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Jewish family education is the process of ongoing development of Jewish family life aimed towards families taking responsibility for achieving and integrating Jewish practice, ritual, knowledge and values into the fabric of their home life. Through Jewish family education, parents become empowered to realize their own strengths and skills as educators, while serving as inspiring role models for their children. Such families come together to create Jewish communities.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FAMILY EDUCATION AND THE SH’ARIM INITIATIVE
The development of Jewish family education came about as a result of changes in American Jewish communal and family life. The first Jewish immigrants to the United States created neighborhoods that were distinctly Jewish, complete with Jewish stores, restaurants, shuls, schools, and businesses. People in the neighborhoods came from the same “old countries,” often spoke Yiddish, and followed the pattern of the Jewish calendar.
In the last half century, we have witnessed the disappearance of traditional Jewish neighborhoods. Without a Jewish neighborhood, new generations of Jews grew up outside of an encompassing Jewish cultural environment. As adults, this group of “culturally deprived” Jews felt insecure in their Jewish knowledge and uncomfortable in Jewish settings. As parents, they lost the ability to convey practice and meaning of Judaism to their children, and Jewish schools had to assume this responsibility.
However, without the active support of parents and the surrounding neighborhood, what these children learned in school was disconnected from community and home. Rabbis, Jewish educators, and community layleaders and professionals soon recognized this challenge and wanted parents to become active partners in their children’s education. Small programs for families began to grow in synagogues and JCCs across the country.
Around the same time and as a result of the impact of racial integration and poverty on schooling, a similar trend occurred in public education. In the 1970s, schools began to involve parents in school and classroom activities and to motivate them to work with their children at home. Educational research validated that parental involvement was a critical factor in the educational success of children.
The scene was set for Jewish family education.
In 1989, CJP and the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts formed the Commission on Jewish Continuity to address the future of the Greater Boston Jewish Community. The Commission chose “strengthening the Jewish family” as a major focus. Seeing synagogues as gateway institutions for Jewish life, the Commission was charged with forging a special partnership with synagogues in support of Jewish education. Some educators and institutions were already offering programs for families through Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ (CJP) Task Force on Supplemental Schools, which supported these programs with grants that reached a cumulative total of $256,000 over five years. The community was ready to undertake a major venture in Jewish family education, and Sh’arim – The Jewish Family Educator Initiative – became the Commission’s first major project.
Since 1993, 42 institutions have joined the Sh’arim initiative. Over 49 professionals have received their certificates in Family Edcuation from Hebrew College.
We are proud of the strong partnership among our agencies—the BJE and Hebrew College, in particular—the participating congregations, day schools, and Jewish community centers, and the federation which have invested the human and financial capital to keep alive the focus on family education. Our sixteen years of achievement in family education in Boston have given us the experience and knowledge to expand the dream. We have changed the continuity paradigm of Jewish education in Boston from being child centered to one of lifelong learning. Engagement in Jewish education throughout one’s lifespan has become an accepted norm in the community.
2008 - 2009 SITES PARTICIPATING IN THE FAMILY EDUCATION INITIATIVE
Original Program Grants
Brandeis Jewish Education Program (BJEP)
Russian Jewish Community School
Temple Beth Zion, Brookline
Planning Grant: Year Two
JCCGB, ECLC, Acton
JCCGB, ECLC, Brookline
JCCGB, ECLC, Wayland
Congregation B’nai Torah, Sudbury
Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton
JCCGB, Gan Yeladim, Newton
MetroWest Jewish Day School, Framingham
Temple Beth David, Westwood
Temple Beth Sholom, Framingham
Temple Shalom Emeth, Burlington
Temple Sinai, Brookline
Beth El Temple Center, Belmont
Chabad Torah Center, Sharon
Congregation Kehillath Israel, Brookline
Congregation Kerem Shalom, Concord
JCCGB, Leventhal-Sidman JCC, Newton
South Area Solomon Schechter Day School, Norwood
JCCGB, Striar JCC, Stoughton
Temple Beth Abraham, Canton
Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley
Temple Beth Emunah, Brockton
Temple Emanuel, Newton
Temple Emunah, Lexington
Temple Isaiah, Lexington
Temple Israel, Boston
Temple Israel, Natick
Temple israel, Sharon
Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline
Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland
Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester
The following sites are involved in rich and exciting Family Education programming. To contact the sites directly, ‘click’ on the links below:
- Temple Israel of Natick
- Temple Israel, Sharon
- Temple Emanuel, Newton
- Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland
- Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester
- Temple Israel, Boston
- Kesher, Cambridge
- Temple Sinai, Brookline
- Congregation Kehillath Israel, Brookline
- South Area Solomon Schechter Day School
- Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline
- Temple Emunah, Lexington
- Temple Beth Abraham, Canton
- Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston
- Temple Isaiah, Lexington
- Metro West Jewish Day School, Framingham
- Congregation Kerem Shalom, Concord
- Temple Beth Emunah, Brockton
- Temple Shalom Emeth, Burlington
- Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton
- Temple Beth David, Westwood
- Congregation B'nai Torah, Sudbury
- Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley
- Beth El Temple Center, Belmont