Teens Want to Make a Difference: Here's a Tool to Guide Them

For all of us, the past few pandemic years have been scary and disorienting. For teens in a hunkered-down society, it’s also meant losing opportunities to develop independence.  

“What our teens need in this moment is support for finding their voice and finding their autonomy. Then we’ll slowly see the pain and fear untangle,” says Michelle Shapiro-Abraham, an award-winning teen educator and director of strategic innovation and youth programs at the Union for Reform Judaism. "We need to showing them that they can claim their power.”

Dreaming Bigger: Jewish Leadership for Teens by Dr. Erica Brown and Rabbi Benji Levy does just that. This brand-new actionable guide for Jewish teens who want to make a difference in the world harnesses their idealism and energy.

Teens have passion and heart are looking to make a difference, yet they don’t have the skills. Dreaming Bigger provides lots of different strategies to support teens as they explore leadership and offers a clear way for them to actualize their power. 

The book is an invaluable and excellent tool for educators who work with teens – whether in day schools or congregational schools, youth groups, Federation programs, or other settings.

“What’s powerful about the book is that it's committed to showing that teen voices are valued and what it means to be heard,” Shapiro-Abraham says.

Dreaming Bigger is designed for leadership training, in a practical sense. Packed with leadership advice for teens from teens and from experts around the world, insights from Jewish texts, thought exercises, and discussion prompts, “it’s intended to lead teens through a guided process, step by step.”

The book is organized into three sections: Leading yourself, leading others, and leading in community. Use it in a group or in a class, or even give to teens to use alone. Topics include managing stress, making better decisions, deepening empathy, using technology, speaking in public, ending bullying, fighting antisemitism, advocating for racial justice, and more.

There are so many ways educators and youth directors can use this book, says Shapiro-Abraham. “I’m really excited to see it and hope educators use with teens to show them that people are listening to them, investing in them, and in turn, that helps teens feel more positive in the world.”

Download the introduction and first chapter of Dreaming Bigger.


Visit www.dreamingbigger.org for:

  • An educator's guide
  • Master classes with short videos of Brown and Levy demonstrating practical tips to implement leadership skills. Click here for an example.
  • Animated videos to use as discussion starters. Click here for an example.
  • Conversation cards with 52 thought-provoking questions to analyze, discuss, and explore various leadership skills and qualities.

 Looking for more teen resources?

Salt & Honey: Jewish Teens on Feminism, Creativity, & Tradition is an anthology of essays, poetry, and visual art by teens from jGirls Magazine. The themes of the 78 vibrant pieces are universal, touching on childhood, spirituality, sexuality, race, family, friends, and the world around us. Shapiro-Abraham wrote a discussion guide that’s included in the book.