“The youth here are very active,” commented a Wellington newcomer to the small progressive synagogue of Temple Sinai. “Much more so than in the much bigger Auckland community.”

Sapeer Mayron, [pictured above in costume at last year’s Purim Party] who leads Garin Sinai,Temple Sinai’s youth group explains its success.

The synagogue provides a space for the youth to go to and explore their Jewishness, she says.

Garin Sinai (“garin” is Hebrew for seed) caters for youth to the end of their high school years and meets monthly, complementing other Jewish youth groups like Habonim and B’nei Akivah.

“They learn about the festivals, run Shabbat services, help out with synagogue activities. Most important they inspire each other, connect with each other.”

The number of youth who were happily waiting on the tables at the recent very large Temple Sinai seder service proved the point. About 10 to 20 participated.

Sapeer  says the numbers fluctuate. “Some have been through Temple Sinai Hebrew School, had batmitzvah or barmitzvah. Others are dipping their toes into their Jewishness, exploring it.”

Twenty-four year old Sapeer was born in New Zealand of Israeli parentage. She grew up in the Orthodox congregation and has a background with Habonim.

With a degree in Communications from Massey University, she is in the last stages of a year’s course at Whitireia specializing in data journalism.

Temple Sinai employs her for 10 hours a week as youth educator so that she teaches in the Hebrew School as well as leading Garin Sinai. “Garin Sinai succeeds because the kids like it.”

It’s easy to see why. The group has run Shabbat services: “Yes, we make mistakes and are not experts but we enjoy it and get lots of compliments,” Sapeer says.

They also help with fundraising. A recent clothing sale raised $900 for women’s refuge.

Their next activity will be on Sunday, May 6 – a Lag B’Omer service. The youth-led service arranged by well-known story teller Mona Williams will be held at Princess Bay, near Houghton Bay on Wellington’s southern coast.

Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer, the seven-week period between Pesach and Shevuot, and is also associated with the birth of Jewish mysticism.

It’s seen as a happy day after a period of semi-mourning,and tells the story of Rabbi Akivah and his students.

“As well as the service, there will be a huge bonfire and a costume competition,” says Sapeer. “It will be fun.”