Religious School News

RELIGIOUS SCHOOL ROUND UP –

JILL MACGREGOR – BOARD MEMBER JILL.MACGREG@GMAIL.COM

As last year’s “Spring Break That Never Ended” dragged on into summer, I
struggled with the thought of taking our small Religious School online. How
would we connect and how could we bring substance and fun into that
virtual world? Last year, we partnered with Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI)
Galveston for several combined Family Learning Days spaced throughout the
year. The goal was to build community and introduce our TBT kids to other
Reform Jewish kids their age, and we had a lot of fun.

So it was natural to consider collaborating with CBI for virtual Religious
School this year. I reached out to Rabbi Matt Cohen to see if he was
interested in conducting our online school together this year and he was
immediately onboard. I was relieved and also excited about how our
partnership would allow us do more in an online environment, making it fun
and stimulating for the kids. And it is! We typically meet for a half hour
assembly, which almost always includes Rabbi Cohen on guitar teaching us
upbeat songs and prayers that the kids get up and move to while belting out
the words in their living rooms! Then we break out into our Zoom
“classrooms” for grade-specific Judaic lessons. Corinne Blancas and Joe
Wallack graciously agreed to continue teaching, knowing that it would be
challenging to teach in an online environment while also getting to know a
bunch of new kids. Corinne teaches the Kinder/1st grade class, I teach 2nd,
and Joe teaches 4th/5th. Rabbi Cohen’s wife Erin teaches 3rd grade, Rabbi
Cohen teaches the 6th-7th Bar Mitzvah-centered class, and Rabbi Todd
Doctor teaches a special confirmation-level class to the post-Bar Mitzvah &
high school teens. Several of CBI’s usual teachers were unable to teach this
year so this arrangement has turned out to be mutually beneficial for our
schools!

As many of you are aware, TBT is a member of ISJL – the Institute for
Southern Jewish Life based in Jackson, MS. This entitles us to access to
their full educational curriculum as well as being assigned an Education
Fellow to help us with programming throughout the year. CBI is also a
member of ISJL, and as luck would have it, our Education Fellows just
happen to be roommates!

Our ISJL Fellow, Julian Cohen, joined us in August to lead a Shabbat service
(where he delighted us with his French horn playing) and a Sunday program
for our kids focused on preparing for the High Holidays. Julian recently
joined us again for his virtual fall “visit” where he led another fabulous
Shabbat service, conducted an adult education class entitled “A Jewish
Response to Civil Rights” that was attended by both TBT and CBI members,
and finally, a Religious School program on Hanukkah Around the World. We
also get the benefit of enjoying the programs conducted by CBI’s Education
Fellow, Landon Crawford, during his virtual visits. This fall the kids enjoyed
a program conducted by Landon about some of the similarities between
Judaism and Halloween…it was hauntingly fascinating!

We are looking forward to continuing our Religious School year in January
and expect that we will remain virtual through May. I have truly enjoyed
seeing all the familiar and new smiling faces during our Kehillah (together)
time each week and have also had a lot of fun getting to know and to teach
a few new kids in my own class. Despite the challenges this year has put
before us, I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to both continue to connect our
kids to their Jewish identities and allow them to make some new friends in
the process!