When I first heard about the coronavirus lockdown, I naturally assumed that I wouldn’t be hearing from my synagogue’s youth leaders, Harry and Leora, since almost all the interactions they have with us were in person. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong and my weeks since the lockdown have been filled with zoom events. Despite the interest in teenage mental health during the lockdown that I have seen in the media, I haven’t noticed much of a focus on the people who work with teenagers- youth leaders. So, I wanted to talk to Harry and Leora to find out about how they are finding the lockdown as well as their inspiration.
Before becoming youth leaders for Kinloss synagogue, both Harry and Leora were ‘heavily involved in community work’- volunteering in the Jewish youth movement Bnei Akiva for many years. After they got married last year, they ‘came to Kinloss to continue their community work’ and to ‘continue impacting people’s lives for the better.
Because the coronavirus meant that Harry and Leora could no longer have face-to-face interactions with any of the youth, they told me that it ‘completely changed the way we’ve done our job’ because ‘all our interaction used to be face-to-face whereas now it’s face-to-camera.’ Despite the difficulties posed by the lockdown, Harry and Leora see it as ‘a good challenge because it means that we need to engage people in different ways.’ No-one can deny that they have certainly risen to this challenge with the events, both educational and fun, that they have been holding, such as bingo, supper quizzes and a talent show that is coming soon. However, all these online events mean that they need to do a lot more planning because they can no longer read the room to tailor their programs for the atmosphere.
No-one knows how long it will be until things return to a relative normal. However, both during and after the lockdown, Harry and Leora endeavour to ‘keep on doing what we’re doing’ and to continue ‘inspiring kids and helping them to develop to be the best they can.’ They plan on introducing new events as well as more responsibilities for youth- which they hope will allow us to help better in community and work roles. With all the programs they are running and plan to run, the key for Harry and Leora is ‘to create a sense of community’ for all the teenagers in Kinloss synagogue.
When I asked Harry and Leora about what they see as their purpose in being a youth leader, they answered that they aim ‘to just help and inspire and be friendly with people who are part of Kinloss.’ Their commitment to not change who anyone is but rather ‘to help develop people to be the best people they can’ is inspiring to all the youth in our synagogue and I am so grateful that they have given us something to look forward when every day now seems the same.
By Eve Nicholls