Thursday, October 10, 2013

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Gave Me a Sense of Community

            The summer of 2009 was a time of big changes for our family.  My husband and I had made the decision to move our children – then ages 8, 6, and 2 – from Pittsburgh to the Boston area.  We were happy to be moving to a place where we had family just a short drive away, but we were torn about leaving the unique and close-knit Jewish community we had come to love in Pittsburgh.  After unpacking our boxes and reprogramming the “home” button on our GPS, one of our first goals was to look for a Jewish community where we could begin to connect with other families like us.

            The task proved to be more difficult than we had expected.  In Pittsburgh our older kids had gone to a day school with 20-30 kids per grade and in which all the families knew each other; now there were nearly 60 kids in each of their grades, so it was easy to fly under the radar as a new family.  Moreover, since neither child was entering the school as a kindergartner, we missed out on the “getting acquainted” activities tailored for new families.  Our two-year-old wouldn’t be old enough for Jewish preschool for another year, so we couldn’t connect through that venue either.

            We next looked to find community in the synagogue setting.  We attended High Holiday services at Temple Aliyah and began going to Shabbat services there, too.  However, as any parent knows, most of our conversations after services were limited by our children’s needs – especially our two-year-old, who by the end of a Shabbat service and kiddush lunch was ready to nap (if we took him home) or decompensate (if we did not)!

            Some of the young families I’d begun talking to at Temple Aliyah invited me to join a Parenting Through aJewish Lens class that would begin there later that fall.  I decided to give it a try, admittedly more for the chance to get to know people than for the Jewish content.  It turned out that the Jewish content was what made it such a great way to get to know people.  As a newcomer, it can be difficult to move beyond “So what brought you to the Boston area?”  But as I sat in a classroom week after week, talking about Jewish texts and concepts and how they apply to our lives and those of our children, I got to know what really mattered to my classmates, who were gradually becoming my community. 

Because the class met at Temple Aliyah, I got to know not just my classmates and our PTJL educator, but also Temple Aliyah itself.  I saw congregants arrive for evening services and committee meetings; Rabbi Perkins was a guest speaker one evening; and before long I came to associate the place itself with a supportive community interested in Jewish learning and practice.

            What did I gain from my PTJL experience?  I gained a sense of community with a group of people who are parents like me, and I found a synagogue in which I have since celebrated my own adult bat mitzvah, and where I look forward to celebrating when my children become b’nai mitzvah in the years to come.

Heidi Schwartz lives in Needham with her husband and their three children. She took part in PTJL at Temple Aliyah in 2010.



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