I always liked school, but I was not as enthusiastic about religious school. As I look back on my Jewish education, what I value most are the friendships it helped me to build and the foundation it gave me for connection to other Jewish communities at different stages of my life. I see the same with my kids as they move through high school and college. They seek out their Beth Am friends at their high school. They engage with Hillel in college and connect to former Beth Am classmates when they are home on break. They invite their non-Jewish friends to share in holiday celebrations. It is wonderful to see.
The value of these connections to Jewish traditions and Jewish friends would never have been apparent to them when they were whining about Sunday school or Hebrew lessons. They may not even be apparent to them now. But they are very clear to us, their parents. The opportunity to build lasting friendships and to create a foundation that will help them be part of communities with shared values for the rest of their lives is precious, indeed.
That’s why at Beth Am we offer so many ways for kids to engage in Jewish education, from Camp Beth Am to Sunday Program, from learning through service and travel, to learning through theatre, from family learning to Hebrew classes. We package the gift of a Jewish education in many ways because we know the lifelong value of opening that present.