By Deb Silverthorn
The Temple Shalom Sisterhood will host a free Zoom seminar on Sunday, April 18, that educates teens about healthy relationships and how to recognize and respond to unhealthy ones. To be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and sponsored by the sisterhood’s social justice committee, “Shalom Bayit” will provide tools toward prevention, awareness and guidance related to abusive relationships through discussion and peer interaction. The program is open to the public.
“We want our teens to learn early what a healthy relationship is and how to change and end a toxic situation,” said Event Chair Staci Mendelson, who is working with Lori Kleinfeld and Gwynne Waldorf and social work graduate student Linzi Oppenheimer. “There are so many places to turn to and we want to help guide our young people even before adulthood and marriage.”
Rabbi Andrew Paley, Temple Shalom’s senior rabbi, will open the seminar.
“Our Torah embraces peace, comfort and care in the home, and our community’s response is the coming together of our Sisterhood and these incredible voices to create awareness and provide insight. In this moment of time, where it can be difficult to manage human dynamics, Temple Shalom is proud to share this program of healthy and constructive resources.”
Joining Paley during the afternoon will be Ryan Thomas, community education program manager at Hope’s Door New Beginnings Center; a team from the TeenAge Communication Theatre (TACT) of Planned Parenthood; and the founders of the Jewish Teens for Empowered Consent (JTEC).
Hope’s Door New Beginnings, based in Plano, offers support to survivors of domestic abuse. It is an emergency shelter that hosts legal aid, counseling and support groups, transitional housing, community resources, outreach services and a 24-hour help hotline; the agency educates and empowers community members to recognize, respond to and prevent abuse in all forms through its Education and Prevention Services.
TACT teens educate their peers by writing and performing skits on social issue topics while sharing experiences and gaining knowledge and leadership skills. Participants learn to become resources for their peers and participate in training sessions on many topics including dating violence and mental health. Applications for the 2021-2022 season are now open for Dallas-area students in grades 10 to 12.
“Our students are passionate about social issues and this year, even through the pandemic and online events, TACT teens are teaching teens,” said Director Linda Fyffe. This year her TACT team has made virtual connects, but she says they are looking forward to returning to schools and other audiences in person.
TACT members act out and discuss scenarios relating to dating violence and sexual assault, saying “no” at any time and managing stressors in life.
“In addition to the learning and community building I’ve been doing, I have made some great friends,” said Ilanna Feldman, daughter of Susan and Matthew, and a junior at Greenhill School. The family belongs to Temple Emanu-El. “It’s a place to talk to other teens who are just as passionate about topics that are present in our everyday lives as I am, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”
The founders of Jewish Teens for Empowered Consent, alumnae of the Jewish Women’s Archive’s Rising Voices Fellowship, will also address attendees.
“We are teens who are in the space and able to give a perspective to our peers,” said Dahlia Sassoun, a senior at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, California. She, along with Madeline Canfield (a Houstonian), Lila Goldstein, Ellanora Lerner, Lilah Peck and Austinite Maddy Pollack have created their first curriculum: “JTEC Basics: Toxic Hookup Culture, Objectification, & Consent.” “We came together through a writing fellowship examining systems of power and feminist consciousness and found a mutual concern for the lack of inclusion and safe interpersonal relationships in youth groups. We want to help define and create a healthier hook-up culture,” she said.
Registration is open at tinyurl.com/Healthy-Teen-Relationships.