Thursday, May 31, 2012

Seize the Day

Have you been meaning to sign up for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens?

Seize the day and the discount and register now! Today is the last day to take advantage of the early bird registration fee.

Need a reminder of what you’ll get out of this program? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

PTJL For Parents of Children with Special Needs

Arlene Remz, Executive Director of Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, writes about the new, exciting partnership between Parenting Through a Jewish Lens and Gateways this fall.
At Gateways, the focus is on children and teens.  We love the wonderful bar and bat mitzvah stories, the examples of students making great strides at school, and the pictures of high school volunteers and Sunday program participants laughing at a Purim carnival.  Our Day School ProgramsJewish Education ProgramsTeen Volunteer Programs, and Gateways to College directly serve young people, while Community Services and Professional Development help students by supporting their teachers and schools.  Parents and families get support through all these programs, but I have to admit that support has been indirect.

Not any more.  This fall CJP and Hebrew College will offer a special Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (Ikkarim) class for parents of children with special needs.  Parenting Through a Jewish Lens is a 10-week course for parents that explores core values through discussion and some text study.  Led by expert instructors, the focus is on conversations about the questions that really matter: What is my vision of parenting? 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?

Jacob Meskin, Academic Director of Adult Learning at Hebrew College and co-author of the curriculum, explained the thinking behind the class this way: “When you have a child, you change the way you think, you have a new set of things to work out.  Judaism has a lot of wisdom about these kinds of issues, such as creating a family environment, getting along with your spouse, and raising children.”  A parent who took Ikkarim described its power simply, "This program enabled me to slow down and think about how I want to raise my child."

Parenting through a Jewish Lens is offered in synagogues and communities throughout the Greater Boston area, and parents of children with special needs have been among the almost 1,000 who have already participated.  But I believe that there is a place for a Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class specifically for those parents. The class can help build a sense of community among parents of children with special needs, who may welcome conversations with others who have similar experiences.  In a shared space these parents can get the support from Jewish tradition that every parent looks for.   As Meskin explains, all parents need “the sense that they matter, the strength to cope with their challenges, and help finding a way to God for them and their children.”

We coordinated with Hebrew College to offer this program at the same time and place as the Gateways Sunday Program---Sunday mornings from 9:30-11 at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston.  This way, while the students are in their Gateways classes, the parents will meet nearby.  If someone is interested in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens for parents of children with special needs but their child is not presently in the Sunday program, this is a twofer—the opportunity to enroll in two wonderful programs, one for you and one for your child.  And there is babysitting for siblings if you need it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Three Important Lessons from PTJL

Carla Naumburg, a mother of two in Newton and a regular blogger for, participated in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens at Mayyim Hayyim this past year. Registration for the fall program is now open - take advantage of a registration discount before the end of May.

Raising Jewish children isn't easy. Not only is there so much to know (prayers, songs, recipes, and rituals) and so much to do (celebrating holidays, teaching our children, and learning how to *not do* on Shabbat), but we're doing it all in the diaspora, minorities in a majority culture.

I thought I was the only one who found it hard. I thought all of the other parents out there knew how to do this stuff, how to celebrate Shabbat on Friday nights or put together a Passover craft for an entire preschool class. I assumed it was just because I was raised in a secular home; although I have spent the past 15 years catching up on my Jewish education, I don't have the experience of being a Jewish child. I often feel like I'm starting from scratch.
 created at: 2012-05-08
Fortunately, I have a supportive, engaged husband with a strong Jewish upbringing. That helps a lot. We belong to Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, a participatory and accessible congregation. That also helps. Yet I still felt alone in my experience of not knowing enough, not doing enough, not being a good enough Jewish parent.

That changed when I participated in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens this past fall. Not only did I continue my Jewish education, but I also learned three important lessons: first, I actually know more than I ever realized; second, no matter how much you know, there is always so much more to learn, and third, I am definitely not alone in feeling inadequate when it comes to running a Jewish home and raising Jewish children. The women in our class were open and honest about their experiences, and I am so grateful for their willingness to share their own struggles and challenges.

As we approach Shavuot in just a few more weeks, I can't help but remember what the Jews said when they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai: "na'aseh v'nishma"-- "we will do and we will understand." Scholars much smarter than me have pointed to this as a guide for Jewish living; we are to perform the mitzvot first, and the knowledge and wisdom will follow. My participation in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens helped build my confidence in my own ability to continue down the path of Jewish parenting, even if I don't always know exactly what I am doing, or why I am doing it. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Parenting & Judaism - Lifelong Learning Journeys

Last Sunday afternoon, our 3-½ year old, Nora, put on her favorite dress-up clothes (Snow White Dress, butterfly wings, fairy wand), stood up on a chair, and began to sing “Shabbat Shalom” into her toy microphone.

“Mommy,” she asked, “Is today Shabbat?”

“No,” Jessie answered, “But you can practice the song if you’d like.”

She continued joyously, welcoming our dog, our fish, the sofa, her dolls, and us to Shabbat. One of the most exciting things for us about the year in which we finally took Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (Ikkarim) is that it so closely matched Nora’s first year of identifying, and appreciating, the Jewish rituals in our lives. She has met each one with a delight and curiosity that is invigorating and exciting. We feel even more equipped to nurture this after ten sessions with Rabbi David Jaffe at Temple Hillel B’nai Torah in West Roxbury.

Our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class created an important rhythm for our family life over its 10-class span. As a couple, it gave us a cherished 90-minutes to reflect together upon things we rarely get to in our daily lives. At a baseline, we dove into topics that challenged us to consider what it means to be a parent and our hopes and dreams for our children. The structure allowed us to dig deeper, too, to think about what we personally hope to teach our children and what we most want to pass along to help them define themselves spiritually and religiously. The curriculum beautifully wove together parenting and religious topics with a diversity of Jewish texts and commentaries, many new to us, reminding us of the richness of Jewish learning.

For us, Parenting Through a Jewish Lens was an important step in our journey as a couple and a family. It was also a reminder that there is still so much more to do, and to learn, as we blaze our path. We finished the course feeling energized, refreshed, and eager to take our next step.

We are thrilled about this next step, which, as it turns out, is a continuation of our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens involvement. Beginning this month we will be co-chairing the new Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Recruitment Committee, a gathering of alumni who will help the program reach even more parents and families. We received a great gift through the program, and are excited about helping bring it to more people.

We’d love to have you join us in this new venture. There is still time to join the Committee (just contact Elisha Gechter at Hebrew College at If you are an alumnus of the program but the Committee is more than you can do, we hope you will take some time over the next six months to reach out to someone new and let them know about Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. And if you haven’t taken the course yet, we encourage you to do so in 2012 – both parenting and Judaism are lifelong learning journeys, and this is a great year to give a boost to both.

Jessie & Eric Boatright
created at: 2012-05-01