Fostering a Love of Judaism

Posted by: Meri Weiss on Thursday, March 1, 2018

When the snow finally melts, and the days get longer and gradually warmer, there comes a certain anticipation.

As we round the corner on celebrating Purim, our thoughts turn to preparations for Passover. We know it’s coming every year, but it always seems to sneak up on us a bit, and we’re suddenly swept up in the busy-ness of making arrangements for family visits, cleaning house, and preparing food.

Just as preparing for Passover feels like it has a to do list that will never be completed, the number of things you can teach about the holiday is just as large. There are so many things you could talk about – the story of Passover, what is Matzoh and how do you make it, the steps of the Seder, the ritual foods, the many appearances of the number four. Overall though, beyond making sure our students are familiar with all the rituals and trappings of the holiday, I think the most important Passover lesson is kindness. Sure, you don’t hear about the word kindness directly, but we are reminded to welcome the stranger, because we were strangers in Egypt. We are told to take care of the poor in our midst; those who are hungry, come and partake in the Passover Seder. We have a choice in our behavior, and Judaism asks us to choose kind.

Teaching Jewish values to very young children is a distinct learning curve. I’m not new to teaching, but I am new to teaching this age group at the ECC. I started teaching adult education at Congregation Beth Shalom, moved to teaching teens, then 3rd grade, and now I’m the Judaics Specialist at the ECC. The topics may not change much, but the methods are very different. The younger the child, the more hands on and experiential the learning experience needs to be.

I like to bring different activities to the students. We will cover holidays and Jewish values by having a conversation, creating a craft, telling stories, playing with Jewish objects, tasting ritual foods, singing songs, dancing, learning new words in both Hebrew and English. My goals are to foster a love of Judaism, a feeling of inclusion in Jewish life, and a love of learning.

I also feel strongly that I am not just teaching my young charges, but that I am also teaching their families. I know that many of my students here at the ECC aren’t Jewish. For them, learning what a culture celebrates teaches what is important to that culture, and learning about other cultures teaches that we are all human. For my students that are Jewish, experience has shown me that parental knowledge can range anywhere from, “I’m a Rabbi” to “I just know I’m Jewish.” It’s important to me that families know about what their children are being taught, and that our Jewish families have an easy opportunity to expand their Jewish knowledge and observance. To that end, each week I include a family education supplement in the ECC parent newsletter.

I hope you all enjoy a delicious, educational, and kindness-filled holiday!


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