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I’m sure that if you are a parent of a school age child, you are probably resting shoveling snow or making sure your kids aren’t going too stir crazy. However, reading this you are probably the parent of a Jewish school age child, who is in the middle of their secular and/or Hebrew school year. This blog entry is just a few tips from a secular and Hebrew School teacher to help your kids with their Jewish studies and maybe even some tips for you and your family experiencing Judaism together.
First, a caveat. These strategies are useful no matter what school your child attends whether it be Jewish day school or a synagogue education program. Some are also appropriate for their regular secular studies.
1. Practice, practice, practice – The key to learning anything, especially a foreign language like Hebrew is repetition. If you want to help your child learn Hebrew or any of their Judaic studies, practice with them. Try to include your child’s Hebrew School homework into a routine. If the school is part of a synagogue education program, 10-15 minutes of Hebrew practice three times a week may be a good place to start.
2. Cultural Infusion – As part of a Jewish day school, your child probably has plenty of enculturation at school; Judaics is part of the daily schedule. However, if your children go to a synagogue program, that might not be the case. In addition to that, secular subjects, sports programs, and for the older kids, social issues tend to take precedence over Hebrew. For both religious and secular school, its important to stress the importance of learning to avoid ignorance.
In order to demonstrate and model the importance of learning their heritage, children should be exposed to Judaics in their home life. If your house is not one that strictly observes Jewish law etc… start with having a Shabbat dinner at home once a month after a trip to Friday night or Saturday morning services. Find a synagogue that caters to your families’ needs, not one that will dictate the “right” way to be a Jew. If Shabbat means pizza and a movie for you and your family, that is just as right and holy as anything I can think of!
3. Personal Connection – Finally, it is important to encourage your children to find some personal connection to Judaism and Jewish life. The religious concepts of Judaism (one we get past the basics of G-d / Creation) can get pretty abstract and confusing for younger children (heck, even for older children and adults!) and it it sometimes difficult for kids to understand the overall messages of the teachings. A better place to start might be the Jewish history of, say, your family. Did your child’s grandparents come from Eastern Europe during the Shoah? Is your synagogue one of the first built in your area?
Another connection could be doing another Jewish activity with your children, such as cooking traditional Jewish foods for the holidays. While cooking, learn together about why we have those certain foods; the history behind the holiday etc.
These are just some ideas for you parents out there from an actual Hebrew school educator. If you have questions throughout the year, please feel free to contact me for some more directed advice.
Until next time… keep it real.
The Boston Mensch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow me on Twitter! @thebostonmensch