Family Education at Temple Israel

We have three goals for family education at Temple Israel. First, we want all members of our families to learn and grow in their Judaism, but the normal religious school environment is somewhat limited due to the pandemic. So we are relying on parents to work with their children, with my guidance. Our theme of learning about American Judaism will hopefully be something that parents and children can enjoy and be challenged by. Our second goal is to develop a life-long habit of learning as a family. Modeling and engaging in Jewish learning and Jewish projects is a great way to develop as individuals and to grow closer as a family. And the third goal, through the havdalah programs, is to maintain and deepen our ties to each other and to the Temple Israel of Scranton community.
Each month, I will post materials you can choose from to learn as a family. These might include a video or a short text or some images that you will access online. As I get to know you, I will be able to provide materials that are appropriate, interesting, and challenging for your families. Please look at the materials as soon as I send them.
These materials are hosted on my website, which is called ConversationalTorah.com. Conversational Torah (CT) is a vision of teaching and pedagogy based on how rabbinic texts (Torah she'b'al Peh/תורה שבעל פה/oral Torah) create conversations between students from different times and different places. You and your children both share a place, but also have very different sets of experiences. They have not had all of your background (and baggage) so children are ideal learning partners. Remember to listen to each family member and make space for each person to share in the conversation.
As a family, you will try to capture some aspect of your learning in a project. This might mean dressing up as a character, making an online presentation or a poster, or learning a song or an age-appropriate creative writing or art project, or making up a game, or preparing for a celebration using the materials you learned as a family. If you have ideas of how you and your family can share your learning in an active and productive way, please tell me so I can share your ideas with all of the participants in our family education program. Be creative, and again, listen to the ideas of each member of your family, and make sure that each person has a part in producing and/or presenting your project.
At Havdalah, we will gather to say goodbye to shabbat. Each family observes shabbat differently, but havdalah works best if you have actually been observing shabbat. So at least on the weeks when we are going to gather together for havdalah, try to expand your Shabbat observance. Here are some ideas: make a shabbat dinner, tune in to our livestream services at Temple Israel, ask for a volunteer to find an online Torah comment on the weekly portion to share with the family, and/or sing some shabbat songs. Other than the livestream for services, try to make shabbat a screen-free time. Then, when we gather together for havdalah, we will really be separating Shabbat from the rest of the week.
At the program, each family will be asked to present their project or their learning. Since each project will be different, you should think of other family’s presentations as part of your learning, because that is how they will think of your presentation. If it is possible, please take photos of your project (if it can be photographed) or video (if you've performed a skit or a song) and send it to me so people can follow along. This will be a lot easier to share than relying on Zoom.

Past Learning

We spoke about American Jewish leaders. We generated a very diverse list--people who were American leaders of Jews, people who were Jewish leaders of Americans, people who lead with political or spiritual authority and people who lead in culture.
This was great. WE had some musical projects and some art projects and a lot of fun learning about Hanukkah in America. Here is the learning page for your reference or review.
Puzzle Me a Puzzle featured lots of puzzles and games, with a game of Kahoot! Jeopardy, and Two Truths and a Lie at the Havdalah program. Here is a link to the page that includes links to the answers for the puzzles.
Judaism and American Social Justice (in honor of Martin Luther King Day).

Resources for Jewish Learning

MyJewishLearning is one of the largest and most reliable resources for thoughtful articles and Jewish learning on the web. I was privileged to be part of the founding editiorial team, and I edited the Jewish Texts section.
Sefaria is the world's largest collection of primary Jewish texts including the Bible, Talmud, Midrash, and Jewish law. It's source sheets are shared by students and teachers of Jewish Learning all over the world, and make it easy to find lots of resources, most with translation, on any Jewish topic. If the sourcesheet isn't there, register and make your own.
The Jewish Studies Weblinks Database is a searchable database of over 300 online resources for Jewish studies. This list is not complete--new resources are developed each month--but it is by far the largest list, and it is searchable and filterable, it rates the difficulty to use the site, and it describes advantages and disadvantages of the various sites.
My Jewish Literacy tool provides almost 500 vocalized Hebrew terms (with transliteration) on topics like Jewish daily life, the Bible (TaNaKh), food, the sacred year, and Shabbat. The terms are categorized and searchable, and include flashcard and full definitions with links to related terms.
The Jewish History Timeline is a searchable, interactive timeline and map of Jewish history with images and identifications.
The Rabbinic Literature Genre Map describes and illustrates the relationships of different documents of Rabbinic literature with explanatory rollovers and links.

Let's Start a Conversation

Need help with the learning or your project? Reach out to me at

  • On the 9s of Clay, On the Hill, Scranton, PA
  • (570) 507-7542‬
  • Jeff@ConversationalTorah.com