Sunday, April 18, 2010

Invitations to Learning

היום תשעה עשר יום שהם שני שבועות וחמשה יומים בעמרToday is the nineteenth day, making two weeks and five days of the omerהוד שבתפארת
A day of humility in a week of compassion

I covered the Bay Area--north, south, east west--traveling to many different events today. I drove northwest to Beth Sholom for minyan, then south to San Mateo for a teachers' meeting at PTBE, back up north to Beth Sholom again for a memorial service, then northeast to my Hebrew class in El Sobrante, and back southwest, coming home to San Francisco. Yes, a very full day encompassing lots of different emotions as well as distances.

At the teachers' meeting we discussed different ways to include the families of our students into the Jewish education sphere. Family support is key to having our students understand the role Judaism plays in their lives. Lisa Langer, a family education specialist with the Union for Reform Judaism was there to facilitate the meeting. In one exercise, we broke into groups to prioritize what types of Jewish family events would have the biggest impact on both students and their parents. Each group was given an envelope containing slips of paper that had the events written on them. While there was some differences between the groups in the middle-impact category, the top and bottom event was the same for all three groups. At the top--a synagogue run, family trip to Israel. On the bottom, parents dropping off their kids at religious school.

Lisa then asked us if we wondered why the latter event was even included. After all, that's kind of the crux of the issue--non-involvement of the parents, a "I drop them off and you take care of that for me" attitude that we are seemingly trying to combat. But Lisa made the point that what we look at as "just" dropping the kids off is more effort that many families make. We need to give credit to these parents for giving their children the opportunity to learn about their religion and heritage, even as we would wish they would be more involved in the process.

I appreciate gaining that perspective. Instead of viewing those parents with derision, we need to realize they are coming closer than those who avoid giving their children any Jewish education. At least they come up to the door---we need to open the door wide and find ways to invite them to come in.

A good lesson to get in this week of compassion.

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