Being Kodesh When Chol
One of our responsibilities as educators is connecting our students and their families to as many sacred moments as possible, even when those moments are hard to find. Sometimes we are even required to turn something mundane (chol) into something holy (kodesh).
This edition of the newsletter is dedicated to taking regular moments in our lives and connecting them to Judaism, making them holy. From taking the SAT to starting something new, there are sacred moments just waiting to be explored! We hope you gain new insight
into a way in which your community can engage with the divine in every moment we’re awake.
Director of Education
Building (for) The (Empty) Nest(er)
When organizing synagogue events, we often find ourselves struggling to engage “in-betweeners.” Our religious schools connect with students and their parents, but how do we engage community members who are no longer affiliated with the school, particularly empty nesters? Even adults who are no longer connected with the religious school yearn to learn and to build community within the congregation.
Here are some suggestions for ways to engage empty nesters at your congregation:
• Adult Education Programs. Lay-led Torah study, a guest lecturer, or an interactive session from the ISJL program bank can create learning opportunities for your community. You can even invite congregants to lead a session on a topic in which they’re an expert. If you have a congregant who is an English teacher, they can teach a class on Israeli Literature; a member who loves to knit can lead others; a congregant who is an excellent golfer can create “Torah from the Tees,” and your “pro” can lead like Moses (avoiding the water hazards). By using the resources already at your disposal, you can create meaningful learning.
• Food. There is no better way to bring people together than with food. Organize a meal at a restaurant, grill at a park, or host a potluck at a congregant’s home. Create new spaces for this crowd to schmooze and enjoy each other’s company (while the young parents suffer with shuttling their children to and from kids’ activities).
• Building Bridges. Although some empty nesters choose to relish and enjoy their newfound freedom, others still hope to maintain a connection with the religious school. While some may choose to teach at the school, others may simply be searching for occasional opportunities to participate. Invite them to read a story to the younger students, to substitute teach, to supervise and greet folks at the entrance, or simply invite them to special events such as a mock seder or a Purim carnival.
These are just a few tips for ways to engage a unique and vital sub-set of your community!
- Shira Moskowitz, ISJL Education Fellow 2015-2017
Sports & Asher Yatzar
One such activity in which a lot of our students participate is sports. Many are on soccer or basketball teams, play tennis, swim competitively, and more. These sports provide many positive growing experiences for our students: teamwork builds trust and accountability. As Jewish educators, we want to sync these positive growing experiences for our children with their Judaism. Asher yatzar allows us to accomplish that goal.
Asher yatzar helps us to appreciate all of the wonders of our bodies, and we need these amazing bodies to perform well at our sports activities! Take this opportunity to teach your students about how Judaism values our functioning bodies.
Here is an English translation of the prayer:
“Blessed are You, Sovereign of the universe, who formed people with wisdom and created within them many openings and hollows. It is obvious and known, by You, that if even one of them ruptures, or if even one of them becomes blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You, Sovereign, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”
Work with your students to create individualized asher yatzar tags. These tags can be printed on cardstock to contain the blessing above and decorated to fit each student’s favorite sport. When students finish, laminate the cards, and tie a string so the tag can be attached to their sports bag! This way, students will carry a reminder of their Jewish practice with them as they get into the game (or need a reminder to stretch after a good workout).
- Arielle Nissenblatt, ISJL Education Fellow 2014-2016