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Bringing the Children of Interfaith Families into the Tent: A Training for Religious School Principals

March 2012

Goals for participants

  • To critically evaluate the school's written materials, the images we put forth and the messages we send out as they relate to being the most welcoming and inclusive to interfaith families.
  • To learn more welcoming language and to begin to formulate changes based on examples provided.
  • To begin thinking about a welcoming policy statement for our program's website and our program's teachers' handbook clarifying the status of interfaith families in the program.
  • To have begun the process of writing guidelines for teachers on how to respond to issues brought up by students that relate to interfaith homes or both Judaism and Christianity.
  • To have resources that support Jewish identity formation for teachers at all levels.
  • To be familiar with the available resources for educators and teachers at InterfaithFamily.com.
  • To know that you are a part of a community of educators who are developing a warmer welcome to interfaith families.
     

Session I. Working With Religious School Staff

Confronting Biases
Questions to the Participants
Blood-Moving Exercise
Free Association Exercise

Text Study
Hilchot De'ot: The discussion about welcoming is ancient

Welcoming Policy
Clarifying goals for children of interfaith families and creating a policy that brings your goals into the classroom. What will be the policy for your school for these situations:
  • Talk of Christmas/Easter?
  • Talk of going to church?
  • Talk of being "half and half"?
  • Talk of a parent/grandparent/relative not being Jewish?
  • Talk of Christian prayer in the home, like the Lord's Prayer? Mention of Jesus?
  • Saying that the family does not do the ritual/tradition about which the class is learning?

Interfaith Families Are Not the Same
Creating talking points for teachers when a child says:
  • "I am only half Jewish."
  • "We have a Hanukkah bush" or "a tree with Jewish ornaments" or "hang stockings in my house."
  • "Who is more important, Jesus or Moses?"

Session II. Communicating Your Welcome

Bulletins and Welcome Letter Analysis

Website analysis

Session III. Identity Formation

Developmental stages and their implications for the classroom

Texts for classroom use that deepen Jewish identity formation

Games for the classroom that deepen Jewish identity formation.

Session IV. Action Plans

Next steps
  • What changes do you want to make at your school?
  • What obstacles do you see in getting these changes made?
  • What alliances do you need to accomplish these changes?
  • When do you hope to have these changes accomplished?
  • Who will be responsible for getting the changes done?

 

Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods.
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