When I was in my early 30s I hosted Eser, Hebrew College’s young adult learning program sponsored by CJP, at my apartment in Brookline. I was an active volunteer in the CJP community, including as a LEADS leader and member of the Chai in the Hub committee. Eser was an amazing complement to that experience. I loved gathering with friends, and while I enjoyed the text study, my favorite part was the off-hand discussions that grew out of our learning. Also, the relationships I built remain with me to this day.
One of those relationships was with Rabbi Rachel Silverman, our Eser leader and rabbi at Kehillath Israel (KI) at the time. Rachel was easy to talk to and having a personal connection with a young adult rabbi was really special for me. After Eser, I started attending KI High Holiday services led by Rachel. A few years later, Rachel officiated my daughter’s baby-naming ceremony. Last year, I visited Rachel’s new congregation, Temple Israel of Sharon, with my daughter for Tot Shabbat. Our relationship continued as we both grew from young adults to young mothers.
I live in Dedham now, and after years of having a very strong Jewish community, I now have a very strong local “mommy” community, in which I am the only Jew. Dedham does not have a temple, and has few Jewish residents—a stark difference from living in Brookline, where I socialized almost exclusively with friends from CJP and LEADS.
So when I found out that Temple Hillel B’nai Torah (HBT) in West Roxbury, where I had been attending Tot Shabbat with my daughter, was offering Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL), another Hebrew College adult learning program sponsored by CJP, I jumped on the opportunity. I was excited to meet others who are part of the congregation that I’m slowly becoming involved with to develop my suburban Jewish parent community. It was also encouraging to know that my Eser teacher, Rabbi Rachel Silverman, was now teaching PTJL at her synagogue in Sharon.
PTJL was a bit different from Eser, but I am also a different person. I didn’t come to my Eser classes with the same kinds of questions. Parenting is so different in that I have loads of real-life, day-to-day questions and topics I want to discuss. I’ve certainly taken learning away, but, as with Eser, it wasn’t always connected to the texts of the day. Indeed, as with my Eser experience, I enjoyed the text study, but I was also grateful for the many side discussions I had and the connections I built with fellow parents. I also cherished the opportunity to build a connection in an informal setting with a local teacher, Rabbi Sharon Clevenger.
I know that some people are turned off by the idea of “text study.” For me, the benefit of text-based learning, in both Eser and PTJL, was that it generated questions and discussion that I otherwise might not have thought of without that framework. For me, Eser and PTJL were all about building community that incorporated my Jewish identities through learning. Now, I feel I’ve begun to form a community at HBT through PTJL, which is so important to me as I try to incorporate a Jewish identity and, eventually, a Jewish education, in my 2-year-old daughter’s life.
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