Bonim Banim

“Judah ben Tema used to say…age fifteen is for Talmud (for understanding how to put Jewish values into action in difficult situation)”.

Pirkei Avot 5:21

In our experience with building projects, one of the frustrating aspects has been that many of our building partners do not accept young teens as participants. As a result, we created a program, in partnership with Sara Losch, Director of Lifelong Learning of the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ. We call it in Hebrew Bonim Banim or for short Bet Bet- Building Youth. It is a way of including younger teens in the holy work.

What We Have Done…

In August of 2008, we brought some twenty students who were entering grades nine and ten to the Portland, Me. area to help reconfigure the home of a woman who was soon to need a wheelchair. We partnered with PROP (People’s Regional Opportunities Program) There were teen volunteers from our host congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland, Me. and from the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, among others.

In August of 2009, our teens worked in the Boston, Mass. area to help restore a residential recovery facility for thirty women and their infant children. We partnered with SMOC (Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council) and our host congregation was Rabbi Neal Gold’s Shir Tikva, with support from the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ, and Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ.

These are experiences in Jewish religious living. They include, in addition to the building work, creative Jewish worship and the study of traditional texts dealing with tzedakah, charity and righteous loving. The adult team includes teachers and building experts. We have lived together in a large Maine summer home and in a Massachusetts hotel, sharing the responsibilities of daily life. In each location, we explored the local area to understand the impact of work like ours on the general community.

This inspiring weeklong experience is open to teens whose families are members of Reform congregations. The cost in the past has been $1000, which has included everything except travel to the location, personal expenses, night out and gifts.