Dear Parents and Guardians of TNT Religious School Students,
Welcome and welcome back to our Temple Ner Tamid Religious School community. This fall the Parent Committee is excited to bring to you some ideas and activities that we hope will foster community, communication, and parent involvement in the religious school. Please take a moment to read about these, join us at an event, and/or let us know your thoughts.
Essential Info Packet: On the first day of school, we will be distributing a folder containing some of the most requested pieces of information as well as fliers on upcoming events. This packet is not meant to replace the Religious School Handbooks (available on the temple website), but rather to supplement them with a quick guide. We’d love to hear from you what information was helpful to you and what else you’d like to see included in the future.
Buddies: This year we started matching up families that are new to our religious school with returning families who will help introduce them to the community and/or serve as a friendly resource. There will be a welcome event on the first day of school, September 15th, at 10 AM for new families and buddies. Parent Committee member Melissa Shepen is coordinating the buddy program. If you would like to serve as a buddy for a new family or need a buddy, please contact Melissa (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Maribel Leon (email@example.com).
Social events for parents: We have planned two opportunities this fall for parents to socialize with one another and our religious school staff and hope to plan more events throughout the year.
- On Sunday, September 22nd, while your kids are in class, we will once again hold our Stop and Chat--a casual drop-in gathering for parents. Come hang out with us for bagels and coffee, meet other parents, and catch up with friends. You will also have an opportunity to meet your child’s teacher. A schedule will be emailed and posted for the class visiting times.
- Our Parent/Staff Social in the Sukkah is Saturday evening, October 19th from 7:30 to 9:30 PM. Bring a beverage of your choice, and join us for appetizers, Havdalah, and socializing under the stars. RSVPs appreciated.
E-Geret Kids: Parent Committee member Sandra Kahn coordinates this newsletter, featuring important dates and information, and content on Jewish values and parenting. We are looking for volunteers to write for two sections in upcoming editions—J365, in which a parent writes a little bit about Judaism in the everyday lives of their family, and the Kids’ Corner, which features one of our religious school students talking about something meaningful to them. Please contact Sandra (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you or your child would be interested in writing for either section.
Class parents: This fall, we are launching a class parent network in order to improve class-level connections and communication. Coordinated by Parent Committee Member Dana Hudon, class parent volunteers will work with the Parent Committee and religious school staff to share information about classroom needs and upcoming events with other families. If you are interested in volunteering as a class parent, please contact Dana (email@example.com).
We hope the back to school season is an enjoyable one for you and your family. Most importantly, we want to hear from you! What can we as parents do to support one another as members of the religious school and Temple Ner Tamid communities? Let us know. We also welcome you to join the Parent Committee. If you’re interested, please get in touch with us.
Both the start of the school year and the High Holidays have the feel of new beginnings. We anticipate all sorts of possibilities and hopes. Maybe it’s the effect of fresh paint and school supplies. (Even as an adult, I’m convinced I’m just one Trapper Keeper away from getting my life organized.) Maybe it’s the excitement of special clothes, seeing everybody at temple, family dinners, and the anticipation of days “off” from school and work.
I work at a college and the close timing of the start of the school year and the High Holidays have always made the September/October start of these two new years more meaningful to me than January 1. This has become even more so the case since becoming the parent of a school-aged child. As with any new beginning, the start of school and the celebration of the High Holidays offer a chance to take stock of where we have been and what we want the new year to hold for and with our children, as well as for ourselves as parents and people. We acknowledge growth from where we were at this time last year through changes in bedtimes, responsibilities and privileges, behavior and perspectives. It’s time to make the link for us and the kiddos how our actions are connected to what we want to learn and who we want to be—and that we’re going to make mistakes and learn how to address them, whether through more learning or atonement.
To me, the themes and structure of the High Holidays are reflection, aspiration, and action. I and my family tend to make our “resolutions” at this time of the year through talking about what we want the new year to hold—in terms of what we want to learn and do and be. I don’t know that these resolutions necessarily stick any better than whatever I used to do on December 31/January 1, but I’d like to think so. Rather than change for the sake of change, we look for ways to connect our resolutions to our personal and family values and the role Judaism plays in that. We talk about what we want for our family and communities in the upcoming year, and how we can move toward that. Discussing these over family dinners or apples and honey doesn’t hurt the cause. Tying this to the cyclical nature of the calendar, we try to frame these as ongoing projects, rather than destinations to arrive at.
While I mostly anticipate the start of fall happily, some of my experience of the High Holidays also helps me remember that new beginnings, and learning, are not always exciting in a way that feels so obviously positive. First of all, the newness wears off. And usually pretty quickly. More importantly, the High Holiday services, I think both by design and unintentionally, can feel unfamiliar and strange to me. I don’t read Hebrew; the melodies are different than usual or what I grew up with; there’s a significant time investment and a lot of sitting; I don’t know what I think about some of the content. I’d like to say I always respond with wonder and gratitude for how much there is for me to still learn and think about during the “days of awe,” but I can also feel intimidated, tired, and a little lost. As I wrestle with that, I try to take from it a reminder to myself to cut myself, my son, and my students some slack. Being in unfamiliar places—whether it is a physical space or a more metaphorical one, like learning new information or navigating a new phase of child development/parenting—is hard and unsettling. And that’s growth, too.
I hope this season of new beginnings is a meaningful, manageable, and reflective one for all of us.
Is anything new this year in religious school?? Absolutely!! In addition to launching special new learning and doing opportunities for parents and students, our goal is to increase communication between home and school and to create more opportunities for personal connection. Highlights for this year include engaging Parent Committee programming, expansion of Jewish Family Journeys to grade 3, new grade 4 end-of-the year Jewish community project, local Passover package mitzvah project for grade 5 families, 6thgrade family retreat at Camp Zeke, 8thgrade weekend trip to Philadelphia, and so much more.
Jewish learning is not just for kids, it’s for families! And, raising Jewish kids is a communal endeavor. Because being part of being Jewish includes connection to community, it’s hard for parents to teach their children what it means to be Jewish alone. Being Jewish means being part of a people, part of something larger than ourselves. We are there for each other in good times and bad. We teach each other and we learn from one another. We work together and celebrate with each other. Judaism is not something we do alone. We do it in the context of a community.
No one is born knowing what it means to be Jewish. If we want our children to be Jewish, to use Jewish values to guide their path, and to find meaning and purpose in Judaism, they need to learn. And that’s the job that parents and religious school teachers do together - we teach our children to be Jews. First and foremost, we are role models. Children learn how to behave by watching how we behave. If we want our children to incorporate Jewish values and practices in their lives not only now but when they are adults, then we must model those very behaviors for them today. We also need to give our kids the chance to continually learn, do and be part of a Jewish community. As a result of these efforts we help them strengthen their identity as Jews. As we work together on this holy endeavor, we prepare our children to be the next link in the chain of tradition.
The goals of our religious school program are not simple ones, but working in concert we can succeed. Parents, we always welcome your input and ideas. Most of all though, we welcome your partnership and active participation in creating the future of the Jewish community.
Iris Schwartz Ed.D.
Director of Education
Leaving overnight camp after almost a month is always hard. Your bunkmates and counselors have become your family while you are away from home. Packing up is a mixture of laughter and tears. It sometimes feel like I am collecting a summer of memories to take home with me. When our parents arrive and we are forced to say goodbye to the people and place we love so much, it’s almost hard to comprehend. After dozens of hugs and photos, it’s finally time to go. Driving through the gates towards home, I know that the pictures, Shabbat, color war songs, and jokes we told will carry me through until I see another camper at Temple or even one of my counselors. We have that instant connection as soon as we see each other or sing a song we love from camp. The smiles instantly appear. There is no feeling like seeing my friends for the first time the following summer. It’s only been one day and I already long for that return to camp.
By Sam Schneider, 9th Grade, after returning home from camp in August
With summer drawing to another end, it is with much excitement and enthusiasm that we look to a new school year! Shoresh is growing by leaps and bounds, both with the number of students enrolled for fall, and programmatically. We are opening up two additional classrooms to accommodate our community. We have restructured our afternoon in-school enrichment program, which our three’s and four’s participate in. In the past, Shoresh teachers have taught these classes, but with our ever growing population, I have decided to have our Morahs “assist” rather than teach. I’ve met with some wonderful outside specialists to come in and teach them and am in the process of putting the finishing touches on these plans. We will now have Hebrew with Limor, Cooking with Danielle, Art by Angela, Sports Agility and Training with Amazing Athletes, and Calisthenics/Movement with Coach Kasem. And we will continue with our in-school STEM program with the Montclair Learning Center. We will continue with our monthly Tot Shabbat program. Come and join us! While growth is good, we strive to continue to maintain the homegrown, nurturing and small-school mentality that has made Shoresh what is it and continues to be – a wonderful, welcoming, and loving educational place for all children! Pease feel free to stop by anytime for a visit!