Community Religious School: Now or Never

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Ever since the concept of reviewing the current status of delivery of after school religious education was initiated several years ago, many volunteers and professionals have spent countless hours surveying, meeting, discussing, deliberating and agonizing over the issue.

In the first round of meetings, representatives for our five area congregations that operate after-school religious programs were brought together to learn about how each school operated. Out of that process, came the decision to engage the Jewish Educational Services of North America (JESNA) to conduct focus groups with the 3 Worcester congregations that operate after-school religious programs. A report was presented at the Federation Annual meeting in early September 2010, where a motion was put forward by the community membership to pursue to possibility of creating a community religious school.

Presentations were made to Temple Emanuel, Congregation Beth Israel and Temple Sinai. Two of the three congregations-Temple Emanuel and Beth Israel, a Reform and Conservative congregation-agreed to move forward in investigating the possibility of creating a community school.

Representatives from both congregations were asked to sit on the following sub-committees: governance, budget, vision and curriculum/program. Under the chairmanship of Dr Howard Alfred from Congregation Beth Israel and Abbie Averbach from Temple Emanuel, the various sub-committees met and presented reports to a steering committee which included members from both congregations and Federation.

The mandate of this steering committee was to provide both congregations with a conceptual framework for a school. The committee was well aware that given the very tight time frame in which they were expect

ed to deliver its initial report, that specific details relating to the school would need to be ironed out by a different group, and only if the conceptual framework for the schools were approved by the boards of both congregations.

The Community Religious School steering committee will be presenting its report to both congregational boards this month. This work in progress promises to create a new and exciting program building on the strengths of both congregational schools. There are still some unanswered questions relating to some of the areas that will need to be resolved, but the time to act is now.

As the Worcester Jewish community continues to evolve, it is being given the opportunity to re-create how religious school programming is delivered. It will allow the Jewish school aged kids in Worcester to get to know one another, to create a greater sense of community, to provide enhanced teacher learning opportunities, and to continue to introduce the newest and latest educational advances to all of our children. It is time to take that leap of faith and create an educational climate in Worcester that is second to none.

Members of the Community Religious School committee are: Joy Alexander, Howard Alfred, Tanya Archambault, Abbie Averbach, Jana Baker, Joel Baker, Liz Baker, Ellen Benz, Rabbi Matthew Berger, Sheryl Black, Howard Borer, Sally Chinian, Mike Cole, David Coyne, Carol DiGregorio, Debbie Fins, Howard Fixler, Carol Goodman Kaufman, Sharon Krefetz, Joyce Mandell, Deb Martin, Ellen Meyers, Rhonda Mills, Judy Moseley, Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky, Robert Pulda, Mary Jane Rein, Margie Rosenfeld, Renee Rudnick, Debra Salloway, Maxine Schmeidler, Meir Sherer, Allan Shriber, Judy Shriber, Michelle Spaulding, Phyllis Spool, Nina Stoll, Sue Summit, Laura Traiger, Mara Yerow, Shoshanah Zaritt, Pam Zinn.

Howard Borer

Executive Director

Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts

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