At the beginning of this year, our team embarked on a journey to learn as much as we could about NYC Jewish teens and their peers (also known as “Generation Z”), the existing landscape of local and national teen engagement initiatives, and inspirational learning and community-building models designed for adults.
We hosted focus groups, online surveys, interviews and design workshops that engaged over 300 teens and parents from Stephen Wise Free Synagogue and all over NYC. We also spoke with dozens of educators and entrepreneurs, rabbis and youth ministers, and artists and program designers to ensure that we approached our assignment with partners from both within and beyond the Jewish community.
This extensive and exhilarating nine-month process taught us many things about the needs, desires, and unique challenges facing teens today. We learned that NYC Jewish teens are complex, curious, and self-described creative, proud and loyal citizens of the world. They are looking to expand their friend circles, and seek opportunities to be challenged in social, emotional and intellectual ways. Lastly, as Gen Z's understanding of identity is fluid and multi-dimensional, they are attracted to experiences that reflect and embrace all of the different traits, talents and passions that define who and what they want to be in the world, as responsible Jews, Americans, and global citizens.
Guided by this powerful set of findings, we came up with 16 different concepts to consider for a Rosh Hashanah launch at Stephen Wise, and by summertime selected our prototype for a social impact design lab. The Greenhouse, our newly imagined platform for teen-led social innovation, will house an exciting array of programming, social impact challenges, and unique travel experiences.
The Greenhouse is a living, breathing community and looks to you to help shape its future.