Passing religion on to the next generation
January 15, 2021
Without people, there is no religion.
And like most things, religion is something that is passed on from one person to another.
In this third and final part of a WTV Special Report, Executive Producer Cooper Ragle continues his exploration of the world of teenagers and religion.
Whatever the religious beliefs and whether or not someone has these beliefs, almost nothing can be learned without a teacher.
For some people, this means doing things in their spare time, but for others, their entire profession goes into teaching different holy words.
“So what drives me to do the work I do here, is really the responsibility to leave the world a better place than it was when we came here,” Hebrew school teacher Mushkie Kesselman said. “So we moved here to Frisco five years ago to open this which is one of the first Jewish establishments in the city, and we cater to all the physical and spiritual needs of the people that live here. I personally have a special focus on the youth and the children, that’s what I do, I have a Sunday school, and bar mitzvah club, and different youth programing, teen groups, and the main goal and the main drive is to improve the world and improve the city that we came to and leave it a better place than when we came. What motivates me everyday is seeing the smile of the children as they come in to religious school, and getting the feedback from the parents about how much they love what they’re learning and what they’re doing, and really seeing how they make it part of their lives, and how they bring it into their families and improve what’s going on there as well.”
But here the younger generation, they ask you questions, why this has to be done a certain way and you need to know the answers, you need to connect with them in order to have faith in you and make sure they trust you, what you’re saying is correct which allows them to also remember,”
— Hinduism teacher Ashwin Joshi
“I think it took me a little bit to realize, because being on Young Life staff and kind of working in ministry, it’s almost like a calling of sorts of something that I think you’d only do if you feel really called to it or feel like that’s a really important thing in your life,” Young Life leader Hunter Taylor said. “I love high school kids and I love like, just your generation, or high school generation, and I think it’s so important to have people around you that are encouraging to you. I wish I had more people in high school that I could look up to, or that would know me well, and lead me in different things, so as far as being a Christian or being with Young Life, I think that’s a big part of what drives me to do the work that I do.”
“When I see the Indian background kids or Hindu kids getting raised here, sometimes they don’t have the real story behind the religion or behind the culture and since they are getting raised in a foreign environment, it’s kinda, good to explain to them about the culture, the scriptures, and the religion,” Hinduism teacher Ashwin Joshi. “That kind of drives me because that also allows me to learn about our own religion and scripture.”
“When I was younger, obviously we grew up in America in an American society and one of the things that affected us was our disconnection from God,” Quranic instructor Tawsif Quabili said. “So when I went to study Islam and religion then it connected me to God and recognized God and found purpose, and it changed my life in a lot of ways. So I thought in the same way that if I could give this to every person I meet, every person that I come across, and hopefully he can connect to God and change his life in the same manner.”
But something that comes with these teachings is the ability to adapt thousands of years of history to a new generation.
“The I have had to kind of change things or adapt to a new generation is really working with Young Life, we tend to be really good at this and do this in a good way of adapting to culture now,” Taylor said. “Things have changed since 20 years ago or when I was in high school eight or 10 years ago, phones are such a huge thing in culture today, social media, the different pressures you’re under, so I think one way that I try to adapt is being a Christian, kind of things that I try to do model after what Jesus did and there’s this thing called incarnational, where Jesus came to Earth to be with us, and I hope that’s what I can do to students or high school kids, just like Jesus came to Earth to be like us, to understand us, for us to understand him. I hope that I am able to come to where you guys are, to where high school kids are, and be in your universe, you know? Because it’s totally different than asking you to come out of that and hopefully it feels more at home for students to be in a high school or at basketball games and that’s where you can find Young Life people as well.”
“When I was raised or even my wife or generally the people of my age or background, when we were raised in India, typically we were just imparted to things and we never questioned or we never asked why this is or why this is not,” Joshi said. “But here the younger generation, they ask you questions, why this has to be done a certain way and you need to know the answers, you need to connect with them in order to have faith in you and make sure they trust you, what you’re saying is correct which allows them to also remember.”
“The new generation tend to believe in what they see in front of their eyes,” Quabili said. “And sometimes believing in God is believing in an unseen and that takes a lot of effort to take their mind and belief away from something they see every single day or something they’re told to something they can’t see, and that is the hard part.”
“So the Jewish faith has been around for centuries and we are trying to appeal to the younger generation as best as we could. The advantage that I have, the slight advantage, is that I’m actually not very far in age from the students that come, so I’m 26, so I’m kinda in the same generation,” Kesselman said. “I relate to a lot of the struggles they face and a lot to their upbringing because it’s similar to mine, but we do definitely have a lot of effort that we put into making Judaism appeal to that generation. So even though Judaism is 5000 years old, it’s still very much relevant and alive and we really try to bring the relevance and the life of Judaism into everything we do, so we do a lot of hands-on exploration. We kind of look at the trends of what’s going on and we’ll incorporate all that into all the different activities we do, whether it’s doing a paint night, or using social media, or going through having the children do a multimedia presentation where they’re filming and they’re executing what they learned and teaching it to their parents and their families and other students, so I really try to incorporate everything that’s going on in the world and using that as kind of a catalyst and a starting point to teach the lesson.”
We really try to bring the relevance and the life of Judaism into everything we do. We kind of look at the trends of what’s going on and we’ll incorporate all that into all the different activities we do and using that as kind of a catalyst and a starting point to teach the lesson,”
— Hebrew school teacher Mushkie Kesselman
But, students aren’t the only ones learning, as the constant changes in today’s society helps teachers learn more about the ones they’re teaching as well.
“Through my work I see that every few years the world presents something new, which people are attracted towards,” Quabili said. “For every attraction we have to find a new method, the lessons are not new, but you just have to find new methods to get the same lessons.”
“I think one thing that I’ve learned through the changing times and through my work is that though a lot of things are still the same, so many things are different too,” Taylor said. “That humans are still humans, like high school kids are still high school kids, those circumstances have changed, like I said with phones, and social media, and having more freedom or less freedom with parents, and what the home life is like, all of those things affect how you operate as students and yea i think it’s so important to recognize those things so that we’re able to connect more and that kinda thing.”
“So I get a lot of people that come to me and I’m kind of in a place where I work with older people and younger people, so I don’t do exclusively youth or exclusively adults, I’m kind of in between and do a little bit of everything, so we do get the classic complaint, I should say, from the older generation who’s like, “The youth is always on their cell phones.” and, “What’s gonna be of our younger generation?” and all the complaints that I’m sure you’ve heard and everybody has heard about the younger generation,” Kesselman said. “And I think to myself, our parents had the same complaint about our generation, and the grandparents had the same complaints about their generation, and that’s just the cycle of the world, is the older generation is complaining about the development and the advancements of the younger generation We’re all learning and adjusting to the changes of our times, but I think that in 20 years, in 30 years, in 40 years from now, it’s just gonna be a greater advantage that we’ve had, so once we learn how to manage, and not to cut out let’s say media, or social media, or technology from our lives, but how to really use social media and technology in a way that advances religion and the world and the social interactions of people to a place we’ve never been to before. So I would say don’t look at it as a negative advancement, but really just focus on the positive that will come from it because the advancements in the world through generations has only led to positive impacts.”
But when all is said and done, whether it’s on the level of a small town or on a worldwide scale, these teachers have their own religious related goals set in place.
“I would love to see kids know the goodness and the freedom that comes with knowing Jesus and walking in their faith too and growing in their faith,” Taylor said. “I hope that I can be a part of that and I hope that Young Life can be a part of that, that would be a really really cool outcome.”
I want to make in my work is connect everyone to God. But together with that to create a very united society where people’s hearts are connected, and because they’re obeying God and understand that there is a higher power in front of them, they will stop causing corruption, et cetera, around the world and create a very loving world instead of a very hostile world that we have today,”
— Quranic instructor Tawsif Quabili
“The big impact is that kids should remember about their faith, their religion, the way of life and hopefully they will pass it on to their next generation,” Joshi said.
“So the greatest impact that I wish to have, and that we hope to have, and that we strive for everyday is actually not a global impact, it’s really affecting the individual, so the Torah teaches that every Jew or every person comes down into this world for 70 or 80 years, which essentially is an entire lifetime just to do one favor for another, that could be a physical favor or a spiritual favor,” Kesselman said. “So really the Torah teaches that our whole existence in this world is to assist others in their physical needs and their spiritual needs, so the greatest impact that I hope to have and that as a community we hope to have is to really assist and encourage the spiritual growth and the physical needs, if it comes to it, of each person in our community and in the city at large to really just help them on a personal level and to bring joy into their lives and Judaism into their lives, even one more mitzvah, one more good deed that will change the world for good.”
“The biggest impact I want to make in my work is connect everyone to God,” Quabili said. “But together with that to create a very united society where people’s hearts are connected, and because they’re obeying God and understand that there is a higher power in front of them, they will stop causing corruption, et cetera, around the world and create a very loving world instead of a very hostile world that we have today.”