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LOVE & LEMONS

Connecting with Shabbat, Connecting through Shabbat

By Sari Abrams
“I’ve got the Shabbat feeling up in my head…” I LOVE singing these words every Friday with the toddlers who make up my Parent and Me Shabbat class. They clearly love it too – this is apparent from their smiling faces, their bouncing bodies and their participation in all the movements associated with the song. How do we help parents and children create the Shabbat feeling both in a class, and then back in their homes? It begins with creating an environment in which they are surrounded with the sounds and symbols of Shabbat. Young children learn through engaging all of their senses. Thus, when I set up my classroom each week I strive to fill it with hands-on activities, music, art, play, and books related to Shabbat. Additionally, in order to learn about the rituals of Shabbat children need to not just see us performing the rituals, or hear us describing them. They need to be able to hold the ritual objects associated with Shabbat. So we have loads of candlesticks, candles, Kiddush cups and toy hallah for the children to play with. Of course the children and parents also engage in the rituals together, as they wave their hands three times to welcome Shabbat with the lit candles, taste the grape juice of kiddush and eat the hallah.
There is an enormous, adult-sized Teddy Bear – we call him the Shabbat Bear – who sits on the rug, holding several stuffed torahs. The children love sitting on the bear’s lap and the sight of a parent and child cuddling on the bear, reading a Shabbat book together, fills me with joy. Besides learning through hands-on activities, children learn a tremendous amount from that which parents model. They learn how to do things, and, about their parents’ priorities and values. When parents and children engage in these Shabbat activities together, in a playful and joyous manner, it not only deepens the parent-child connection but it also creates a special connection to Shabbat and to our Jewish rituals and traditions.
This Shabbat class also fosters other connections for the participants: connections with other Jewish families, connections with the Temple community in which this class takes place, and connections with other parents. In order to try to enhance these connections the class is structured to allow time for the parents to interact with one another. Each week we also have a short discussion of an article dealing with some aspect of Shabbat, or issues related to raising a Jewish child, including discussions about God. While the discussions are challenging to conduct since all the children are in the room, I know that the articles and brief conversations about them are stimulating the parents to think about their own family practice. One mother shared with me that in the week following our discussion of an article about God she spent a lot of time thinking about her own relationship to God and what kind of relationship she hoped her children would develop with God. Those thoughts in turn led her to think what she could do to help that relationship develop.
A recurring theme of our discussions is how parents can make Shabbat feel “different” than other days of the week. There is a wide range of practice represented in the class, in terms of Shabbat observance. Nonetheless, my hope is that each family will be motivated to find some way in which they can set Shabbat apart from every other day of the week, to infuse it with a “Shabbat Feeling.” It is clear, as we sing and dance to our Shabbat songs in class, that their children already have the “Shabbat feeling deep in their hearts!”
Sari Abrams, MA,is currently Director of Parent and Child Education at Pressman Academy. This is her 16th year at Pressman where she has taught in the Early Childhood Center, Coordinated the Parenting Institute, and been engaged in Parenting Education and Counseling around issues of parenting. She and her husband have also raised 3 boys who are now 26, 22 and 14.
 


By Sari Abrams
“I’ve got the Shabbat feeling up in my head…” I LOVE singing these words every Friday with the toddlers who make up my Parent and Me Shabbat class. They clearly love it too – this is apparent from their smiling faces, their bouncing bodies and their participation in all the movements associated with the song. How do we help parents and children create the Shabbat feeling both in a class, and then back in their homes? It begins with creating an environment in which they are surrounded with the sounds and symbols of Shabbat. Young children learn through engaging all of their senses. Thus, when I set up my classroom each week I strive to fill it with hands-on activities, music, art, play, and books related to Shabbat. Additionally, in order to learn about the rituals of Shabbat children need to not just see us performing the rituals, or hear us describing them. They need to be able to hold the ritual objects associated with Shabbat. So we have loads of candlesticks, candles, Kiddush cups and toy hallah for the children to play with. Of course the children and parents also engage in the rituals together, as they wave their hands three times to welcome Shabbat with the lit candles, taste the grape juice of kiddush and eat the hallah.
There is an enormous, adult-sized Teddy Bear – we call him the Shabbat Bear – who sits on the rug, holding several stuffed torahs. The children love sitting on the bear’s lap and the sight of a parent and child cuddling on the bear, reading a Shabbat book together, fills me with joy. Besides learning through hands-on activities, children learn a tremendous amount from that which parents model. They learn how to do things, and, about their parents’ priorities and values. When parents and children engage in these Shabbat activities together, in a playful and joyous manner, it not only deepens the parent-child connection but it also creates a special connection to Shabbat and to our Jewish rituals and traditions.
This Shabbat class also fosters other connections for the participants: connections with other Jewish families, connections with the Temple community in which this class takes place, and connections with other parents. In order to try to enhance these connections the class is structured to allow time for the parents to interact with one another. Each week we also have a short discussion of an article dealing with some aspect of Shabbat, or issues related to raising a Jewish child, including discussions about God. While the discussions are challenging to conduct since all the children are in the room, I know that the articles and brief conversations about them are stimulating the parents to think about their own family practice. One mother shared with me that in the week following our discussion of an article about God she spent a lot of time thinking about her own relationship to God and what kind of relationship she hoped her children would develop with God. Those thoughts in turn led her to think what she could do to help that relationship develop.
A recurring theme of our discussions is how parents can make Shabbat feel “different” than other days of the week. There is a wide range of practice represented in the class, in terms of Shabbat observance. Nonetheless, my hope is that each family will be motivated to find some way in which they can set Shabbat apart from every other day of the week, to infuse it with a “Shabbat Feeling.” It is clear, as we sing and dance to our Shabbat songs in class, that their children already have the “Shabbat feeling deep in their hearts!”
Sari Abrams, MA,is currently Director of Parent and Child Education at Pressman Academy. This is her 16th year at Pressman where she has taught in the Early Childhood Center, Coordinated the Parenting Institute, and been engaged in Parenting Education and Counseling around issues of parenting. She and her husband have also raised 3 boys who are now 26, 22 and 14.
 


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