It is important to meet new people, whether they are from other schools or live in different areas. Exposing yourself to various groups of people can help make you a more compassionate and educated person. Meeting people from all walks of life can prove to be difficult for those of us that live in the “Yeshiva League bubble,” a term used to describe Jewish high schoolers in the tri-state area. But even if you can’t meet new people from different faiths and races, it is still important to branch out.
One way to do this is through organizations and programming for teens. Many organizations, such as Yachad and NCSY, host shabbatons and events, which are perfect opportunities to meet new people. They have fun activities where you can get to know others, without any awkwardness or uneasiness. Becoming involved in these programs gives you a sense of belonging. Yachad and NCSY, for example, are very instrumental in the Jewish community, bringing together all different types of Jews. Yachad is an organization that helps individuals with disabilities get jobs, go on summer programs, go to school and much more. Their mission is for individuals with disabilities to become included in every aspect of Jewish life. NCSY is dedicated to inspiring teens to become stronger and passionate Jews. They have many different summer programs in Israel, along with leadership training programs. NCSY wants to help teens connect to their Jewish roots and guide them in becoming the best leaders possible.
These organizations are just a few of the many out there that offer an outlet for teens and others to express themselves. In my experience, I have met a large number of my close friends through organizations like these. They help provide a familiar feeling of protection and encourage you to connect with others. They provide you with the ability to bond through a shared passion of whatever that organization may focus on. Getting involved in various foundations gives you a starting base for meeting people because you already have in common the purpose that the organization is advocating for.
Additionally, these organizations can enhance your social skills. I used to be slightly shy and quiet, especially when meeting new people. I was nervous that I would say the wrong thing or look stupid. I am now very comfortable around strangers and even consider myself a people person, which is a big contrast to my more closed-off younger self.
Gaining new friends is important. While many teens have a core group of friends that they have been close with since kindergarten, it is important to meet new ones. New friends can share different perspectives and outlooks on certain situations or events. They offer valuable advice from a fresh set of eyes. Plus, you can never have a big enough support system. The countless programs and shabbatonim that many organizations offer, always result in new friendships. You can meet someone for a day and a half, and then feel like you’ve known them forever by the end of Shabbos. They make it so easy to be yourself and connect with others.
It’s important to see how different types of Jewish teens live. It’s essential to learn about diversity because outside of high school, in the real world, it’s all over the place. Accepting other types of Jews (and people of other beliefs) for who they are, and embracing their different customs, languages and foods is a vital character trait. The only way to do this is through experience and interactions. We need to pop our isolated bubble by socializing with others who may be different than us.
Molly Feder is a junior at Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.