Rabbi Carl Perkins of Temple Aliyah calls hosting Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL) a “no brainer.” “A parent who explores the meaning of Judaism for herself or himself is a better Jewish parent. Period.” he says.
Co-sponsored by Hebrew College and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, PTJL is held at 15 sites throughout the Boston area and beyond. The course uses the wisdom of our ancestors — biblical, rabbinical and modern — to wrestle with the issue of how to raise happy, ethical, compassionate Jewish-identified children in 2015. PTJL has three versions: for parents of younger children, tweens and teens.
For many parents, their own Jewish education ended in their early teens, so PTJL is a great way to pick up the thread, says Rabbi Perkins. “As adults, they’re able to explore the meaning of Judaism with a fresher, more sophisticated perspective. It makes things much better for them and their kids.”
And better for synagogues too. Rabbi Perkins says that while younger parents typically aren’t in the stage of life when they can take on leadership roles in a shul like his, programs like PTJL keep them engaged and help build community.
Temple Aliyah PTJL participant Aliza Cooperman agrees.
She’s formed meaningful relationships with parents she used to merely recognize —but not interact with— from Hebrew School drop-off or Shabbat services. And the course has provided an outlet for exploring the things that really matter. “We don’t always talk about these things with friends because we’re busy with our lives,” says Cooperman, a mother of three children under 11. “ PTJL gives me a time and a place where we can do this. It’s one of the rare times in my week that I make the time for me and not my kids.”
PTJL benefits his congregation in other ways, says Rabbi Perkins. He believes that it’s his job and his temple’s to help parents navigate for their children an increasingly complex and at times frightening world. And to have PTJL’s expert teacher/scholars helping in this effort is remarkable, he says. “Every week these teachers are sitting down with parents at the most important, vulnerable and influential time in their lives, helping them figure out things like: How do I incorporate Jewish values and practices into my family life? How do I relate to the wisdom, insight and guidance that the Torah provides without losing critical historical and critical sensibility? How do I respond when my child asks if the Torah is true? You get that one a lot from fourth graders, once they study dinosaurs!”
For more information about Parenting Through a Jewish Lens, contact Marcy Leiman at 617-559-8734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Rebecca Sher