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Post-Covid Standing at Sinai

02/01/2021 04:27:26 PM


Rabbi Wendy Pein


Our Torah portion this week is Parshat Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23), the Torah portion which records our ancestors’ divine revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments.  In this Torah portion, Moses ascends Mount Sinai, receives the Ten Commandments, and then transmits these laws to the Jewish people. Reform Jewish ideology embraces the view that Sinai is not a static, one-time in history experience. Instead of God literally dictating the Torah to Moses, we are more inclined to believe that Torah is the result of the continuing interaction between God and the Jewish people.  By continuing to learn and interpret Torah, Jewish texts, and our tradition, we continue to unfold and develop Torah in our own time, and as we do so, we continue to experience Sinai in our present.

Through transmitting the Torah to the Israelites, Moses becomes our first rav, or teacher, which is why Moses is referred to as Moshe Rabbenu, meaning Moses, our Teacher. From that first Sinai encounter, we have been creating a chain in which the law, and by extension, Jewish tradition, has been transmitted by our teachers to each subsequent generation (Pirke Avot 1:1).  The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in how we educate our children.  In the CJL (Center for Jewish Learning), educational changes since last March include:

  • All CJL classes being conducted online via Zoom
  • Class lengths are shortened and focused to allow for an appropriate amount of screen time for each grade level
  • Small group and individualized virtual learning sessions for Hebrew enrichment are held virtually with our CJL Faculty as tutors
  • Our Madrichimot (Teen Aides) facilitate activities and discussions for our youth during our online classes and are planning teen-led CJL electives for students this spring

Although it is February, we are starting to plan for CJL in 2021-2022. As we plan, we are asking, what lessons have we learned from a year of online learning?  How should these lessons guide our planning for CJL 2021-2022 and the future of Jewish education?

Our educational goal is to help our students learn, live and connect to our Jewish heritage.  Despite the pandemic, we continue to help our students develop a positive Jewish identity which includes pride in our heritage, and we teach Jewish values such as equality which can guide them during these complex times. From the chain of transmission which began at Sinai, during this pandemic, and, eventually, a post-Covid time in the not too distant future, we are committed to transmitting Judaism to our students in the most relevant and inspiring way as possible.

If you have thoughts / feedback about the CJL this past year and/or for the years ahead, please reach out to me at I would love to hear your insight as we begin to design CJL’s future!

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782