2020 Conference: Sessions & Speakers

Thank You

to all of the speakers, panelists, and participants who helped make our first Professional Development Conference the huge success that it was!

Plans are already underway for the next one. Watch for details!

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Opening Session: Leave Your Worries At The Door!  |  Sunday, 7:45pm EST

A panel of veteran Youth Directors, facilitated by Avi Frier

Youth Directors have always carried a heavy load. Between parents, board members, budgets, and the panoply of personalities we each encounter in each of our communities… And we didn’t even mention the kids yet! Adding a pandemic to the mix has only made everything all the more complicated and stressful.

Kick off the conference with an interactive discussion centered around YOU. Bring us your worries, your challenges, your greatest obstacles, and tap into the panel’s collective experience and wisdom.

Panelists: Allyson Wiener-Avraham, Rabbi Dani Davis, Rabbi Sholom Jensen, Andy Sollofe, Rabbi Daniel Stroock, Avery Umlas

V’Samachta B’Chagecha: Bringing The Holidays To Life  |  Sunday, 9:30pm EST

Rabbi Benjy Myers | Ohr Torah Stone

From Chanukah to Purim to Pesach and beyond, we all face the challenge of celebrating with our youth, but without them actually being there. Together, we’ll explore ways to bring the holidays to life in a world gone virtual.

Rabbi Myers serves as the Director of Education in Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel | Beren-Amiel Institute, training rabbis and educators in Israel for leadership positions throughout the Jewish world.

The Business of Youth Work: Advocating for Yourself as a Youth Professional  |  Monday, 8:15pm EST

Rabbi Adir Posy | Orthodox Union

No one who dreamed of a career inspiring today’s Jewish Youth expected to be involved in the likes of contract negotiations, performance metrics, public relations, or other aspects of the job that seem to belong solely in the corporate world. But like it or not, as professionals, we are involved in the business of youth work. Learn to navigate these choppy waters like the true professional you are; from salary discussions to performance reviews; managing boundaries between friends and “bosses”; understanding the difference between celebrating success and arrogant self-PR; and much more.

Rabbi Adir Posy is the Orthodox Union’s National Director of Synagogue Services and the Associate Rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, CA. Rabbi Posy and his team consult with shuls around the country to offer resources to communities and connect them with each other.

Contact Tracing 101: Preparing Your Youth Department for Live Events in a Pandemic World  | Monday, 9:00pm EST

Debby Levitt | Katz Yeshiva High School

Live events return to your shul, and everything is going great. The children are having fun, everyone is complying with the social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, and it seems like life is getting almost back to normal. Then you hear of a covid case in a family with four children, all of whom are active in the Youth Department. What do you do? Cancel all activities? Notify the entire shul that they all need to quarantine? Do nothing and hope for the best? The fact is that if you didn’t know the answers to these questions before you resumed activities, you started too soon. Before going live, it’s essential to have the right infrastructure and a clear action plan in place to make positive tests, close contacts, secondhand contacts, and other scenarios much more manageable.

Debby Levitt supervises contact tracing and covid safety protocols for Katz Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, Florida.

HyperZoom: Creating Impactful Virtual Events Kids Will Love  | Tuesday, 8:15pm EST

Avi Bloom | S.A.R. High School

Overcome Zoom fatigue and take your virtual events to the next level. Learn to maximize the tools that Zoom has given you to make your virtual events more engaging and exciting. Discover apps and software that will bring the fun and help kids love what they learn.

Avi Bloom is the Director of Technology at SAR High School where he is responsible for both educational technology Integration and the IT infrastructure. Avi began teaching at SAR as a Beit Midrash fellow. Since then he has held various positions, including student activities coordinator, Talmud Teacher and EdTech Integrator, before becoming Director of Technology. Avi received a Master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University and semikha from YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Prior to that he received his BA in Psychology at Yeshiva University’s undergraduate division.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS: Shul Business Track

We’re All On The Same Team: Leveraging Your Shul’s Rabbinic and Lay Leadership  | Sunday, 8:45pm EST

Rabbi Binyamin Hammer | National Council of Young Israel

The Youth Director is a unique part of the diverse team that takes responsibility for the shul’s operations. Learn to partner with rabbis, board members, and other leaders to get what you need.

Rabbi Hammer is the Director of Rabbinic Services for National Council of Young Israel

Upping Your Graphics Game: How To Create Better Marketing Materials  | Monday, 10:20pm EST

Miriam Seidman | MSeidesign

Learn what makes a flyer good and what makes a flyer great. We’ll be using Canva and seeing how to transform out flyer dreams into reality.

Miriam Seidman is the Programming & Youth Director at Congregation Ohr Hatorah in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a BA in Communications and Advertising, and 10 years experience using the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Indesign), Final Cut Pro, Various Site creation platforms and CRMs. She is a photographer, graphic designer, and the founder of MSeidesign

Using Social Media To Promote Your Youth Department  | Tuesday, 9:45pm EST

Sruly Meyer | SMG Marketing & Branding

It’s been said that if it wasn’t posted on social media, it didn’t happen. Learn to maximize your Youth Department’s social media presence so that every event is a happening, every success is showcased, and every program is the talk of the town.

Sruly Meyer owns and operates a marketing and branding firm, SMG. He has worked with some of the top talent in Jewish Music, including Benny Friedman, Mordechai Shapiro, 8th Day and Shmueli Ungar. SMG services many diverse clients among the Jewish world, including Camp Mesorah, Kosherica, and Healing Hearts, and large organizations like Chabad Youth Programs, Friendship Circle, and others.  On the side, he enjoys cooking, baking and discussing his weight loss journey and tips on healthy living, as @SrulyCooks. SMG offers full service social media management, branding and consulting. The end goal is to expand your brand, and grow your reach.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS: Programming Track

TorImprov: Bringing The Parsha To Life With Torah Theatre  | Sunday, 8:45pm EST

No’a L. bat Miri

Learn how to integrate “theatrical” experiences into Torah education (on or off Zoom), best practices for making students comfortable and happy with participating, finding roles that work for everyone, making use of different skill sets, and figuring out whether to use it as a supplement to regular teaching or to aim for shul/community-wide productions.

No’a is an experienced independent educator with several years of digital classroom teaching under her… is that a belt or a hula hoop or a snake or…? Improv is an art, a joy, and a brilliant tool for learning Torah. Every year, No’a works with thousands of students from secular and religious backgrounds to learn about symbols, create amazing narratives, and explore the Jewish tradition. She even, occasionally, works with adults. So long as they promise not to take themselves too, too seriously.

Israel Education: Instilling Children With Love For Our Homeland  | Monday, 10:20pm EST

Rabbi Uri Pilichowski

It’s easy to think of Eretz Yisrael as an important part of our lives; making it a prominent part of our youth programs can be an entirely different story. Learn to infuse Israel education into your Youth Department, and you’ll transform today’s Jewish children into tomorrow’s advocates for, and defenders of, our Homeland.

Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is the Director of Israel Advocacy for Southern Region NCSY, and the CEO and founder of Pilichowski Israel Educational Supply LLC, an educational company that brings quality and nuanced Torah and Israel education to high school and university students across the world. As an educator, author and speaker, he teaches Torah and Politics, where he specifically emphasizes rational thought and conceptual analysis.

Finding, Training, and Supporting Great Youth Group Leaders  | Tuesday, 9:45pm EST

Rabbi Sholom Jensen & Dr. Mike Atlas | Great Neck Synagogue

What makes a youth group leader great? What is it about that 8th grader who can get them seated in a circle, ready to go, just by asking once, when the 12th grader in the room–the senior group leader–can’t get them to stay quiet for 30 seconds? From recruitment to selection to honing talents, learn to staff your youth program with great leaders who work together as a galvanized team.

Rabbi Jensen has been the Youth Director of Great Neck Synagogue since 1991. He is also the Director of Admissions at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and in charge of student activities at the Middle School level.

Dr. Mike has been the Youth Director at Great Neck Synagogue since 2012. He is the Director of Student Support Services at Torah Academy of Bergen County and spends his summers in Camp Kaylie where he oversees specialty staff, trains counselors and teaches chinuch. 


Chanukah & Winter Activities  | Sunday, 10:30pm EST

The weather is getting cold (so for many of us, outdoor activities are becoming less and less feasible), and Chanukah is just around the corner. Participants will brainstorm a list of programs for the season.

Live Activities With Social Distancing  | Monday, 9:50pm EST

As shuls continue to reopen, the need to run activities that are pandemic-safe becomes one of our greatest challenges. Participants will brainstorm a list of live activities that can operate within the Covid-19 safety guidelines.

Fun Virtual Activities | Tuesday, 10:30pm EST

Even as we gradually return to live events, the need for virtual activities will not go away so quickly. Participants will brainstorm a list of virtual activities that engage our population of Zoom-fatigued youth.


Two very brief presentations by Avi Frier to help you maximize the benefits of your AJYP membership.

Next-Level Collaboration | Monday, 9:30pm EST

We’ll spend a few minutes exploring ways in which the new AJYP website will help us take our Whatsapp and Slack collaborations to the next level. Plus, you’ll be the first to hear about a development that is just 3-4 months away, which will revolutionize the way in which we communicate, collaborate, and work together.

Conference Wrap-Up: Putting It All Together | Tuesday, 11:00pm

What have we learned? What’s next? How will we use the skills we’ve developed to be better at what we do, and how will AJYP support us in that endeavor?
Also: What have we not learned? Which topics would you like to have seen during this conference, that we can offer as webinars in the coming weeks?


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