imageAfter many years working as a teacher’s assistant at my temple, it was an honor to come back for their last day and teach an art course with them. When I was a regular assistant, I faced many challenges and I learned a lot. I taught and took care of 3 and 4 year olds, kids who were just starting to learn about their Jewish identity, and I taught a fifth grade class where I worked almost exclusively with a young boy with Asberger’s. I also used to organize art programming during my junior year of high school. Going back to class with these kids was amazing. I planned a different project for each class and I spent 20-30 minutes in each, using the art to teach the kids about Judaism and their community.
For me, growing up with religious school every Sunday was not always a gift. I was always the student to argue with our teacher. I always wanted to have the loudest voice, the boldest opinion. I still feel that way a lot, but I also have an immense appreciation for the education I got while I was in religious school. Religious freedom is a human right, but beyond that, humans have the right to a community. Sunday school opened the door for me to start thinking about my religious identity, but it helped me on a deeper level by giving me a group of people I could connect to in a basic way.
I worked with many children, but I also worked with the educational director at my temple, Lori S. She and I spoke about the meaning of community and I was inspired by our conversation. She has known me since I was a baby, and she watched me grow up, through the good times and bad. One thing that she said struck me, which is that we are here not just for the students, but for the families and the congregation as a whole. I agree with this. To use myself as an example, I grew up going to Sunday school, being taught by teachers and teacher’s assistants. When I was old enough, I became a teacher’s assistant. I then taught other kids, and I participated at temple events, showing my students that this was something cool and interesting. It is a circle and I am a part of it.
My art programming came at the end of the year, so I could only really see the product of the work that the teachers at temple did, but my mother was the preschool teacher there, and she was able to come home every Sunday with a new story of something she taught her students. For my programming, I had the kids do some variation of a project based around the question “what does being Jewish mean to you?” And I was able to get some amazing responses. Unforunately, all of the kids took their pieces home with them, but I was able to see real inspiration, based around a Jewish identity.