Jewish families throughout the world recently celebrated the holiday of Chanukah, sharing traditions and hope for the future. An important part of the Chanukah tradition is retelling the story of the Maccabees and our history of renewal and rededication. This story was shared with our children both in religious school settings, and most importantly, in our homes. Many Jewish holidays have the same source of learning. For instance, in addition to learning about Passover in a school setting, children experience the significance and history of Passover at family seders. In home settings, the influence of parents, grandparents, and extended family can enrich the emotional experiences of children.
Too often, adults might feel that Jewish education needs to be in a school setting, forgetting the impact that their own family traditions have. As important as a school setting is, whether it’s preschool, day school or religious school, the family remains the first and foremost teacher of our children. The partnership between home and school is paramount throughout a children’s learning.
When it comes to seeking teachers in our Jewish community programs, schools often struggle finding adults who choose to spend time extending our children’s educational experiences. The fact is that the most Jewish adults are knowledgeable and familiar with the content of what we pass on to our children, and the bonus is that they can model their spirit and emotional connection to Judaism. What might be missing is the self-confidence in not knowing enough, of not having the specialized training in Jewish education, to become a Jewish educator.
As an early childhood educator, I know, as all teachers do, that teaching always includes continued learning. Teachers rely on more than just their past education. There are always new ideas, new strategies, new resources and new research to influence one’s role as teacher. The same can be applied to one who has minimal formal experience in teaching, but has the basic understanding and love for the subject, namely Jewish education.
I believe that we have many resources in our community, adults who could provide a Jewish learning experience for our children, adults who are open to expanding their own knowledge of Jewish history and customs as they share it with our children. When school administrators are looking for teaching staff, the search is not merely for experienced teachers. The search is always for those who are dedicated to the Jewish experience, dedicated to continued learning and dedicated to the Jewish community. This is the time to give some thought as to how you might want to teach or volunteer in our Jewish communities; each of us can be a link to our children’s future. “ V’shinantam l’vanecha v’dibarta bam” Deuteronomy 6:7.
DeborahPruittt has been the Director of Temple Beth Israel’s Preschool for over 30 years and is a contributing writer to Kiddish Magazine.