Intergenerational Model: Project Chaverim


Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale (CSAIR), Bronx, NY


Model Summary:

Project Chaverim (friends) empowers teens in grades 10-12 to work with learners in grades 3 and 4, building community while helping the learners strengthen their Hebrew and prayer reading skills through games and one-to-one tutoring. The madrichim (counselors, guides) come together to learn leadership skills and pedagogy on Sunday mornings during their first hour together. What they explore together then helps them craft hands-on Hebrew learning for all 3rd and 4th graders for the second hour.

Project Chaverim’s Priority Goal: Learners will be on a journey to find meaning in both teaching and learning Hebrew and Tefilot while creating community and establishing connections with each other.

Who are the Learners?

  • The learners are both teens in grades 10th-12th and 3rd and 4th graders.

  • CSAIR calls the teens “madrichim”; however the younger students call them “their buddies”; the 3rd and 4th graders are simply called, “the kids.”

Who are the Educators/Learning Facilitators?

  • The educators are teens, mentored by a project coordinator and the 3rd and 4th-grade teachers.

  • The teens are a mix of active synagogue members and not-so-active synagogue members, day school and Hebrew School students as well as former students.

  • As a group, the teens work with the 3rd and 4th graders on Sundays, Friday evening experiences call “Ruach Shabbat” and on social outings in the city.

When Does the Learning Happen?

  • Sunday mornings from 10am - 12pm

  • Monthly Friday evenings and 3 times Saturday evenings/Sunday afternoons throughout the year

Where does the Learning Happen?

  • Primarily, learning takes place in a multi-purpose room in the synagogue.

  • In addition, the teens take the 3rd and 4th graders on several off-site social outings during the year.

What is the Learning? How is it Designed?

  • The teens learn hadrachah (leadership) skills and review the Hebrew/Tefilot content with their project coordinator.

  • CSAIR has experimented with various programs and learning opportunities for the teens - Israel based, holiday-based, etc. Teens prefer to work with their “chevruta partners” (study partner). Each chevruta comprises of a teen and one or two younger learners.

  • The 3rd and 4th graders learn Hebrew/Tefilot using the Behrman House Hineni books. CSAIR spirals books 1 and 2 in alternating years as a basis for the content.

What Were You Trying to Achieve with this Model?

  • The Education Director wanted to build the level of 3rd and 4th graders’ Hebrew and Prayer skills while adding additional goals, such as building community for both the teenager participants alone as well as an intergenerational community between the teens and the 3rd and 4th graders.

  • Initial stakeholders were 3rd and 4th graders, teens, parents of teens, and professionals.

  • The idea was driven by the Educator in partnership with the clergy.

Key First Steps and Recruitment Plan:

  • CSAIR recruits teens in the late spring/summer. As this is the third year of the model, incoming 10th graders are aware of this opportunity.

  • CSAIR has the teens complete applications to participate; though the congregation has never denied a teen an opportunity.

  • The most challenging area of recruitment is the time commitment - every Sunday; monthly Friday evenings, etc.

Role of governance and Clergy:

The clergy was involved in the initial planning process. The clergy is supportive of this project but does not play an active role in the model.


  • This program exists within the Hebrew School budget.

  • CSAIR pays the teens $7 per hour and the project coordinator $7K per year for this program as well as running Rosh Chodesh: It’s a Girl Thing; Purim Carnival, etc.

  • This has been the centerpiece of the teen program, so it gets the needed financial support.

Hiring Needs:

The ideal educators are talented, knowledgeable teens. However, CSAIR also wants the not-so-knowledgeable (though still talented) ones as they learn the most from the process. CSAIR finds that the more the better - teens need a critical mass to feel relevant.

Relationship of Model to Congregational Learning System:

Project Chaverim exists within the traditional Hebrew school system; replacing 1 hour out of 5 hours of traditional classroom learning with teen-mentored learning.

How do You Describe Your Congregation?

  • CSAIR is a Conservative synagogue with approximately 450 families.

  • CSAIR has a rabbi, cantor, executive director, and office and support staff.

Supplementary Materials Include:



  • After School and Beyond
  • Congregational Learning
  • Teen Engagement
  • Educator Training
  • Early Childhood