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

Fridays, Beginning September 20 | 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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Fall Teen Retreat 2019

Friday, September 20-Sunday, September 22 | Camp Kinder Ring, 335 Sylvan Lake Road, Hopewell Junction, NY

Jump start your school year with a teen retreat. Spend a weekend with friends, old and new, at a camp an hour north of the city. We’ll spend Shabbat enjoying the views of nature, building new friendships, and strengthening our community. 

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Apple Picking Family Field Trip

Sunday, September 22 | 9:30AM-3:00PM | Outhouse Orchards, 139 Hardscrabble Rd, North Salem, NY (Meet in the Reception Room)

Come get into the High Holy Days spirit and join us for a full day of apple picking and time to connect with other BJ families! In addition to apple picking, there will be opportunities to participate in corn mazes, hayrides, a bouncy house, and more! 

Please arrive promptly at 9:30AM to begin the day with a couple of short activities to meet each other and to prepare for the sweet new year. Also, make sure to bring your own lunch in addition to water, a hat, sunscreen, and a smile! 

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Shirah with Shira

Tuesday, September 24 | 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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Spiritual Self-care Wednesdays

Wednesdays, September 25, November 6, and 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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Tot Shabbat

Friday, October 4 | 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, October 4 | 6:30-9:00PM | 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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Slide Into Sukkot Family Breakfast

Sunday, October 13 | 10:15-11:30AM | Rooftop

Come get into the festive energy of Sukkot with a family breakfast and activities in the sukkah! In addition to sharing a yummy meal, we will review key elements of the holiday, make decorations, sing songs, and play games. Register by Monday, October 7, at 5:00PM. We hope to see you all there!

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Teen Giving Circle

Various Wednesdays, Beginning October 16 | 6:00-7:30PM | Community House 4th Floor

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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Moving Traditions

Various Wednesdays, Beginning October 30 | 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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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!