For Beth Avner, Jewish education is a family matter. Her mother, Faith, entered the Spertus MAJPS program two years after Beth. Her brother Brian is enrolled at Hebrew Union College's Jewish education and communal service program in California, and her fiancé Sam Rodin (who she met at Spertus) is Youth Director at Congregation B'nai Tikva in Deerfield!
Dr. Barry Chazan, one of Beth's professors in the Spertus program, had the following to say about her: "Although a first glance, she might be mistaken for a teen in one of her programs, Beth is a giant of a young Jewish educator."
Beth began her career as a Chicago-based youth advisor then became regional director of the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY). After completing her Masters in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) at Spertus, she was promoted to a national position as NFTY's Director of Education and Special Projects, with her master's project being used across the country as an impactful training manual for new youth workers.
"[Beth] is part of a new generation who will become the architects of a new Jewish Chicago youth scene," Chazan said. "Beth epitomizes Martin Buber's notion that raising an eyebrow can be as effective as raising your voice."
Pays the bills:
North American Federation of Temple Youth - Director of Education and Special Projects
On the side:
Confirmation teacher at Emanuel Congregation
Describe yourself in 10 words or less:
Balancing my loves of teaching, learning, baking and traveling
My fiancé might say Natalie Portman…but personally, I am not sure I have one!
How do you Jew in Chicago?
I'm often traveling over the weekends and spend most Shabbats with NFTY communities across North America. When I'm home, I always spend Friday morning baking challah from scratch and cooking a big Shabbat dinner. We love sharing those meals with guests!
Advocating for teens as "the present" of Reform Judaism. They are not only the future, they are here now and make important contributions no matter what their age!
How do you give back?
My amazing job with NFTY allows me to give back in so many ways. My favorite part is the opportunity to mentor the young, passionate leaders of the Reform Movement. I find myself spending countless time on the phone or at coffee shops with teens helping them plan a program they are creating or guiding them through choosing a college. I cherish the chances to be a part of helping a teen navigate their personal journey as they discover their own meaningful connection to Judaism. My hope is that every Jewish teen feels that someone is invested in their success because he or she is an integral part of the future of the Jewish people.
Fill in the blank: If time and money were limitless, I would:
I would stay in school forever! I love learning. And traveling- my dream is to visit every country in the world!
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
With the influx of Jewish professionals with higher level degrees from institutions such as Spertus, the Jewish professional communities of Chicago will inspire and motivate each other to find completely new ways of engaging young Jewish people. I think the word of the decade will be "collaboration" as organizations find the ways that they can work together to create pioneering synergy in places that one organization cannot leverage alone.
Me in 10 years:
Ten years from this summer, I imagine I'll be happily married to my fiancé, Sam, and busily sending letters to my kids who are away for the summer at OSRUI, the same URJ summer camp where I grew up!