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From Our President - The Rabbi Joe Revolution

Religious school is about to wrap up for the year and we will soon drift into the quieter summer months at B’nai Shalom. Rabbi Eiduson, Debbie Morin, Rabbi Gurevitz, our teachers, Steven Goldstein — our VP of Education, our lay volunteers, and many others are already hard at work planning for next year’s religious school. I am incredibly grateful for our religious school, Joe’s leadership, and our teachers and volunteers who continue to develop and create programs to make it a fun and fulfilling experience for our students rather than just more school.

I get lots of feedback from the congregation on a number of programs. Family Education is one that I hear about a lot. With three daughters in religious school (ages 15, 13, and 10), it’s also an area within the congregation where I have a lot of experiences.

The most common question is why do we have Family Education days? We have this program because being Jewish is a lifelong endeavor. Judaism is a commitment to our community, beliefs, tzedakah, traditions and education. Our belief as a congregation is that part of teaching our students about Jewish life is through the engagement, support, and the presence of their parents.

I would also like to share some of my more personal thoughts. From my perspective as President and “Chief Worry Officer” for B’nai Shalom: For our kids, life is far more transactional than it was for us. Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Peleton — everything is a click away. I genuinely worry about the future of B’nai Shalom and similar congregations if we become transactional in how we engage our member families and students. Rabbi Gurevitz and I have had some conversations about what we refer to as “Craig’s List Mitzvah.” The Craig’s list Mitzvah is a program offered by someone with Rabbi-like credentials (ten months of online monthly classes, as opposed to the five-year graduate programs required of a proper seminary program), who, for a price, will run a B’nai Mitzvah service for your child without all the hassle of a Jewish Education, Torah Study, involvement in the community, or a set of religious beliefs and values. A one-time celebration with no context of community or life-long Jewish learning diminishes what young people will understand to be the deeper meaning of their religion and the cultural heritage of which they are a part. The best thing we can do is be involved and show our children that Jewish education and participation in Jewish community is lifelong and begins well before the Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration and indefinitely after.

From my perspective as Rob Blumberg, the father of three kids in religious school: What I love about Family Education is that we engage on topics that our schools do not. Our local school systems are terrific, but they gloss over topics like anti-Semitism, civil rights, refugee crisis, homelessness, the Holocaust, LGBTQ, and other areas that are part of our values and moral fabric as Jews. This year I attended a Family Education day with my youngest daughter, Nina (10), where we learned about refugees. During that time my mind shifted from the usual Sunday “when can I buy light bulbs and go to the gym” to “I am so incredibly grateful that I am able to sit with my daughter and learn about something as important as refugees. We are lucky that CBS does this.” On the drive home, Nina asked me questions about refugees, and I was glad that I could respond to her in the context of what we saw and heard that morning on something as deep and complex as refugees. While I must admit that I enjoy my Sunday errands, yard work, workouts, or whatever else I have planned, the few weeks that I attend Family Education are worth the time and compromise in the grand scheme of things.

We are doing something very right with our religious school program. Our benchmark is our much higher than average enrollment for students post B’nai Mitzvah. Our enrollment for Chai School is not only high based on our own historic data, but it is remarkable when benchmarked both regionally and nationally. As the father of 15 and 13-year olds, it is terrific when the experience for our students changes with trips to NY and Washington DC and pizza parties every Tuesday night before a relaxed curriculum. I would like to say that our religious school is always evolving but I don’t believe that. Our religious school is a revolution. Evolution is slow. Our unique ability to continuously refine and develop programming, engage our students and families, and create a genuinely enjoyable experience for our students post-Mitzvah is nothing short of revolutionary.

With appreciation,
Rob Blumberg

Sun, May 19 2019 14 Iyar 5779