For the second year in a row a 12-21 track was run at First Fruits of Zion’s annual Shavu’ot conference at Beth Immanuel in Hudson, Wisconsin. After the success of last year, I had high expectations for this time around, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
Unlike last year, we wanted the 12-21ers to study the same material that was being taught in the adult seminars. Since they were studying the Didache on the heels of the newly published book The Way of Life, we made the decision to go through the first six chapters and study them in depth. The Didache is an early book written about the time of the New Testament that takes the teachings of Yeshua and the apostles and presents them in an organized manner with a focus on everyday living. We entitled the seminar “The Two Roads” based on the opening line of the Didache: “There are two ways: one of life and one of death; however, there is a great difference between the two ways.”
The students divided into groups and much of the lecture time was devoted to group discussion and answering questions. I am always amazed at how engaged the 12-21ers are with the material and the incredible insights they bring forth. Let’s just say there were more than a few times where I thought “I should have included that in the book!” Boaz Michael, Daniel Lancaster, Aaron Eby, and I all had a blast teaching them.
While there were three solid days of lectures, we also found time to have some fun. On Sunday night we had a cookout at a nearby park. The 12-21ers played volleyball and had an impromptu sing-along complete with ukuleles and hand drums. On Monday night, joined by my wife, Shannon, we headed to Pinz for a night of bowling and laser tag. Prospective Camp Tzadi campers also participated in a scholarship fundraiser lunch on Tuesday, which, thanks to our generous constituents, was a huge success.
Then on Tuesday night as we rang in the festival of Shavu’ot, Beth Immanuel congregant Nick Amic led a late night question and answer session on the tough questions of the Bible. Topics ranged from “why do good things happen to bad people?” to “how can we really have free will if God is Omnipotent?” Around 3 AM we walked down to the St. Croix to help us stay awake. As we laid on our backs on the grass, we counted the beautiful shooting stars. Then at 5 AM, we headed into the sanctuary for an early-morning Shacharit service complete with the Hallel and a Torah reading.
I had the feeling the whole time that as great as last year was, this was even better. What tipped me off was the fact that on the last night many of the 12-21ers wanted to come back to Shannon and my house for a goodbye campfire. I am confident that throughout the Two Roads conference these kids gained a greater understanding of God’s Word, drew closer in their relationship to Yeshua, and made and strengthened lifelong friendships with like-minded teens. May the Father continue to bless the 12-21 program and make it successful.