Congregation Shalom Rav offers educational opportunities for children and adults
Rabbi Monty Eliasov, Educational Director
Rabbi Monty has been a full member of the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE) and of the Jewish Educators Assembly (Conservative-Masorti). He is currently enrolling in the forward thinking Reconstructionist educators group called RENA. He maintains that his greatest educational influence has been from learning directly from Jewish Renewal teachers, both through the Aleph Kallah and Elat Chayim.
Religious School and Hebrew School
Shalom Rav is committed to educating children, although we do not have a formal Religious School program at this point in time. The Board and Rabbi of our congregation are working to raise funds to finance a new Religious / Hebrew School program for our families with children who are of Religious School age. In the meantime, we offer several informal educational opportunities on a regular basis.
Family and Children’s Learning Shabbat
This is an ongoing and wonderful monthly Shabbat morning time together for families with young children from toddlers to Religious School age. Parents experience a recharging of their own spiritual batteries that are often nearly depleted by the joyous demands of child-raising.
The parents “hold the prayer circle” for the children. This is a very important element because the children see their parents in prayer which is often not something that happens until later in life when a child is old enough to accompany their parents to an adult service.
The Shalom Rav Family Service is a hybrid of both a “Tot Shabbat” style of service and a “Family Service” where the education happens through the service itself. Song, music, story, movement, dance, sharing, and prayer all blend together to blur the distinction between a prayer service and an educational session.
Themes for each service are provided by the Jewish holidays, Jewish ritual sancta such as the Mezuzah, Shofar, and Torah, the ethical content of the stories we read, plus recognition of the basic letters of the Hebrew Aleph Bet.
This service is usually led by Rabbi Monty who discovered the beauty of the Family Service concept only more recently. He often comments that it is his favorite form of service leadership and one which is influenced by the Jewish Renewal style of creative davening (Jewish prayer) especially adapted to families with young children.
This service is usually held on a Shabbat morning at one of our member’s homes.
After the service we enjoy a Kids’ Kiddush with the Hebrew blessings and we all bring enough for a light lunch together and leaving some time for the parents to chat as well. To conclude the service one of the parents or teachers guides a Jewish art project based on the theme of the month.
B’nei Mitzvah Program
Shalom Rav has long enjoyed a creative approach to Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation and celebration. For example, our most recent Bat Mitzvah took the form of a “home-schooled Jewish-style” home tutorial program with the rabbi providing essential prayer, Torah and Haftarah reading, and Jewish topic research, writing and delivery skills.
The whole family was involved with the general planning and on the big day, the Bat Mitzvah took over the service both as rabbi and song leader, issuing all the directions to the assembly, and sharing her thoughts through both a Dvar Torah and a speech. The Bat Mitzvah was then invited to share her speech with the rest of the Shalom Rav congregation through our newsletter and to lead a Torah Service at which her official Bat Mitzvah Certificate was presented.
Our Shabbat Morning Monthly Torah Service is an integral part of our Shalom Rav Bar and Bat Mitzvah educational system. This is where the student hears the prayers, gets instruction about the structure of a Shabbat Service, and becomes familiar with the order of the service including the Reading from the Torah. We encourage our students to lead as soon as they are ready. If there are enough Bnei Mitzvah students, we create a special “Bnei Mitzvah Service” just for this purpose.
Adult Education Classes
Adult Education at Shalom Rav takes a number of forms. We have ongoing basic Judaism and more advanced topics in Judaism class reading and discussions, plus options to study spiritual Judaism as taught by Rabbi Monty. Below are more details about the general structure of each class.
This class and discussion follows a standard repeating text which covers basics of the synagogue, the Torah, Oral and Written Law, the annual cycle of the Jewish holidays, the life cycle events and rituals of the Jewish people. It is the basic preparation class for all those who do not have a strong background in Judaism or who are starting on the road to alignment with the People of Israel (“conversion”). The class also covers a basic overview of Jewish history and the development of the various denominations within the Jewish world today. Rabbi Monty adds many lively topics to bring the information up to date and to make students think about “how to own their own Judaism.”
Topics in Judaism
This class and discussion follows a text chosen by the group of students who want to explore any advanced topic of interest. We are currently studying a challenging Jewish history text, however, the topics can run to just about anything that has been written about the Jewish world. New topics under future consideration include a CD by Abba Eban on Jewish history culminating in the creation of the State of Israel, Chassidic teachings and culture, special topics such as the nature of God, current events, and YouTube Judaism.
Rabbi Monty’s Kabbalah and Hebrew Classes
While Rabbi Monty is continuing to offer his teaching of KabbalaHebrew at various places of worship and related institutions in Austin and beyond, this “one stop shopping” approach is attractive to students who are looking for both a congregation and a Rabbi actively teaching and living the Kabbalah traditions. Shalom Rav is offering a once monthly Shalom Rav Lecture Series on the 2nd Shabbat morning of each month and which will include some of the many topics which Rabbi Monty offers in both Hebrew and Kabbalah. Consult the current calendar for more details on upcoming topics in the Lecture Series.
The Basic Hebrew classes cover letter and vowel reading, intermediate Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew reinforcement classes, such as a proposed “Famous Hebrew One Liners” to practice verses from the Torah, Psalms and Siddur, as well as Online Midrash and Baal Shem Tov study with seminar follow up, the Chassidic masters course, Aleph Bet chanting, and making the study of the spiritual Torah an everyday experience.