At Mishkan Ha’am we have educational opportunities for all ages and we strive to create a learning community where all are welcome under our tent, our Mishkan. Mishkan Ha’am is Hebrew for Tent of the People or Sacred Tent of the People. When we form tight knit, mutually respectful groups, we can explore our interests and passions and we can teach and learn in wonderful, inspiring ways.
Our Adult Education program topics are generated by our members and our Rabbi, through the congregation’s Adult Education Committee. Programs occur on weeknights and weekends and include our well-attended Sunday Brunch N’ Learns and Torah Study sessions. Everyone is encouraged to participate, or just listen and learn. Recent topics have included: An Introduction to Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan and Reconstructionism; Using Musar to Prepare for the High Holidays; Comparative Jewish/Christian Theology (with our Rabbi and the Pastor of our host Reformed Church); and Exile and the Jewish Imagination. Conversations and discussions are thought provoking and lively.
We also have a Book/Film Discussion Group that chooses works by or about Jewish and Israeli writers and topics. Topics generated by our members through the book and film planning committee stimulate interesting and sometimes difficult discussions. A recent program included a discussion about Sephardic Jews in Israel presented in the film “A Woman’s Balcony,” led by the Executive Director of the American Sephardi Association. Another well received program, led by our Rabbi, examined differing view-points of Israelis and Palestinians in the book, “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor,” as well as apublished letter entitled, “A Palestinian Responds to His Israeli Neighbor.”
She’arim/Gateways Hebrew School
She’arim/Gateways is a fun, community-based experience. More than “Hebrew School,” it is community building for young people and their families, it is immersion in Jewish space and time. It is ownership of Torah and Jewish tradition – not by wrote, but by wrestle – allowing our students to challenge the material.
Our multi-age class structure gives students a chance to make friends across age range and ability. Our commitment to Jewish peoplehood gives our students the tools to understand their place in a bigger community with difference and diversity. Our stress on learning Hebrew gives our students a chance to look back and truly measure how much they have learned – a sense of accomplishment that comes with their Jewish identity.
Bar and bat mitzvahs in the Mishkan Ha’am community are beautiful events, each reflecting the strengths and growth of the young person at the bima that day. A boy who never spoke above a whisper faces the gathered congregation and poses questions that spark a lively discussion. A girl who wrestles with the meaning of God participates in a service she helped craft to reflect her conflicts on the subject. A boy begins his service by playing a favorite violin melody. A girl leads more than one hundred friends, family, and community members through the service from beginning to end, assisted gently and sparingly by the rabbi.
How did they all arrive at that day with such self-assurance? Through a combination of shared inquiry, a supportive community, and of course, Torah and haftarah study.
Taking the steps toward becoming bar or bat mitzvah can be daunting, a rush of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. In Mishkan Ha’am, children and families do not undertake the journey alone. They share the journey, a rich process of exploration and learning, with other families, the congregation’s rabbinic leader, and with individual tutors.
At Mishkan Ha’am we strive to connect with all of our members, including the youngest amongst us. While children of every age are welcome at all of our services and programs, we set aside special time several times a year to tell stories, dance with stuffed torahs and sing songs with our toddlers. These are wonderfully fun programs that start a life-long connection to Judaism.