Post-denominational Judaism and Jewish Education

Learn to Read Hebrew, Chant Torah, and Explore Alternative Paths to Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Jewish education deepens when you learn to read Hebrew and chant Torah, unlocking a treasure trove of learning, wisdom, fantastic stories and an eloquent ethical guide, given to us by our ancestors.

There are many possible paths. There are infinite ways to live a Jewish life – a different way for every person. Whether you are a passionate congregant in a synagogue, you prefer Havurah or home-centered celebrations or you don’t observe at all – and anything in between, Torah and Jewish learning are the keys to owning your Jewish experience. The key is being able to read Hebrew – this unlocks Jewish learning! Jewish education starts with the alef-bet and there is no end to what you can discover about the world and yourself.

Why learn to read Hebrew? One of the reasons an individual starts on the path of learning to read Hebrew is in preparation for Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah. Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah is a spiritual passage, and chanting Torah before your community is that passage is celebrated. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that learning Hebrew and Torah are a spiritual engagement. Learning in an unhurried and supportive environment, with tools to help you learn in your own style, makes preparing for Bat and Bar Mitzvah services pleasant for both students and family. Remember, it is never too late to learn the alef-bet. Adult B’nai Mitzvah events are awesome and rewarding experiences!

Alternative path to Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah. Access to a synagogue or Rabbi should not be a barrier for someone to learn Torah! Homegrown ceremonies and celebrations of Bar and Bat Mitzvah are real and sacred events when given adequate preparation and kavannah (prayerful intention). What I love to do is to help Jewish families discover an alternative path to Bar Mitzvah  or an alternative path to Bat Mitzvah, including learning the elements of Hebrew and prayer necessary, and creating a service that is inclusive and meaningful to you and your community.

Seder plate

When I was a child, Passover was a main feature of the Jewish year. It seemed most of the families in our small West Sonoma County town of Occidental had at least one Jewish parent, and these beautiful Jewish families created home grown Seders. Pot-luck style havurah is how I describe my childhood Judaism, but our potlucks were Post-denominational Judaism.

One of the parents would copy and paste together readings and brachot from various sources and we would use our Haggadot year after year, until they were dog-eared and splattered with Manishewitz wine and the sepia shadows of Charoset. My mother would assemble the seder plate, my father would play the guitar, and the children would hunt for the afikomen and run wild in an overgrown yard in the increasing twilight.

We were Jewish and we knew it. We couldn’t explain what Judaism was, but we knew how it felt, how it sounded and tasted… We lived our Judaism, without walls, without definitions… This was my first experience with what I call “post-denominational Judaism.” I believe it was a reaction on the part of our parents who were forced into a religious life that felt empty or controlled, or for others whose Jewish education was entirely absent. As adults many of them felt allergic to synagogues. Others found the 40 minute drive to the nearest shul tedious.

We have a difficult challenge in rural America: Jewish centers should be central to the communities, but have enough participants that they feel vibrant and full. There are many Jewish families living on the outskirts of towns and in rural communities. How can we invite God to dwell in our midst? Invite God to a potluck!