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University Teaching

May 7, 2014 by ravsandy   Comments (0)

Judaic Studies, University of Central Florida, Hebrew Language and Culture

In the 2014 Spring semester I taught two courses in Hebrew Language and Culture at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. I had Jewish, Christian and other non-Jewish students in my classes. In the 2014 Fall semester I will be teaching three courses in Hebrew Language and Culture at UCF. You can read about these courses and other Judaic Studies offerings at

My Pesakh Seder

April 23, 2014 by REB ALIZA ERBER   Comments (0)

To all who have a Passover Seder:
Well I finally passed on the preparations for a Seder to my adult children. Both daughters are in Interfaith marriages and I always had the Seder at my home. So, my daughter Lori volunteered to shift the entire evening to her apartment in Manhattan. Now Lori, director and screen writer of the film 'A Place At The Table' is married to 'Top Chef' Tom Colicchio. Tom prepared the Pesakh feast for us and it was the most remarkable meal. I wish you could have all been there:-)
Rabbi Aliza

The Cold War Reversal

April 12, 2014 by Roxann   Comments (0)

I recently read an article by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn in his monthly magazine -"Sapphires". This particular piece caused me great despair in my spirit, as it shined a light on a certain kind of 'role reversal' which has taken place in our cultures and society's both here in the U.S. and of course, world wide.
He noted a recent address that was given by President Vladimir Putin, and it was given at a state of the union address. This is what it said:"Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation."The former KGB officer spoke of Russia as a staunch defender of "traditional values" against the moral bankruptcy of the West. Putin pointed to social conservative values and religious conservative values as the force needed to prevent the world from descending into "chaotic darkness." Along these lines, Russia adopted a law banning "homosexual propaganda" and another that makes it a criminal offense to insult the religious sensibilities of believers -- actions which have been condemned in the West.Putin's words were echoed by Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, leader of the Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill accused Western nations of fostering the 'spiritual disarmament' of their people. Kirill criticized the laws of several European nations that ban believers from displaying religious symbols, including crosses, on their necklaces at work. In an address on Russian television, the patriarch spoke of the underlying thrust of Western culture:rn"The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character....We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God... We want to shout to the world, 'Stop!'"
You might get a similar feeling of dread too, after reading this? I mean, I, as an American Christian, am all too aware of the condition of our country, and one would have to be dead not to see the way life has taken a deadly turn over these last couple of decades.. I just never had it put to me so bluntly.
This is when I really felt a shift in the direction of my heart. I must make a change, first in my own life, and then my family's. I am desperate. I will do whatever it takes to change the course we are on, God help us.


March 27, 2014 by Rabbi Rizzolo   Comments (0)

Rabbi Rizzolo received his ordination, Semikhah, from Esoteric Theological Seminary in Gainesville, State of Florida, United States. He Is an independent Rabbi in USA and Europe.

Gemilut Chasadim

March 10, 2014 by Ilene Mogavero   Comments (0)

hebrew school, Gemilut Chasadim, tzedakah, Tikun Olam

A Word from Dori Stern, Education Director

At the Sunday School for Jewish Studies we teach our students that people should be more concerned with how we treat our fellow human beings than with strict ritual observances. Educating our students about the rituals and observances of Judaism is critical, but we also emphasize the importance of kindness, respect and compassion, concepts that are a significant portion of the essence of Torah and Judaism.

We all know the meaning of tzedakah, the giving of charity, but there also exists a wider scope of charitable activity called gemilut chasadim - acts of caring and responsibility. The differences between tzedakah and gemilut chasadim lie in a couple of areas. Tzedakah is carried out by giving money, whereas gemilut chasadim involves giving of one's person, for example by a kindly word or a pat on the shoulder or by generally offering words of comfort and consolation. Tzedakah is usually directed towards the poor, whereas gemilut chasadim involves the expression of goodwill to all, rich or poor, healthy or sick, successful or to those who fall short of success. Tzedakah is a part of gemilut chasadim and gemilut chasadim is a part of the Jewish effort to "repair the world" (tikun olam).

Each of our classes is responsible for a gemilut chasadim activity. Projects vary from class to class. The following are a few samples of activities that your children might be engaged with in his or her class:

In Ms. Gerber's class, students are bringing in new/gently used books for a book drive helping out Read Boston. Closer to Passover they will be doing a matzah collection for Family Table.

In Ms. Lapuck's class students will be creating Passover decorations and sending them to Hebrew Senior Life.

Ms. Smith's class is the "go to" class in raising funds to plant trees in Israel. Ms. Smith's students have collected money from all classes and have been responsible for planting 11 trees in honor of The Sunday School.

Ms. Scolnick's class made tzedakah boxes at the beginning of the year and have collected a lot of tzedakah. They will be having an in depth discussion (third grade style) about where to send their tzedakah.

Mr. Heller's class has been responsible for the two "Healthy Snack" sales we have had this year. Sixth graders chose the Make A Wish Foundation to be the recipients of their tzedakah efforts.

Ms. Yanofsky's class have agreed to do extra chores around their homes for a quarter. They then bring their quarters to class and purchase cereal that they will donate to the Boston Food Bank.

Along with the efforts above go the frequent classroom discussions about kindness, and the need for us all to lend a hand in repairing the world.

The doing of gemilut chasidim, is supposed to come from within, from the compassionate heart. It is not supposed to be imposed from without, nor does it come from a sense of duty. Gemilut chasidim is what must be done to "repair the world." As the old Jewish saying has it: "Charity awaits the cry of distress. Benevolence anticipates the cry of distress." Learning to have a compassionate heart, comes from parents, teachers, schools and community. We believe this to be such a fundamental Jewish value that we have incorporated it into our Sunday School curriculum.

You can see my work on youtube

March 4, 2014 by Mitchell Kowitz   Comments (0)

Go to youtube and type in Cantor Mitch to see and hear over 20 videos

Congregation Beit Chaverim of Calvert County - Trip to Washington Hebrew and Adas Israel

January 7, 2014 by Rabbi Arnold Saltzman   Comments (0)

Congregation Beit Chaverim of Calvert, Maryland visits Washington Synagogue and Temple

Sunday January 12, 2014

Congregation Beit Chaverim religious school students and parents will visit the Washington Hebrew Congregation to see the 'Voices of the VIgil' photographic exhibit of the Vigil and struggle for Soviet Jewry. There is a history of the vigil and it includes a photo of me conducting a choir across from the Soviet Embassy. The photo was originally in the Washington Post and is now part of the Jewish Historical Society collection. The poster for the vigil includes one of the photos I took during those years to document what we were doing. A collection of my photos and description of those years was given to the Historical Society for their archives.

Our students will read through the exhibit and and think about the importance of these events: How many years did they go on? Who participated? What was the role of our government in opening up emigration?
Did the Vigil effect our government's actions? Who protested? What did they look like? Did other religious groups participate? How many people have emigrated since then? To Israel? Elsewhere? What was the Jackson-Vanik Ammendment?

About the Washington Hebrew Congregation - Its history; tour the building; Sanctuary and Chapel; What is the Reform Moevement? What did you like most? Would you join a congregation like this if you lived in the city?

Coming from communities where there no synagogue buildings, we have taken the view of a school without walls, by visiting a number of congregations and learning from other communities.

These visits are a follow up to our visit to 6th and Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC

Part II: Visit Adas Israel - Review the history; Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke here; What is synagogue architecture? How is this different from Washington Hebrew? What is Conservative Judaism? Would you join Adas if you lived in the city? What should a synagogue accomplish during a year?

Leaving your infant at home? How to work best with your nanny

September 17, 2013 by Roger Bravo   Comments (0)

Nobody likes leaving their precious bundle of joy with a stranger but there are times when we don’t have an option. The lucky among us have loving family members who can babysit for us, but the vast majority of women in big urban centers don’t have that luxury. We need to hire nannies, which comes with its own set of problems.

It need not be all that problematic though. Start with hiring well, and stay on top of a fast-changing scenario with the following tips.

(*We know nannies could be male or female but for the sake of this post and to keep matters simple, we will refer to them as she.)

Non-negotiable traits in a nanny

• Dependability

She should always be on time (unless in case of a personal emergency that we assume won’t come calling too often). She should know her job well and be reliable.

• A cheerful demeanor

Nobody should put up with a sulking face looking after their kids, especially if you are paying them. Nannies as a rule should not just be good with children but love being around them. Watch her body language around your baby. Do her eyes light up kind and happy?

• An impressive background

Do a background check on her. Cross-check the references, and only hire from agencies you trust.

• Quick on her feet

Since being a nanny is all about being in charge of a situation, you need a person who is a quick thinker. Gauge the nanny’s present-mindedness by running a few hypothetical scenarios past her.

How to work best with your nanny

• Make the nanny feel welcome

Treat her as a well-meaning friend than hired help. Tell her you are available whenever she needs you. Leave home with all the important information that your nanny may need. That includes your contact details, list of emergency contacts in case you are not available, their numbers, the contact details of your baby’s doctor.

• Maintain baby’s routine charts

Provide the nanny with a well thought-out and properly presented routine chart of your baby. From the time the baby gets up to its first meal, then progressive nap timings, meal timings, poop timings, the list of toys it likes and are safe to be given to the baby. That’s the best way for the nanny to know your baby’s schedule and work around it.

Ask the nanny to maintain a similar chart herself so you can keep an eye on how your baby is doing.

• Keep the supplies well-stocked

If you want the nanny to use something, it should be handy. Keep the supplies well-stocked and handy. Encourage the nanny to check for bum rash when changing the diapers and accordingly apply a soothing cream.

• Keep checking on the baby every hour

Try to be home as soon as you can but in case you get delayed, keep yourself in the loop about what’s going on at home.

• Regulate your time away from kids

Never leave your infant alone with the nanny for long, regardless of how great she is. Two or three hours, max, especially if your child is less than a year old.

• Invest in electronic surveillance

This need not reek of desperation or paranoia. Purchasing a home security camera system will have many benefits to it if you have young children at home and you are often required to be away. You can keep tabs on what’s going on at home behind your back, which will keep your mind at peace.

If you don’t have the dollars to spend on a proper home security system, turn to home security smartphone apps. Many of them give you all the basic benefits of a full-fledged system at little to no cost. You will be able to remotely monitor your home, your children, and your nanny via your smartphone. Look up the laws in your state regarding this, and if you do install the cameras don’t forget to let your nanny know about them.

You need to keep the nanny happy, too.

Dealing with people is always a two-way street. The more considerate you are toward the nanny, the more likely will she be to reciprocate with consideration toward you, your situation, your child, and your family.

• Be punctual

If you want her to be on time, you will have to show the same regard for her time as well. Show up on your scheduled hour and release the nanny on time.

• Be structured and communicate clearly

Create a structure for yourself and for the nanny and stick to it. Be upfront about your expectations of her and make sure the nanny understands her duties well. The clearer you are in this respect, the lesser scope there will be for misunderstandings.

• Pay her on time

It drives us mad if our salaries at work are even slightly delayed. Why should the nanny react any differently? You keep your end of the bargain and she’ll keep hers.

• Check if you have trust issues

We understand it is normal for new mothers to feel anxious about leaving their children in the care of a stranger, but you don’t have to make that very obvious. Trust is of paramount importance in the mother-nanny relationship. If you absolutely cannot trust your child with anybody, we suggest don’t leave him or her alone in the first place. Take time off, as much as is necessary, and be there for them all the time.

Creating a Child and Family Friendly Passover Seder

February 26, 2013 by Ilene Mogavero   Comments (0)

hebrew school, Sunday School, Passover, jcc, Newton, MA, adult education, Interfaith Families

Submitted by Dori Stern, Education Director

When my children were little they liked Passover, but didn't love Passover. The seder was lengthy and though we didn't chant it all in Hebrew, as was my childhood experience, the Seder simply did not thrill them. Of course there was the Four Questions, the Afikomen and the dipping of a finger into the wine to remember the Four Plagues, but the requirement to sit reasonably still for a couple of hours in order to participate in the eating of the matzah, bitter herbs, parsley and charoset, well - it was not a wopping good time.

One might say that the Passover Seder is not supposed to be a wopping good time but I now believe that it can, and should be a fun, and educational experience. The goal of this yearly ritual is to tell the story of the Exodus to our children, so that they will speak of it to their children and their children to their children and the lessons of freedom, perseverance and hope will be treasured and repeated.

The Passover celebration is such an essential ritual that it is something many of us remember from our childhood - either negatively or positively - but we do remember it. We want our children to remember this important holiday and we want them to look forward to this moment in the Jewish calendar.

With this goal in mind, every year at the Sunday School we have model seders, each different, creative and fun. Our teachers create them and our parents bring the necessary items. So how do we make this important holiday fun, yet meaningful at our home seders? You can't have our talented teachers in your homes but you can have the next best thing!

On March 10th, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston is bring a Parenting Workshop, called Creating a Child and Family Friendly Passover Seder, to the Sunday School. It is open to the public and there is no charge- all you have to do is show up in the cafeteria from 11- 12pm. Family educators will be sharing activities, songs and tips which will have children of all ages engaged at your Seder table. They will explore what kind of Seder will work best for your family and family members or guests who may be unfamiliar with the Seder.

The only thing that is asked of you is to pre-register, so that they know how much of everything to bring - which includes Passover-themed refreshments! Please contact: or 617 558 6440.

The Sunday School for Jewish Studies was featured in The Jewish Advocate

January 16, 2013 by Ilene Mogavero   Comments (0)

Sunday School, hebrew school, Interfaith Families, education, Natick, Framingham, shul

Teaching the lesson of faith(s)
Interfaith families flock to Newton Jewish school
By Elise Kigner
Advocate Staff

While some Jewish institutions are still struggling to figure out how to attract interfaith families, the Sunday School for Jewish Studies gets them in droves.
Leaders at the Newton school estimate at least 80 percent of the 160 students come from interfaith families. There are children with a parent who converted to Judaism, and those who have a parent who isn’t Jewish. Almost all celebrate Christmas, said Dori Stern, the school’s education director.
Partly, the high numbers are due to the school’s structure. As it’s not affiliated with a synagogue, it draws many families without shul membership. Classes meet one day a week for two hours, as compared with most shul religious schools that meet two or three times a week.
But it is also largely due to the staff of the K-7 school, who make it a point not to “talk down” to interfaith families, Stern said.
“I am a child of survivors and their version of Judaism was ‘us vs. them,’ a lot of fear,” she said.
Stern said she has always been determined to be different.
“From the bottom of my heart, this place is opening and welcoming and accepting,” she said.
The school was founded after World War II by Harvard University professors who were not comfortable with synagogues. Since the 1980s it has been drawing high numbers of interfaith families.
Even so, the curriculum hasn’t changed. Students study Hebrew, holidays, blessings, Torah and culture.
Students have the option of studying for a b’nai mitzvah. Some of the students lead services in a synagogue, but most have them in alternative venues, everywhere from backyards to restaurants to conference centers.
In addition to offering classes, which meet at the Oak Hill Middle School in Newton, the school organizes free High Holiday services. The services typically draw 500 people to a Newton public school. Twice a year, students and their families also go to Shabbat services in a family’s homes.
Michelle Andler a seventhgrade Sunday School teacher, said many of her students don’t go to synagogue, light candles on Shabbat, or celebrate the holidays in a traditional way.
“I try to give them an experience that is fun and traditional,” she said.
In the fall, they build sukkot out of graham crackers and candy, and then shake the lulav and etrog in the school’s sukkah.
In addition to celebrating holidays, her students study the Holocaust, Jewish immigration around the turn of the century, and comparative religion.
While most of the students come from interfaith families, she said their practice of other religions doesn’t come up much.
“The kids know they’re at the Jewish Sunday School, and they put their Jewish hats on,” said Andler, who also teaches fifth grade at MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham.
From time to time, though, they have questions about how Judaism may or may not jibe with other religions.
For example, Andler recalled giving a lesson on Passover. One student asked if that was the same as Jesus’ Last Supper.
“I said, ‘There are a lot of similarities, and you have to remember that we as Jews don’t necessarily use the words Old and New Testament, because we don’t believe in the New Testament, but it’s the same first chapter of the book,’” she recalled.
Students have also asked her whether Jesus was the son of Gd. For that question, Andler didn’t have an answer. She told her students to talk to their parents.
While it can be challenging to grow up with two religions that are mutually excusive, Andler said she tries to teach the students that religions have many similarities and hold the same basic values.
“I hope it makes it easier for them to peace their puzzle together,” she said.
She also tries to help them understand how Judaism fits with their secular world. Andler recalled that after the recent massacre in Newtown, Conn., they said, “The shooter was crazy, just like Hitler.’”
“It was exciting for me to see they were making these connections,” she said, “and understanding that Judaism does exist outside of 9:45 and 12 on Sunday mornings.”
Marjie McDaniel said she and her husband Eamon, who isn’t Jewish, explored joining a local Reform temple when their kids were young.
The Natick couple was put off, however, when they learned there were restrictions on how much a non-Jewish spouse could participate in services. They also weren’t interested in sending their kids, Zack and Eric, to a three-day-a-week school, and getting involved in activities such as a sisterhood or brotherhood.
The Sunday School, however, felt right. It was a place where their kids could get a Jewish education, without them joining a temple.
And the Sunday School services feel comfortable for her husband.
“He’s with every other spouse who may not know the different parts of the service, or the holidays we’re celebrating,” she said.
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