On Saturday nights during the winter in Riverdale, when most kids go out to a movie or watch Saturday Night Live, over 70 people filter into the Riverdale Jewish Center to experience Saturday Night Learning, a weekly youth program coordinated by Chaya and Adin Rayman, youth directors at the Riverdale Jewish Center.
“Saturday Night Learning is my favorite youth program during the year. It is such an amazing experience to watch children learning Torah with their parents. And on a Saturday night!” said Adin Rayman, a student at Yeshiva University Riets and Revel graduate schools. This is the Raymans’ second year as youth directors at RJC. “We love living in Riverdale and connecting with the community. Our goals for this year include improving upon existing programs and developing new programs that reach a variety of different age groups from preschoolers to teens.” Some of the RJC youth programs involve Torah learning and some are just about having fun. Sports and recreational youth activities are conducted seasonally and include weekly gym night and basketball workshops in the winter, as well as baseball league, T-Ball and dance class in the spring.
Prior to working as the youth directors at the RJC, the Raymans served as counselors in Bnei Akiva summer camps. Once they married, they jointly ran the youth department in West Hempstead. “We feel strong as a team. We make it clear that in our role we both equally share our directorial responsibilities. We are not the youth director and his/her spouse.” The Raymans feel that their ability to be leaders due to their shared role makes a huge impact. “As a couple we are in a unique position to jointly empower both boys and girls.”
The Raymans have a very supportive youth committee chaired by Russi Bohm and Marcella Marcus who meet regularly with the Raymans to brainstorm new program ideas or provide feedback about existing programs. “We are blessed to work with such as strong youth committee” said the Raymans. After their programs, the Raymans frequently receive thank you notes from the committee chairs.
The Raymans are ably assisted by RJC's Assistant Youth Director, Abby Marcus. She "has actually been part of the youth department longer than we have, as she grew up in Riverdale going to the RJC," the Raymans said.
RJC youth programs can cater to approximately 250 people depending on the program. Besides youth groups that meet regularly on Shabbat, youth programming includes holiday programs such as the recent Chanukah Sensational Sunday event on December 6 as well as sukkah decorating, the Purim carnival, pre-Thanksgiving football, teen and pre-teen Shabbat onegs and trips such as paint night and movie night.
“We tried to live our ideals instead of talk about them,” said Chaya Rayman. The Raymans are passionate about their work and are diligent about punctuality and program design. “We work hard to coordinate well-thought-out programs and design promotional fliers that look professional and will attract families,” she explained.
The highlight of Adin’s year is Kol Nearim on Simchat Torah. Traditionally, during this prayer service, all the children of the community stand under a tallit to be blessed. “When the children stand under the tallit and are blessed by the community, it is the culmination of my entire year. This is when I know that what I do is worth it.”
To learn more about RJC youth programming, visit the website at http://youth.rjconline.org/.
By Adena Blickstein