Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Q&A with a Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Alum

Native New Englanders David and Alison Lobron live in West Newton with their two children and are members of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek. They participated in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens this past fall at their synagogue and David answered some questions for us about his experience. 

What prompted you to sign up for the course?
My wife and I took this course because we wanted to try Jewish learning together, and we were excited to do it with members of our community.  We had taken an earlier Parenting Through a Jewish Lens/Ikkarim class in a different synagogue, and while that was enjoyable, we found that we got more out of it by taking it in our own community.

How did you manage the time commitment?
Since we took an evening class, free babysitting wasn't offered. We hired a babysitter for Sunday nights so we'd both be able to go.  This worked out very well - we had a lot of conversations about the class together that would not have been possible if only one of us had gone.

What makes this a “Jewish” parenting course?
The study materials, plus the fact that we were taking it with members of our Jewish community.  I found it very stimulating to talk about parenting in the context of Judaism, and to see how other people work with the challenges that we all face.

Can you share one or two insights from the course that have stayed with you?
The sessions on Israel and Jewish chosen-ness were quite interesting, because people had very different points of view.  I think the Israel session was my favorite, even though we had some disagreements, because it was clearly on many people's minds.  Our class really spanned the political spectrum.

What did the instructor say or do to create a safe and stimulating learning environment?
I like that the instructor challenged us a bit.  Our congregation is a very liberal Reconstructionist one, and I found it refreshing to read some more conservative texts, e.g., those from Joseph Soloveitchik or Abraham Joshua Heschel.  I don't think our instructor was out to change minds, but I think it helped people see alternative approaches to some topics.

How might Jewish wisdom inform choices you make as a parent?
We've gained a tremendous amount just by being part of a community.  I feel much more resilient and supported than I would feel if we did not have community support.

We invite you join us on Sunday March 10th for Matzah Matters - a free event open to the entire community that includes learning and babysitting/kids holiday craft projects.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Learn and to Teach

Rabbi Sharon Clevenger, a recent addition to our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens faculty, is the middle-school rabbi at the Rashi School in Dedham and the mother of two young daughters.

Today in my Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class, I learned something so elegant and inspiring that I wish I had thought of! I can’t wait to try it out in my own life.  I pretty much come home to my husband after every class and say this very same thing. Which is exactly what the framers of this course want - they hope that the small and large “aha moments” inspired by exchanges among teachers and learners will lead to lives more meaningfully lived.  I love and look forward to what I will learn each Sunday.  And I am the instructor.

There is a prayer in the morning service called Ahava Raba.  It thanks God for showing divine love for us (the Jewish people) by giving us the gift of Torah.  It asks God to have mercy on us by giving us what we need to: “understand and discern, to heed, to learn and teach and to fulfill all that is in God’s Torah with love.”  As a Jewish educator, I deeply appreciate the fact that “learn” comes before “teach.”  I walk into my classroom each Sunday, ready to guide my phenomenal students through the inspiring and challenging texts in our binders.  Yet I also enter knowing that I will leave that room knowing far more than I knew at the start of class.  I am there to learn and to teach.

Most of the participants in the class are relatively new to Jewish learning and a few are non-Jewish spouses.  Therefore, each person brings wisdom and knowledge from his or her life.  A typical class session might include students making references to renowned secular philosophers, American business law or Hindu religious and cultural traditions, not to mention the daily inspirations (and grinds) of parenting.  This would be a great conversation on its own, but what amazes me is the way that it all ties together with the texts in the binder and helps frame a “Jewish lens.”  This class is definitely providing transformative Jewish learning for all of the learners, including me.