Growing Together: Jewish Family Learning
Explore Jewish tradition with your children
In an open and welcoming environment
With a diverse community of families
Growing Together, Jewish Gateways' twice-monthly family learning program, is an alternative to Hebrew or Religious school.
Each year we extend Growing Together, so the 2021-2022 program includes children preschool age through fifth grade, the following year we will include sixth graders, and so on.
Families speak about Growing Together -- hear more about each of their stories below.
We began year meeting outdoors and masked. We hope it will be safe to meet indoors as it gets colder, and we will conform to all local health and safety requirements.
Each year we focus on a theme. This year it is Creating Community, Seeking Social Justice. We’ll explore three ways that Jewish tradition teaches us to positively impact our community and our world: acts of loving kindness (Chesed), acts of pursuing justice (Tzedek), and acts of giving and donation (Tzedakah). We will also focus on the importance of community, which strengthens and encourages us to take positive actions, and helps us make more of a difference.
At Growing Together we ...
Welcome all, including interfaith, intercultural, LGBTQ, multiracial, low-income, and adoptive families; people of color; single parents; and grandparents
Build on the truth that families need community -- we are not meant to do this alone!
Offer families the tools to develop their own connections to Jewish traditions and teachings
Explore the same topics with adults and children, each at their level, so everyone brings their learning home to share
- Give adults time together to ...
Get to know each other, key to building a supportive community
Draw on Jewish wisdom and spirituality to address the challenges of parenting, and the big life issues it brings up
Explore adult questions about Jewish tradition in an intellectually-honest, non-judgmental environment
Our vibrant community will support your family as you create the Jewish life you choose. Several types of bar or bat mitzvah are an option, as is Hebrew, for families that are interested.
HOW: To learn more about Growing Together 2021-2022, please email email@example.com.
Need-based scholarships are available, as is the option of paying in installments throughout the year.
WHEN: Growing Together meets monthly on Saturdays. Our schedule accommodates school holidays as much as possible.
Celebrating Purim, the Jewish costume holiday!
WHERE: Prior to the pandemic, Growing Together met at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley. In fall 2021, due to health concerns, we will begin the year meeting outdoors at a park in Berkeley. We hope to be able to move indoors as it gets colder, and will plan this as we monitor the local COVID situation.
WHO: All are welcome, including interfaith, intercultural, LGBTQ, multiracial, low-income, and adoptive families; people of color; single parents; and grandparents. No Jewish knowledge or experience is necessary. Feel free to pass the word about the program to friends who might be interested.
QUESTIONS? WANT MORE INFORMATION? We welcome your email or your call at 510-545-9977.
For More Information About Growing Together Click on a Topic Below
What Happens at a Session of Growing Together? (This is our regular schedule, and may change during the pandemic depending on current health orders.)
10:00-10:30am: Families join together for Shabbat and holiday songs, and we introduce the one or two big ideas we will cover that day. Adults and children will then explore the same topics in ways that speak to their ages and experiences.
10:30am-12:00pm: Adults meet with Rabbi Bridget Wynne for learning and discussion on the day's topics, while children explore the topics with their teachers through art, music, drama, stories, and other age-appropriate activities in groups organized by age and grade.
All children have a break and snack.
12:00pm-12:30pm: Adults and children come together to share about the morning's experience, then conclude with blessings, challah, and juice.
Variations in schedule: At some sessions parents and children come back together at 11:30am for shared activities and learning. At other times we spend the entire session together for a holiday celebration or other special activity.
"The learning and community my family has established together are a rare treasure."
"We are constantly amazed at the welcoming space for folks of every sort to access the material where they are."
"A welcoming, compelling program for our first Jewish community experience as a family."
Dina and Alex's story
"I found my spiritual home and my most special time in the week ... a level of honest sharing that is truly magical, safe, deep, and moving."
"It was with both excitement and trepidation that we first attended. We were delighted to find a warm, accepting space, a well-designed and developed (and thus engaging) program, and a lively, friendly community we are very happy to be a part of."
Alberto and Vanessa's story
Meet our Teachers
Rabbi Bridget Wynne directs Growing Together and leads the adult learning sessions. She is the founder and executive director of Jewish Gateways. Rabbi Bridget has extensive experience teaching families, adults, and children. She especially loves to help people dig beneath stereotypes about Jewish tradition to discover how varied and diverse it truly is, and to explore, rather than avoid, challenging issues.
Elise Frank works as a lead teacher at Aurora School in Oakland. Her passions include restorative justice, implementation of social emotional learning into all aspects of the school day, and teaching mathematical content through a conceptual, inquiry-based lens. Cultivating joy in a classroom setting and maintaining strong relationships with families, students, and staff is a priority for her. The Jewish Gateways mission of reimagining Jewish experiences through connection, celebration, spirituality, and community resonates with her own Jewish identity and vision. Elise holds a BS in Race and Ethnic Studies and an MA in Urban Education.
Asher Litschwartz grew up in Berkeley, is an experiential Jewish educator by profession, and has worked in synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, and Jewish learning programs and camps. He is currently the director of Berkeley-Oakland Midrasha, a Jewish learning programs for teens. He loves nature, good stories, witty jokes, and good food. Asher is passionate about ethics and community, and he respects all paths toward a better world. He believes that one of Judaism's great strengths is its commitment to tikkun olam, repairing our often troubled world. He loves to stop and notice the magic around him.
Tyler Powles grew up on the East Coast where he discovered his passion for education in preschool classrooms before moving across the country to teach in Richmond, CA. Now he works as a 4th-6th grade science teacher at the Crowden School in Berkeley. His passions include music and dancing, supporting grassroots organizing, and working alongside his students. Creating the conditions for compassion and curiosity in his classroom and developing partnerships with families and students are priorities for him. He tries to model a mindset of Hakarat HaTov (finding the good) and is delighted to be a part of the mission, values, and community of Jewish Gateways. Tyler holds a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing as well as an MA in Urban Education & Policy.
What topics are covered in Growing Together?
We cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to Jewish traditions, connect to modern families' real lives, and speak to both children and adults. Examples of topics include:
Jewish approaches to helping others and to social justice
Jewish history, people, and community
Discovering meaning in the Torah
The land of Israel
Mitzvot: Making a difference through meaningful actions
Making a bird to "send away" regrets from the past year as we enter the Jewish New Year
We include the spectrum of Jewish religion and spirituality, from connecting through song and dance to rational inquiry. We encourage you to take from it what is authentic for you and your family.
How do you deal with the concept of God?
Judaism offers a variety of sophisticated understandings of God, prayer, and spirituality. Though you may have heard otherwise, Judaism does not teach that God is a “guy in the sky.” We offer a range of understandings for you to explore so you can decide what speaks to you and your family.
How much Hebrew will there be?
You do not need to know any Hebrew to participate fully in the program. We introduce some Hebrew words in our songs and prayers. Learning Hebrew is optional, and we offer a Hebrew class for those in third grade and up, 9:05-9:55am, on the days that Growing Together meets.
What ages is the preschool group for?
Children aged 3-5 are welcome to be part of the preschool group. As you know, children develop in their own ways and at their own pace. If your child is able to participate in a group without a parent present (after any transition necessary for the first session or two), and to use the bathroom, he or she is eligible for the preschool group. Rabbi Bridget will be glad to talk with you about this or any other questions about "fit" for your children.
Can I bring an older sibling?
The 2021-2022 program is for preschoolers through fifth graders. In 2022-2023 we will add sixth grade, the following year seventh grade, and so on.
Will preparation for bar or bat mitzvah be part of the program?
We will offer the option of bar or bat mitzvah, with several choices of the type of learning and ritual this will involve.
Since bar or bat mitzvah are years away, why not wait until then to participate in Growing Together?
Growing Together is named as it is because it is not only about bar or bat mitzvah, though we will offer those options. We believe that families need places to grow together; to be supported and to support one another; to build long-term, authentic relationships with others who share their values; and to strengthen family life by sharing meaningful activities and rituals. Jewish tradition, explored in an open and honest environment, can help make this possible. The earlier your family starts to build this, the more fun, community, meaning, and support you will enjoy!
Do children have to come with an adult?
Growing Together is about the family as a whole, so it is important for parents or another adult family member, such as a grandparent, to participate with their children. While we encourage both parents in two-parent families to participate, this is not a requirement.
Why is the program on Saturdays? My child has soccer, dance, or another commitment.
Given that any time has conflicts for some families, gathering on Saturday mornings gives families the opportunity to spend time together, and in a community, sharing Shabbat activities, including singing, prayers, meaningful learning, challah and juice, and a break from the pressures of daily life.
Are there scholarships available?
We are happy to spread out the fees over the course of the year with installment payments. We do have need-based scholarships available. If you'd like to learn more, contact Rabbi Bridget.
In order to keep the program accessible, Growing Together's fees are at the low end compared to other local Jewish learning programs for families or children. In addition, since Jewish Gateways does not have membership, the cost of Growing Together only includes fees, rather than the membership plus fees you would pay for a comparable program at most synagogues.