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 engaging. An example is 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 understand various viewpoints.
I want my students to love being Jewish, knowing that later that love will bring them to pursue their own education further.
In 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 their need to develop self-discipline.
The families I work with usually choose to have a ‘private’ Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony: they haven’t been part of a congregation, 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.