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
Tuesday, January 22 | 4:00-4:45PM | Community House
Kadima@BJ is excited to continue our 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 being exposed to Israeli culture, Hebrew language, and holiday customs. The cost for the semester is $200 for members and $300 for non-members. Both members and non-members may receive a sibling discount ($50 off). Contact Adina for more information.
This class meets every Tuesday from January 8-May 21
Wednesday, January 23 | 6:00-7:15PM | Community House Room 411
Want a chance to learn, study, and discuss some of the most intriguing issues facing Jewish teens today? Join us as we explore R-rated Talmud, the complexities of Israel, civil rights, poverty, and race within Judaism. Sessions will be facilitated by Aniko Gomory, Ayala Wasser, Rabbi Felicia Sol, Moshe Samuels, and outside facilitators. Read more »
Friday, January 25 | 10:15-11:00AM, 11:15AM-12:00PM | Chapel
Classes are held every Friday through May 17
Bim Bam gives children under three a fun space to explore Shabbat through interactive songs and stories while learning traditions such as lighting candles, saying Kiddush, and giving tzedakah. The 10:15 AM session features both English and Hebrew songs, while the 11:15 AM session is full Hebrew immersion. The series (12 classes) is $240/members and $360/non-members. After the first registered child, each additional child receives 50% off. New BJ members may attend for free. The program is led by Shira Averbuch. Questions? Contact Adina (x248).
Sunday, January 27 | 10:30AM-12:00 noon | Community House 3rd Floor
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 making chili packets 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. We’ll use stories and facilitated play to shape our conversation and follow the lead of our biggest teachers, the kids in the room! Contact Adina with any questions.
Tuesday, January 29 | 6:30PM | Community House
Parents of children in 6th grade are invited to join Rabbi Felicia Sol, Hazzan Ari Priven, the Family Life and Learning team, and the B’nai Mitzvah team for an informational meeting to review the B’nai Mitzvah process for the upcoming year. We highly encourage all parents to attend. There will be an opportunity to ask any additional questions. For more information, and to R.S.V.P., contact Davia Rabinoff-Goldman.
Friday, February 1 | 5:15-7:30PM | Sanctuary and Frankel Hall
Families enjoy a kid-friendly Kabbalat Shabbat service filled with singing and dancing, followed by a dinner complete with Shabbat blessings and songs. While adults are finishing their meal, children engage in play and exploration. Register by Thursday, January 31, and contact Adina with any questions.
Prior to the deadline, the cost is $22 for members/$29 for non-members ($29 for members/$34 for non-members after January 31 at 10:00AM). All children eat for free.
Saturday, February 2 | 4:30-6:00PM | Chapel
Join BJ’s Aviv and Young Families groups for a Shabbat afternoon wine tasting. Taste and learn about exquisite Israeli wines, nosh on cheese, and schmooze with fellow community members. This is a fabulous opportunity for young people (with or without kids) to get to know each other. Contact Adina Beiner with any questions.
- BJ Member: $10
- Non-Member: $15 Read more »
Saturday, February 2 | 4:30-6:00PM | Community House 3rd Floor
Do you love playing games and having fun with all of your BJ friends? How about if those games were LIFESIZE? Kindergarteners through 5th graders are invited to join us for a fantastic Shabbat afternoon of friendly competition as we play our favorite games with a gargantuan twist.
Sunday, February 3 | 5:00-7:00PM | Location TBD
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 supporting teens in the issues they care about most, such as relationships, gender roles, healthy sexuality, social media, pressure, and stress.
Dates: September 30, November 4, December 2, January 6, February 3, April 7, April 28
Friday, February 8-Sunday, February 10 | Washington, D.C.
This 7th grade trip focuses on our Jewish past, present, and future. Through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, intensive reflection, a Shabbat experience, the Newseum, and more, we will explore what it means to live a full Jewish life in light of our modern history and current events. This formative trip also serves as a community-building experience for our B’nai Mitzvah class.
If you are enrolled in Kadima@BJ, please select the prepaid option when registering. All 7th graders are invited to join us for this experience—the cost for those who have not prepaid is $450.
Friday, February 8 | Following the Kabbalat Shabbat Service | Chapel
Join us as we celebrate Jewish communities from all around the world! We will explore different customs, cuisines, and traditions over Shabbat dinner. Do you have a special family tradition? Share it here! A special invitation goes out to our Kitah Gimmel and Dalet families; email Ayala for your personal, free registration link. Register by Monday, February 4th.
Sunday, February 17–Sunday, February 24 | The Dominican Republic
10th-12th graders, join us on our annual service learning trip. Help build much-needed schools and complete a community center for some of the poorest neighborhoods of Santo Domingo. Spend off-hours in classic Caribbean style—socializing, dancing, laughing, and practicing your Spanish. Afternoons will be spent on educational excursions to the Zona Colonial, artisan markets, beaches, and caves. We will be partnering with Visions Service Adventures, a reliable organization that has well-established relationships with the communities in which we will be working. Cost is $2,400 per teen. Register by November 18.
Friday, March 8 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | Chapel
Join the Family Life and Learning team for a joyful Shabbat dinner. As we exit winter, this dinner will celebrate the wonderful ways in which the seasons heighten our different senses. A special invitation goes out to our Kitah Hey families; email Ayala for your personal, free registration link. Register by Monday, March 4.
Wednesday, March 20 | 5:30-6:30PM | Sanctuary
Celebrate Purim at BJ with your whole family! Families with children in 2nd grade and under are encouraged to come in costume and experience a kid-friendly version of the Purim story, music, snacks, and a costume parade. This program is free. Contact Adina Beiner with any questions.
Friday, April 12 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | Chapel
We hope you and your family will join us for our April Family Shabbat dinner! Our Israeli-themed dinner will celebrate Israeli culture, Shinshinim will introduce our students to new and fun Israeli games, and we will enjoy the delicious cuisine. A special invitation goes out to our Kitah Vav families; email Ayala for your personal, free registration link. Register by Monday, April 8.
Register now for a fun and energizing Shabbat weekend filled with outdoor games, music, hiking, learning opportunities, community building, a campfire, and more. This retreat is geared toward BJ families with children in second grade and below. Register by April 15.
Friday, May 3-Sunday, May 5 | Camp Ramah Nyack, Christian Herald Rd, Nyack, NY
Join your fellow 6th graders at our weekend-long B’nai Mitzvah Retreat! Students will participate in exciting programs that bring them closer to becoming B’nai Mitzvah while building community with each other. Transportation will be provided, as well as snacks on Friday afternoon through breakfast on Sunday.
Friday, May 10 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat | Chapel
Join us for a special Shabbat Dinner honoring our 7th grade students, officially welcoming them into the BJ Teen Program. Everyone is encouraged to join us beforehand for Kabbalat Shabbat at 6:30PM in the Sanctuary, where our Kitah Zayin students will share reflections from their year with the community. A special invitation goes out to our Kitah Zayin families; email Ayala for your personal, free registration link. Register by Monday, May 6.
Tuesday, June 11-Monday, June 17 | Berlin, Germany, and Prague, Czech Republic
Join fellow BJ college students for our first ever Eastern European tour (Prague and Berlin). Don’t miss this opportunity to reconnect with the BJ community while taking in the towering spires of the Old City in Prague, Czech Republic, and the bustling creativity of Berlin, Germany. We will explore Jewish life of the past and meet with the leaders guiding the vibrant Jewish communities of today. This trip will be complete with must-see landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Charles Bridge, and the John Lennon Wall. Trip staff will include Rabbi Roly Matalon and Family Life and Learning Associate Director. Ayala Wasser.
This trip is open to all BJ students who graduated high school from 2015-2018.
Register by Thursday, March 14.