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Northern Virginia Ethical Society (NoVES)

Director of Ethical Education Blog

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  • Friday, August 18, 2023 9:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of my favorite books is Essentialism, which encourages the reader to focus on what they do best and focus on doing those things rather than all of the many other things that we can do with our days. This doesn't always work out -- I'm not great at cleaning but I can't get away with just not doing it! 

    The book can be quickly and roughly summarized as "Do Less, But Better".  I've been thinking a lot this summer about what we do best as an Ethical Education program. There are a few things that have come up for me, and these are the areas where I want to really focus in the upcoming year: 

    1. Provide a space for kids to connect with each other and experience a community that is rooted not in belief, but in dedication to learning and growing. 
    2.  Encourage kids to consider how we impact others and the world (and help them make that impact positive!) 
    3. Build critical thinking skills at all ages to prepare our kids to respond to challenges that they will inevitably face. 

    We'll structure this year to build in more space for iteration, with monthly topics rather than topics that span all year (less, but better). If you have any ideas or want to take a month to help teach, please reach out! 

  • Friday, July 21, 2023 8:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "The dead are not dead if we have loved them truly." - Felix Adler

    This is going to be a bit of a downer, but I promise I have a point! However, as a content warning I'm going to be talking about pet death in my update this week. 

    On Wednesday night our cat, Pixel, passed. I've always felt like explaining death to kids without the "cheat code" of heaven was doing it on hard mode and that felt very real this week. However, the experience is a reminder of how important connecting in our community and continually reflecting on Ethical Culture is. 

    What I most hope to pass on to Josie through our ethical education program, and what I think is so unique to us, is that the present matters. How we treat each other, how we take care of the world around us, and how we move through life matters inherently, not in service of anything else. This is reinforced at how we talk about death. My answers about where Pixel is now may not seem magical or soothing, but they're also unimportant. They distract us from what does have meaning -- the time that we spent with her. 

    I appreciate this community today because I'm able to rely on friends for support, get advice that is meaningful and aligns with my values (thank you Melissa for recommending The Tenth Good Thing About Barney!), and remember to stay focused on the things that matter. 

  • Friday, June 30, 2023 9:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The final AEU listening session is Saturday morning at 11am (you might be reading this as it’s happening!) I’m especially excited about this session because it’s truly about the future of the AEU — our ethical education programs.

    I had the opportunity to talk to fellow education directors for over two hours last week. While our conversation was ostensibly about the future of the AEU, we kept coming back to our own immediate, tactical needs as educators trying to grow our societies and bring ethical education to more kids. I expect to hear the same dynamic tomorrow, and I hope to see some of you there to ask questions, comments, and make your voice heard!

  • Friday, June 16, 2023 9:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    During our Membership Meeting, we talked about two things that I've been thinking about all week. 

    1. The loneliness epidemic and the role of groups like NoVES in bringing communities together. 
    2. Showcasing our community on Facebook to grow the Society. 

    I'd like to bring these two things together over the summer, but I need your help! If you're interested and able, please email me a short description of what NoVES means to you. Try to keep it pretty short. I'll post the description on Facebook and call out a quote to put in a graphic. Just emailing me this would be a huge thing, but I have some bonus point activities to make it even better: 

    • Send me a picture of yourself that I can use in the post!
    • Give me permission to tag you on Facebook, which will show the post to your friends! (I won't do this without your permission, so please be explicit here). If you don't have a Facebook account that's totally fine and doesn't disqualify you from sending me something to post.

    Thank you, and I'm really looking forward to reading these! 

  • Friday, June 09, 2023 10:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Throughout this year, Jasper and Evie have been quietly serving on the board of La Mano Amiga, an incredible new non-profit run by Jessica Tyndall (a former student of NoVES)! La Mano Amiga serves as an anonymous helping hand for some of the poorest people in Honduras. The majority of the people that they support grew up in an orphanage called NPH (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos). The orphanage met their basic needs when they were children, but as soon as they became adults (or teenagers in some cases), they were on their own, living in one of the poorest countries in the world with no social safety net and no one to turn to. 

    Living in extreme poverty, the people who La Mano Amiga helps don't have the family connections that people often use to borrow enough money to remove obstacles or jumpstart a new business. The organization’s goal is to help people remove these obstacles to help them move forward. People like Agueda, who needed a tortilla maker, a large bag of masa flour, and some supplies for $332. With that small gift, she was able to start selling tortillas out of her home (and now sells them to another recipient of funds from La Mano Amiga). 

    However, La Mano Amiga is a small organization and needs to make decisions about who they can fund. Jasper and Evie have been working this year to help make those decisions. They sorted through 30 applications and determined where the limited funds could do the most good. I've been part of these conversations and I can say that the choices have been difficult. In each of our meetings, I've seen Evie and Jasper work hard to empathize with the reality that people are facing and balance individual and community needs. 

    This year, they have allocated over $10,000 to help 17 adult orphans (and, by extension, their families and communities). They've helped people start new businesses, expand the possibilities of their existing businesses, and make better lives for their kids. They've also helped create an incredibly valuable framework for how La Mano Amiga makes funding decisions. 

    In Jessica’s words, “We are reaching a severely marginalized but incredibly resilient (and grateful!!) group of people and helping them in  such an impactful way...and we absolutely could not have done it without Evie and Jasper's help!” 

    La Mano Amiga is such a strong example of what happens when we teach kids to recognize the humanity in others and to help bring out the best in them. I’m so grateful that Jessica shared this opportunity with us and so proud of Jasper and Evie for their amazing work. If you’d like to donate to La Mano Amiga, you can do so via venmo (@Jessica-Tyndall-13) or Paypal ( To be added to their email newsletter or donate another way, please reach out to Jessica at 

  • Friday, June 02, 2023 8:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In yesterday's newsletter, I mentioned that the AEU has been holding listening sessions (listen here and here) to learn more about how they can best support societies. We'll be doing some of our own listening and seeking over the summer, and I wanted to start with two questions: 

    1. We want to meet families where they are and provide the support that they need. Over the past few years, things have changed so it's important to ask: What do you need? What would best support the ethical education of your kids or families that you know? 
    2. With summer coming up, how do you want to stay in touch? Last year, we held some events at a local farm and the Nyilasi's neighborhood pool. The pool is a given, but what else should we plan? 

  • Friday, May 19, 2023 8:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This Sunday, artist Girasol O'Neill will share Project Illumination with the society. As part of this platform, he will have an interactive art project, and our kids are welcome to take part! Please join us to learn more about this project, which will be exhibited at Gallery 3700 in Arlington starting next month. 

    Unfortunately, I'll need to wait until June to see his work because I'll be away this upcoming Sunday. I'll see you all after Memorial Day! 

  • Saturday, May 13, 2023 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week, I talked about stepping back and looking at how we can help our Sunday school best support our kids. Today, the AEU board is continuing a similar conversation about how they can best support Ethical Culture. 

    The board meetings are open to the public, and if you're interested in spending a bit of your Saturday thinking about the future direction of the AEU, join in! The meeting is from 10-12 EST and you can find more information on the AEU site

  • Friday, May 05, 2023 9:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It's been about a year since I started as the Director of Ethical Education for NoVES. Over that year I've been thinking a lot about the value that we can bring to families in the community. On Sunday, I'll share my thinking so far. I can't promise any answers, but I'm excited to start the conversation. 

    I hope you're able to join us. After I talk a bit about our opportunities and approaches we'll get a preview of a game that the kids have been working on! 

  • Saturday, April 22, 2023 1:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you to our families who participate in the Stream Cleanup last Sunday! Together, we collected several trash bags and several recycling bags, plus a bowling ball! Stream Cleanup is one of my favorite NoVES activities, and I was thrilled to see how the kids embraced the experience. 

    Thanks again to Jim and Amy for hosting us and leading the activity! 

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