The Torah instructs us to ‘teach your children: as you sit at home, as you walk on your way, when you lay down and when you rise up.’ In short, our children’s spiritual well-being should always be foremost in our consciousness. Even though I have taught many children of all ages, it is still their parents who are the primary teachers: by example and by what is said and not said in the home. I encourage parents to talk about their values and spiritual beliefs with their children: it’s OK to talk about your own doubts and questions.
I think Jewish education should be fun. I love Hebrew and continue to find it fascinating. Such as learning to tie tzitzit as in the photo to the left. I encourage my students to think critically; they don’t have to agree with everything, but at least have an understanding of various viewpoints.
In Vancouver, I now teach children individually, and I find that the teacher-student relationship is what tends to motivate my students to learn. This means I need to find what reaches each one and tailor my efforts to fit. I have students with whom I sing alot, others make posters and create Jewish artifacts, others thrive on history, stories and discussion, some enjoy tackling new Hebrew challenges and then helping me lead a service using what they’ve learned.
I want my students to love being Jewish, knowing that later that love will bring them to pursue their own education further.
I truly enjoy working with Bar/Bat Mitzvah families. There tends to be a transformation in how the family members relate to one another as they all prepare for this coming of age experience. Parents sometimes learn that their child can lead them. Students can learn to take seriously their position in the family and to self-discipline. Some of my B’nai Mitzvah are members of Or Shalom and their ceremony takes place there.
Other families undertake to have a ‘private’ Bar/Bat Mitzvah: they haven’t been part of a congregation previously, and don’t want to join one just to facilitate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience. These experiences have been intense and profound because of the extra effort involved. It takes much more thought, planning, and self-examination to create the independent Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The results have been wonderful, both for the families and myself.