When we consider religious education for our children, we embark on a topic that has so many variables, it is impossible to narrow it down to one basic curriculum. There are numerous reasons behind this, as Judaism itself is divided by differing traditions, levels of observance, and interpretations.
The well known adage that education begins in the home can be linked to a direct quote from the Torah, “Veshinantem levanecha – and you shall teach your children”. This is found in the Shema, a prayer we recite twice each day, that comes directly from Deuteronomy.
Each generation should be given the opportunity to decide for itself whether and how to hold on to our heirloom, our Jewish Knowledge. We need to teach our children in order to enable them, so the future Jewish generations are secured. No one should take the educational choice of Jewish Learning away from our young generation, as depriving them of this, we reduce their ability to lead a fully committed Jewish life. We need to prioritise education because otherwise, the numbers of assimilated and unidentified Jews will continue to grow.
The importance and value of community life partnered with our parental input has its own great value. Regardless of your Religious affiliation, belonging to a synagogue, attending communal events and sending your children to Religious School twice a week maintains the thread of Jewish continuity.
There is a strong understanding and belief that Jewish education is a critical component of Jewish communal survival. Unfortunately, the cost of Jewish day school education is a recurring topic of conversation within the Jewish community. Despite the basic Torah laws of teaching our children, we are faced with a simple fact, tuition is expensive.
Building a curriculum that engages both families who choose Public School and part-time Religious School and those who send their children to Jewish Day Schools has proven challenging. Additionally, regardless of the Jewish educational choice, many families are not active in their synagogue communities thus denying an opportunity for further reinforcement of Jewish identity and culture.
The trial of finding effective curriculum that crosses these categories and creates a sense of shared community is a difficult task. Yet when we find such a curriculum, it has immense positive impact in producing engaged, knowledgeable, and non assimilated participants in the Jewish community.
For for those students who don’t come from a religious background, the exposure and knowledge gained from Jewish learning will enable them to identify as Jews and feel an undying sense of Jewish pride. When going to college they may encounter people who don’t support Israel or who are anti-Semitic and so it becomes critical that Jewish teenagers know who they are and what they represent.
Teachers know, and studies have shown, that parental involvement has a significant impact on educational success. We tend to think of education as secular however the reach of religious education in the home is far-reaching beyond anything taught formally in a classroom.
Ultimately, we must find a model that can encompass all areas of our Jewish community, regardless of knowledge or affiliation. Multi-generational family programming allows us to teach the parents, including them in community based Jewish activities. This enables parents to take up their rightful role as educators, thus fulfilling the potential of reinforcement in the home. Using flexible programming aimed at all the members of our community is how we can give our children their birthright, their Jewish inheritance.
There is not one definitive way to teach Judaism but by reaching out to our families and strengthening community ties with engaging educational based events, we can bridge our own divides. Such programming encourages us to come together and create a Jewish community built on our religious roots, our cultural heritage and finally, our shared experiences.