Not the Sunday School You Remember

The Washington Jewish Week had a very interesting article yesterday about a new, non-traditional Sunday school starting at a synagogue in Maryland.

It’s interesting for a number of reasons: first off, the impetus for the new school came from a woman whose daughter is married to a Catholic man and has two children. The fact that a grandmother was looking for ways to communicate Jewish heritage to her interfaith grandchildren highlights a phenomenon that we expect to see more of in the coming years. We expect to see grandparents take an increasing role in the Jewish education of their grandchildren as the grandparents are often the population most concerned about passing on Jewish heritage.

Second, the Sunday school, called The Country Cheder, truly is off the beaten path. It’s located at a synagogue, the Am Kolel Sanctuary and Renewal Center in Beallsville, that’s out in the country and doubles as a spiritual retreat. The program of the Sunday school will be radically different than most: parents will go to school at the same time as the kids, at times learning together with their children. The rabbi, David Shneyer, hopes to use the synagogue’s natural setting as an educational tool.

This approach could be very appealing to intermarried parents, many of whom are wary of traditional Hebrew school. By combining education of the parents with education of the kids, the school is providing an opportunity for non-Jewish parents to learn about Judaism in a structured setting. The Country Cheder has something to offer to both the Jewish partner and non-Jewish partner in an interfaith marriage.

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