Rabbi Daniel Brenner, the founding executive director of Birthright NEXT will be leaving the organization to become the director of Initiatives for Boys and Men at the Philadelphia-based Moving Traditions.
Brenner’s appointment follows Moving Traditions’ release of Engaging Jewish Teenage Boys: A Call to Action, a comprehensive report offering seven lessons and seven principles to help Jewish educators more effectively inspire teenage boys to stay connected to Jewish life.
“I am extremely pleased to announce the addition of Rabbi Daniel Brenner to the Moving Traditions staff,” said Deborah Meyer, Moving Traditions’ executive director. “With his deep knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish community and his success in launching an innovative national program, Daniel is perfectly suited to enlist policy makers, funders, parents, clergy and educators in Moving Traditions’ Call to Action to more effectively meet the needs and interests of Jewish teenage boys.”
Brenner was brought into Birthright NEXT with much fanfare when the organization was started four years ago, but NEXT has in many cases failed to live up to expectations of those who felt it should be the cure-all for Birthright follow-up opportunities.
Earlier this year, former Hadassah executive, Morlie Levin was brought into NEXT as its CEO, with the charge of professionalizing the organization.
Though the move effectively layered Brenner, NEXT officials, including Levin maintained that they were not attempting to push him out. Rather the move was made to free up Brenner to focus on programming.
He should be able to do that at Moving Traditions, which has focused primarily on engaging women. Brenner will build programming around Moving Traditions’ recent report, which was distilled from three years of research, 40 focus groups with Jewish boys, and extensive program development. The reports finds that putting boys’ developing masculinity at the center of male-focused Jewish programming will keep more boys engaged in Jewish life beyond bar mitzvah.
“This is the Jewish community’s biggest blind spot,” Brenner said in a release from the organization. “Participation by young men in Jewish life outside of Orthodox circles declines rapidly at age fourteen and never truly picks up. The time has come to train educators to address the ethical and developmental issues that are relevant to young men post-bar mitzvah, to introduce new approaches to the intellectual and spiritual traditions for men found in Jewish life, and to bring Jewish women and men together to address changing gender roles and shared responsibilities.”