Reflecting on B’yachad, our Havdalah Family Learning Club Pilot

Based on a recommendation from Temple Sholom’s Strategic Planning initiative, we recently piloted a new family education model called “B’yachad: Family Learning Club” for a small group of families with 4- and 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in Religious School. B’yachad means “together” and this program was based around best practices from our Yom Horim (Parent’s Day) events, Shabbat Mishpacha and Religious School Junior and Senior Kindergarten classes. What does it mean to be bringing young families into our community in 2019? How are we meeting them where they are and getting them to come to where we are?

During three monthly meetings, our group of eight families (including ambassadors from Gan Shalom and Religious School) met on Saturday afternoons for family holiday celebrations, Havdalah ceremonies, and family dinners. Hands-on children’s breakout sessions were led by Helena Solomon and Carrie Rosen (teachers in both Gan Shalom and Religious School) while our Rabbis discussed Jewish wisdom for parenting with the grown-ups. We live in a city with so many things for young families to do in our Jewish community and beyond. Why did these families choose to spend their time at Temple Sholom?

In partnership with PJ Library, we were able to reach out beyond our walls to families as they seek Jewish connection and community. Bringing them together to create relationships with our clergy, staff and one another allowed us to foster a warm atmosphere among a group of strangers on a Saturday afternoon over food, learning and ritual. Through B’yachad we got to show these families the best of Temple Sholom.

B’yachad was planned with a dynamic team including Irene Goldstein, Melissa Fischer, Rabbi Gellman, Heidi Cooper, Emma Harmon and Helena Solomon in consultation with Susan Zukrow of the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) as part of the Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative (CEELI), and was supported by grant funding from PJ Library Chicago, a program of JUF Young Families. We had a great group of families and look forward to offering the club again next year for families with 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds! Please contact me if you are interested in joining us.

Jay Rapoport,
RJE Director of Lifelong Learning