Director of Ethical Education Blog
"We are not makers of history; we are made by history. Longfellow said, "In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer," meaning that he is either a molder of society or is molded by society. Who doubts that today most men are anvils and are shaped by the patterns of the majority?"
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our Martin Luther King, Jr. Day platform holds a special place in our hearts at NoVES. We make sure that this time is spent learning about ongoing racial injustice and inspiring our members to continue the work that needs to be done to build a more equitable society.
This year, I'm thrilled that our Sunday School gets to participate in the tradition by hosting a conversational interview with our own makers of history, Betty and Hank! Join us to learn about the connections between Ethical Culture and the Civil Rights Movement and hear stories about participating in actions big and small to fight for equality.
I took some time in December with the students to talk about what they'd like to see in the upcoming year. These conversations made me reflect on my own religious education. I played piano and sang at my local church, and in order to do that I had to attend Sunday school. I dreaded it every week and mostly remember the feeling of guilt, sitting there in class trying to get through it without anyone realizing that I was just going through the motions.
In talking to the students, I felt so grateful that we have a space where they can learn about what it means to live ethically and, even more importantly, ask big, tough questions. I know that my Sunday mornings would have been much more valuable if I was able to challenge my teachers and argue a little bit.
Now that we have settled back into our in-person rhythm, it’s time to experiment a bit. In 2023, we’ll focus on finding the right balance between providing a structured experience and allowing for more student-led learning and exploration. After all, ethics begins with choice!
It's that time of year again! As we change the calendar to a new year, we're often encouraged to think about what we resolve to do differently in the new year -- how will we improve ourselves or fix our myriad flaws?
Personally, I do find some value in taking advantage of the change in calendar to do a little retrospective and set some goals. But there are a few different ways to look at New Year's Resolutions and they can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves.
Finding the right approach is especially important when we talk to our kids about resolutions. This is a great time to talk about growth mindset and how we frame our mistakes and failures.
Are you or your kid interested in diving in deeper? There are a bunch of resources on growth mindset available on Khan Academy for all ages!
Back in September, I posted about the different types of rest. I want to revisit that not because I just entered "holiday mode" and am low on ideas (I am), but because it's a reminder that I think we could all use right now.
During Holiday breaks, I often feel like I'm going to get a lot of things done. By the end I always feel like all I did was marathon-watch a new show while trying to avoid eye contact with the messy corner of my living room.
This break, I'm going in with a different attitude, especially because Josie is home from school for most of it and that redefines what "break" means. As we make our grand plans for day trips or cookie baking, we'll also talk about what our bodies and our brains need. Do we need a break from other people? Do we want to feel inspired by nature or art? Do we want to do something kind for someone else to create a connection? My goal this break is to define its success by how well we meet these needs rather than the number of items donated or books read.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying seeing my friends sharing their holiday traditions. I’m lucky that my own traditions are fairly flexible, largely free of family or cultural pressures. That freedom allows me to choose every year what traditions serve me and what traditions we can do without.
I appreciate this opportunity for choice, and I’ve been thrilled to see how members celebrate this season in their own ways based on their own traditions and values.
In the remaining two weeks that we meet this year, we’ll be working on a service project to make no-sew blankets for a local shelter and the Every Day is Earth Day students will make some homemade recyclable wrapping paper. Both activities focus on giving and sharing what we have, embracing some of the best traditions that we encounter this time of year.
Most things are hard to learn without experience. Baking a cake is different than reading a recipe or watching a video. Even 16 years of riding in cars is little preparation for your first driving practice. That's why I love our tradition of bringing our Comparative Religion students to visit houses of worship.
Tonight, our students had their first visit! We joined the Family Shabbat Service at Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax Station.
Part of our Comparative Religion class is identifying themes across religions and tying those themes to our own Ethical Culture. During our visit we saw plenty of differences between our platforms and the service, but we also saw some similarities, noting the lighting of candles and language that reminded us of our own Commitments.
On Sunday, we will spend a few minutes reflecting on our visit. I encourage the parents who attended to do the same and talk to your kids about the experience. What was surprising? What did they recognize and what felt different? I can't wait to hear your reactions on Sunday!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As a reminder, NOVES is taking our Thanksgiving break so we will not be holding Sunday School tomorrow.
In the spirit of gratitude I want to thank our teachers — Iris, Jim, and Elham — for sharing their time and energy with our kids each week! I’m so grateful for your willingness to step into the role and your flexibility as we navigate our way back to our regular, in-person classes.
I’ll see most of you next week, and some of you on Friday evening for our Comparative Religion class’s synagogue visit!
"Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form" - Jean Luc Godard
I remember reading Stone Soup as a kid. I was an ardent rule-follower as a kid and I remember wondering whether the young man was technically lying to get everyone to share their food with him. After all, he could make soup from a stone. I remember feeling the twinge of jealousy that I always felt when I read stories like that, where someone was brave enough to break a rule and it ended up benefitting others.
Like many books, this one helped me better understand myself and how I fit into the world around me. We think about this a lot with kids -- we know how critical storytelling is for their development. At NoVES we even honor this with our weekly Story for All Ages.
We sometimes forget how important storytelling is for us as adults, too. Stories are more than just an escape from the day, Stories are how we learn and process things around us. Imagine that someone is trying to explain something abstract to you that you're not quite getting. What do you do? You probably ask for an example. What you're really asking for in that moment is a story to give you real-life context.
On Sunday, I hope we can all embrace the joy of making a story come to life!
Lately, I've been thinking about this old xkcd webcomic. It shows how we naturally fall into rhythms in how we talk to people and those can be tough to get out of.
It's been on my mind lately because I use Twitter professionally. When I started in my field, I was the only person who did the job at my company. Twitter provided me a huge community of other practitioners who I learned a lot from. As a result, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who I've met through the platform. Some of us have found new ways to connect off of the platform, and drastic changes to Twitter this week have made it clear that I need to find alternative methods for everyone else!
This also brings up the broader question of how we communicate. I tend to prefer text over email, but that doesn't mean that you do! Let me know what you prefer so I can make sure that I'm getting information to you in the best way I can.
I'm also starting a new connection point between the Sunday school and NoVES friends and members! Today you'll receive our first monthly newsletter, which details what we've been working on, what we've been reading, and what's coming up. Keep an eye on your inbox -- more from me soon!
A week or two ago, Josie and I were looking through my memories on my phone and came across this picture from 2017. She asked what we were doing, and I told her that I took her canvassing because an election was coming up.
"Can we do that again?" she asked. I paused for a second. I was furiously chipping away at work deadlines before leaving for a conference. I knew I'd be exhausted the next weekend, then there were more deadlines to hit.
Then the guilt got to me. Not only had I not done anything this year to help get out the vote, but I wasn't modeling the civic engagement and action that I wanted to. "Of course we can," I said. "We'll figure out something that we can do".
Do I feel like I have time this weekend? Absolutely not! I have a house to clean! I have graphics to make for future platforms and a newsletter to write (by the way, look for the first monthly Sunday School newsletter in the next few days)! Whether it's handing out ballots for a while at an early voting site, knocking a few doors until she gets tired, or taking some time off on Tuesday to grab a shift at my polling place, I'm promising to do something. I hope you'll join me in that promise!