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