4Front Responds to Changing Needs With Shorter, Condensed Program Offerings

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From left to right: 4 Front Baltimore teen participants and 2019 Peer Leadership Fellows Ezra Kaye, Maddie Love, Becca Kiewe, Daniella Cooper and Emma Paige
From left to right: 4 Front Baltimore teen participants and 2019 Peer Leadership Fellows Ezra Kaye, Maddie Love, Becca Kiewe, Daniella Cooper and Emma Paige. Photo by Brett Lubarsky

4Front is reorganizing its program offerings for local teens, according to Executive Director Rabbi Dena Shaffer.

Housed within the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC and funded in part by The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, 4Front is a “community-wide Jewish teen initiative” that is taking a critical look at how young people are connecting to Jewish identity and heritage while creating interventions to inspire them, said Shaffer.


Previously, the majority of 4Front’s program offerings have been on the 10-month academic calendar, Shaffer said. However, in response to both the novel coronavirus and the changing needs of local Jewish teens, 4Front is now planning to also offer significantly shorter and more condensed programs.

Shaffer divided 4Front’s current program offerings into three broad categories: the “Year-long Cohorts,” which normally take place over the course of a year; the “Short-term Intensives,” which last for six to 12 weeks; and the “Pop-up series” that can be as short as a single-day program.

The shorter, condensed program offerings were motivated in part by the perception that local teens are looking to be able to try multiple different programs over a given period of time rather than commit to a single program for close to a year, Shaffer said.

“We’re taking some of our year-long programs,” Shaffer said, “and condensing them into [shorter] programs to allow teens the opportunity to both hyperfocus on something that’s interesting to them in a high-quality way and also maybe explore different things throughout the year, which we understand is more compelling to a U.S. audience. They want to try lots of different things.”

Shaffer further explained that the shorter program offerings were better suited to life under COVID-19, saying they allow 4Front to be a bit more nimble, to more easily comply with new guidelines and regulations, and to more fluidly “bounce” between the in-person and virtual spaces should the need arise.

The “Peer Leaders Fellowship,” one of the Year-long Cohort programs, is a paid internship where participants learn about how to leverage social networks, be good peers and listeners, and cultivate empathy, Shaffer said.

Meanwhile, the “Social Innovation Fellowship,” one of the Short-term Intensives, is a 12-week opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and learn how to build a for-profit company, Shaffer explained.

Lastly, “Fun(d): A Teen Giving Circle,” one of the Pop-up series, will focus on teaching teens how to be a philanthropist and “leverage wealth to make a difference,” Shaffer said.

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