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Buddy Basics: Different Types of Buddy Programs
By Shira Muroff, ISJL Education Fellow
There are a lot of ways to match up different members of the congregation, which can provide students with a new and meaningful learning experience at religious school.
One such way is through family education. By inviting families to engage in programming with their students on a regular basis, students see that education does not stop at the end of childhood. Any combination of joint and parallel learning can increase familial conversations about Jewish topics once the families get outside of the classroom. Additionally, by seeing groups of families all learning together, students can see that their temple/synagogue is a place where everyone takes learning seriously. Family programming does not just have to happen once a year for each grade, but rather it can be integrated into holiday programs. Holiday programs are a great time to bring in families and give them new methods of celebration to bring home for the accompanying holiday. You can make “family buddies,” pairing up two family unites that have “homework” they have to do together once they leave the synagogue.
Another way to group different learners in the congregation is to bring in “experienced” (some might say “older”) congregants to do a program with students in the religious school. This method brings together two groups that might not otherwise spend much time together outside the occasional Shabbat service or holiday celebration. Cross-generational educational programs can allow both groups to form new relationships that can last beyond the classroom. Once students have their buddies, they may be likely to be more interested in coming to other programs at the temple/synagogue to spend time with their buddies.
Another way to create buddy systems within the congregation is through matching up older and younger students in the religious school. There are many methods to bringing these students together, whether it is a continued program throughout the year or a one-time service project. Having older role models in the school allows younger students to find someone to look up to outside of their family. Likewise, the older students can see their tangible contributions to students below them. Having the assistance of older students on special projects also allows younger students to be involved in projects that they may not have been able to be involved with otherwise.
Regardless of the ways that buddy systems are configured, bringing together people of different ages in a congregation can increase feelings of relevance, belonging, and lifelong learning.