The tumult of work commitments, aging parents, children with different needs, nurturing relationships, and hobbies—how can anyone possibly balance all of that while caring for young children—not to mention caring for oneself?

While Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL) doesn’t provide easy solutions, it does offer a framework for discussion and thought, a chance to delve into age-old wisdom and modern interpretations.

As the instructor for Temple Shalom’s class, I noticed that one concept kept popping up, no matter what specific issue we were discussing: the importance of community.

How can we show our children that Shabbat is fun, even if it means they will need to leave soccer practice early or miss movie night at school? Joining together to celebrate with other families enlivens the Shabbat experience. How do we show our children to be selfless and giving? Cooking together to bring food to a shiva visit helps ensure that supporting others in times of need becomes a familiar and natural response.

It turns out that taking our intentions from the realm of the abstract to reality, in all of its messiness and imperfection, often requires a scaffolding of relationships and community. By engaging with a broader Jewish community beyond our homes and families, we not only add fun and meaning and support to our lives, but we also enhance our children’s pride in their Jewish identity.

In our classroom, we created a community of conversation, learning, reflection, and introspection. The group realized that a life enriched by ritual, values, reflection, and tradition grows stronger when we share it with others. In fact, many in the group decided to get together for a Shabbat dinner—parents and children together, a new community. Seeing the learnings go beyond the classroom confirmed for me the power and excitement of the PTJL model and curriculum.

I saw participants find validation that they are not alone in their challenges, and find a caring community within which to share ideas, glimmers of strategies, questions, frustrations, successes, and joys. Our class was rich with discussion and insights and learning.

We call ourselves “Am Yisrael”—the People of Israel, not “Dat Yisrael”—the Religion of Israel. I believe that the importance of community to living a life engaged in Judaism cannot be overstated, and I am delighted that our class participants see the value of creating community with intention.

This article was originally published at HebrewCollege.edu/Parenting. Heather Zacker can be reached at heather@heatherzacker.com.

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