David Jaffe, a beloved teacher in the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens program, shares about how he opened his home to students. To find out more about the program or to register contact Elisha at 617-559-8733 or egechter@hebrewcollege.edu www.hebrewcollege.edu/parenting.

This was my 5th year teaching Ikkarim.  I always love the course for the rich curriculum and the interesting students.  This year I tried an experiment.  I wanted to host every family in the class at my home for a Shabbat meal.  This year’s class was unusually diverse – we had a couple who identified as Orthodox as well as a couple who are not Jewish and several intermarried families.  I thought it would be great for everyone to get to know each other better outside of the class setting.  The camaraderie of the class was great and people really seemed to respect each other.

My original thought was to host everyone all together at one meal.  Once I counted all the children and looked at my small Cambridge apartment living room I realized that would never work.  We ended up hosting three Friday night dinners over the course of a month towards the end of the program.  

The dinners were a highlight of my five years of teaching Ikkarim.  Each night we had three to four families with children ranging from one to ten years old.  For some this was their first experience of a Friday night shabbat meal.  For others this was their regular practice.  My own boys, ages eight and nine, got to lead Torah puppet shows and dramatic representations of the Torah portion of the week with the other children.  My wife and I treated the meals as learning opportunities and were careful to explain the various rituals we do each week including songs before, during and after the meal and all the different blessings.  While it is hard to have an adult conversation with five or six very young people at the table we did manage to sneak in some good conversations each night.

The meals were a wonderful way to get to know my students better and to expose them to another spiritually rich aspect of Jewish life that they can bring into their own homes.  Next year I will host these Shabbat dinners earlier in the year so the class can benefit from the increased closeness created by these meals.