WELCOMING: wandering Jews • wondering Jews • those of Jewish heritage • non-Jews • multiracial relationships • families • interfaith relationships • couples • adult children of interfaith families • Jews by choice • people of color • singles • LGBTQIA folks
Growing Together: Jewish Family Learning -- Pandemic Version
Are you seeking an open and welcoming environment in which to explore Jewish tradition with your children?
Would you like to do this with a diverse community of families?
You are invited to participate in Growing Together, Jewish Gateways' family learning program, which is an alternative to Hebrew or Religious school.
Because of the pandemic, and the stress families are facing, we have planned an abbreviated version of Growing Together for October through December 2020.
Families sharing slogans they created as part of learning about Jewish values. Here: "We are unique and we are one."
Our goal is to keep it SIMPLE and FUN.
We will gather virtually, once a month, to celebrate holidays and Shabbat. Expect guided, hands-on learning, including movement, art, building projects, nature activities, and even cooking.
We’ll have separate adult learning the Thursday evening before each of those Saturdays.
The 2019-2020 program successfully transitioned to Zoom programming in March. The 2020-2021 program will conform to all safety requirements, including any shelter-in-place orders.
Each year we extend Growing Together, so the 2020-2021 program will be for children preschool age through fifth grade, and so on.
At Growing Together we ...
Welcome all, including interfaith, intercultural, LGBTQ, multi-racial, 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 own level, so everyone brings their learning home to share
- Give adults time together to ...
Get to know each other, which is 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
We are building a vibrant community to 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 those families that are interested.
Making edible sukkot, or booths, while celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival.
For More Information About Growing Together Click on a Topic Below
Curious about other Jewish experiences for families with young children? Check out Jewish Gateways Holiday Celebrations for Young Children and Lox & Talks: Soul Food for Parents.
What Happens at a Session of Growing Together?
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 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. They meet in a preschool group, a kindergarten group, a combined 1st/2nd grade group, and a combined 3rd/4th group. The toddler group may not focus on the topic of the day, depending on its complexity, but they will enjoy playing in a Jewish context.
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.
What Families Have Said ...
"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."
"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."
Dina and Alex's story
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.
Rebekah Sherman leads the preschool-age group, also known as the Seedlings. She is a Jewish educator by profession and is excited to be joining the Growing Together community! Rebekah spent many summers as a camper, then counselor, and finally senior staff member at Camp Newman, a Jewish sleepaway camp in Northern California. In college she taught Sunday School at a local synagogue and served as president of her university’s Hillel, and after graduation she worked for a year at a Jewish boarding school in North Carolina. Rebekah is currently working as an educator at Edah, a Jewish afterschool program in Berkeley. She enjoys reading, writing, watching movies, and spending time with friends and family.
Elise Frank is the leader of the kindergarten group, also know as the Sprouts. During college she served as an advocate for Jewish students on the Whitman Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Board as well as presiding over the student Hillel group. She moved to the Bay Area three years ago and works as an elementary school teacher in Richmond with an emphasis in Social Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice. The Jewish Gateways mission of reimagining Jewish experiences through connection, celebration, spirituality, and community resonates with her own Jewish identity and vision. She holds a BS in Race and Ethnic Studies and an MA in Urban Education.
Asher Litschwartz leads the 1st/2nd grade group, also known as the Branches. He 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 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.
Grace Leven leads the 3rd/4th grade group, also know as the Buds, as well as teaching Hebrew, which is optional for those 3rd grade and up. She was born and raised in Israel and has taught children, families, and adults for the past 15 years. As a teacher she prides herself on being flexible and attentive to others' needs and finding the way to each person’s heart. Grace has broad experience teaching science, Jewish tradition, mindfulness, and Hebrew. She holds a BS in Marine Biology and an MA in Science Education. Grace has taken part in research projects related to education and mindfulness, including developing and testing a curriculum designed to encourage compassion in children, and studying the effects of mindfulness meditation on ADHD and the brain. She also specialized for a number of years in working with gifted children. Grace is blessed to be the mom of three and loves handwork, hiking, and the ocean.
Mimi Hope leads music at Growing Together. She is a professional musician with a wide repertoire and plays throughout the Bay Area. Mimi writes music centered on social justice themes ranging from immigration issues to gun violence. She speaks (and sings in!) Spanish fluently and performs traditional Spanish bolero and trova music. Mimi is a songleader and guitarist in the Congregation Beth El band and has been a featured singer at their High Holiday services. She is especially excited to be a part of Growing Together because she is from an interfaith family and struggled for a lifetime to find a place she could call her Jewish “home.” She hopes to ease the way for others.
Frequently Asked Questions
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
How "religious" is Growing Together?
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. There is also a group for toddlers.
Can I bring an older sibling?
The 2019-2020 program is for preschoolers through fourth graders. In 2020-2021 we will add fifth grade, the following year sixth 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?
Jewish Gateways does not yet have scholarship funds available. Growing Together's fees are at the lower 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 a synagogue. We are happy to spread out the fees over the course of the year with installment payments.
Nuts and Bolts
WHEN: Growing Together meets twice monthly on Saturdays, 10:00am to 12:30pm, September-June, scheduled to accommodate school holidays as much as possible. The optional Hebrew class for children 3rd grade and up meets 9:05-9:55am.
WHERE: When we are not required to shelter in place, Growing Together meets at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley.
Getting ready for Purim, the Jewish costume holiday
WHO: All are welcome, including interfaith, intercultural, LGBTQ, multi-racial, 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.
COST: Fees are $885/family for those enrolling one child and $1,565/family for those enrolling two children.
The fee for the optional Hebrew class, 9:05-9:55am, is $320/year, which is based on $20/session.
We offer a discount of $50/family for two families that enroll together if at least one of the two families is new to the program.
You may divide your payment into three installments, in September, January, and May, or you may pay in full at the beginning of the year.
We require a non-refundable deposit of $100 when you enroll.
QUESTIONS? WANT MORE INFORMATION? We welcome your email or your call at 510-545-9977.
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