by Ira Wise, March 2018/Shevat-Nisan 5778
In January we invited Kitah Daled – Vav (4th – 6th) parents to join us in a critical conversation about how we engage our students. A lot of parents joined us! Thank you!
Our goals for the morning were to determine: How we might work together to get our temple kids to connect to one another? How can we engage them better? And finally how do we help students (and parents) see themselves as part of a community at B’nai Israel, and not simply as members or participants?
Susan Walden asked those present to think about and share on one of three questions:
As the conversation continued, parents expressed how their answers informed what they have always wanted for their children. We heard about a parent that still reads aloud to her Kitah Vav (6th) student and another who sings his children to sleep. Another parent remembered her father would gather the family before heading to synagogue for Rosh Hashanah to give his own blessing to them.
Then we brainstormed ideas for activities, programs and events to connect, engage and build community. Among them were taking field trips, interfaith group activities and doing Tikkun Olam (social justice/world repair) activities, not just learning about them. Parents suggested team building and bonding activities as well as simple mixers to help the kids get to know one another better.
We ended with a survey so we could better document ideas and what it would take to realize them. The parents in the room said “Please ask everyone who couldn’t be here to complete this too!” We have placed it online and sent the link to the entire school.
The next steps involve the Religious School Vision Team, the task force, the staff and the faculty taking the information and building a viable plan to move forward. If you are a Religious School Parent and did not complete the survey, or more importantly, if you would like to be an active part of developing the next steps, please call or email me (203-336-1858 or email@example.com). Our goal is to help you and your children make more connections with everyone else here at B’nai Israel and to encourage you all to deepen your Jewish experiences. And finally, we know none of the kids we are talking about drive. So please encourage them to engage and to participate in the life of the congregation.
 Susan is one of our teachers and a member of the Religious School Vision Team. She is a also a member of the Temple Board of Trustees and is working with a task force to explore how we can expand how we engage with our youth.