Ski weekends, pool parties, Project Adventure outings—these are just a few of the cool activities for Jewish middle school students thanks to a new collaboration on the North Shore.

“I like the fact that my Jewish friends and I have events planned that we can go to together,” said Adam Gansenberg, a seventh-grader at Marblehead Veterans School.

Gansenberg is part of the new North Shore Middle School Youth group (NSMY), sponsored by several synagogues and Jewish agencies, including North Shore Teen Initiative, which also hosts programs for high school students.

“We want to connect these younger kids to the best that Jewish life has to offer,” said Adam Smith, NSTI director. ”Too many kids check out of the Jewish community after their bar or bat mitzvah. We want to keep them engaged.”

Janis Knight at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott agrees that sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are a key audience.

“Middle school is the age where real identity formation work takes place,” Knight said. “The more we offer our community’s young teens valuable, meaningful, and fun Jewish experiences, the stronger their Jewish identities will be as adults.

“We want Jewish kids to get together and have fun, work in the community, and explore different ways to live Jewishly,” Knight added. “They should know kids from different movements and temples, affiliated and unaffiliated families, Israelis, Russians, and kids from intermarried families. Our Jewish community is diverse and their experience of it should be equally diverse.”

The agencies collaborating on NSMY include NSTI, JCC of the North Shore, Cohen Hillel Academy, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai, all of Marblehead, Congregation Shirat Hayam of Swampscott, Temple Tiferet Shalom and Temple Ner Tamid of Peabody, and Temple B’nai Abraham of Beverly.

“Hey, if we work together at this and pool our resources since we’re already drawing from a lot of the same kids, we can offer some cooler, more successful programs,” Smith said.

Upcoming events for NSMY include a service-learning outing, J-Serve at the Lynn Shelter Association on April 23.

For more information on NSMY, visit http://nsteeninitiative.org/programs/nsmy/.

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