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Building Unique Relationships to Lifelong Jewish Learning

Mandy Herlich

Come and Learn: The voice of God spoke to each Israelite, that means to each and every person God’s voice was heard and understood because the voice spoke to each individual person according to that person’s particular ability to hear and understand…to the elderly in keeping with their ability, to the young in keeping with their ability, to the little ones in keeping with their ability, and so on. (Midrash, Exodus Rabba 5:9)

Since beginning my role as the Director of the Emanuel Congregation Religious School on July 1, I have been overwhelmed by heartfelt greetings and excitement from Emanuel’s staff, lay leaders, and school parents. I am thrilled to be here and joining such a warm community, even during a such an odd time for transitions.

As an educator, I am passionate about creating an inclusive learning environment for learners of all ages. Learning in Judaism is sacred. It is told to us over and over again that we must continually be both learning and teaching. But how, as modern Jews, do we find the time or space to do this in our lives? And how do we do it effectively? How do we engage both the student passionate about text study and the one more interested in an Israeli dance class? The secret is - there is no one size fits all approach. It is imperative that we all build our own unique relationships with Judaism and our community. Having a strong educational program that speaks to everyone’s abilities and appeals to learners of all types comes through commitment to creating a dialogue with one another.

The way forward is through organization, intentionality, cooperation, communication. We have many changes ahead this year for our religious school program. We will be using a brand new, coordinated, curriculum across grade levels which will speak to the new online format that we will most likely be spending the majority of the school year utilizing.

In the passage above, learning that is geared towards each individual’s ability is mentioned twice. This isn’t an accident. It is important that the teacher and the student always relate to one another. Ultimately, the educational experiences created should speak to the learner’s heart and mind. With the school year fast approaching, my vision is to create an atmosphere that is welcoming and inclusive of every individual and that speaks directly to each individual’s needs and interests. It is important that learning be a lifelong endeavor, as the Midrash says – from the little ones to the elderly. I am so grateful for this opportunity to work and learn with all of you. As a community of lifelong learners living together in an ever-changing world, I feel confident that we will all learn and grow together in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

I am looking forward to getting to know each and every member of our community. Please reach out if you would like to set up a FaceTime or a Zoom. My (virtual) door is always open, whether just to connect and say hello or to discuss ideas you might have to help our ECRS students grow and learn.


Mandy Herlich, RJE

Part-time, Interim Education Director

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