Teens and Gathering: Learning from Korach
June 11, 2021
By Ben Wolfson

The welcoming of Shabbat always provides opportunities to reflect on the week and all that we have accomplished over the previous seven days. For me, this week is especially significant, as I just finished my first week in a new full-time role, Manager of Jewish Teen Experience through the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning (CJEL). This represents a big step out of the college bubble for me as I enter the “real world.”

My name is Ben Wolfson, and I love Buffalo. I was born and raised here and enjoy deep family roots in the community; Buffalo is my home no matter where I am in the world. As my senior year of college at the University of Michigan was ending and I contemplated my future, the feeling of a need to “come home” to Buffalo was too strong to overlook.  After spending the last year as a virtual intern with CJEL, the opportunity presented itself to join the Buffalo Jewish Teen Initiative, now a joint project of the Buffalo Jewish Federation and the JCC of Greater Buffalo. In my new role, I will be working to build relationships with, and build extraordinary experiences for Jewish teens — while expanding the Buffalo Jewish Teen Initiative. After four long years away from Buffalo, I am beyond thrilled for the opportunity to make an impact in this community that I love so much.

In this week’s parsha, Korach, a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron is lead by Korach along with two sons of Eliab. In order to rebel against Moses, Korach organizes 250 community leaders to rise up against what they viewed as unjust leadership. While this was not the focus of the parsha, I was left with the question: How was Korach able to organize 250 people in biblical times?  Of course, today we use social media, group texts, and new technology to organize and mobilize large groups. Over the past year and half, the meaning of organizing and gathering has changed for all of us, and has forced us to reconsider what it means to gather as a community. If Korach lived today, it would have been easy for him to create group chat of likeminded individuals to rise up against Moses, and his outreach efforts might have created an even larger rebellion. As we move into our “post-COVID” world, this will be even more important in connecting with one another and within our community.

This an exciting period where we can use new technology to bring people together successfully in-person. I saw this first hand at the Jewish Teen Initiative’s event last weekend –  the Mystery Bus Tour. This event was a full-day program for teens to go on a field trip with “mystery” stops all around Buffalo. By using various types of technology and avenues to connect with teens and parents, we had 31 teens attend, connecting Jewish Teens in-person from all over the city. The Mystery Bus Tour was a great success in part due to the use of technology to organize and spread the word about the event, and we should use the technological skills we gained from the pandemic to continue to grow in all areas of Jewish Buffalo.

I look forward to partnering with you to expand our teen programing and engagement in Jewish Buffalo. I can be reached at ben@buffalojewishfederation.org and I would love to get coffee or ice cream with you or your teen!

Teens and Gathering: Learning from Korach - Jewish thought of the week graphic