Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager
JPA is high-quality adult Jewish learning for Russian-speaking parents, to open the door to robust Jewish identity, community-building, and leadership development opportunities for this distinct, underserved population.
We address the communities need by offering an intensive curriculum delivered by world-class Jewish educators, providing a compelling opportunity to engage in Jewish thought, text study, and personal exploration. JPA engaged 26 selected participants (of 60 applicants) that participated in 11 bi-weekly, 3-hour classes, and community social events, such as Passover seder, Shabbat experience, Israeli song Karaoke night.
Curriculum included reading assignments and exercises with their families to enhance their profound learning experience.
Jewish Wisdom is an integral part of JPA curriculum. Each lecture and event allowed our participants to discover and connect to Jewish Wisdom.
Sample of program topics include:
- Introduction:What Is The Jewish Narrative? "In The Beginning... The Jewish Story"/ Rabbi Michael Paley
- What Does It Mean To Be Jewish Part I: Identity "Russian, Jewish, American? The Quest For Identity"/Prof. Zvi Gitelman
- What Does It Mean To Be Jewish Part II: Ethics/Values. "Love Your Neighbor As Yourself" Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
- What Does It Mean To Be A Jewish Parent? "Jewish Parenting: What Is The "Tool Kit" We Want To Pass Down To Our Children?" / Rabbi Avi Orlow
- Narratives Of The Yiddish Short Story "Oy Vey! Narratives Of The Yiddish Short Story" / Prof. Agi Legutko
- What Is The Story Of Passover? Creating Personal Narratives Of Exodus. "From Slavery To Freedom". Exlore The Passover Story /Jina Davidovich and Reuven Khaskin
- Jewish Contributions To World Civilization "From Monotheism, To Ethics, To Quantum Physics -- Jewish Influence Leading The Way" Rabbi Michael Palley
- What Does It Mean To Have A Jewish State? Israel's Narrative "A Homeland: The Story Of Israel" David Harris
JPA inspired and guided our participants to make Jewish Wisdom part of their life.
Every class included an assignment reading materials to review prior to class. A central dimension of homework was Family Activities for each member to do as a continuation of the class learning involving their children. Every class was followed with suggested family/home follow-up, which were always discussed in subsequent classes. A few abridged samples include:
Class 1: Inspired by the class on the “Jewish Narrative,” we encourage you to set aside time for your children to speak with their grandparents and ask questions about family stories. You can be creative – just listening, writing few answers, or an older child could create a video, audio, or powerpoint. [Sample questions to prompt conversation were provided.]
Class 2: Daniel Pearl was a famous American journalist who met an untimely death at the hands of terrorists in Pakistan. Daniel Pearl’s famous last words were: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish,” These words inspired his parents to compile a book, entitled, I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, with contributions from internationally renown Jewish artists, government leaders, authors, journalists, scientists, rabbis, scholars. With your copies of selections from the book, discuss what it means to be Jewish with your (older) children. [Sample prompts for discussion were provided.] We look forward to discussing your thoughts at the start of our next class with Rabbi Telushkin.
Class 3: To continue to explore the ethical imperative of our class discussion of what it means to be Jewish, we shared samples of ethical dilemmas that have been discussed for centuries in the Jewish tradition. Read one of the situation with your family and welcome, without judgment and in age-appropriate ways, their thoughts: How would you respond? What questions might you ask? What answers might you give to someone with this dilemma or question? You also have response from the Jewish sages. You might want to look at those, and invite family members to talk about whether the response makes sense to them. This is all part of the Jewish tradition is one of discussion and questioning, and look forward to your feedback in our next class.
JPA seeks to cultivate local impact, enriching personal lives and family involvement through shared learning and Jewish peoplehood to strengthen our community from within.
Our intended outcomes are already evident on several levels as JPA concluded our first year:
▪ Offering Jewish learning focused on values, wisdom and shared stories and experiences, in a way that resonates with professional RSJs with young families
▪ Giving our cohort members tools, background and exposure to high quality texts, Jewish literature, and materials delivered by faculty with recognized expertise, to nurture continued exploration of their Jewish identity
▪ Providing a welcoming and nonjudgmental environment for members with traditional backgrounds and those with limited Jewish formal education, in ways that are authentic, honor tradition, and encourage varied expressions of Jewish life
▪ Fostering meaningful and enjoyable family involvement through homework activities and special family events
▪ Creating ownership of one’s Jewishness and part of the global Jewish family
▪ Building community of future leaders who share background, interests, and diverse points of view, as we strive to build bridges across and among the many opportunities to engage in Jewish life, communal institutions, and community.
Our metrics have included rates of class participation: over 4 had 100% attendance; at the remaining sessions, between 90 and 95% of participants were in attendance. We had very high attendance of members and families in our Community Seder and the Shabbat Dinner we co-hosted with Shorefront Y.
Year-end evaluation feedback from the 2016 Cohort confirms our progress and achievement of the outcomes detailed:
▪ 85% felt JPA classes were high caliber, relevant, and meaningful
▪ 95% plan to get together with JPA peers to create learning opportunities together
▪ 95% want to become more involved in their community
▪ 85% now have a stronger Jewish identity/sense of belonging to the Jewish people
▪ 70% are more motivated to speak with their children about Judaism, Israel, being Jewish
▪ 85% found that JPA prompted more participation in opportunities to connect Jewish traditions and/or Jewish learning to family life.
The idea of Jewish Parent Academy (JPA) was born from wisdom of Pirke Avot "You are not obligated to complete the work, neither are free to desist from it.."
Jewish Parent Academy was founded by Russian-Jewish community leaders to offer pathways to Jewish life for their peers. This powerful, talented generation of Russian-born Americans immigrated with their parents from the former Soviet Union (FSU). For decades, Russian speaking Jews have been disengaged from Jewish life (while living in Soviet Russia and even after immigrating to the U.S.). There is a real threat that Russian Jews will fully assimilate in less than one generation unless their Jewish identity is revived. We are witnessing a revitalization and growth of the young Russian Jewish community in the southern Brooklyn.
JPA was founded with a mission to ignite and reestablish a Jewish connection with in the RSJ community. The founders believed that it is our responsibility to create a platform for our people to be educated and rekindle our Jewish spark.
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