By Julie Wolf

When Amy Kohen stepped down from her position as the North-area connector for JFN, she left some big shoes to fill! Fortunately for us, Valerie Sales Geary is here to fill them. She is a wonderful addition to the connector crew, well versed in the new-parent and new-participant perspective. Valerie grew up in Framingham and has lived in Sudbury for five years with her husband, Chris, and their children Joshua (4) and Gabriella (1.5). An environmental engineer for 15 years before becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom, Valerie discusses her transition from work to home as well as issues she and her husband are exploring as an interfaith family. 

Welcome to the other side of JFN! You’ve been a participant for several years now. What made you decide to join the staff as a connector?

As a new mom four years ago, I was looking to connect with other moms in the area. I came across JFN, and attended the drop-in playgroup at JFS Framingham. That was my first experience with JFN! Since then, I have attended many of the holiday events and some of the community service events. I really like the people I met and like the warm and welcoming feeling at the events. When deciding to join JFN as a connector, I felt like it would be a great opportunity to meet new families and try to welcome them into our community and become more connected myself.    

Like so many of us (myself included), you’re Jewish, but your husband isn’t. Through Jewish Family Network, you are welcoming not just other young families, but other young Jewish families. Why has this connection to the Jewish community been important to you and your family?  

Even though my husband is not Jewish, the Jewish culture is important to me, and it is important for me to teach my children about Judaism. I am hoping to pass down  Jewish values and culture to our children by becoming active in the Jewish community. I feel it is important to get involved in the Jewish community early in the children’s lives so that they have a good foundation for a Jewish upbringing.

Are you and your husband still exploring “what to do” in terms of celebrating holidays, religious education and the extended family?  What are the issues you are most concerned about, or even baffled by?  

Yes, we are still figuring out how to raise our children regarding religious education. My husband is not affiliated with any religion — which sometimes makes things easier, I think. We do celebrate Jewish holidays with my extended family. However, we’re not sure yet what kind of formal Jewish education our kids will receive. What’s really important to me is that they know about their Jewish identity and culture, and then we’ll take it from there.    

In your position at JFN, do you have any special goals for yourself?  How do you feel your background or your experiences might help to other parents?

I’d like to make the transition for new moms who are staying home with their children a little easier. The transition from working full-time to being home with your kids full-time can be tough. Although I don’t miss working in an office, I definitely do miss the adult interaction. Hopefully I will plan events where parents can come out and enjoy some adult conversation and make connections for themselves as well as their children. I look forward to organizing community events where not only the kids can learn and play, but also that parents can get their needs met as well.  I look forward to hearing from other parents who live in Sudbury, Wayland and the surrounding towns who want to help and we can do this together.

You can reach Valerie at vsalesgeary@jfsmw.org.

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