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Why You Should Be Involved in Your Child's Jewish Education
By ISJL Education Fellow Ava Gadon
All right, parents; this one goes out to you. As teachers, there is only so much that the educators in your community can do to instill a sense of Jewish identity in your child with the limited time that they have. Sure, they can teach the Hebrew letters and about holiday traditions, but without context from their lives outside of the synagogue, there’s less of a chance that the information will be meaningful. This means that your involvement in your child’s Jewish education is critical.
Jewish identity starts at home. If you want your child to get the most out of their Jewish education, learn how to bring Judaism into your child’s everyday life. It can be as much as hosting Shabbat dinners for the community every week, or as little as lighting candles on Chanukah. Anything that will help your child connect what they are learning in their religious education to their life outside the synagogue building is a blessing. If you need help finding a tradition that will work for your home, talk to your child’s teacher, or even contact your ISJL Education Fellow.
If your concern is more about content and less about retention, the solution can still be found in getting more involved. Volunteer to be an aide in the classroom, ask what your teacher needs assistance with, discuss the content with the education director, or even join the education committee in your community! Little ways of getting involved can give you more ways to talk with your child about the content and values. Then, they can share their commentary and beliefs with you while shaping it for themselves.
Educators—you can have a role in changing parent involvement too! Invite teachers to be a part of your classroom! Send them updates on what the students have been learning so they can talk about it at home, invite them in for activities with their child, even make a rotating “chore wheel” for parents so they have a role in the classroom with a little task each week! Parents can't always respond without the invitation to get involved first, so find places to give them the opportunity—or inspiration—for ways they can bring the learning home.
As much as we would love to provide a “completely thorough” Jewish education within the time we have at synagogue, instilling the desire for continued Jewish knowledge has to start at home. Parents, we know that it can be a hassle and take up time for you to get involved, but the long-term effects of your involvement are worth every second when your children feel supported throughout their learning. So throw a Hanukkah party for them to teach their friends dreidel, light the Shabbat candles after their football game, or start conversations about what they are learning in Hebrew school. Show them that you are excited by and value what they are learning, and they’ll be enthusiastic about it too.