Gesher LeKesher (Bridge to a Connection) is a national teen mentoring and leadership program implemented in synagogues for Jewish teens. The model for the Gesher LeKesher Princeton Mercer Bucks program was developed in 2000 by the Princeton Center for Leadership Training.
Local high school juniors and seniors from many local synagogues actively participate in the building of a strong Jewish community by working with younger students once a month in mentoring groups. Personalized attention from older peers, along with interactive Jewish learning activities and meaningful discussions, helps younger students define their beliefs, roles and attitudes and gives them the opportunity to express their own opinions. Concurrently, older students develop valuable leadership skills, including how to present issues, lead group activities, facilitate group discussions and serve as role models.
Each student who participates, attends two training sessions on Monday nights from 6:30pm to 8:30pm and one outreach either Monday or Wednesday night or Sunday morning for a total of 6 hours per month. In addition, there is a retreat in September and an evening leadership program in January for the students to attend. Gesher LeKesher runs from September until April. The Gesher LeKesher program fee is $400/person and scholarships are available.
Together, the teens strengthen their connections with their heritage, with their Judaism, and with other youth. The program encourages the creation of vibrant communities where mitzvot, rituals, values and Jewish culture are experienced, respected and integrated into the lives of young people. Each year, on average 35 – 40 Madrichim (peer leaders) work with 100 – 150 Talmidim (learners/students).