Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tzedakah, Underwear, and Sense of Social Responsibility

Rachel Happel, Director of BIMA at Brandeis, is a participant in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens at Mayyim Hayyim. She shared this story at a recent session on "Parenting For Responsibility." The message of generosity is timely as we begin the Festival of Lights.

“I want to use my tzedakah money to buy new underwear!” 

These words were spoken by my 7- year- old last week as we discussed what to do with the money in her tzedakah box.  Huh?

In our family, we have three tzedakah boxes: one that my husband and I share, one for our 7year- old, Eva, and one for our 3- year- old, Josie. The tzedakah boxes sit in our dining room, lined up on a side table next to Eva and Josie’s piggy banks. Every Friday before Shabbat, we give each daughter four quarters, two for the piggy bank and two for the tzedakah box. My husband and I likewise put two quarters in our own tzedakah box. It’s not a lot of money, and it is not our only vehicle for charitable giving. But giving tzedakah each week serves an important purpose: teaching our children that we have a responsibility to share some of what we have with people who are in need.

The concept of tzedakah can be a little abstract for children. Sure, putting coins in boxes is a hands-on experience, but it can be hard for children to see the link between putting money into a box at home and helping someone in need out there in the world. So we try to involve the girls in deciding what to do with the money we have collected. (So far, this has been a conversation only with Eva. Josie, who turns three this month, has been too young.)

I find that using the money to purchase tangible items tends to seem more “real” to the girls than donating the money itself. For example, once we used the money to buy groceries that we contributed to our synagogue’s food drive. As Eva and I shopped for the groceries together, I described a fictitious family with children about her age and asked her to choose foods she thought the children would like to eat, hoping this might help her understand what we were doing.
Rachel with her two daughters

About two years ago, we used our tzedakah to buy toys to donate to Cradles to Crayons (, an organization which collects new and gently used “essential items” and distributes them to children in need. When we went to deliver the toys, Eva expressed interest in volunteering there, so for the past two years we have been working once a month at the Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory. This child-friendly organization is a great place for kids to volunteer (and it is probably worthy of its own blog post at another time).  We sort through clothing donations, put together outfit packs, clean and sort toy donations, clean shoes, etc.

And now this brings us back to underwear. This year, when it was time to think about what to do with our tzedakah, Eva started the conversation by saying, “I know exactly what I want to do with my tzedakah. Do you remember when we were putting together outfit packs at Cradles to Crayons, and they didn’t have enough underwear for all of the children? I want to use my tzedakah to buy underwear so they have enough!” Her eyes shone with excitement about her new idea.

In years past, she has suggested that we buy toys or games for the children – things that are fun to buy and feel good to give. Underwear is not an exciting thing to buy for another child, but Eva recognized a need in the community and wanted to use her own resources to help meet that need. This year Eva will feel good about her tzedakah choice not because she had fun shopping, but because she helped meet a real need.

We both feel good about her tzedakah choice…and we are both genuinely excited about underwear!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Leaving with a Feeling of Warmth

My daughters outside Temple Israel, where they currently attend Hebrew School.

Cami P Griffith is a participant in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens at Temple Israel of Natick.

Last night completed my 7th session of Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (Ikkarim). I am enrolled in an evening session through Temple Israel of Natick, as it came highly recommended from several past participants. It has lived up to its reputation, through class content, discussion and wonderful facilitation by Rabbi Dan Liben and Cantor Ken Richmond.

I left the first evening with homework.Each member of the class was encouraged to try to incorporate either or both the Mo-deh A-ni
(a thank-you prayer said upon waking up) and Shema (a bedtime prayer) into our daily routines. It made sense for me to include the Mo-deh A-ni and I've kept up with it since. I sing the words each morning, and my daughters listen attentively and sometimes participate.

I leave each Wednesday
’s session with a feeling of warmthI suppose from the sense of community established within the group and knowing that we have discussed such important topics. It's also nice to be doing something for myself. Particularly with the complexities of life with children, I find very little time to attend to my own needs

Lastly, I come from an interfaith marriage and it’s been nice sharing some unique topics with the class and in turn sharing information discussed / learned with my husband. 

I extend a very warm thank you to both our teachers and would highly recommend this program to anyone who is considering participation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Learning from My Students

As I listened to PTJL participants sharing their favorite "family moments," a Rabbi Akiva quote came to mind: "From all my teachers have I learned and from my students more than all." 

This insight applies not only to the student/teacher relationship but also to our more intimate relationships. At home with our kids, with our spouses, with other relatives, and with friends, this teaching offers an invitation. 

It reminds us to create opportunities to learn about and from others--to make space for listening; to listen well and in between the lines. 

Sabrina Burger has taught for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens for many years, as well as for other community learning programs. In her teaching she loves to integrate Torah, art and parenting skills.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creating Community

Community can develop in many ways and in many places. Many of us are part of numerous communities. We have our family community, our professional communities, possibly our children’s school communities. Sometimes, a community forms in our neighborhoods. Regarding our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class, a community is slowly, but surely, developing in a living room on a side street in Cambridge. 

We shared bits of ourselves at our first session after the infamous Halloween snowstorm. A great way to begin building memories! We each shared what we felt comfortable sharing – some of us tentatively sticking our toes in, some of us jumping in quickly and deeply. We found surprising connections among us, discovering some shared past experiences. We also realized the many ways in which we were each different, each individual. 

Margie Bogdanow (front row, second from the right)
with fellow Parenting Through a Jewish Lens instructors
What initially brought our group together was a belief in the value of spending some precious Sunday time exploring the concept of “Parenting Through a Jewish Lens.” As the weeks have gone by, our connective “threads” are multiplying and strengthening. With this, our group of separate individuals is also becoming a new community of one. We spend time together learning, laughing, and even shedding tears. This week we will share in a havdalah ceremony and I suspect that the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful ritual marking the separation of the holy (Shabbat) from the mundane (the work week) will add yet more threads to our developing community.

Margie Bogdanow has worked for over thirty years with parents and educators in a variety of settings. She currently serves as a consultant to the Youth Educator Initiative of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and lives in Cambridge, MA.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Parents Respecting Their Parents

“I can’t remember – I just knew.” 

“In our family, the way it worked was my dad would say, ‘You can’t talk to your mother that way.’” 

“We lived near my grandparents so I watched how my parents treated them.” 

Judy and the PTJL class at Mayyim Hayyim in Newton
These are some of the responses to the question:  In your family of origin, how did you learn to respect your parents?  In this weeks Parenting Through a Jewish Lens course at Mayyim Hayyim we sat around a table for an hour and a half, eating mini-muffins and dried figs, and engaging with each other about what the 5th commandment (to honor your mother and father) means for us as adult children and as parents of young children. 

We wondered together about how one honors parents in the face of wanting to parent differently than our parents did.  And in other cases, how to do for our own kids as our parents did for us.  Reflecting on how we were parented gives us a platform to view and make sense of our families of origin with a new lens.  It’s the starting place for our own decision making as parents. 

And as we laughed at ourselves, at our childhood experiences and our challenges in parenting even that morning, or cried from past hurts, we formed a community, united by the deep desire to raise healthy children who will yes, one day respect not only us but themselves and others.

Judy Elkin, a long-time Jewish educator and a certified personal and professional coach, is teaching in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens for the second year in a row.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Off to a Wonderful Start

This week saw the start of eleven Parenting Through a Jewish Lens classes throughout Greater Boston.  One participant, Ana Villalobos Sharone, has shared the following:
We had our first session of Parenting Through a Jewish Lens at Temple Isaiah in Lexington with over 20 parents!

The session was absolutely wonderful, and led to several activities in our home:

·       It got my husband and me to discuss incorporating the "modeh ani" (Jewish morning prayer/song) into our daily practice.

·       Together with our kids we sorted clothing donations for local needy children. While doing so our kids spontaneously brought up the idea of creating a hot apple cider tzedakah stand and giving the proceeds to those in need. 

·       When our instructor, Ronit Ziv-Kreger, spoke about praising effort (process) rather than outcome (product), I thought of the greater good website which discusses parenting topics along with some of the research behind them. I found this video clip which is very similar to what our instructor shared in class.

LOTS of Jewish juice flowing after just one session – thanks to the care and “heartfulness” of our instructor.  It's good to have some outside inspiration to get things rolling.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Meet Our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Instructors!

Here is some info about our amazing Parenting Through a Jewish Lens faculty:

Margie Bogdanow recently moved to Cambridge. She spent the summer in New Hampshire picking blueberries and infusing them into vinegar, pancakes, cakes and vodka. She received her masters of social work from Simmons College and co-founded Parenting Resource Associates in Lexington, MA. Read more about Margie’s life and work with parents and children.

Sabrina Burger was born in Madrid, Spain. She lived in Israel for 12 years, where she studied English literature and linguistics at Hebrew University and attended the Bezalel School of Art and Design. Sabrina has taught in numerous settings, integrating Torah, art and parenting skills. Read more about Sabrina’s education.

Judy Elkin, a long-time Jewish educator and a certified personal and professional coach, spent the summer canoeing and kayaking whenever she could. As a Jewish educator, Judy has worked with adolescents, parents, parent educators, teachers, and graduate students. She was the founding Director of Ramah Family Camp. Learn more about Judy’s coaching.

Rabbi Leslie Gordon has served as a congregational rabbi in Alexandria, VA and Lowell, MA. In addition to teaching for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (Ikkarim), her work in recent years has centered on reaching out to new, newly educated and potential Jews. Read more about Leslie’s teaching.

Rabbi David Jaffe lives in Sharon with his wife Janette, their two boys and their charismatic cat, Bugsy. He is the school chaplain at Gann Academy and the founder and dean of The Kirva Institute for Torah and Spiritual Practice. Read more about the foundation that David started.

Rabbi Daniel Liben received his rabbinic ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1983 and has served as the spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Natick since 1991. A prolific teacher, he is a recipient of the Bureau of Jewish Education's Keter Torah Award for his work in family education. Red more about Rabbi Liben's work in the rabbinate.

Layah Kranz Lipsker is a Jewish educator, writer, and lecturer, with twenty years of experience teaching Jewish mysticism and biblical texts. She lives on Boston's North Shore with her family, with whom she loves to travel, hike, and go apple picking. Read more about Layah’s Jewish Woman's Day of Learning.

Dr. Natan Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and studied for many years in Israeli seminaries. He has rabbinic ordination from The Jerusalem Seminary and a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in Talmud. Natan enjoys teaching about Judaism and the environment and spending time with his three-year-old and six year-old, and perfecting his guitar playing skills. Read more about Natan's educational endeavors.

Dr. Jacob Meskin is Academic Director of Adult Learning programs at Hebrew College. He is one of the co-authors of the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens curriculum, and both trains the faculty of and teaches in the Me'ah program. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought and Education at Hebrew College. Jacob can often be found walking his dog along the streets of Brookline. Read more about Jacob's academic past.

Rabbi Beth Naditch has a MA in Jewish Education and rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and is certified as a chaplain. She has taught Jewish adults in formal and informal settings, as close to home as the Parent Learning program at Temple Israel Boston and the DeLeT program at Brandeis University, and as far away as Warsaw, Poland. Rabbi Naditch, a self proclaimed jewelry beader, lives with her husband and their three young sons in Newton. Read more about Beth's work with pastoral care volunteers.

Cantor Ken Richmond came to Temple Israel of Natick in 2006. As Cantor and Family Educator, he enjoys leading the congregation in participatory prayer and teaching and learning with nursery school students, religious school and day school students and their families, and adults of all ages. Cantor Ken and his wife Rabbi Shira Shazeer are klezmer musicians and speak Yiddish with their sons Zalmen and Velvel. Read more about Ken'’s work as a cantor.

Rabbi Benjamin Samuels of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton is co-curriculum designer, and an educational consultant and instructor for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. He received his rabbinic ordination and masters degree from Yeshiva University and is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program. Rabbi Samuels plays ice hockey and loves to take road trips with his family - he has a tradition of buying a Starbucks mug at each city stop. Read more about where else Rabbi Samuels teaches. 

Dr. Ronit Ziv-Kreger is principal at Ziv-Kreger & Associates and has been consulting with day schools and congregational schools in both Israel and Greater Boston since 1998. In the past three years Ronit has been helping CJP to revitalize and reinvent supplementary education in the Boston area. She also serves as an instructor in the Jewish Environmental fellowship: Adamah. Read more about Ronit's consulting work.

Rabbi Julie Zupan is an alumna of Tufts University. She has ordination from Hebrew Union College in New York and currently serves as the Jewish Family Educator for the Early Learning Centers of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston (JCCGB). She lives in Sharon with her husband, Rabbi Joseph Meszler, and their two school-age children; her family loves taking nature walks in all seasons. Read more about Julie's career.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bed Time Lessons from The Shofar

As the school year is beginning for our children, it’s a blessing for them to see us adults also engaged in learning. 

With this in mind, this past Shabbat we had a conversation about the shofar, which is blown each day of the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. Our sages tell us that it is meant to help us awaken, to realign with our true calling as we enter the new year. As I am grappling anew with start of school bedtime routines I hope that we won’t need a daily Shofar in our house to get us out of bed.

Jewish texts speak not only of the value of wakefulness but also of the tremendous value of sleep not only for health, but also for our spiritual well being. This reminded me of research findings that show that “around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The cost: decreased IQ, emotional well being, ADHD, and obesity [1].” I learned that the shofar is meant to support not only a process of awakening but also introspection. 

At our conversation’s end, I took away an insight relating to the shofar, which could actually help me with our bedtime routines. The mitzvah related to shofar is to HEAR the shofar. Yet in the Torah we are told that at Mount Sinai the people SAW the sounds of the Shofar. Here’s the insight: Perhaps when we hear another with our full being, with every sense – not only with our ears - then it is an awakening experience. In our family, as part of our bedtime routine, we say the Shema prayer with our children. The same word, HEAR, is used in that prayer. Maybe as part of our bedtime ritual this year, before we say the Shema, I will remember more often to take time to listen to my children with my full being.

Ronit Ziv Kreger has been teaching Ikkarim for many years. She lives in Sharon with her three children. She has a Ph.D. from the Sloan School of Management at MIT and is a Jewish educator in many circles.

[1]See second chapter in ‘Nurtureshock’ by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9/11 2011… Ten Years Later

Written by Sasha B. Lichtenstein.

Ten years ago… I was holding my new baby daughter, Moriah, just 4 months old; bright, pink, grateful that she finally was over her colicky behavior that kept us up night and day.  A bright, sunny morning. We had the first appointment of the day for her wellness check-up at the pediatrician.  She and I exchanged smiles as we waited alone together for the doctor.  Feeling her warmth close to me, I held my pure, precious first child. 

Our quiet cooing was interrupted by the nurses’ chatter behind the glass windows.  They seemed to be rushing around with anxiety.  One of the nurses entered the waiting room and turned on the television that was in the top corner of the room.  I glanced up and was shocked by the image of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers.  Surreal.  Scary.  I pulled Moriah into my chest and held her tightly.  What kind of a world have I brought her into? 

Ten years later… My ten-year-old is striking and tall, with her wild dark curly hair pulled up high in a side pony tail.  A young rock-star in the making.  I pick her up at a play-date finding her begging for more time with her friends.  She persuades me to join them on the outdoor trampoline, knowing that I am a sucker for fun things like this.  There are five of us bouncing and talking.  One of Moriah’s friends mentions that today is 9/11.  “Do you know what 9/11 is?”  Maya, an even taller 10-year-old, educates us about all of the different planes and crashes and that all of the people in the planes were killed but not all of the people in the towers.  “The people on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania chose to kill themselves.”  The youngest spoke up, an almost 8-year-old sibling, who jumped and said they did “Super-Slide!”  My mind immediately envisioned the plane coming down, the emergency slides opening on the sides of the plane and the people sliding out to safety.  Of course this didn’t happen on 9/11.  We jumped and giggled and we all yelled, “Super-Slide!”  Elegant Maya persisted. “No.  These people chose to die.  They worked together to make sure the White House wouldn’t blow up.”  Again, little Halleli with her blond hair bouncing to and fro said, “Yeah, Super-Slide!”  Her big sister, Raizi, stepped in and translated for us.  “She is saying ‘Suicide’.” 

Wow, these kids are really thinking.  Continuing to bounce and keep things light, I tried my best to keep up with these smart kids. “Actually people in our Jewish tradition who make hard choices like these are called Martyrs and we honor them during the High Holidays.  There were no good choices and so they made the most honorable and heroic choice they could in the circumstance.”   I did a big sitting bounce and back on my feet to see if I could shake things up a bit.  The girls kept bouncing, some silence, then back to, “Weee Super-Slide!”

I walked away feeling honored to be invited to these girls’ 9/11 Service in honor of this Day of Remembrance.  Grateful for their willingness to let me see in to their world of making sense of the experiences of their day.  May we all stay close to one another, remember where we came from, and be inspired by our children to make this world a better, more loving world. 

Sasha B. Lichtenstein is an Alumna of Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. Sasha works as the Ceramics Instructor at Gann Academy and also at Jewish Community Day School. She is the author of The Yummy Without... Cookbook, which focuses on gluten- and dairy -free cooking. Sasha is the proud parent of Moriah and Simeon, who are now 3rd and 5th graders at JCDS.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Soccer and Shaws

Think it's too early to plan for the fall? According to the Soccer leagues of Sharon and Shaws Supermarket it's certainly not.

Last week, Rabbi Zupan, who will be teaching the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class in Sharon, saw a banner in her neighborhood reminding her to sign her kids up for Fall soccer. "I wish I could put off thinking about the start of the school year." But she knows that if she doesn't plan any fall activity (i.e.  dance class, Sports Club, karate, swim lessons at the Y) for her children they might be missing out on a special opportunity. If she felt behind on September "soccer registration," she got an even bigger surprise at the supermarket: "I couldn't believe that Shaw’s has Halloween candy on sale already. Seriously?!"
As Julie pushes herself to enroll her kids in a monthly activity she usually doesn't make plans for herself. "As parents we're always thinking about our kids, but we need to think about what activities will nurture our own minds, bodies and souls," she acknowledges. This year she invites all parents to plan their own adventures, ones that will enable them to form a supportive community of parents and learn from one another.   

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens starts in October so make your fall plans for yourself NOW!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

5 Rules for Parents

As I pulled into my driveway a few days ago with a trunk full of groceries, BBC radio was reporting a new study that suggests “5 rules parents should follow for happier children.” I listened for an extra minute but with my melting ice cream in mind, I reluctantly turned the news off before they made their five points.   Ahhh, how much easier it would be if I had a parenting “rule-book!”
As I unpacked, I thought about the 5 rules I think parents should follow.  Here’s my list (in the order they popped into my head): 
1) Let them know that your love is an unconditional love.
2) Endeavor to be fully present (Don’t multi-task your parenting). 
3) Spend unstructured, unplanned time with them.
4) Let them spend unstructured, unplanned time alone. (Let them be bored.)
5) Take time to nurture mind and soul.
Not surprisingly, Jewish tradition has a lot to say about both good parenting and rules! This Fall Boston- area parents are invited to explore the intersection of Judaism and good parenting - and nurture your mind and soul - in the ten week course, “Parenting Through a Jewish Lens.”
I am thrilled that, for the first time, this course is being offered at a private home in Sharon, and even more thrilled that I will be serving as the instructor. It’s going to be a local collaboration with Temple Sinai, Temple Israel, Sharon-Stoughton Hadassah, Kehillah Schecter Academy (formerly SASSDS) and SAJE (the South Area Jewish Educational Collaborative and Hadassah cosponsoring.  Starting the week of October 24th,  class will meet on Monday evenings at 7:30 for an hour and a half.

What “5 rules” would make your list? Post them here.

Rabbi Julie Zupan will be teaching the Sharon Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class this fall.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time with Our Curriculum

In 2003, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Hebrew College commissioned the curriculum for Ikkarim, now known as Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. Dr. Jacob Meskin and Rabbi Benjamin Samuels—who have both taught in the program ever since—spent many months creating what would go on to become one of the first adult Jewish learning programs for parents. Since then close to 1,000 parents at more than 20 Boston area sites have completed the program. Communities around the country have inquired as to how they, too, can offer such a substantive, inspiring, course for parents.

Based on what we’ve learned over the years, we are presently making significant adjustments to the curriculum. As we tackle this task, we have three things in mind: 1) to make life easier for busy, overcommitted parents by shortening the number of weekly sessions; 2) to provide more material on practical parenting; and 3) to ensure that our lessons are accessible to and inclusive of parents of every demographic. 

Our new condensed and focused version will feature ten weekly class sessions and two extra-curricular events. The session topics include Family Relationships, Raising a Caring Child, Teaching Forgiveness and Helping Our Children Find their Calling. The extra-curricular events may include a Shabbat dinner with families at a synagogue or at the instructor’s or a participant’s home, an informal Hanukkah workshop, or a guided tour of a Jewish Book store.

Our amazingly talented faculty will roll out the new curriculum this fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It’s Summer Vacation and There’s Something Missing

Our Jewish community takes a break during the summer. We only have Torah services twice a month, and Tot Shabbat will resume in the fall. I understand why—our Rabbi gets some time to herself, to travel and study, and many of our congregants escape to Cape Cod or other cooler spots for weekend trips and longer vacations. Everything will pick up again in September, as we prepare for the High Holy Days and another year of holidays, bar and bat mitzvahs, brits, and funerals.

The thing is, I miss my community. I miss the learning and the singing, the rituals and the bagels. Even though many of my fellow members aren’t my closest friends, they are people that I am happy to see each week. We ask about each other’s children and parents, and we remember the details of each other’s lives. We support each other in our journeys, and celebrate holidays together.

I also miss my Judaism. Yes, we listen to “synagogue music” (as my toddler calls it) each week, and we celebrate Shabbat each week, but it’s not the same. We don’t celebrate the minor holidays (such as the fast of 17th of Tammuz or Tisha B’av), and without services and holidays, Judaism just doesn’t seem as present our daily lives. In fact, without Kveller, I’m not sure how much I would be thinking about Judaism in our family these days—I’m more concerned about keeping my daughters cool in this blazing east-coast heat.

I don’t want it to be this way, but I’m not sure how to change things. I do want Judaism to be a bigger part of our daily lives, even in the summer (or perhaps especially in the summer). Yet our family isn’t interested in becoming Orthodox; we belong to a Reconstructionist synagogue that we love dearly, and that supports and reflects our values and beliefs.

Yet, I want more, for myself and for our family. Which is why I was really excited when I read this recent posting on for an upcoming class called “Parenting through a Jewish Lens” or Ikkarim (Hebrew for values). The class is offered throughout the greater Boston area, and starts this fall. It sounds like just what I have been looking for—another venue for integrating the two most important aspects of my life.

So I’m signing up. What about you?

This post first appeared on, written by Carla Naumburg who is looking forward to participating in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens this fall. offers a Jewish twist on parenting, everything a Jewish family could need for raising Jewish children--including crafts, recipes, activities, Hebrew and Jewish names for babies...and advice from Mayim Bialik.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Behind the Scenes Look

The Adult Learning staff and Parenting Through a Jewish Lens faculty have been hard at work these past few weeks. Just like our program participants, we feel we have much to learn; we together reflect on the program’s challenges and successes, and plan improvements for the coming year.

Faculty recently gathered for an end-of-year meeting. They discussed ways of building community both within and outside of the classroom. David Jaffe shared that he invited his students to his home for Shabbat meals, and Judy Elkin discussed various in-class strategies. Together the faculty and staff brainstormed opportunities for further connection and learning among current students and alumni. Over lunch Professor Katherine Jungreis shared insights into the lives of interfaith families, many of whom now participate in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens.

As a staff we are busy working with liaisons and enrolling students at 13 different sites throughout the greater Boston area: Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Lexington, Malden, Natick, Newton, Sharon, West Roxbury, Wellesley and Westwood. Our synagogue liaisons have been wonderful, and we are thrilled when enrollees recruit their friends. This year we are hoping to hold the program in two private homes (in Arlington and in Sharon) in addition to synagogue sites.

As we approach the program’s 8th year we are giving its curriculum an update – cutting it down from 19 to 10 sessions and ensuring that each is accessible and rich. Our faculty will be back at Hebrew College in September to prepare to teach this new curriculum.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Calling All Alumni

In the year since my wife Amy and I took the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (then called Ikkarim) at Temple Shalom of Newton, we have looked for more opportunities to engage with the Jewish community. When I saw this year’s advertising for the program I got nostalgic and asked CJP and Hebrew College if we could get their support to bring alumni from this program together to continue connecting around the common experience we shared.

That original experience brought together a group of people from across the spectrum of Jewish affiliation – we are an interfaith family (I am Jewish, and Amy was raised as a Presbyterian, but is now a Bahá’í ) and we were in good company. We all shared a sense that we needed to better understand the scriptural and cultural background that could help inform raising our kids in Judaism.

The community we shared in the course grew closer over the months and we held a wonderful gathering at a classmate’s home shortly after the year ended. At the time many of us wanted to keep going, to build on the friendships we’d started and also to sustain the thoughtful approach to Jewish parenting that Ikkarim had created for us all.

At the end of each week’s session we often felt there was  much more we wanted to discuss, in particular around the “take-home” questions toward the end of each module. The course was fulfilling and broadening, but we had truly only opened a door into a world of Jewish study and debate—which I guess explains why one of our classmates was taking Ikkarim for the second time.

I know there are many families around the Boston area that have gained much from Parenting Through a Jewish Lens/Ikkarim. Amy and I are grateful to have the chance to help this group of like-minded people continue to learn about Jewish life and parenting together. We hope to meet up with you later this summer.

If you're an alumni please fill out this survey to get involved.                                                                        Josh Jacobs and Amy Behrens with thier three daughters