Shalom. In my capacity as President, I recently attended the annual December orientation program for the students, and the parents of the students, who are about to embark on their b’nei mitzvah training in 2019. Even without a student of my own at this gathering, it was a fun event to attend, bringing back memories of my own daughters’ journeys to Jewish adulthood. Plus, I got to witness the advances TBT has made in teaching “trope” to the b’nei mitzvah students, making them all lifelong Torah readers.
The Rabbi asked me to speak to the parents on the topic of “parent engagement.” Of course, the parents are highly engaged in the b’nei mitzvah program, but the Rabbi meant something broader – parental engagement in the life of the synagogue, to act as role models for their children in their commitment to Jewish lives. That necessarily requires treating b’nei mitzvah studies as not just a milestone to check off a list, but as a springboard to a deeper commitment to communal Jewish life. A central feature of Judaism is its embrace of a sense of peoplehood, of a gathering of a community of Jews as the best way to experience life to its fullest.
So, to that end, I thought that I would share with the entire congregation the words I spoke to the parents of the upcoming b’nei mitzvah students one Sunday afternoon in early December. I am reprinting my talk here verbatim:
“TBT runs on the fuel of congregant engagement, including parent engagement. We have professional clergy and office staff – but, in the end, the congregation runs on the strength of its members’ commitment and support. And that includes engagement with the TBT community – from attending and bringing your children to services, volunteering for Mitzvah Day and class dinners, participating in activities like Habitat for Humanity, and helping TBT committees such as the education committee, social justice, and religious activities, among others.
“Your children certainly take note of the level of your engagement with TBT. I was hesitant to become president when my children were still in the house – and while I am now an empty nester, I am so glad I started my presidency with my twins at home, able to see my commitment to TBT, so I could model the importance of the synagogue to our lives. And now that they are in college, they have pleasantly surprised me by their involvement with their college Hillel programs and involvement with Jewish activities at school.
“We, as parents, are all role models. That also includes remaining as members of TBT following the bar or bat mitzvah, as Judaism is a lifelong pursuit, and supporting the presence of a Jewish congregation on the shoreline is an important way of showing that the bar or bat mitzvah is not the end of Jewish learning and engagement, but only the beginning.
“Thank you, and mazel tov on your child’s upcoming bar or bat mitzvah.”