Batya Girls is an organization that has grown in leaps and bounds since its founding in 2006. Maybe that’s because of the spirit of helpfulness and kindness that pervades this support network for young girls. One has the sense that Batya Girls is founded on the basis of core values that have remained unchanged throughout the ages, values that have stood the test of time.
It’s something we can get behind at Kars4Kids, instilling values and offering support to young women. This is why we were happy to award Batya Girls one of our small grants. We had a chat with the organization to learn more about the work of Batya Girls:
Kars4Kids: Your organization was inspired by a youth group with the same name that was established in Europe to create a social network for Jewish girls in public schools in the 1930s under famed educator and innovator, Sara Schenirer. What has and hasn’t changed for Jewish girls since that time?
Batya Girls: While much has changed in the last hundred years, perhaps more than in many previous centuries, basic human psychology remains very much the same. The need for community, for meaning, and for emotional security is a constant, and for any particular culture or subgroup to retain their values and heritage a support network is a vital factor. As the pace of the world continues to increase, a wholesome environment is only more essential. In moving with the times, the practical avenues for programming are constantly changing as are the specific interests of the participants, but those change even within short time spans. The core values and mission of the organization is one that applies throughout eras and cultures.
Kars4Kids: Batya began with four seventh graders in Marlboro, New Jersey in 2006. In how many locations do you now operate? How many girls do you serve today?
Batya Girls: Today, Batya has branches in multiple communities and services hundreds of girls throughout the tristate area and beyond. The program has expanded from a typical youth group to a full range support network for girls, offering a broad option of opportunities for growth and development. Services include mentoring, leadership training, social action, job internships, college and career guidance, tailor-made learning programs, and so much more – forming a life-long foundation of inner strength and connection for all members.
Kars4Kids: What is a ShabBatya? Can you tell us about it?
Batya Girls: ShabBatya is our signature name for the unique flavor of a Batya Shabbaton. The highlight is our ShabBatya Retreat which takes place annually in a beautiful hotel and attracts teen girls from all over the county. This retreat is an incredible experience for the girls with a warm and homey atmosphere while at the same time feeling part of a bigger community.
ShabBatya is a unique weekend with a carefully designed program catered specifically to teen girls with a special balance of fun, inspiration, enjoyment and relationships. Host families provide home-style atmosphere forging warm relationships with the participants, and the games and activities are designed for maximum interaction, enjoyment and inspiration.
Kars4Kids: Tell us about Equipped for Campus Life and why this program is so necessary today.
Batya Girls: Our Equipped for Campus Life program is an interactive crash course incorporating foundations of Jewish identity and values. It is geared to the thinking Jewish teen who wants to enter college fully equipped for current campus life challenges.
Jewish students on campus face a variety of challenges including antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments, the BDS movement, and missionary activity, along with the other universal challenges like alcohol, unhealthy relationships, and drugs.
These programs help the participants to establish core values and identity and develop the skills to remain true to themselves in a confusing environment.
Kars4Kids: What is LITT? Why did you decide to institute this program?
Batya Girls: Living Israel Totally Together is our all new Israel trip for public high school girls. LITT takes trips to Israel to a new level, providing a genuine growth-oriented program, by combining extreme fun, empowering opportunities, and deep connections. A total experience of the land, activities, and heritage, in a small unique environment geared to great unity and strong relationships.
LITT participants will enjoy an intense program with a deeply experiential connection to their Jewish identity, history and culture. The carefully designed itinerary and maximized daily schedule will offer total fun, total spirituality, and total growth.
Kars4Kids: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the day to day operations of Batya?
Batya Girls: While much has changed due to the pandemic, we are proud to say we have only seen an increase in participation in Batya programs. The 1:1 relationships with reps and the opportunity to talk and explore in a non-judgmental setting is even more important today. We have offered many creative virtual options and have been able to reach even more girls once our programming was no longer limited to specific geographic locations.
More recently, social distanced in-person meetings have been taking place in small groups. The one significant loss are the group events and ShabBatya which we hope will soon be possible to reinstate.