parent reflections

 “Ten years ago, Marisa and I arrived on a Friday night with our then 14 month old son, Joshua. The service had already begun, but Rabbi Victor paused after the next blessing to walk over and welcome us. “Let the little one walk around – he will be a blessing and delight for all of us.”  Since then, Rabbi Victor performed the naming ceremonies for daughters Naomi and Sonia – so rich in symbolism, history and warmth. Our children joined the very first Family Learning Circle – sitting in a tight knit circle on carpet squares, interlocking arms and singing songs of welcome. They have learned about the holidays, made nearly a dozen wooden dreidels between them, sanded challah cutting boards, decorated Shabbat kits. They have asked hundreds and hundreds of questions, all of which Rabbi Victor and the wonderful rabbinical students have found ‘fascinating’, ‘excellent thoughts’ and ‘worthy of discussion.’ This is the Nehar Shalom “way.”

Our two oldest graduated into the Mischpacha program to learn Hebrew and to begin their understanding of Torah and even Talmud.  Most Monday nights we go to Nehar Shalom for an hour and a half, singing and praying together before breaking into small groups-chevruta-made up of either a parent and a child, or sometimes two or three children at the same learning level. The Shema has become a deeply heartfelt ritual, carried on at home, sung  both with words and in sign language.  Nigguns (prayerful melodies) are a favorite that my children often sing under their breaths as they walk along at home.

Mischpacha has had as many as 5 families with 8 kids and currently has 2 families with 4 children. Rabbi Victor is a master teacher and the inclusion of the rabbinical students enhances the experience even further. They show their affection for the children in so many ways- they send a powerful message that these children are loved. Many of my friends are initially surprised to hear that we attend Hebrew school with our children. When I explain to them how much my children love going to Mischpacha, how they were sad when we had to miss days due to the winter storms, and how we sit together and bond, they understand.

Words cannot adequately capture what an amazing experience this has been for all of us.  As a child, I attended Hebrew school as an obligation. I spent many hours there with little return.  The programs at Nehar Shalom are totally different- here is an opportunity to spend intimate “connecting” time with my children, learning together and relishing the moments of discovery that occur each week. We look forward to having their bar and bat mitzvahs there and continuing their Jewish learning together as a family.”  ~ Eric F.