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
Fridays, September 21-December 14 | 10:15-11:00AM, 11:15AM-12:00PM | BJ Chapel
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 10:15AM session features both English and Hebrew songs, while the 11:15AM 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 Danielle Freedman (x260). No class on November 23. Read more »
Sunday, September 23 | 10:15-11:30AM | BJ Community House Sukkah
Families with children are invited for a late breakfast in the BJ sukkah! Sing holiday tunes, shake the lulav, and create festive decorations to beautify our sukkah. The cost is $10 per family for BJ members and $18 per family for non-members. Contact Adina with any questions.
Sunday, September 23 | 12:00PM | Meet at BJ Community House, Head to Lower East Side
Did you know that, in the late 19th century, the Lower East Side’s Jewish population was so large that, had it been a separate city, it would have been the largest Jewish city in the world?
Join us for an adventure on the Lower East Side. This sensory-rich learning experience for individuals and families of all ages will enhance your Sukkot celebrations. We will explore and shop (those who wish can purchase) for a special lulav and etrog set. Learn about the etrog (fruit of the hadar), lulav (palm frond), hadassim (at least three myrtle, leafy trees), aravot (willow twigs), as well as how to make a holder and rings woven from palm fronds to hold the branches together. Learn and practice how to take the four kinds, say the blessings, and wave them in all six directions.
Friday, September 28 | 5:45PM | BJ Community House Sukkah
Families are invited to enjoy appetizers and wine before Kabbalat Shabbat services. Connect with friends and get to know new families, then we will head to the sanctuary to enjoy services together.
Sundays (Monthly*), September 30, 2018-April 28, 2019 | 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
Monday, October 1 | 5:30-6:30PM | BJ Sanctuary
Join us for a lively evening as we celebrate Simhat Torah together. Families are invited to help us mark the end of another Torah cycle and the beginning of a new one with dancing, hakafot (rotations around the room), singing, and good company! Contact Adina for more information.
Friday, October 5 | 5:15-7:30PM | BJ 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 Wednesday, October 3, and contact Danielle Freedman with any questions. The cost is $22 for members / $29 for non-members. All children eat for free. Read more »
Tuesdays, October 9-December 18 | 4:00-4:45PM | BJ Community House
Kadima@BJ is excited to announce a new Hebrew immersion class geared towards children ages 2-5. Shira Averbuch will lead children and their parents and caregivers in music, stories, and movement. Children will gain a sense of community rooted in Jewish tradition, while gaining exposure to Israeli culture, Hebrew language, and holiday customs. Cost for the fall semester is $200 for members and $300 for non-members. Both members and non-members may receive a sibling discount ($50 off). Contact Danielle Freedman for more information.
Wednesdays, October 10-November 14 | 3:30-4:30PM | BJ Middle Room
Learn American Sign Language through songs and play with other parents, educators, and children close to your child’s age. Go home each week with new vocabulary and new tunes to enhance communication between you and your child, with added focus on Judaic concepts, traditions, and holidays. Whether you intend to incorporate sign language in your life for the long term, or simply during this pre-verbal/developing verbal time, watch in awe as your child discovers the world of language. See the research come to life, as music and sign language both aid in the development of language and literacy. Stories, songs, games, and movement to music are included in our teaching methods. The 6-session series costs $120 for members, $180 for non-members. Contact Mike Witman with questions.
Wednesdays, October 2018 through May 2019 | 6:00-7:15PM
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, October 12 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ Chapel
The holidays are over, but the year is just beginning! Join us for a “welcome home” Shabbat dinner as we say goodbye to summer and the holiday season, and get ready for the amazing year ahead. We hope you will join us and bring a friend. Families of all ages welcome. Register by Monday, October 8.
Sunday, October 14 | 10:30AM-12:30PM | Location Given Upon Registration
BJ members with children in 2nd grade and younger are invited to reconnect with BJ friends and meet new people at Rabbi Felicia Sol’s home. Enjoy snacks and schmoozing while children engage in games and play.
Friday, October 26-Sunday, October 28 | Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center
Friday, November 9 | Dinner Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ Chapel
Experience the magic of Jewish summer camp. Join us for BJ Shabbat services and a dinner brimming with kavannot given by past and present campers of all ages! Make sure to sport your favorite camp t-shirt; the dinner will be filled with “camp-style” shirah. A special, but not exclusive, invitation goes out to our Kitah Bet families! Register by Monday, November 5.
Friday, December 14 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ Chapel
A Hanukkah-themed breakfast for dinner can’t be beat, so join us for PJ Shabbat! Children will enjoy music, games, and a bedtime story. Come in your coolest, goofiest, or favorite PJs. A special invitation goes out to our Kitah Gan families; email Ayala for your personal, free registration link. Register by Monday, December 10.
Friday, January 11, 2019 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ Chapel
This month’s family Shabbat dinner will be Tu Bishvat themed! Join us for great food, better company, and fun games for children and adults alike as we prepare to celebrate the Jewish birthday of the trees. A special invitation goes out to our Kitah Aleph families; email Ayala for your personal, free registration link. Register by Monday, January 7.
Thursday, January 17–Monday, January 21, 2019 | Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia
8th and 9th graders, join us as we venture south to learn about the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as explore the struggle for racial justice and equality happening today. Our partner organization, Etgar 36, is dedicated to developing the future political voice by taking Jewish teens on a journey through America and empowering them to get involved politically and socially to change the world. We will explore the link between Jews and the Civil Rights movement and understand why Jews, as a people who have known oppression, must care and act when others are oppressed. Cost is $1,450 per teen. Register by October 5.
Friday, February 8-Sunday, February 10, 2019 | 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, 2019 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ 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, 2019 | 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 October 15.
Friday, March 8, 2019 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ 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.
Friday, April 12, 2019 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services | BJ 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.
Mark your calendars 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, 2019 | 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, 2019 | Following Kabbalat Shabbat | BJ 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.