Coming of Age the Rite Way – A Relevant Disruption

Posted on February 1, 2016 by David Blumenkrantz


January 27, 2016 Rite Way blog & Relevant  Disruption


This year marks the 50th anniversary of work, joy and blessings fulfilling the destiny of my ancestor’s edict “Tikkun Olam” – repair of the world/universe. What began in 1962 as my ascendance from childhood to adolescence as a camper and from 1966 counselor-in-training/waiter, junior counselor in the woodlore program, senior counselor, and finally assistant camp director – on my way to adulthood, I unwittingly learned fundamental values and skills that served as a foundation for later lessons and practice in education, youth and community development.

My life and work has been guided by the words of Horace Mann: “Be ashamed to die until you have made some small contribution for humanity.” Now, I am moving closer and closer to my ancestral mantra of Di’anu – “it is sufficient – just enough.” With the publication of Coming of Age the Rite Way I am honored to be included in the family of authors at Oxford University Press and humbled by so many respected people’s words of encouragement and affirmation for the book.

“[A] thought provoking and healing manual that addresses…[t]he lack of meaningful initiatory and transformational support to our youth. In presenting rite of passage and community development as inseparable, [Coming of Age the Rite Way] reveals profound wisdom that highlights how focusing on our youth is focusing on our communities. This book [is]…a gift to parents and communities everywhere.”

Malidoma Patrice Somé, Ph.D., West African Elder, teacher,     and author of Ritual: Power, Healing and Community and Of     Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an  African Shaman

“David Blumenkrantz’s life’s work, expressed in this seminal book, gives us the philosophy, foundation and tools we need to support our children and young people at a time when they experience so much neglect…. [It is] a gift for ours and future generations.” 

Mark Weiss, Ph.D., Education Director, Operation Respect, 
    former New York City schools principal

“David Blumenkrantz continues to show how much we all still have to learn about rites of passage. Rite of passage “specialists” struggle to connect a youth’s community with their children’s initiatory experience so they can affirm their transformation and acknowledge their emerging adulthood. Blumenkrantz solved this decades ago by developing a supportive community before attempting any rite of passage approaches. This should be required reading for anyone interested in helping youth transition to adulthood and strengthening the village to raise their children, especially within the story of rites of passage.”

Bret Stephenson, MA, author of From Boys to Men: Spiritual Rites     of Passage in an Indulgent Age

A Lifetime of Experiences

I have spent my career as a youth worker in residential and community settings, an administrator of community mental health centers, and an educator. But, basically, I’ve been an organizer of people seeking a better story – more robust and dynamic theories combined with powerful group processes for solving problems in ways that nourish life. I’ve been immersed in relevant disruptions to change the world.

Coming of Age the Rite Way begins:

“In his book Change the Story, Change the Future (2015), David Korten writes, ‘When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong’. If children are indeed our future, then the stories about how we educate and help them come of age are the most important stories we need to get right. When we get that story wrong our future will certainly be wrong. Our present reality is the future produced by yesterday’s story of how we educated and helped our children come of age, (1).

“What if we have gotten our story wrong, as Korten suggests, and are continually getting the story about our children wrong, too? It is important not only to recognize what is wrong with the story but also to understand that only when we change the story and engage our children in the story’s unfolding will we really be able to change and transform the future, (7).

“Even when you do get the story right, as in the case of Galileo Galilei, who was the first to observe and put forth that the sun and not the earth was the center of our solar system, you could be ignored and, in his case, persecuted and arrested. But, even stories like the “Great Turning” have not given us a roadmap for changing our trajectory towards creating a world that works for all, (8).”

Changing the Trajectory – Reorienting Our Planet

“To read this book is to experience an awakening.  It provides tools and understanding to take action in changing this story—through restoring and innovating the rites of passage that our youth and communities so urgently need.  It also inspires us to imagine new possibilities in emergent design for co-creating the narratives and rites that are needed to change our trajectory and reorient our planet toward balance, responsibility, and well being.  A must-read for parents, teachers and all those working for social change.”

Joanna Cea & Jess Rimington, Visiting Scholars, Stanford University Global Projects Center   

Crossing Thresholds & Taking Risks the Rite Way:

“This is not your typical academic book devoid of the author’s personal story.
While reluctant to cross this boundary between the personal and professional, the entire region of initiation is about thresholds and crossing boundaries. I recognize sharing personal stories lies outside of standard scholarship, but as written previously, stories and not data or statistics can convey the essence and true meaning of complex human phenomena. This is especially true with initiation, rites of passage, and a psychological sense of community. Initiation, crossing thresholds, is about taking risks, breaking out of old and traditional ways of thinking; and doing that leads to breakthroughs,” (13)

Promoting the Positive Development of Youth:

“This groundbreaking book provides profound and practical community strategies for promoting the positive development of youth. It is a must reading for educators, human service providers, and policy makers who aspire to improve community institutions that successfully raise knowledgeable, responsible, caring, contributing youth on their way to happier, more fulfilling lives.”

Roger P. Weissberg, Ph.D.
University/LAS Distinguished Professor of Psychology and     Education - University of Illinois at Chicago
Chief Knowledge Officer, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Over the past 50 years I have been deeply touched by my relationships with thousands and thousands of people in hundred of communities around the world. I feel for them greatly, especially our children. All children are our children in our global village. I am forever humbled and honored to have been in their lives and perhaps helped in some small way that has nourished their souls. It most certainly has nourished mine.

Whenever the rabbi of Sasov saw anyone’s suffering, either of spirit or of body, he shared it so earnestly that the other’s suffering became his own.
Once someone expressed his astonishment at this capacity to share in another’s troubles.
“What do you mean ‘share’?”  said the rabbi.  “It is my own sorrow; how can I help but suffer it?”
—Martin Buber, 1947

What others have to say about Coming of Age the Rite Way:

“In beautiful and often lyrical language, this book is a gift to all facing the challenge of preparing young people for the rewards of safe passage toward a fruitful life as adults….”

Lee Ann Hoff, PhD, author of People in Crisis: Interdisciplinary and Diversity Perspectives, 7th. Edition, and related titles on crisis and violence issues

"David Blumenkrantz offers a compelling—sometimes provocative—vision of rites of passage as a powerful yet neglected responsibility, resource, and focus for community and youth development.”

Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, PhD, Vice President, Research and    Development, Search Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“In this important and compelling book, David Blumenkrantz skillfully illuminates our current state of fragmented community, where adolescents are a tribe apart. He brilliantly and gracefully shows us a way home to a very old idea and practice of the human village, where children and adults belong to one another.”

Len Fleischer, Ed.D., Professor of Education, Keene State College;
 Licensed Clinical Psychologist

"Weaving scholarship, practice and his deep experience of traditional wisdom, Blumenkrantz spins nothing less than the origin story for tomorrow’s communities.”

Richard Owen Geer, PhD, community practitioner, Founder     Community Performance International, co-author of Story Bridge: From Alienation to Community Action.

Coming of Age the Rite Way will prove to be a significant bridge between scholarship and practice. Dr. Blumenkrantz weaves exquisite initiatory tales based on his 50 years of experience in community organizing and youth development. The book sets forth tested navigational aids to guide communities in the creation of unique place-based rites of passage for their young people.”

Bethe Hagens, PhD, Faculty, School of Public Policy and Administration, Walden University

“David Blumenkrantz has done it again. His previous book, Fulfilling the Promise of Children’s Services, provided readers with a wide-ranging exploration of the myriad factors that either make or break prevention efforts targeting children, families, and communities. This is a tour de force, a book that contains encyclopedic coverage of concepts and activities related to the various ways in which societies provide their youth with pathways toward adulthood.”

Stephen M. Gavazzi, PhD, Dean, Ohio State University, Mansfield

“A master storyteller, Dr. Blumenkrantz weaves narrative and theory into a magnificent study and celebration of initiation and rites of passage.”

Rabbi Craig Marantz, Congregation Kol Haverim, Chaplain Connecticut State Legislature

Coming of Age the Rite Way is a timely publication and its attractiveness is far-reaching. Blumenkrantz has done a masterful job in presenting stories as well as factual data that will help synthesize our understanding of Rites of Passage and its curative value.  I am pleased we now have a vivid and comprehensive body of work in one volume that will advance how to help youth move from one stage of life to the next.”

Keith A. Alford, PhD, School of Social Work, Syracuse University

“For three summers in the late 1960’s and early ‘70s during my early teenage years, David Blumenkrantz was my counselor at Camp Wamsutta in Charlton, Massachusetts.  It is only in retrospect that I realize that through my experiences as a camper under his guidance and mentorship that I actually lived the Rite Of Passage Experience© ROPE® program he would later create to assist youth through the coming-of-age process. There are many who lament that there are no ‘user’s guides’ or manuals for helping kids to navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence.  Ah, but they have not read this book!”

Kenneth F. Heideman, MS, Meteorologist, Director of Publications, American Meteorological Society and Past President, Board of Directors, Council of Science Editors


Gratitude goes out to the Norma and Natale Sestoro Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Atlantic Health Systems, Kalliopeia Foundation and the Steven J. Blumenkrantz memorial fund. Their contributions enabled Oxford University Press to make the book accessible to wider audiences.



Posted in ROPE

Read more about Youth & Community Development through Rites of Passage in the new and highly acclaimed book by Dr. David Blumenkranz.

David Blumenkrantz, Ph.D., Ed.M., Founder & Executive Director, the Center for Youth & Community

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