees conducted in 2000, as part of MCHE’s Portrait 2000 exhibit; 66 written and audio-taped reminiscences collected for the keepsake journal commemorating MCHE’s 10th anniversary; papers and memorabilia relating to the organization and activities of the New Americans Club, donated by the late Jack Igielnik, one of the club’s founders; and a 2006 survey of local survivors and refugees about their post-immigration experiences. Several interns from the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and CAJE rendered invaluable assistance transcribing, indexing and cataloguing these materials. The archive is housed in a dedicated space in MCHE’s Resource Center. Edited interviews are available for free loan, and full-length testimonies may be viewed on site.

Film offers compelling overview of the Holocaust

“The Holocaust: Through Our Own Eyes,” created and produced in 1994 by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, was the first MCHE project to use excerpts from the personal interviews with 48 Kansas City area eyewitnesses — refugees, camp survivors, individuals in hiding, non-Jewish citizens of German-occupied Europe, and liberators — that it videotaped over the course of 16 months in cooperation with the Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University.

Beginning with the turmoil in Europe in the wake of World War I and ending with the survivors’ bittersweet arrivals in America, the film traces the origins, implementation and aftermath of the Holocaust, punctuating the larger historical narrative with revealing looks at the personal tolls the Holocaust exacted. Although the film uses archival film footage and photographs as well as voice-over narration to provide coherence and context, it is the witness testimony that gives the film its real power. One survivor remembers how the Germans forced her parents to give away her pet bird because Jews were forbidden to have pets. Another survivor relives the night the Germans shot her father as she and her family looked on helplessly. Yet another survivor describes how his non-Jewish neighbors were fighting over their possessions as he and his family were about to be forced into a ghetto. And a former U.S. Army officer who helped liberate Buchenwald remembers his shock at the sight of the camp’s Jewish inmates.

Fittingly, MCHE will be featuring “The Holocaust: Through Our Own Eyes” as the first film in its free public film series commemorating its 18th anniversary. The screening will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, in the Lewis and Shirley White Theatre at the Jewish Community Campus, with partial funding provided by a grant from the White Theatre Grantor Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Like the original videotaping project, the film was made possible by grants from the William T. Kemper Foundation, the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation, and the Oppenstein Brothers Foundation, with special consideration from Outpost Worldwide. It was also the recipient of two awards presented by the Kansas City chapter of the International Television Association (ITVA) in November 1996.

The film will be introduced by Fran Sternberg, Ph.D., MCHE’s in-house historian and director of university programs and adult Education, who will also facilitate a question-and-answer session afterwards. A light reception will follow and DVD copies of the film will be available for purchase. There is no charge for admission; reservations are requested for planning purposes. Call (913) 327-8196 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Film series schedule

The films will be shown at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Campus on on the following Thursday evenings:

Jan. 20, Lewis and Shirley White Theatre: “The Holocaust: Through Our Own Eyes”
Feb. 17, Social Hall: “Witnesses to the Holocaust: Kristallnacht”
March 10, Lewis and Shirley White Theatre: “Witnesses to the Holocaust: Ghettos”
April 14, Lewis and Shirley White Theatre: “Witnesses to the Holocaust: Auschwitz”
May 19, Lewis and Shirley White Theatre: “Witnesses to the Holocaust: In Hiding” 
June 23, Social Hall: “Witnesses to the Holocaust: Liberation and After”

There is no charge for admission; reservations are requested by calling (913) 327-8196 or e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. A reception will follow each film. DVD copies of the evening’s featured film will be available for purchase.


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A few years ago, when Ward Katz was president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City and Steve Israelite’s list of clients seeking his help to find employment was growing steadily, a light bulb went on in Katz’s head.

The population of Kansas City, like many smaller communities across the country, is getting older. Recognizing that the future of any community is dependent upon its ability to attract young professionals, Katz had the idea to create a program to identify and recruit young individuals, ages 21 to 40, and their families who might be interested in returning to or remaining in Kansas City.

Imagine Jewish Kansas City, a joint initiative of the Federation and Jewish Vocational Services, was established in November 2008 to assist these young professionals by engaging them with a network of peers and mentors.

Imagine Jewish KC (www.imaginejewishkc.org) couldn’t have been launched at a more challenging – or more needed time.

“Our original intent was to identify individuals interested in relocating to Kansas City and to provide them with the support to make it happen,” said Beth Jacobson, Imagine Jewish KC coordinator. “But we started when everything fell apart in the economy. So at first we focused on helping people who had lost jobs, and we were able to assist 39 people in finding employment.”

Since then, Gayl Reinsch joined Jewish Family Services as director of Jewish Employment Services. Now she’s now the go-to person for help in finding employment. This frees up Cheryl Intrater, director of career management service at JVS, to continue consulting on resume writing and interviewing skills, along with Joyce Hill, who recently came on staff as an additional career coach. Hill’s position was added during the recession to handle the resulting client overload. This realignment allows Imagine Jewish KC to return to its original focus of helping people like Brian Furey and Taly Yeyni build happy and fulfilling lives in Kansas City.

Networking to success

“The biggest thing Imagine Jewish KC helped me with was networking,” said Furey, who met Kansas City native Amy Ravis when she was in graduate school in New York City. “We bought an apartment in New Jersey, but after we had our son, Michael, it sounded like a good idea to move back to Amy’s home town.”

On a visit here before moving in September 2009, the couple met with Jacobson. Within days after the move, Furey contacted Jacobson and Intrater.

“My biggest problem,” said Furey, who graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx and had worked for a financial data services company since 2000, “was that I hadn’t had to look for a job in nine years. I had to dust off my old resume and I knew nothing about networking.

“The most important thing Beth helped me with was the networking, putting me in touch with job clubs, giving me names of people in the community and encouraging me to give them a call. She also referred me to Lorrie Eigles [a career coach for JVS at the time], a certified life coach, who helped me redo my resume, target positions and really polish my networking skills.”

Furey was hired as assistant financial analyst at the law firm of Gilmore and Bell in April 2010. To fill downtime during his job search, he volunteered for the Temple B’nai Jehudah Purim Carnival, where his wife Amy works.

Out of college

Taly, from Seattle, made a lot of friends from the Midwest who were in the program she attended in Israel during high school.

“I thought I needed to get back to the Midwest,” she said. “Then I visited KU and fell in love with it.”

After completing an internship in Seattle and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in community health in May 2009, Taly began her job search in the two cities she knew best: Seattle and Kansas City.    

“Having a degree in a narrow field with no work experience other than my internship, it was hard to find positions I was qualified for,” said Taly. “I talked to Jay Lewis, executive director at KU Hillel, who put me in touch with Beth Jacobson. Beth told me about the Nonprofit Connect website that lists nonprofit jobs (www.npconnect.org), where I saw a nutrition education job opening at Harvesters through AmeriCorps.”

After her year in AmeriCorps ended, facing the prospect of another job search, Taly reconnected with Jacobson.

“We brainstormed,” said Taly. “She encouraged me to attend Nonprofit Connect’s Nonprofit Job Club, gave me ideas of organizations to explore, and put me in touch with nutritionists. She also connected me with Cheryl Intrater, who helped me shape my experience and build my interviewing skills so when I went to interviews I would be successful.”

Successful she was. Taly started in a full-time position at Harvesters in September 2010, as a nutrition education coordinator. In addition, she finds time to be the BBYO advisor for the B’not Lev chapter and work as a para-educator with special needs students at Congregation Beth Shalom.

“Besides the job aspect, Beth gave me names of people right out of college who had moved to Kansas City,” said Taly. “Imagine Jewish KC was really helpful in getting connected socially.”

Ensuring a vibrant future

Jacobson is reaching out in every way to identify individuals who may be ripe to move or return to Kansas City, from encouraging employers to recruit from Jewish communities nationwide to partnering with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s GenKC initiative, which holds three to four events throughout the year. When young professionals are home for the holidays, she also hosts events where they can meet peers who have recently moved back and she can find out how Imagine Jewish KC can help them explore the possibilities.

“The message we want to get is across is that this isn’t your bubbe’s Kansas City,” said Jacobson. “We have a vibrant community with much to offer any young professional. Kansas City is family oriented and affordable, with good schools, easy commutes, amazing cultural opportunities and exciting urban living options. In short, we offer the amenities of a big city without the headaches.”

The only thing Jacobson asks of the community is to let her know what she can do to help your child, grandchild, loved one or friend who may be interested in moving to Kansas City.

“Just give me names and contact information,” she said. “I want to help them have that reality and connect them to the resources that are here … and there are a ton of them!”


Refer a friend

If you would like more information about Imagine Jewish KC, or would like to refer a friend or loved one, contact:

Beth Jacobson
Imagine Jewish KC Coordinator
5801 W. 115th Street, Suite 201
Overland Park, KS 66211

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The kids all seem to agree about B’Yachad: A Community of Jewish Teens Cultivating, Exploring and Expanding Jewish Identity — the CAJE/Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City program that replaced the Community High School this year.

They like learning about things that affect their everyday lives, and they like learning about them with Jewish kids from all segments of the community whom they might not otherwise encounter. And, according to Samantha Feinberg, CAJE/Federation’s Learning for Life associate, that’s exactly what was hoped for when B’Yachad was conceived.

“We’re trying hard to emphasize that participants need not be enrolled in religious school or the Hebrew Academy,” said Feinberg. “They don’t even have to be affiliated with a congregation. Students in grades seven through 10 are encouraged to attend, it’s free and no RSVPs are required.”

“B’Yachad basically has two goals,” explained Feinberg. “The first, in the short-term is to provide high quality, age-appropriate learning experiences for the kids. The second longer-term goal is to foster their ability as adults to care about their Judaism and to encourage them to become learners for life. That can’t happen unless we provide thought-provoking activities with room to socialize.”

Last August, to determine what teens find thought-provoking, Feinberg organized a committee of students and educators to brainstorm themes for three Wednesday night sessions throughout the year.

The theme chosen for the first program, held Nov. 3 at the Jewish Community Campus, was “Interfaith Relations: Understanding More about My Judaism and Learning about My Christian and Muslim Neighbor.”

Two hundred kids registered in advance. When more than 230 showed up for pizza at 6:30 p.m., planners knew they were on the right track.

One of the most popular stations that evening featured Christian and Muslim teens from area schools. “I realized there are a lot of religions out there that are really different but alike at the same time, and that we need to respect each other’s religions,” said Overland Trail Middle School seventh grader Corey Minkoff.

The second program, coming up on Feb. 2, will address the theme of “Ethical Dilemmas:  Exploring Daily Decisions that Challenge Us,” with breakout sessions on “How Jewish Values and Ethics Can Help Create Healthy Relationships In Our Lives.”

“I think it will be interesting because it will be how your personal morals tie in with your Jewish morals,” said Gaby Azorsky, a ninth-grader at Shawnee Mission East. “It will focus on topics like keeping relationships with friends, boyfriends and girlfriends healthy, respecting other religions, stopping anti-Semitism, dealing with peer pressure and just a little about bullying because we hear so much about that in school.”

A community service component is built into all three programs. On Feb. 2, it will relate to the evening’s theme by focusing on peers at-risk in part because of unhealthy relationship in their lives. Participants are being asked to donate personal care/hygiene items to teens being helped by Synergy Services.

The third program, “A Radical Seder: Share Your Seder Customs and Learn New Ways to Present an Old Story,” is scheduled for April 6.
The opportunity to meet and socialize with peers is clearly what kids find most appealing about B’Yachad, which also happens to be the Hebrew word for together.

Emma Benson, a Lakewood Middle School eighth-grader, said what she liked best about the program was being with everybody. She added, “I met this girl who doesn’t go to my synagogue. We had a lot in common because we’re all Jewish and it was neat when I saw her a few weeks later at Temple B’nai Jehudah.”

“In one of my groups,” said Gaby, “there were two Orthodox girls who are home schooled, and they talked about things they did, like fasting several times a year, that I didn’t even know about.”

“I enjoyed having four whole grades and seeing lots of different kids,” said Indian Hills eighth grader Morgan Krakow. “It’s nice to have a big circle of friends from different schools who what you have in common with is being Jewish. I didn’t even know there were that many Jewish kids in Kansas City!”

Calling all teens

All Jewish teens in grades seven to 10, regardless of affiliation, are invited to B’Yachad at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2. All activities are free of charge and include a free pasta dinner. The topic for the evening is “Ethical Dilemmas: Exploring Daily Decisions that Challenge Us.” For more information contact Samantha Feinberg at (913) 981-8801 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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All local Jewish youth groups are affiliated with national movements and have strict policies against drinking and illegal substances.

NFTY, which has chapters at congregations Beth Torah and B’nai Jehudah, requires its members and their parents to sign a B’rit K’hilah — Code of Conduct contract. These rules cover a variety of issues including the pledge not to “possess, consume or distribute alcoholic beverages … even if I am of legal drinking age.” The same goes for illegal drugs, tobacco products, firearms and any other activity that can be considered an illegal act. United Synagogue Youth, which is affiliated with Congregation Beth Shalom, and BBYO, also have similar policies.

Three local youth directors — Debi Tozer of BBYO, Marcia Rittmaster of Beth Torah’s NFTY and Stephanie Williams of USY — say they rarely have issues with teens and drinking. But they all take the issue very seriously and make sure that their members know the rules before an event and the consequences they will face should they break them.

BBYO has about 175 members here and is the largest of the local youth groups. Director Tozer said she rarely has to deal with teens drinking. Recently, however, she did punish teens for breaking the rules.

“I don’t think I’ve had to do it more than once a year,” she said.

Tozer said BBYO teens caught drinking are automatically dismissed from the program and their parents are called to pick them up. They also face suspension from activities and removal from board positions.

Tozer said a second offense results in permanent removal from BBYO. The consequences are no surprise to the teens and, Tozer said, if discipline is required parents are notified via the original phone call which is followed up by a letter.

Williams said USY luckily hasn’t faced many problems with teens abusing alcohol. In 12 years she’s only had to send a teen home from an event twice. That happens at parents’ expense.

Williams said most USYers respect the no drinking policy.

“I was in youth group growing up so I know it definitely happens behind closed doors and some people just get away with it,” she said. “But at USY conventions we are very diligent about trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

The last time Beth Torah’s Rittmaster had to deal with a teen drinking at an event was more than 10 years ago. She attributes that to the code of conduct and the fact that members are reminded of that contract over and over again.

Rittmaster also believes NFTY programs are alcohol free because many of their programs are synagogue based.

“It brings a certain amount of respect for a program when rabbis are there,” Rittmaster said. “We also have very strong adult participation and nothing happens without an adult present.”

The timing of USY programs, according to Williams, is another reason why she sees few problems.

“We do our programs in the middle of the week,” Williams said. “With a dance you tend to associate more problems with drinking than you do a Wednesday night when you sit around making social action packets.”

Programs are often presented to teens to dissuade them from inappropriate activities. Williams said that USY has presented programs at conventions that concentrate on “Jewishly-acceptable” behaviors. BBYO has done so as well.

This year BBYO hopes a representative from Beit Teshuvah, an organization that runs a 12-step program based on Jewish values, will present programs at the spring regional convention.

“They are really awesome to talk to the teens because they talk on their level,” Tozer said.


Teens seek peers to sign pledge

Jewish teenagers from the major International Jewish Youth Movements are taking on bullying and standing up for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer peers. In addition to publicly committing to end bullying and creating an inclusive environment in their own movements, the Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders — the presidents of the International Jewish Youth Movements — has set a goal of getting 18,000 Jews to sign Keshet’s Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives.” This goal has been echoed by the executive leadership of the movements and their staff.

“It is really exciting to see Jewish teen leadership take a strong stand against homophobia and to promote a vision of the Jewish community that fully embraces all forms of diversity. When Keshet began the Jewish Community Pledge campaign, we hoped that it would lead to exactly this type of action. As important as it is for Jewish adults to take a stand against bullying and harassment, the most important voice for Jewish youth to hear is that of other youth. I know that there are GLBTQ teens in each of these youth groups as well as unaffiliated youth who will see

To sign the pledge visit http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1285/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=2580

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Jonathan Edelman does not sit back and let life happen.

“He makes things happen,” said Gayle Gray, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy principal, about Jonathan, the Chronicle’s January Salute to Youth honoree.

“He is always willing to take the reins and lead a group for the betterment of students, the school, his synagogue and Jewish organizations. He is a hard working, giving, amazing young man.”

As a leader in the Jewish community Jonathan has big shoes to fill. He’s the youngest son of Debbie Sosland-Edelman and Alan Edelman. Alan is the associate executive director of the Jewish Federation and Debbie has always been active in the Jewish community and was a member of the Hebrew Academy’s first graduating class. His maternal grandparents, Neil and Blanche Sosland, were among the founding families of the Jewish day school. His paternal grandfather, Dr. William Edelman, is a retired physicians and his wife, the late Doris Edelman, was the head of the syndicate department for a regional firm.

It means a lot to Jonathan that he is the second generation to attend HBHA and notes that there will be a member of the family there “for at least another 20 years.” He says the 15 students in his senior class, and the rest of the faculty and student body, are like family to him.
Jonathan said he doesn’t feel pressure to be involved in the Jewish community because of his family.

“I look at it more that they’ve taught me just how important it is to give back to the Jewish community,” said the 18-year-old senior.
He is committed to giving back to the Jewish community, both by giving his time and his money.

“When I give money I give it to the Jewish community because I consider myself more of a Jewish American than an American Jew,” he said.
His extracurricular activities reflect his commitment to the Jewish community. The abbreviated list includes serving as regional executive vice president for Israel affairs of United Synagogue Youth, being selected for a highly competitive leadership training program at Herzl Camp and participating in a Panim leadership program where he lobbied senators and congressmen in Washington, D.C., to advocate for the homeless.

Jonathan said of all his activities, he most enjoys USY and being a member of the B’nai Tzedek Youth Council. B’nai Tzedek, a program of the Jewish Community Foundation, is designed to teach young teens the joys and pleasures of tzedakah.

“I think philanthropy is one of the most important things. People always say that they’d love to give their time to organizations. But while that’s great, in the end organizations can only succeed if they have money,” he said.

One of the organizations he’s most passionate about is the Guardian Society.

“It helps kids go on Israel trips and to summer camps. Some of the best experiences that I had were my eight years at Herzl camp. I also went on a USY pilgrimage to Israel. Going to Israel and having these Jewish experiences with other teens is something I think every teen should experience and it makes me angry that some can’t because they can’t afford it. The Guardian Society basically gives money to kids so they can go. I want kids who are less fortunate to have the same experiences that I’ve had,” Jonathan said.

HBHA’s Principal Gray points out that Jonathan is a leader academically, socially and behaviorally.

“He is a leader among peers and has earned the respect of teachers by dedicating himself to his studies, his extra-curricular activities and his own self improvement,” she said.

This year alone he serves as president of the Student Council, editor-in-chief of the yearbook, photo editor of the newspaper, and co-president of the Holchim Yarok (environmental action club) which was recognized as program of the year by the Federation in 2010.

As a leader, Jonathan makes sure to be an example to younger children and youth group members. His leadership style has been shaped, at least a little, by some of his USY experiences. He vividly remembers when he was a younger member how the “big scary seniors” tended to hang out only with each other at regional conventions. That attitude bothered Jonathan.

“The point of being on the regional board is to be a leader and to get to know people. So when I became a regional officer I decided to make every effort to say ‘hi’ to everyone because I want people to know I’m not a big scary officer. I want to show them that I am there and available to answer questions and be available to all the USYers,” he said.

Photography is one of Jonathan’s great loves and in 2008 he won first prize for his photo “The Storm Approaches” in the Jerry and Edith Penzer Young Artist Showcase held annually at the Jewish Community Center.

Eventually Jonathan wants to be a professional photographer.

“I love taking pictures,” he said.

He takes photos of all kinds, including landscapes, and just recently began taking portraits of people. But he doesn’t think he would like to specialize in portrait photography.

“It’s easier to work with a tree than it is with a person,” he said. “We’ll see where it takes me, I could change my mind.”

Jonathan’s plans for after graduation this spring are currently up in the air. He had been planning to participate in a gap year program in Israel for a year. But he’s been accepted to his first choice school, Clark University in Worcester, Mass., so now he’s debating whether to go straight to college or do the gap year program.

“The gap year would be nice because I could spend more time with my sister (who is currently serving in the Israeli army),” he said.

No matter what he does in the fall of 2011, Judaism will still be a big part of his life.

“My religion is important to me. I go to Jewish day school and I went to Jewish camp. Every single week I get together with my family for Shabbat. I plan to raise my kids Jewish. I plan to send them (to HBHA) hopefully. I think faith and religion is what in the hardest times keeps you sane. It’s somewhere to turn and I think it’s important to stay involved.”

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Debbie Friedman, who many credit as reinvigorating synagogue music, died Sunday, Jan. 9, after a short stay in the hospital. She was 59. Funeral services were held Tuesday in California.

Over the course of her career, the Jewish composer, singer and recording artist released more than 20 albums and performed in sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and in hundreds of cities around the world. She last performed in Kansas City to a standing-room-only audience in the sanctuary of Congregation Beth Shalom in May 2009.

In addition to her career as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Friedman was hired to teach at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Sacred Music in 2007.

Following her death this week, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Friedman was an extraordinary treasure of the Reform movement, and one of its most influential voices.

“Twenty-five years ago, North American Jews had forgotten how to sing. Debbie reminded us how to sing, she taught us how to sing. She gave us the vehicles that enabled us to sing. What happens in the synagogues of Reform Judaism today — the voices of song — are in large measure due to the insight, brilliance and influence of Debbie Friedman,” Rabbi Yoffie said.

Jews in congregations across Kansas City will mourn Friedman at worship services this weekend. The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, has chosen to honor Friedman at its monthly Shabbat Chadash service tonight (Friday, Jan. 14).

“As a tribute to her incredible gifts to us all, our entire service will reflect her music and her teaching. Bring your voices, your timbrals, and your love as we make Shabbat together — as family! Invite someone to join you, and let us raise a joyful noise!” noted a special e-mail to congregants.

Enhancing worship

Cantor Paul Silbersher, spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami, has been a cantor/spiritual leader since 1955. He said Friedman was a trailblazer in modern Jewish music, and “her musical gifts to us continue to enhance our worship.”

Cantor Sharon Kohn, who recently celebrated 25 years as a cantor, said Friedman is rightly credited with bringing the folk genre of Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary into the synagogue.

“Many things we take for granted today — guitars and drums, singing in English and Hebrew, mining our vast traditional texts for modern meanings and putting that into song, inviting the congregation to sing and dance with abandon — are a direct result of Friedman’s work. Her influence is so pervasive also because she has continued to write, to perform and to teach,” she said.

Cantor Kohn said these last few days have been particularly sad for her because just two months ago she had the privilege of spending four days learning from and praying with Friedman at URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute.

“Her abilities as a performer are legendary. What is less known is her generosity as a mentor and as a teacher. I found her to be kind and compassionate, intensely funny, immensely intuitive about people, always connecting with those around her, with the tradition and with the holy,” Cantor Kohn said.

Cantor Silbersher said he first became aware of Friedman’s music about 30 years ago. For him, the most prominent song she composed was “L’chi Lach.”

“It is a reprise of Genesis 12 wherein Abram is told to ‘Get out of your land, your birth place and your father’s house ... and be a blessing,” Cantor Silbersher explains.

He started using that song during Bar/Bat Mitzvah services when the student was being blessed.

“Not only their parents were moved, but I have had students ... now grown to adulthood, who still recall what that song meant to them while they stood in front of the open ark,” the cantor said.

“It was an immediate and resounding success. People were continually moved to tears every time they heard it. I was even asked if I wrote it. I let them know that the composer was Debbie Friedman,” he continued.

Once he began singing “L’chi Lach” at Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, Cantor Silbersher said the song was requested at weddings, baby namings, brisses and even funerals.

A gift to many

A whole host of other songs followed “L’chi Lach,” including “You Shall Love,” “V’ahavta,” “Mi Shebeirach,” “Oseh Shalom,” “Mi Chamochah,” “Not by Might,” “Miriam’s Song” and “T’filat Haderech.”

“Her music was in very good taste and has become widely accepted as not just ‘camp music’ but music that could be performed alongside the classical Jewish Liturgy which is the essence of cantorial training,” Cantor Silbersher said. “If Debbie Friedman had just composed ‘L’chi Lach,’ it would have been ‘dayenu’ — enough for us.”

Cantor Kohn said many people say that Friedman’s gift to many Jews was to “help us learn how to pray again, to connect with God through song, to help us feel as if each of us mattered.”

“Her setting of the “Mi Shebeirach” for healing exemplifies this. My understanding is that as much as she hoped that her music would be remembered, and it will, it was her love of Judaism that shone through everything. If we only sing her music as some kind of memorial, and do not live it, embrace our own sense of what it is to be a Jew, bless those around us, especially those most in need of our care, re-invent tradition for ourselves, we will have failed to hear her deepest message. The world has lost a sweet singer of Israel. As she blessed us with her many gifts, may her memory always be for a blessing,” said Cantor Kohn.

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Jerusalem — One of the things that best symbolizes the holiday known in the Talmud as Rosh Hashanah l’ilanot, the New Year of the Trees, is dates. (The New Year of the Trees, Tu b’shevat, begins the evening of Jan. 19.) In fact, the date is one of the seven species mentioned in the Torah along with wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates and olives.

Sarah Sallon, M.D., director of the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Center at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, studies medicinal plants of Israel. The center, which is funded entirely by donations, researches natural medicines and, according to Dr.Sallon, “one of the most important natural medicines comes from plants.”

In recent years she has become interested in rejuvenating lost flora of Eretz Yisrael.

“One of the lost flora is the Judaean date,” Dr. Sallon said.

When she learned that scientists were trying to extract DNA from ancient seeds, she wondered, “if we have ancient seeds, why couldn’t we grow them?”

The ancient seeds that Dr. Sallon is referring to are three date palm seeds which were found, along with other discoveries, at Masada, the palace of King Herod overlooking the Dead Sea. The site was excavated in the 1960s by archaeologist Yigal Yadin. The seeds were in the custodianship of Professor E. Netzer, the man in charge of Yadin’s collection, and stored at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv with Professor Mordechai Kislev, who identified them.

In 2005, Dr. Sallon’s colleague, Elaine Solowey, Ph.D., botanist of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura, took the three 2,000-year-old seeds and planted them. After eight weeks, one seed successfully germinated and was named Methuselah.

The exact location of the seedling, which is now a 2-meter-high (6 1/2 feet) tree, is a secret. Dr. Sallon said it is in a “protected quarantined site,” and she visits Methuselah every few months.

“We use the ancient language of the healers and apply them to modern conditions,” says Dr. Sallon, who has held positions with Hadassah University Hospital since 1983 and has been director of the Natural Medicine Research Center since 1994. “Looking at the date (Methuselah) and other ancient medicines is part of searching for (sources). It’s so precious to us.”

The center staff, consisting of about 25 people, collect seeds, grow plants, harvest them and then test them.

The Dali Lama has visited the center several times because it has done a lot of work on Tibetan plants.

“We have an interest in the highest place (Tibet) and the lowest place (the Dead Sea),” she said. “We grow plants at Kibbutz Ketura and test them at Hadassah School of Medicine, using ancient and historical sources like Maimonides and Ibn Sana.”

The center also translates ancient manuscripts on medicinal plants from Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew and the Romance languages.

“We use the information to pinpoint what we want to test. Some have never been translated before. We call it ‘data mining.’ ”

Currently, researchers at the center are screening for tumors, otherwise known as cancers, and Parkinson’s (which is not named in the ancient writings but whose symptoms are described) as well as Alzheimer’s (described as memory loss). The loss of memory was a sign of aging in the ancient writings, thus the center is looking at plants traditionally used to improve people’s memory. Melancholy is today’s depression; coughing up blood is today’s tuberculosis.

Recently, the center tested in its early stages and isolated an interesting plant that could be used as a treatment for Parkinson’s.

“It shows an interesting affect in the laboratory,” Dr. Sallon said.

For now, Dr. Sallon said the tree [Methuselah] “looks like a regular date palm.”

“But we have to look more at its DNA. When we compared it to the DNA of a regular cultivated species of dates, it closely resembled the Egyptian type,” the doctor said.

Right now Methuselah is simply growing and not showing its sexual characteristics. Its sex will not be known for a few years.

“If it’s female, we’ll call it Mrs. Methuselah,” says Dr. Sallon. Potentially, it could be fertilized by pollen of a male date and possibly produce dates.

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Patrons who enter Llywelyn’s Pub (6995 W. 151st, Overland Park), are immediately immersed in a classic, Celtic pub, celebrating the food and drink of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The restaurant’s concept made its way from Europe to Old Stanley, Kan., by way of Missouri’s Interstate 70. The first Llywelyn’s Pub was in the Central West End area of St. Louis. Two more of these pubs opened in the St. Louis area before Llywelyn’s opened in our town on July 17, 2007. Note to St. Louis: go ahead and send Albert Pujols up I-70, while you are at it.

Not just any restaurant space would support the Celtic pub motif, but owner Eric Pritchett clearly gave considerable thought to the décor. The place has a comfortable, intimate feel — despite the high ceilings and brass, saloon chandeliers. Dark wooden tables, dark hardwood floors, and rust colored walls underscore the cozy feel. The bar area takes up about half the place, and a dining area takes up the other half. As night wears on, Llywelyn’s often becomes a haven for live music, and a wilder crowd; but by day and early evening, folks of all sorts swarm the place. During one visit for dinner, we watched the Swiss Family Robinson enjoy a meal in the middle of the dining room, while the cast of Sex and the City drank their meal on the fringe of the bar area, three steps up from the dining area. The apparent membership of a Ramones tribute band wandered in just as we completed our meal.

Pub food is heavily rooted in appetizer fare. Pub Pretzels ($3, $5.50, $7.50 for one, two and three, respectively), were not monumentally different from the ball park cuisine, though they were fresher tasting and were brushed with a nice garlic butter. A creamy and flavorful pepper cheese sauce (laced with small bits of jalapeno), was served alongside. The skin on top of the cheese suggested it may have been sitting, for a bit, before it was served to us. Welsh Potato Chips ($2.99, $3.99) were a very good, crispy version of homemade chips (to which I was compelled to add a shake of salt). They were served with a choice of the solid pepper cheesensauce, or rarebit (a pale, yellow Guinness cheddar cheese sauce that was somewhat heavy on the Guinness).

Chicken wings are a “bellwether” dish for American bars and European pubs, alike. We tried the Dragon Wings ($7.99), a full pound served with original or extra spicy “Dragon’s Breath” Sauce. The original-flavored wings were of moderate size, and the small drummie was separated from the wing portion, as is common in most places. Coated with a rather basic and standard buffalo sauce, the original wings were fairly spicy. The extra spicy version likely packs a serious wallop.

Some folks still harbor the mistaken belief that the Reuben sandwich is somehow an Irish dish. The iconic sandwich was likely invented in the early part of the 20th Century by prominent New York delicatessen owner Arnold Reuben, though some believe it was created a number of years later in Omaha, by a Lithuanian grocer. Notwithstanding the sandwich’s contrary origins, this Celtic pub deemed the Llywelyn’s Reuben ($9.29) a restaurant signature dish, and with fairly good reason. The thick, lean and tender corned beef rested amid three slices of nice marble rye (one in the middle), with plenty of kraut, thousand island and (in an odd twist) white cheddar in lieu of the more traditional Swiss cheese. Though there was a decent helping of the superior corned beef, it was not piled high like it would have been in a prominent New York deli — like Arnold Reuben’s now-defunct place, presumably.

An excellent and hearty option was the Famous Steak and Cheese ($11.59), with delicious, tender, marinated chunks of flank steak served atop a giant hoagie-style roll, smothered with the pepper cheese sauce and a mound of fried onions. The waiter asked how I wanted the steak cooked — unusually astute for a casual pub. It came out a perfect medium, as ordered. The flavorful Llywelyn Burger ($8.29), a thick six-ounce burger, was also cooked as one friend ordered it (dead on medium well), and was topped with fried onions and a choice from a broad array of cheeses. The Famous Steak and Cheese and the Llywelyn Burger were also identified as restaurant specialties — again, with fairly good reason.

We ventured reluctantly into the seafood realm, as well. Fish and Chips ($9.99) — the better choice of the two sampled dishes from the sea — is an English pub classic. Llywelyn’s version included two long, hefty pieces of flaky white fish in a batter that was only marginally crunchy. The fish came with a house-made tartar sauce that was not overwhelmed with too much relish, like some versions. Traditional pub fare is not, by design, geared to the light salad crowd. Still one dining companion opted for a designated “new” menu item, a Salmon Sandwich ($9.95). The fairly unremarkable 6-ounce portion was grilled to about medium, with only a slight grilled flavor, and was served atop a toasted whole wheat bun. I understand the need and compulsion for restaurants (and pubs) to offer an array of culinary choices. But one should generally refrain from ordering a steak at The Bristol, or McCormick and Schmick‘s, if at all possible. And a wise diner avoids salmon (and other such light or misplaced fare) at a sturdy, Celtic pub.

As we left the restaurant one night, we noticed that the Swiss Family Robinson was ordering dessert. The Sex and the City group was paying its tab. Joey Ramone had just bitten into an enormous sandwich covered with cheese sauce, of some sort. And the “wild” crowd had not even arrived, yet, for the night.


Food: 3 stars

Atmosphere: 3 1/2 stars

Service: 3 stars

Out of Four Stars

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Visit the SADD website (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and you’ll find a staggering number of statistics regarding teenage drinking. One statistic states that more than half (58 percent) of high school seniors report they’ve been drunk at least once in their life. About 20 percent of eighth-graders report having been drunk at least once in their life.

Recently some Jewish parents got the call to come pick up their teenage children, all either 15 or 16 years old, from a local youth group event. Susie Hurst, who wears many hats for Jewish Family Services including being the adolescent specialist for C.H.A.I. (Channeling Healthy Adolescent Interaction), said underage drinking isn’t a new problem in the Jewish community.

“I would be absolutely shocked if a parent of a high-schooler didn’t know drinking was going on,” Hurst said.

As the statistics show, many people aren’t aware just how young the drinking is starting. Hurst estimates it begins in middle school.
“Some of the statistics I’ve seen is that the average age when kids first try alcohol is about 12,” she said, noting it often begins at parties.

Begin discussions early

Hurst believes parents should begin talking about the dangers of drinking as soon as middle school begins, or even sooner.

“That’s when they need to know that even just a few drinks begins to affect judgment, including getting involved sexually, damage to property and physical injuries,” she said.

But once parents learn their teen may be drinking, Hurst advises them to avoid lecturing.

“That might make you feel better, but they won’t listen to it,” Hurst said.

Asking open-ended question is a good way to start a conversation, according to Hurst.

“Instead of interrogating, ask your teen if the people at the party are the people he or she wants to hang out with even though there was drinking,” she said.

Hurst said the most important influence a parent has with a teen is the fact that there is an open-door policy where anything, even if it’s uncomfortable, can be discussed.

“They need to know that they can come and talk to you and know that they won’t be screamed and lectured out. When screaming and lecturing happens, they just shut down. The poor behavior will happen, you just won’t know about it,” she said.

“Even though you prefer those behaviors aren’t happening, at least if you know about it, it gives you the opportunity to have the discussions and find out what’s going on. Our major goal as parents is to keep them safe,” she continued.

It’s important, Hurst said, for teens to know that they can be honest with their parents about anything.

“Make sure they feel that they can talk to you without being punished,” she continued. “Let’s say your teen told you Janey Doe was drinking at the party. If you then say you’re going to call Janey’s mother, your teen will never confide in you again. You need to understand the importance of them being honest with you and not punishing them for it.”

Hurst said parents need to be aware that drinking is happening at parties, and they should discuss that with their teens in an open, honest way.

“You don’t want to push them in a way that the teen would have to be deceitful,” Hurst said. “I would ask them, when you go to these parties are they cool about kids that don’t want to drink or is it uncomfortable for you?”

Hurst said it’s important for teens to trust their intuition, and if they feel the least bit uncomfortable or feel unsafe, then they should call you to come pick them up.

“Some families create a code word that means “come get me now” so that the teen on the other end of the line doesn’t have to go into details,” she said.

 Keep an open mind

If parents get the call to pick up a teens from an event because of alcohol use, Hurst said the first thing to do is to make sure the teen has not been unjustly accused.

“A parent should always say explain to me what happened” and then say “I need you to be honest with me,” Hurst said.

“Really give your teen a chance to explain what happened and listen to their side of the story,” Hurst said. “They need to realize that you aren’t going to attack them. And you don’t want to sacrifice the relationship you have with your teen by being unfair or overreacting.”

If a teen admits to drinking, Hurst said it’s best to continue the conversation in the morning. Then Hurst suggests that the parents and teen discuss exactly what happened and why such behavior is a problem for the parents. She said to make it clear that the teen has gone against the family’s rules and expectations about drinking.

She said hopefully before this happened, parents have already had the conversation with the teen explaining “we know drinking goes on, but we prefer that you choose not to drink.” Hurst said statistics are showing that those types of conversations between parents and teens “really has an impact and at least delays drinking until an older age.”

After that, Hurst said to explain to the teen that he or she will have to earn the parents’ trust again. One of the ways that will happen is by the parents taking steps such as calling the adults in charge of the next party as well as making sure the teen checks in with the parents from the host’s land line, not their personal cell phone.

Hurst said it’s important to let the teen know that he or she can earn back privileges and trust.

She notes that not all infractions are the same and that a different, stricter tone may need to be taken if this is a teen’s second or third offense. On the other hand, there must be a zero tolerance regarding drinking and driving. Not only are there serious legal ramifications but the end result can be deadly.

Hurst also wants it known that parents shouldn’t assume there will not be alcohol or other illegal substances because the party is in a “nice neighborhood” or being hosted by a Jewish family.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with anything,” Hurst said.


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