Family Life and Learning

Engaging and Supporting 21st-Century Jewish Families

For BJ to meaningfully support the unfolding of Jewish family life in the 21st century, we must acknowledge the multiple identities and diverse configurations of today’s families, foster a strong sense of community for our families, create opportunities for families and children to learn how and why to make Judaism an essential part of their lives, and offer a variety of key touch points for families throughout their children’s lives, from birth through college. Recognizing the many time demands of Manhattan families, we also know that, as a synagogue, we offer something unique: a multigenerational community that nurtures a child’s sense of place in a chain of tradition and of responsibility for that tradition and the community.

BJ must incubate and test new ideas to offer groundbreaking alternatives for families. We cannot rely on the obvious and tired practices of the past. We must be bold in our thinking and offerings to engage families in today’s individualistic world, providing meaning and support to help families break through the noise of competing priorities. We seek to position BJ as a center of innovation in family engagement, from birth through college.

Lifelong Learning Begins at Birth

Our Family Life and Learning programs provide creative ways for families to explore Judaism at each stage of their child(ren)’s development, enriching both at-home and in-synagogue Jewish experiences. Children may start with Bim Bam (a pre-Shabbat music class for babies and toddlers), Tot Shabbat services and dinners, Young Families retreats, weekly Shabbat services for families with young children, then move on to Kadima@BJ (Formerly referred to as Hebrew School), and reach for Shabbat Family retreat. Our newly expanded family electives grow the opportunity for family engagement, and focus on the importance of fostering a strong sense of community among our families. This can include participation in our Kulanu (Formerly Junior Congregation) Service , 7th grade trip to Washington D.C., and/or the B’nai Mitzvah journey. For teens, we offer domestic and international service volunteer trips, service as Ozrim (teachers’ aides) in Kadima@BJ, a teen retreat, and more. By the time our youth are grown they are truly prepared to fully participate in regular Shabbat services and to transition into rich and meaningful lives as Jewish adults and global citizens.

“It means so much to me that my children are so connected to Judaism and BJ…you do so much to make that goal a reality!”


Upcoming Family Life and Learning Programming

Midnight Run Drive

Various Dates | During Community House Open Hours | Community House 2nd Floor

Midnight Run coordinates over 1,000 relief missions per year, in which volunteers from churches, synagogues, schools and other civic groups distribute food, clothing, blankets and personal care items to the homeless on the streets of New York City.

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Bim Bam Fall 2019

Friday, November 15 | 10:15-11:00AM, 11:15AM-12:00PM | Rabbi Rachel Cowan Chapel

Bim Bam gives children under three a fun space to explore Shabbat through interactive songs, movement, and stories while learning traditions such as lighting candles, saying Kiddush, and giving tzedakah. The 10:15AM session features both English and Hebrew songs, while the 11:15AM session is full Hebrew immersion. The program is led by our Artist in Residence, Shira Averbuch.

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Family Pre-Service Oneg

Friday, November 15 | 5:45PM | Reception Room

Families are invited to enjoy appetizers and wine before Kabbalat Shabbat services. Connect with friends from our Reach for Shabbat Retreat and get to know new families before heading to the Sanctuary to enjoy services together.

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There's No Place Like Camp—Play Rehearsals

Saturday, November 16 | 12:15-1:45PM | Reception Room

Join the BJ Theater Company as we sing, dance, and celebrate what makes Shabbat so special! In this musical revue, BJ’s youngest actors will shine on stage as they explore Shabbat’s meanings and rituals while celebrating the power of Jewish camp. Each child will have a speaking line and singing part, so There’s No Place Like Camp is a wonderful opportunity for actors at any level. Performances will be in early December.

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Teen Social—Ain’t Too Proud on Broadway

Sunday, November 17 | 12:30PM | Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street (Meet in the Middle Room)

BJ teens, join us for an outing to see the Broadway show Ain’t Too Proud. We will meet at BJ at 12:30PM for lunch and a pre-play program.

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Shirah with Shira

Tuesday, November 19 | 4:00-4:45PM | Middle Room

Join us for a Hebrew immersion class geared towards children ages 2-5. Shira Averbuch will lead children and their parents/caregivers in music, stories, and movement. Children will gain a sense of community rooted in Jewish tradition while gaining exposure to Israeli culture. 

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Moving Traditions

Wednesday, November 20 | 6:00-7:30PM | Community House 4th Floor

Rosh Hodesh (Sisterhood) and Shevet (Brotherhood), are small, single-gender, single-grade groups, led by Moving Traditions-trained adult mentors. Find your own Jewish community in a safe, relaxed space filled with activities, discussion, exploration, and fun. Our research-based and field-tested curriculum applies Jewish wisdom and values to teens in the issues they care about most, such as relationships, gender roles, healthy sexuality, social media, pressure, and stress.

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Young Families Day of Service

Saturday, November 23 | 1:00-2:30PM | Middle Room

Families with children in 2nd grade and under are invited to join us as we partner with Repair the World for a day of service. We will be doing a food packaging project to donate to a local food pantry. Kids will be invited to assemble the bags, learn about what a pantry is and where hunger lives in NYC, and to consider the experience of food insecurity.

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Tot Shabbat

Friday, December 6 | 5:15PM | Sanctuary & Frankel Hall

Families enjoy a kid-friendly Kabbalat Shabbat service filled with singing and dancing, led by Rabbi Erin Glazer, Shira Averbuch, and Michael Witman. After the service, join us for a Shabbat dinner complete with blessings and songs. While adults are finishing their meal, children will have the opportunity to engage in play. 

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Friday, December 6 | 6:15-9:00PM | Rabbi Rachel Cowan Chapel & Middle Room

Hitoreri, our monthly, teen-only Kabbalat Shabbat service and dinner, is a BJ teen tradition. Teens participate in a mindfulness-style Kabbalat Shabbat service, led by one of the BJ rabbis, where we leave behind the hectic energy of the school week and transition into the peacefulness of Shabbat. This is followed by a delicious Shabbat dinner and plenty of downtime for teens to catch up and hang out. Hitoreri is open to teens in grades 8-12. 

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4th & 5th Grade Shul-In Sleepover

Saturday, December 7-Sunday, December 8 | 5:30PM-8:30AM | Middle Room & Community House 4th Floor

4th and 5th graders are invited to a special Shul-In sleepover at BJ! Join your friends and staff for Havdalah, dinner, a movie, and a night of games and silliness.

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Spiritual Self-care Wednesdays

Wednesday, December 11 | 6:00-7:30PM | Sanders-Gardner Teen Lounge

Dive into mental health, Mussar, and mindfulness to explore how you handle your everyday stress and worries. Join BJ spiritual leaders, including Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, Cantor David Mintz, and Rabbi Shuli Passow, for a time to decompress with your community. This series is only open to 10th-12th graders. 

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Family Shabbat Dinner

Friday, December 13 | Following the Kabbalat Shabbat Service | Rabbi Rachel Cowan Chapel, Middle Room, and Reception Room

Join us for a family Shabbat dinner! As always, there will be great food, great company, and fun games for children after dinner. Please invite friends! Appropriate for families of all ages.

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There's No Place Like Camp—Performance

Friday, December 13 | During the Camp Shabbat Family Dinner | Community House 3rd Floor

Join BJ Theater Company as we sing, dance, and celebrate what makes Shabbat so special! In this musical revue, BJ’s youngest actors will shine on stage as they explore Shabbat’s meanings and rituals while celebrating the power of Jewish camp. 

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Teen Giving Circle

Wednesday, January 8 | 6:00-7:30PM | Community House Room 408

A giving circle is formed when people come together and pool their dollars, decide together where to give the money (and other resources such as volunteer time), and learn together about their community and philanthropy. Join Laura, Assistant Director of Youth and Teen Engagement , for a chance to give back toward the issues you truly care about. Through exploration, deliberation and celebration of values, you have the power to give real money to programs and organizations that are helping the world. All money donated to this cause will be matched by BJ. This program is open to 8th and 9th graders only. 

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Teen Domestic Trip: Immigration in America

Thursday, January 16-Monday, January 20 | Phoenix, Tucson, and Nogales, AZ

For 8th and 9th Graders in the BJ Community
It’s all over the news today: refugees and immigration. There are people struggling, and we are all eager to help—but how can we? Is there anything we can do?

In the past, on the years we haven’t gone on a Civil Rights Journey, we have taken 8th and 9th graders to New Orleans to talk about natural disasters and learn about food deserts, but this January, we will be digging deeper into the topics of immigration and refugees by traveling to Arizona and exploring Phoenix, Tucson, and visiting Nogales.

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Save the Date: Young Families Retreat

Friday, May 1-Sunday, May 3, 2020 | Camp Ramah Nyack

Escape the city for a special Shabbat with the BJ Young Families community! Families with children in 2nd grade and younger are invited to save the date for a fun and energizing Shabbat weekend at Camp Ramah Nyack from Friday, May 1–Sunday, May 3, 2020. From hiking trails, to theater workshops, to schmoozing time with fellow BJ parents, the weekend will provide the perfect opportunity to spend time with your family in a meaningful way. More information to come!