Monday, July 16, 2012

Meet Our 2012-2013 PTJL Instructors

Meet our amazing faculty and sign up now for the opportunity to learn with them this fall!

Sabrina Burger was born in Madrid, Spain and 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.

“Sabrina has been so wonderful about sharing her knowledge and experiences. She has created a comfortable, welcoming environment in which we, too, can share. It has been a pleasure!”

Shari Churwin has worked at Temple Ohabei Shalom for more than seventeen years in many different educational positions. She now serves as the Education Director. She has a master's in Jewish Education and a certificate in Jewish Family Education from Hebrew College. Shari and her husband Mike have three daughters, Hannah, Ashley and Julia.
 “Shari helped our group learn new texts. It was a great experience, a time for meaningful self-reflection”

Rabbi Sharon Clevenger is currently the Middle School Rabbi at the Rashi School. She previously served as the Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, where she taught numerous adult learning classes. She is a passionate educator for people of all ages. Rabbi Clevenger is married and the mother of two young daughters.

“Rabbi Clevenger makes Judaism come alive for her students!”

Judy Elkin, a long-time Jewish educator and a certified personal and professional coach, has worked with adolescents, parents, parent educators, teachers, and graduate students. She was the founding director of Ramah Family Camp and now likes to spend her summers canoeing and kayaking.

“Judy is amazing and inspiring! She created an open space in which we all felt so comfortable.”

Dr. Roselyn Farren is Executive Director of Ma'ayan: Torah Studies Initiative for Women and holds a doctorate in English literature from Brandeis University. She loves teaching Jewish texts and has taught a diverse range of students, teens through senior adults. On her off-days, you will find her singing and gardening with her husband and three children. 

“Roselyn was an amazing teacher and a real inspiration. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about ways to approach text, and sometimes ways to approach life as well.”

Rabbi Sally Finestone, among the first group of female rabbis to be ordained by Hebrew Union College, has led congregation Or Atid in Wayland since 1998. She holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. She and her husband, Boaz Heilman, the rabbi at B'nai Torah in Sudbury, have two children.

"Rabbi Finestone helped us connect not only with the texts, but also with each other. I feel that this class has made me a better person, and a better parent."

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.

“David has it all and brings it all to each session - depth of knowledge, broad-minded perspective, thoughtfulness, and experience as a parent.”

Rabbi Daniel Liben received his rabbinic ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary 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.


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 students of all ages. Cantor Ken and his wife, Rabbi Shira Shazeer, are klezmer musicians and speak Yiddish with their sons Zalmen and Velvel. 

“Both Rabbi Liben and Cantor Ken are highly skilled instructors – I very much enjoyed having our clergy lead the class. I loved how we would read a text, and then take time to discuss what it means to us. This style kept me engaged throughout the ten sessions.”

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. 

“Layah’s teaching style is wonderfully enlightening. She is always prepared, open, honest and open to all points of view.”

Dr. Natan Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has rabbinic ordination from The Jerusalem Seminary and a Ph.D.  in Talmud from U.C. Berkeley. Natan enjoys teaching about Judaism and the environment, spending time with his three-year-old and six year-old, and perfecting his guitar playing skills. 

“Natan is very knowledgeable and kind. He is a great listener and and we loved his gentle demeanor.”

Dr. Jacob Meskin is the academic director of adult learning programs and an Assistant Professor of Jewish thought and education at Hebrew College. He received a Ph.D. from Princeton University and he co-authored the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens curriculum. He can often be found walking his dog along the streets of Brookline.

“Jacob did a terrific job of drawing analogies between the texts and our lives.  He allowed much time for discussion and I was able to ponder the importance of my Jewish identity with parenting.”

 Rabbi Michelle Robinson has made her home at Temple Emanuel of Newton since 1999. She is deeply committed to sharing her love of text study with others and has greatly enjoyed teaching in the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens program since its inception. She and her husband, Mike, have three children.

“Rabbi Michelle is such a spiritual, inspiring, engaging and wonderful teacher – I looked forward to the class each week.”

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.

“Ronit brings great energy and depth to our discussions, stimulating my thinking. She helps everyone feel comfortable with sharing.”

Rabbi Julie Zupan is an alumna of Tufts University. She has ordination from Hebrew Union College 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.

“Rabbi Julie makes everyone feel valued, comfortable, free to speak their minds and part of the group. She has made Parenting Through a Jewish Lens a warm, pleasant, and edifying experience.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Confessions of a Jewish Learning Junkie

A graduate of the Heller Hornstein program at Brandeis University, Julie Unger consults to Temple Israel Boston on engaging young families in Jewish life and to URJ's Reform Jewish Outreach Boston on social media and marketing. She and her husband Matt live in Melrose and participated in the Parenting Through A Jewish Lens last fall in Malden.

I'm a Jewish learning junkie. There, I said it. My husband and I have taken almost every course offered by URJ’s Reform Jewish Outreach Boston. We started with Yours, Mine & Ours to communicate our differences and come to a conclusion about what is important for both us regarding our religious practices. Down the line we took the Taste of Judaism class, because my husband had questions about Judaism and I didn't really have the answers. And Taste was just piqued our interest and a year later, when we were engaged, we signed up for a more in-depth class on Judaism called Introduction to Judaism. For 16 weeks we learned about the Jewish community, holidays, traditions and some Hebrew. It was a wonderful class and we met many other couples and individuals who were on similar journeys. We recently went to one of their weddings (what a blast!).

Right after we took Intro we got married and now we have a baby. We had figured out the role Judaism was going to play in our lives as a twosome, but with a kid, we were kind of clueless... especially when it came to parenting. So when we were asked by a friend if we would be interested in taking a Jewish parenting course called Parenting Through A Jewish Lens, we said yes. This 10-week course is offered by Hebrew College and CJP at various locations in the Greater Boston area. My husband and I took it this past year to become better equipped to raise a Jewish family. We felt we needed some guidance and inspiration on what raising a Jewish family actually meant, or at least a glimpse of what it could look like. This course was an addition to an already busy year (the birth of our son), but we made time for it and are so happy we did. They make participation easy: my class was scheduled on a weekend and included FREE, onsite babysitting. The teacher was dynamic, the material was interesting, and we bonded with other families in the class – a huge bonus for us. Though this is not a RJOB program, it's amazing and I highly recommend enrolling now for the fall! If you have any questions about the program, feel free to contact Elisha Gechter at 617-599-8733 or or ask me about our experience. I'm happy to discuss!

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Found a Jewish Community with PTJL

Rene and family live in Lexington, MA, where she participated in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. To see where the course will be offered this year visit - registration is now open for the fall

I enrolled in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens not knowing all that I wanted to know about Judaism. From the ages of nine to fourteen I lived with my family in the Netherlands, in a town that was an hour and a half by car from the nearest synagogue. My dad tried to instill in my brother and me some of the Jewish values he grew up with, and we celebrated holidays and Shabbat. But without the support of a community we did not receive the Jewish education that he preferred for us to have. I wanted to take this class to learn and then to bring Judaism to my daughter, who is now seven and attending religious school.

The class was wonderful. I gained knowledge of daily Jewish practices such as singing the Mo-deh A-ni (when we wake up) and the Shema (when we go to sleep). We discussed ways to parent "through a Jewish lens"; how to raise responsible, happy and kind kids; and how to talk with kids about tough subjects like God and end of life issues. We talked about ways to slow down the busy treadmills of our lives, to enjoy meaningful time with loved ones and friends.
At the beginning of the program each student received a binder filled with Jewish wisdom from many sources on various topics. I plan to read and reread all of the texts, so that I can further explore how they relate to many areas of my life, to the lives of my family and friends, and to others. Additionally, many great books were recommended that are now on my to-read list for the summer.

Finally, one of the best aspects of this program was the other participants. I found a Jewish community, something that I never had before. We were all consumed with raising young children; our exchanges around the text felt very relevant. Our phenomenal teacher had taught the class many times, but approached each conversation in new ways—I think she learned much from us, as we learned from her.

I highly recommend Parenting Through a Jewish Lens! It was informative, eye opening, helpful for me as a parent and therefore also for my child. This class was about all that is most important and sacred in life. It brought me closer to the Jewish community and people in my local area, and through its universal principles, to the larger world.