Validating Children and Inspiring Adults

IMAG1231On Wednesday Night, Maxine Handelman from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) came to speak to our educators. She is the consultant for Early Childhood Education at the USCJ. Before she arrived our staff read an article entitled “Differing Faiths in a Faith Based Program.” This was an article from the NAEYC magazine, about an experience at a Jewish Preschool, that was open to faiths, where a child wanted to discuss Jesus. This was the springboard for our conversation because the number one Principle of NAEYC is “Above all, we shall not harm children.” How does this teacher, who is teaching Judaism, validate the child without belittling them, but also still uphold the Jewish beliefs that the school teaches?


This was a lot of food for thought. Maxine started by having us list the Jewish parts of our curriculum that we loved the most. Our staff of all faiths listed a variety of things: shul, holiday celebrations, tzedakah, mitzvot, the Hebrew language, the list went on and on. We then had to list items that we felt were particular to Judiasm. (including keeping Kosher, wearing kipot, and the Parsha). Finally, our discussion evolved into which of the Jewish values is universal and applicable to all. This list included morals, education, celebrations, miracles, and love.


This conversation could be a hard one to have. Our educators are multi-faith and figuring out how to appropriately discuss this topic could be difficult. However, it was our non-Jewish educators who began listing the things that they loved about the Jewish curriculum. Then everyone began chiming in.  Also, our Jewish educators talked about how staff that isn’t Jewish is eager to research and learn the reasons behind the traditions and customs. (If you have never seen Morah Bernie welcome Shabbat on Fridays, you will have to experience it sometime!)


This conversation was multi-faceted, inspiring, and eloquent. We were able to affirm the ideals that we hold dear. However, we were able to see that many of these values are universal, including the love of children and the code of doing no harm. We practice this daily here at Beth Shalom. Will it be a transition to have a variety of  faiths in this school, yes, but we are celebrating the Jewish ideals and heritage that Beth Shalom holds dear. We also will be exposing our children to a variety of ideas and faiths, as diverse as this world. In this way, we are validating the children that we work with.


It is interesting that this week our theme is multiculturalism. Our children will truly be exposed to a variety of cultures and faiths, but at the same time taught this Jewish curriculum we hold dear. Our conversation was inspiring and we came out of the meeting ready to grow and inspired to teach.


Shabbat Shalom!


Published by cbseducation


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