The BJE March teaches powerful lessons of Jewish history and personal Jewish identity with a profound impact on participants. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Los Angeles delegation, along with...
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I’ve had a lifelong relationship with BJE.
I remember well, Havurat Noar and Dor Hadash, BJE programs that brought youth together from all over the city. I went through BJE-affiliated religious schools. And when I was a student at UCLA, I had the opportunity to serve as a college representative to the BJE board. I served on the High School Programs committee. That was one of my first experiences as a layperson. My first internship as a freshman in college was in the youth department of BJE/Federation under Phil Liff-Grieff. I ended up going to HUC and getting a double degree in Social Work and Nonprofit Management. BJE was one of the things that really set me on that path. I went into Jewish communal work thinking I wanted to strengthen the Jewish world.
My husband and I got married and were both very connected to community. It was important to both of us to transmit those values to our children. We hope we gave our kids a love and appreciation for Judaism and their heritage. One of our first big trips as a family was to Israel. My kids did religious school, but it was very important to share Jewish experiences and life with them, too. You can’t just expect the Hebrew or day school teachers to do it for you.
Later, we encouraged our kids to become involved in NFTY because we wanted them to connect to the bigger community, and not just be insulated in our synagogue. Today, one of my daughters is working at a Jewish Day School (an HUC DeLeT grad) and the other one is studying to be a rabbi. BJE and its programs had an impact on our family.
My parents were very connected to Jewish life and to Israel. When my dad passed away, it was natural for them to want to do something connected to Israel. My mom established the Lewis Edgers Scholarship Fund in my father’s name. I lost my parents at a pretty young age, but I know how important this was to them. My sister, Deborah Lieber, is also very involved in the community. She’s active in her temple life, and raised her two sons to be engaged in temple and community life. We both felt very happy about the idea of carrying on our parents’ legacy. I was so excited when I learned that I could continue to put money into this fund and help send kids on BJE’s March of the Living program.
I think being a builder of Jewish education means instilling the building blocks of Jewish life from a very young age. It means creating a lifelong learning experience. Jewish education instills continuity and will help with future generations. Just to call yourself Jewish is not enough. You need to understand your past, to feel comfortable in working towards a stronger Jewish future. We all have a responsibility to learn and grow as Jews – spiritually and culturally.
BJE’s March of the Living program is the perfect way to get this accomplished. You must touch it, feel it and taste it, not just read about it in a book. I’m hoping our family fund will help build and grow connections to Israel, and also make an impact for our Jewish future.
Judith Alban takes pride in her life-long commitment to Jewish life and her contributions as a Professional in the Jewish community. She currently serves as the B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator at Temple Beth Am. Lewis Edgers was a Los Angeles businessman who co-founded Crown Plastics Inc. in the 1970s. He was married to Ronna Edgers and raised two daughters in the San Fernando Valley. After a visit to Israel in 1975, Lewis became extremely passionate about his support of the Jewish state. He helped raise money for the LA Jewish Federation and other causes and upon his death, in 1984, the Lewis Edgers Israel Program Fund was seeded at the Bureau of Jewish Education by his wife, Ronna. And upon her death, in 2001, the fund was continued.
It is the hope of the family that the memory of their parents’ vision will encourage teens to participate in BJE’s March of the Living program and will ignite a passion in them for the importance of Jewish continuity and a deeper understanding and love for the State of Israel. These were important values to Lewis and Ronna Edgers.
We are all working hard to keep our spirits high and make the most of what is undoubtedly a tough situation. As part of our family’s weekday schedule, every day at 4 PM when schoolwork is finished, we have a surprise activity. While I’ve bought everything on Amazon that I think my kids might enjoy (art projects, board games, lego sets, etc.), I also wanted to give them something special and unique to look forward to every day. Yesterday we played “The Grand Prize Game” (remember the Bozo show??) using kitchen bowls and easy, small prizes. Another day we FaceTimed with another family and played Bingo. The goal of these activities is to be fun, silly and irreverent with one another...to bring a little light and laughter into our day.
As a Jewish educator, I’m already thinking forward to Passover and about what Passover themed surprise activities we can do as a family. I’m hoping these activities will be a great way for us to not only have fun as a family but to also enjoy Passover in new and exciting ways.
Before Passover: Set the tone with a Bedikat Chametz Scavenger Hunt. I found this great video on how to set this up for your family on BimBam.
Night One: Guess what! Finding the afikomen is perfect. If you want, put a little twist on the hunt and make it a scavenger hunt to find the afikomen.
Night Two: Passover is all about asking questions. For those of you having a second Seder, this one works. For those who aren’t, it still works! Candy questions. Have a big bowl of candy in the center of the table. Every time a child asks a question about something from the Passover story or seder, they earn a piece of candy.
Night Three: Play the Ten Plagues version of Minute to Win It! With only 60 seconds on the clock, can anyone complete these Passover tasks?
● Frogs: Play spoon frog! Players must use a teaspoon to catapult another teaspoon into a glass. Check out the YouTube video for help.
● Hail: You will need ping pong balls and spoons for this one. Give each player a spoon and ball of “hail” (ping pong ball). Each person must walk holding the spoon with the “hail” on the end to a designated point and back within the minute.
● Blood: Contestants carry water in small dixie cups to pitchers with red food coloring at the bottom. Can they fill the pitcher in 60 seconds?
● Darkness: You guessed it, participants must be blindfolded for this one...Blindfold Bowling! Contestants bowl blindfolded as many times as needed until they knock all the pins down (can be red solo cups, toilet paper rolls, water bottles, etc.) or until the minute is up.
Night Four: Masterchef Junior: Charoset Making. Put out bowls of many potential charoset ingredients (lots of recipe ideas here) Have contestants mix and match and make their own charoset. Who will be the MasterChef?
Night Five: Matzah topping taste test...with a twist! Have a table set up with matzah topped with a variety of toppings (cream cheese, butter, jelly, chocolate spread, sun butter, etc.). Blindfold your kids and have them try to guess what topping is on the matzah. In the end, everyone can vote for their favorite topping!
Night Six: Passover Game Night! Who doesn’t love family-friendly game night? You can make some of your favorite games all about Passover. Print out pictures of Passover symbols and play a silly game of Heads Up. You could also try a Passover version of Would You Rather, or this family-friendly Passover Escape Room.
Night Seven: Cross the Red Sea obstacle course! Create a backyard obstacle course using anything you can find in the house -- pillows, chairs, exercise equipment, etc. Challenge your kids to get through the obstacle course to cross the Red Sea and escape Egypt!
Night Eight: On Passover, we are taught to recline. Using pillow and blankets, create your very own Passover fort! And then eat pizza in it!
This Passover will undoubtedly be difficult for many of us, as we won’t be able to celebrate with extended family and friends (though you can always Zoom your loved ones!). I hope these activities will bring a little extra light and love (and Passover learning!) into your homes.
Lisa Alpern is the Principal of Wilshire Boulevard Temple's Glazer Campus Religious School and a past BJE board member.
Robert Havighurst is credited with having popularized the term “teachable moment.” Teachable moments are both a function of developmental stages and situations that lend themselves to engagement with particular issues. My thoughts turned to “teachable moments” as I read a letter signed by dozens of school and synagogue leaders calling on their communities to provide assistance to the elderly and homebound, particularly at this time. Part of their message was to educate children by including them in this effort: “let them see you writing a check, making a donation, using Facetime to check on somone. The Jewish notion of kavod (respect/honor) for our elders is something we all share.”
The deeply-rooted Jewish value of respecting elders is, fortunately, not exclusive to Jews. My healthy, independent nonagenarian parents shared with me how touched they were that their neighbor – whose Christmas lights shine brightly each December – had knocked on their door bearing hand sanitizer, inquiring about their health and any needs they might have, all the while maintaining appropriate (physical) distance out of concern for their well-being; this, in addition to several Jewish friends on the block who have regularly been in contact and volunteered assistance. After speaking with my parents, I called one of my children, an alumnus of one of the schools promoting outreach to the elderly and homebound, who mentioned that he had gone out for some provisions and purchased “extra,” to bring to the 85-year old homebound neighbor who lives in the apartment below his New York City “walk-up.”
Reflecting on a situation that is, so clearly, a teachable moment, I thought about this week’s launch of the reading of the third book of the Torah, Leviticus, in the cycle of Torah study. Leviticus devotes considerable attention to sacrifice. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, “korban,” actually comes from the word “karov,” meaning “near.” A person who brought a sacrifice – whether, for example, of thanksgiving or atonement – did so not as a perfuntory act, but as a means of drawing closer to the One to whom the sacrifice was offered.
Humankind, in Jewish tradition, is to imitate God by walking in God’s ways. Jews are instructed to perform acts of kindness such as those ascribed to God. It is, of all places, in the Book of Leviticus, so filled with rituals, that we read: “love your neighbor as yourself.” Drawing near the One to whom sacrifices were brought is achieved by extending ourselves to others, each of whom, the Torah teaches, is created in God’s image.
The educational historian Lawrence Cremin aptly defines “education” as “the deliberate, systematic and sustained effort to transmit, evoke or acquire knowledge, attitudes, values, skills or sensibilities as well as any outcomes of that effort.” The present moment is, without question, especially challenging. Kudos to those who, while “safe at home,” teach their children and students to draw near – in safe yet significant ways – to individuals who need their help. The impact of such education transforms the present and points toward a brighter tomorrow.
BJE’s 3rd Zoom Professional Development of the year will be
Wednesday, April 22th at 2:00pm.
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BJE’s impact is felt throughout greater Los Angeles. These are just a few
ways we’re making a difference this year.
Across the Jewish spectrum, Jewish schools in Los Angeles receive a wide range of services and support from BJE.
From birth through young adulthood, young Jewish people in Los Angeles are engaged in Jewish life through BJE programs and accredited or affiliated schools.
BJE leverages the strength of our vibrant community to generate public and private funding that benefits Jewish educational programs and institutions throughout Greater Los Angeles in a wide range of ways.