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Community Blog Spiritual Parenting

By Michelle Black

I was introduced to Hebrew College’s Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL)  program when my four kids were still in pre-school.  I dropped my kids off and took advantage of the time I had to myself to dive into Jewish texts, examine my Jewish values as they applied to parenting, and build a community of friends, parents and peers struggling with the same stages of life I found myself in. I hadn’t been in a classroom environment since college, and it had been even longer since I had dedicated time to Jewish education.  I loved it and was immediately hooked.  When our class ended, our daily routines took us each in our separate ways.

Almost five years later, I now had four children all attending The Rashi School.  In addition to receiving a strong secular education, my children were learning stories from the torah, acting upon their Jewish values, and creating a strong sense of community for themselves. I was so happy about the education they were receiving and, to be honest, was eager to find a similar adult learning community for me.  At the same time, being involved with CJP, I had heard about Open Circle Jewish Learning program being formed in partnership with Hebrew College, so I reached out to see if we could create a new Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class for parents with elementary school aged kids.

To my surprise, Hebrew College had curriculum related to young children, ‘tweens, teens and even grandparents! We invited 14 women to join, found a fabulous instructor through Hebrew College, worked with Rashi to reserve a room so we could meet right after drop-off and off we went… diving deep into spiritual parenting, sharing stories of struggle, meaning, and joy, as we worked to interpret the ancient stories and practices of our traditions and weave them into our modern parenting roles. The group came together and immediately clicked.

Our instructor, Judy Elkin, was an expert facilitator, teacher and friend.  We met in classrooms and for drinks in each others homes. We zoomed through the provided curriculum and then we circled back again, to the beginning, when we wanted more time together and to go deeper into our learning.  Finally, when we finished one course, we agreed to move to another. It didn’t really matter which texts we were reading – whether geared for young children or grandparents – it was the conversation around the table that brought these texts to life. These women become my close friends and confidants. We met regularly and shared the stories of our lives, with vulnerability, humor, and a real desire to infuse Jewish values and parenting to create a Jewish home for our families.

We studied together for four years, eventually exhausting the PTJL curriculum and moving onto books and other texts to share. Today, we are studying Mussar, some of us have joined a torah study group, others have chosen to dive into learning more about Israel. What really strikes me the most is that we all came from varying backgrounds and confidence with our Jewish education. And now, we have become a network and community of active adult Jewish learners.

When I first enrolled in the PTJL class on a whim during those nursery school years, I could never have imagined how important the program would be for shaping my Jewish identity. I feel fortunate that all my children have benefitted from a Jewish day school eduction. In many regards, through my pursuit and participation in PTJL, so have I.  I am incredibly grateful to CJP and Hebrew College for making learning so easy and accessible, and I am forever grateful to be living here in Boston where we have access to such an incredible educators and institutions committed to strengthening our Jewish identity through education, action and so much more.

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