Monday, April 23, 2012

Subjective Love and Chosenness

Natan Margalit, president of Organic Torah, has been a beloved teacher in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens for many years. He lives in Newton with his wife and two sons - here he shares about his teaching experience this year.


We recently finished our last session in the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens group at Congregation Kerem Shalom in Concord. It was a wonderful group and they are planning to continue their learning with a couple of follow up sessions this spring – they couldn’t get enough! Or maybe it was that we never finished any of the topics, so absorbed did we get in our conversations, leaving a lot of interesting material in the workbooks yet to be explored.
In the last of the 10 sessions we tackled the sticky topic of “chosenness.” Participants generally do not take to something that appears to set the Jewish people apart from the rest of humanity. Yet I have found that it is a very good session in which to talk about parenting. In trying to share with the participants my own view of chosenness, I find myself using the metaphor of parents and children. We were holding this last session outside as a picnic class, and many of our kids were running around the synagogue yard, playing and horsing around. My kids were there, too. I pointed out that I personally feel that my kids are the best, most beautiful, brilliant and talented kids in the world. But I understood that the other parents there might feel the same thing about their kids. It is natural and good, I argued, for kids to feel that they are loved with a special love that their parents don’t feel for just any kid, and parents may be forgiven for subjectively feeling love for their kids that is greater than for anyone else’s kids. But, I also know, in my more objective moments, that these beliefs about our own children being the best is only subjectively true – other parents feel the same way about their kids.
So, I suggested, perhaps that is what we mean by Jewish chosenness. Perhaps we as a people can legitimately feel that God loves us in a special way, and has chosen us, as long as we know that other nations and people also have the right to feel that way as well. I mentioned that the Dalai Lama, when he met with Jewish leaders, said that he loved that fact that the Jewish people were chosen – because the Tibetan people were chosen, too!
Of course, not everyone accepted my analogy. It opened up a lively discussion about God and the Jewish people and also about parenting and how we love our kids. It was, in my subjective opinion, a good way to finish our course in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens.
Sign up for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens before the end of May and save. Click here for our list of fall sites and click here to register.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where Will PTJL Be Offered in the Fall?

There are a record number of sites that hope to host Parenting Through a Jewish Lens in the fall. Below you will find a list of the times and locations - we hope you will find one that works for you.

And if you have other questions about the program, peruse the FAQS answered below.

Coolidge Corner Collaborative
Kehillath Israel
Sundays, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Temple Israel
Sundays, 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Temple Shalom Emeth
Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Sundays, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Temple Beth Torah
Sundays, 8:45-10:15 a.m.

Temple Israel
Wednesdays, 9:15-10:45 a.m.

Temple Beth Shalom
Tuesdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Congregation Dorshei Tzedek
Sundays, 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Leventhal-Sidman JCC
Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Sundays, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

For parents of children with special needs:
Solomon Schechter Day School
Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Young Israel or at a private, local home Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Congregation Or Atid
Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Thursdays, 9:15-10:45 a.m.

Temple Beth Elohim
Mondays, 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens FAQs

  • What is the cost for the course?
    • $145 per person; $240 per couple
    • Early registration: $125 per person and $220 per couple before May 31st
  • Are there scholarships available?
    • Yes, while we do not give 100% scholarships, we always find a way to make the program affordable for each student. Simply email Elisha with any scholarship requests at
  • When does the program begin?
    • In the fall of 2012 – late October/early November.
  • What does the curriculum cover?
    • The curriculum focuses on four overarching realms: Outward Bound, Inward Bound, Upward Bound and Homeward Bound. Topics within these realms include: How can I help my child identify a good path? How can I help my family through dark times? How do I talk to my child about God? What is my relationship to a homeland and a people?
  • Can I participate as a single parents?
    • Yes!
  • Can I participate if I am not Jewish? 
    • Yes, we encourage your participation!
  • Can my partner participate with me if the/she is not Jewish?
    • Yes. Interfaith couples find this course affords them a common vocabulary and helps them to think about their family’s values together.
  • How many sessions are there in the program?
    • There are ten sessions, as well as one opportunity to gather with the class outside of the formal setting.
  • Do the classes break for school and other holidays?
    • Yes, we work the class calendars around the public school and holiday calendars.
  • How long are the sessions?
    • Each session is an hour and a half long.
  • Do I have to be a synagogue member to sign up at a synagogue site?
    • No, all are welcome.
  • Is there babysitting available?
    • There is free on-site babysitting for all daytime classes
  • Who are the childcare providers?
    • We have been working with a trusted company, Parents in a Pinch, for seven years. They are responsible and responsive and parents rave about them.
  • Is there any instruction for the children?
    • Children are entertained while their parents are in class; they are furnished with age appropriate toys and books and engage in activities offered by the Parents in a Pinch childcare providers.
  • Can I use childcare for only some of the sessions?
    • Yes, but you must pre-register your children with Elisha Gechter and let her know the dates you plan on using childcare.  It is not a drop-in service.
  • Who will my instructor be?
    • We have a wonderful faculty of local educators – you can read their bios on our website: Faculty assignments are made over the summer.
  • What if I have to miss a session?
    • It is understandable when people have to miss a session or two. Be in touch with your instructor and perhaps you can work out a way to catch up on the material.
  • Is there homework?
    • We provide suggested take home activities to bring sessions’ lessons into your home, but there is no required reading or homework prior to each session.
  • Do I need any Jewish/ educational background or knowledge of Hebrew?
    • Not at all.
For more information please visit

Monday, April 2, 2012

Freedom to Choose

Sabrina Burger, long time Parenting Through a Jewish Lens instructor, shares her thoughts as she prepares for Passover.

As I prepare to clean my house for Passover, to get rid of chametz—anything leavened—I am reflecting on the meaning of slavery and freedom. 

I would like to share a brief paragraph from The Survival Kit Family Haggadah that rings true for me:

"When is the best time for someone to learn about freedom? To this question the reply in the Haggdah is "When matza and maror (bitter herbs) are in front of you." Matza symbolizes freedom whereas maror represents the bitterness of slavery. Why do we need to have both on the table to learn about freedom? Life presents us constantly with choices. Being aware of our choices—our capacity to control and direct our thoughts, words, actions and reactions—is a prerequisite to freedom. These choices, some of them "big" but most of them not, are an ever present reality. At all times they are literally in front of us, and on some level each constitutes the choice between slavery and freedom."

What I like about this idea is that freedom is not a one-time final destination. Our freedom to choose can happen every day in even small ways; in the habits we practice and through the attitudes we acquire. As we bring more consciousness into our relationships with our kids, our spouses, and ourselves we have the opportunity for personal growth—the opposite of slavery.

This year make your seders particularly engaging for young children with these helpful hints from our talented Parenting Through a Jewish Lens faculty.