I recently had the opportunity, thanks to TBE and PJ Library, to attend NewCAJE, an amazing national conference for Jewish Educators held this year in California. For six days I was immersed in Jewish culture. I attended Shabbat services where Sephardic melodies made me long for Israel. I participated in Torah study and workshops and learned from teachers representing the many flavors of our faith; Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. The four workshops hosted by PJ Goes to School, a pilot program which our school has been chosen to participate in, were especially creative and focused on family and community. Their featured books this year will help us to explore and celebrate the many varied cultures that are interwoven into the fabric of our Jewish community. One book, Rebecca’s Journey Home, a beautiful story of adoption literally made every one of us cry!
One day, I walked into a workshop with a new friend from Houston and the instructor looked at us then looked around the table and said, “Are any of these your people?” I looked at all the faces and said, “I’m pretty sure you’re all my people…” That got a good laugh, but it was also the truth. There was such a sense of belonging and a shared sense of purpose amongst all the participants. Whether we were new teachers or seasoned teachers, educators or school administrators, Southern Jews who say “Shalom Y’all!” or Hawaiian Jews who say, “Shaloha!”, we had all come for the same reasons: to connect to our larger community, to share our ideas, and to reignite our passion for all things Jewish. I have met so many incredible people, formed many new friendships, and expanded my Yiddish vocabulary. I’ve also explored some aspects of Judaism that were previously unknown to me, such as Mussar, a movement that promotes ethical living. And now I’ve come home energized and anxious to impart my new knowledge and my renewed passion for our faith and traditions with my students and the Charlotte community.
Jennifer Sawyer (aka Morah Miriam)
Jennifer Sawyer (aka Morah Miriam) teaches 2nd grade Judaica and 3rd grade Hebrew at TBERS and 8th grade at Hebrew High.