By Meredith Englander.
Earlier this year I was invited to join the task force for Youth Education at Holy Blossom. I accepted, thinking it would be a good way to play a part in how and what my daughters’ learn at our Temple’s Religious School. What I didn’t realize at that time, however, was that being a part of this committee would actually prove to be a great learning experience for myself!
Michelle Lynn-Sachs, our own former Director of Education at Holy Blossom, kicked off our first meeting. She laid the groundwork and introduced our purpose: to create a vision for our youth education programs at Temple, and to work towards developing a set of strategies to achieve our vision. At that first meeting, each committee member was asked to bring in a personal artifact that connects him or herself to the Temple. I brought in one of my own Religious School report cards from Holy Blossom and learned that I actually haven’t changed all that much since Grade 2! I also learned about what an amazing and diverse group our task force is, each with his or her very own connection to Temple. We are rabbis and teachers, we are parents and students, we are doctors and investment bankers and all kinds of other professionals; we are all Temple members with an interest in helping Holy Blossom to become a centre of excellence for Education in Toronto, and beyond.
The topic for our next meeting was “Looking Inward”. The core discussion was centered on the history of our synagogue, with a deeper focus on the Religious School itself. We learned that we have changed considerably: from the Orthodox movement to Reform; from using whatever physical space was available, to being the first synagogue in Toronto with dedicated classrooms; from being the “go to” place for religious education in Toronto, to being one of many. We learned that in so many ways we have also remained the same: in our commitment to life-long learning, our desire to be a strong and responsive force in the Jewish community, and in our never-ending quest to try to keep our school fresh and current.
The theme of our third and most recent meeting was “Looking Outward”. We researched and discussed the current landscape of Jewish education in North America. There are so many different models for education out there. There are those that focus on the student alone, and those that focus on the student and his or her family together. Some are based in the synagogue, and others are community-based. Many focus only on conversational Hebrew, while others focus on Hebrew for reading, writing and praying, We learned about so many different models at this meeting, but what was most amazing was that it really got us thinking about our own vision for our Religious School.
And what is that vision? We don’t know yet – we haven’t reached the end of this journey. The themes of our next meetings are “Looking Forward” and ultimately “Moving Forward”. Stay tuned!
By Meredith Englander.