Find Your Jewish Joy has been the motto of our Religious School this past school year. In planning the year and developing the programming, your teachers and I worked hard to cultivate a sense of joy, so that when we began Sunday School you would be able to feel it. This group of madrichim is a particularly joyful and spirited crew, so I knew they would have no trouble finding and expressing their Jewish joy! With both groupings of people, we talked a lot about what kind of joy comes from being a Jew. We brainstormed ways of making our teaching time exciting and enriching. But, to no surprise, the real joy came on the first day of Religious School when all of the students came streaming in to Unger Hall. They were ready to buy their bagels and sing out loud!
As much as we prepared to find joy, the students were already bringing it! Quickly we realized that as much as the students were going to learn from us, we were going to learn from them–and that is as it should be!
As weeks turned into months, the joy factor only increased. With Kitah-led family services, classroom learning and Kehila Tephila, the ruach grew and grew. Participation in all of these areas was fantastic! Adults wanted in as well and our wonderful Religious School Committee developed Kibbitz Café for the grown-ups! There was an exciting vibe that was happening downstairs at Congregation Beth HaTephila.
When we are cultivating a culture it’s difficult to see beyond the immediate effects. Our knowledge was growing, friendships were being made and our connection to our faith was strengthening. However, as we discovered, that was not the greatest outcome of the school year.
As it became clear that COVID-19 was a reality and we were going to be in quarantine for the last few months of the school year, no one could predict what would happen next. I feel so proud and honored to be working with people who are so passionate about what they do and recognize the value of community that is an essential part of our roles. Our staff began working hard and diligently to provide fun and thoughtful Judaic content that would carry us through the rest of the school year. We knew that families may decide that with the new quarantine situation, there might not be the time or space in their lives to take advantage of the activities. But the teachers continue to produce. We also agreed that there may be a time, once the school year ends that families may be looking for additional enrichment to occupy their time and the teachers have been glad to provide!
And, our Religious school families continued to show up. Whether to Friday Night Shabbat Services, Havdalah with the Jonases, Kehila Tephila or Laila Tov on Wednesday evenings, many of our families were seen, showing up and even calling out to each other through the comment section! It was a complete joy to watch as all of the Kitah Bet students shouted out to one another via Facebook Live! It was at that point that I saw the real payoff of finding our Jewish joy! When we find our experience to be joyful and meaningful, we are motivated to show up and connect with one another, even during a time of separation. Finding our community as it transitioned into a new paradigm is very Jewish and I am so proud and grateful to have watched this happen!
Director of Religious Education & Sacred Music