Oct 22 2014
I knew bat mitzvahs were a bad idea. I told my husband this in 2001, about 20 minutes after we returned from the hospital with our two new daughters and he said, “My parents want to know when the baby namings will be.”
I like to think of the baby naming as a “bris for girls,” a custom created by Reform Jews rather than God and therefore, in my mind, totally optional. So, over babies crying, I hollered as best I could—given the fresh incision across my abdomen—that there’d be no baby namings. Then, as I struggled to attach a newborn to each of my nipples, I added, “And there’ll be no bat mitzvahs either. So tell your parents not even to ask.”
But they did ask, and so did my husband, who typically asks for nothing. Read the rest of this entry →
My daughter started Hebrew School last week. She’s in kindergarten and will be learning the Jewish fundamentals—holidays, traditions, lifecycle events—all the good stuff. For me this is a huge deal—HUGE!—because I’m a Jewish educator. And now my daughter is old enough to finally be in Hebrew School, in a grade that I used to teach! It’s very surreal.
Just before the first day of school, we got an email from her teacher with that week’s essential question which would comprise the core of the curriculum. The teacher asked us to talk about the question with our children to help prepare them for the conversation in the classroom. The question was: What do I do that makes me Jewish?
It’s a perfect point to start a Jewish education. The idea of identifying what we already do that makes us Jewish is spot-on for introducing 5-year-olds to Jewish concepts and ideas. As an educator, I loved it. I was curious to see where my daughter would define her Judaism—would she talk about Shabbat time, our Friday night ritual? Or maybe how we go to Tot Shabbat regularly? Or even how Mommy runs programs for children at a synagogue, or how her preschool was part of our synagogue? Read the rest of this entry →
May 27 2014
We are a “dual-school family.” Our daughter is in 6th grade at the local Orthodox Jewish day school while our son is in 3rd grade at a public school.
We often get asked how this came about. I enjoy replying that when deciding which child should learn Torah, we picked our daughter as a corrective step for generations of reduced access to Torah by girls. But that’s really just a line. As with most things in life, there’s a longer story behind this–and as with much of parenting, our intentions only played a minor role.
When we were first considering kindergarten options for our daughter, we chose the day school. We had seen the way that graduates from the day school can navigate rabbinic literature, converse in Hebrew, think critically about moral issues, and behave generally as mensches. We decided that this upbringing–which I think is a more appropriate word in this context than education–was worth the high financial cost. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 26 2014
So, we’ve made a decision.
Our older daughter will be starting kindergarten at the Jewish Community Day School (JCDS) just outside Boston in the fall.
That’s right. We’re sending her to day school. And we’re psyched about it. Perhaps more importantly, she’s psyched about it.
As some of you know, my husband and I have struggled with this issue. On the one hand, we want our children to have a strong Jewish education. On the other hand, it’s a lot of money. Even with the amazing support that is available through the schools and the Federation, it’s still a lot of money. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 20 2014
As part of our month-long series dedicated to Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Lisa Friedman, a Jewish Special educator and advocate for inclusion, shares her guiding principals for creating a learning environment that is accessible to all students.
In my role as an Education Director of a synagogue’s Hebrew school, I have the good fortune to be able to use my skills to develop programs that enable students of all abilities to learn and thrive in a religious school setting. As an advocate of inclusion, I help guide my community to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate and find meaning through all aspects of synagogue life. Yet, not all synagogues have a Jewish Special Educator. Not all synagogues have a professional who advocates for inclusion. What can parents of children with disabilities do to ensure that their children are fully included in Hebrew school?
First and foremost, open and supportive communication is essential for a successful Jewish Hebrew school experience for any child, but especially those with special learning needs. Be forthcoming about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Do not assume that the school will turn you away or will not be able to accommodate your child’s needs. Share your child’s IEP, successful strategies from home and other information that will make it easier for your child to be successful. I am not suggesting that this is a magic bullet. There may be bumps and disappointments along the way. But without the willingness to have the conversations, you will never know what is possible. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 6 2014
February is officially Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), and we’re happy to partner again with Matan to run a special series on Kveller to highlight the challenges, successes, and everything in between that comes with raising a child with special needs.
Through advocacy, education, and training opportunities, Matan empowers the Jewish community to include children with special needs.
Finding a school that is a good match for a child with special needs can be a monumental task, so this year, we’ll devote this series to all things education. Let’s talk Hebrew school, day school, early childhood programs, inclusion programs, mainstreaming, and special education. Every Thursday in February, we’ll feature a different voice from the special needs community, so be sure to check back in each week.
We’ll kick things off later today with an account by Benay Josselson, who–despite earlier predictions–successfully mainstreamed her son into a Jewish day school environment, so keep your eyes peeled and stick with us all month.
Jan 21 2014
I had always envisioned my children growing up feeling the sense of “Jewishness” that was so special to me in my own childhood, so we started our son at a Jewish preschool at the age of 2.
But it quickly became clear that he simply couldn’t function in a classroom and was getting nothing out of school. Our journey, which eventually led to an autism spectrum diagnosis, brought with it a roller coaster of emotions and never-ending to-do lists, and dealing with all of that required me to push aside my disappointment about giving up his Jewish preschool. It had become obvious that we had to send him to a special education program to provide the hours of intensive therapy he needed. So without so much as a glance back we forged ahead on this path, and amazingly after two years he had progressed so far that he was almost unrecognizable from the 2-year-old he was before it all started.
We found ourselves at the beginning of this current school year, his last year of preschool, with some decisions to make. The special education preschool program in our new school district, as remarkable as it is, did not provide enough hours of school for him with only four short afternoons a week. We knew we should consider a mainstream preschool as a supplement to his special needs program. He would benefit socially from being around “typical” peers, but we couldn’t help but wonder if he was really ready for it. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 18 2013
Last weekend, I took my three kids, ages 14, 10, and almost 7, to a performance of African acrobats. It’s a terrific show, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the NYC area before January 5th. It’s totally not Mother Africa’s fault that, in the middle of it, I was thrown into an existential crises (I am prone to those).
Here’s the thing: I am a Soviet-born Jew. My husband is African-American. Our kids are Jewish African-Americans who sometimes speak Russian. At our house, I’m in charge of the Jewish and Russian part, and my husband is in charge of the African-American part. So you’d think we’d have everything covered.
I thought we had everything covered.
Until I sat in a theater on 42nd Street watching a troupe of amazing acrobats and it occurred to me that my kids know nothing about their African heritage.
Not their African-American heritage; their African one. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 12 2013
The Northern California air is crisp and biting as I unbuckle my son from his car seat and slide his arms into his Spiderman sweatshirt.
“Stand right here by me and don’t move,” I warn him, reaching back in to hoist the baby’s car seat up into the air. I keep one hand on Max as the other clicks the baby seat into the stroller. Lunchbox. Water bottle. Mitzvah Star. Five dollars for challah. Baby’s blanket is on. Where is his hat?
“Stay right here, Max, there are too many cars in this parking lot. Wait for Mommy. Hold on to Bennie’s stroller please.” A wadded up diaper rolls out of the passenger seat as I grab my diaper bag. I stuff it back in before anyone notices.
“Good morning, Simon Family! Hi Max! Or should I call you Spiderman? That’s a pretty cool sweatshirt you’ve got on!”
He beams. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 10 2013
I felt positively Goldilocks-like as I made the rounds at open houses of prospective Jewish day schools for my 4-year-old son.
“This school is too big,” I said as I surveyed the hordes of parents spilling out of the auditorium.
“This school is too small,” I frowned at the empty seats and scant class size.
“This school is too rich,” I sighed as I took note of Gucci handbags and snippets of conversations concerning travel plans for St. Maarten.
Somehow, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I have become unwillingly embroiled in the massive wave of hysteria that sweeps the parents in my community when faced with the big day school decision. Read the rest of this entry →