Teen Initiative Launches Teen Design Lab


May 18, 2017

Teen Initiative Launches Teen Design Lab

New York City Jewish teens are invited to join Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Teen Design Lab, a private Facebook group where teens can participate in the next phase of work on our teen initiative: design sessions and prototype development. 

Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s new brand to capture the attention of the next generation of Jewish New Yorkers will launch this fall, with offerings made accessible to teens all over the city. Teens are also invited to apply for the Design Lab’s Leadership Council, a group of 15-20 students who will serve as experts-in-residence between June and September. All teens who join the Design Lab via Facebook will also be notified of pop-up program pilots to occur in August and September.

“The Design Lab is a great opportunity for teens to learn about design thinking in a very hands-on way, while connecting with other NYC Jewish teens,” says Rebecca Schumer, director of teen initiatives. The Facebook group will be managed by Sarah Koppelman, who is assisting Rebecca as a summer intern before heading to Brown University in the fall.

Since her arrival at Stephen Wise in January, Rebecca has been executing a design-thinking process — a creative problem solving technique pioneered by the innovation firm IDEO — to ensure that diverse teen, parent, and professional voices are at the core of program development and brand. Rebecca and her design team (Community x Design) are collecting insights from teens across the city via a teen survey, and from Jewish adults in NYC through a newly launched adult survey.

Rebecca and her team have also hosted focus groups and design-thinking professional development workshops, both for Stephen Wise teens and at New York City public and private high schools. In partnership with Stuyvesant’s Jewish Student Union, the team offered a professional development workshop on April 20 titled, “Intro to Design Thinking: Upgrading the Experience of Jewish Teens in NYC.” Students not only learned about how companies today leverage human-centered design as a methodology through which to innovate, but were also asked to apply this new way of thinking to pitch ideas for new products or programs that will engage in an ongoing manner thousands of Jewish teens.

“We heard very inspiring ideas,” Rebecca says. Ideas pitched by the students included a meditation session in a planetarium paired with reflective conversation about what rest means in the Jewish Shabbat ritual, and a “host a teen” program which would pair up Jewish teens with different family backgrounds to experience a Shabbat in each other’s home.

Rebecca and her team are also collecting ideas and insights from professionals across industries within and outside the Jewish world, including Aliza Klein of OneTable, Josh Heyman of 92Y, Abby Levine of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and actor and playwright Jon Adam Ross, founder of the Inheritance Project.

The formal discovery and research phase for the teen initiative will conclude in June, when Rebecca and her team will synthesize their findings and identify the key opportunity areas that will drive the design phase this summer. To learn more, contact Rebecca directly at or 212-877-4050, ext. 225.