A big part of being Jewish is community. You’ve heard it over and over, but it’s absolutely true: as Jews, we are bound to each other (for better or for worse). That extends to all aspects of our lives. The relationship we have with each other is something to both nourish and cherish. When we do so, we allow the roots of our Jewish communal family to grow, to deepen, and to strengthen.

Our love of community was in our hearts and minds when we developed Shorashim (meaning “roots”), our hands-on approach to learning designed for K-1st grade students and their families. Under the creative guidance of our Congregational Educator Melissa Rudman and our award-winning spiritual leader Rabbi David Paskin, Shorashim mixes the traditional religious school experience with programming that asks for the participation of the entire family. The key to Shorashim is learning through living.

Shorashim meets 2-3 times a month. We offer the very best of everything: family and community celebrations of holidays, occasional Sunday morning learning sessions for children, and community Shabbat dinners, all vital opportunities for Shorashim families to develop relationships (and ultimately friendships) with other families in our community.

In addition, Shorashim families are given the chance to develop close connections with their Madrich, or tour guide/teacher. The role of the Madrich is multi-faceted: to connect with families individually to check in and reflect on their family’s Jewish journey; to provide spiritual guidance when appropriate; and to work with families who have volunteered to host home programming.

Melissa Rudman, our Congregational Educator, says, “Shorashim provides families with the knowledge, activities, and opportunities to bring Judaism into their homes. Families will be immersed in the hands on approach to learning (i.e build, decorate, and celebrate in a sukkah rather than just reading about it).”

Since we began Shorashim, we have noticed an encouraging trend: families who were involved in Shorashim are engaged in their children’s learning, have embraced living Jewishly, have increased their involvement with the synagogue, and have developed lasting friendships with other members of the community.

Mary Leder, the parent of a child in Shorashim last year, shared her outlook on the program, which we think sums it up nicely: “Shorashim get-togethers were a unique opportunity to begin to build a family between the TBA families. When you come together in each other’s homes and the kids can play together and share their own toys, I think it speeds up the process of learning more about one another.”

We think so too. See you soon.

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