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Do you want to explore Jewish heritage, traditions and wisdom? Do you want to feel empowered in your spirituality? I founded Keeping It Sacred as the place to do that, and you are welcome here. Our acronym, KITS, honors my beloved grandmother, Fruma Kit Endler, who died at the age of 100 this past June.
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Keeping It Sacred (KITS), a vibrant global community known for accessible, relevant, and empowering adult educational programming, is expanding with a new KITS Family Education program.
Keeping It Sacred is a vibrant center for a global community that spans 6 continents and 11 time- zones. In 2022, over 2,000 reservations were made for Keeping It Sacred programs, with readership of our newsletter reaching over 17,000 opens. Our growth and engagement continues with open rates increasing week over week to 62%. This means that with each passing week, people are more and more likely to engage with our content and programming. Our numbers in 2023 continue this through line. KITS has established itself as a place where adults go to for their own flexible open accessible communal Jewish education. Now we are looking to create programming for families.
Over the past 35 years, synagogue religious school enrollment has plummeted 50%. (1) Families in a recent Pew Research Center Study (2) affirm that many of the challenges of Traditional Synagogue models present are challenges of welcome, relevance, and belonging. The Study also noted barriers of exclusivity, location, and cost. That means that even the communities that are the most welcoming and provide the greatest content still struggle with enrollments. Families are having trouble juggling traditional religious school programs into their busy schedules and tight budgets.
David Bryfman, CEO of the Jewish Education Project who led the study on enrollment believes that the problems have arisen because, as he stressed in a recent webinar, “…traditional synagogue Jewish educational models were set up in a time that was really different… we believe change is possible and necessary and necessary now. The data (from the study) is a wake up call for all of us who care about Jewish education.”(3) What a powerful alarm he is raising, and important challenge to all of us.
But, there is a sign of hope embedded in that survey: 100% of the JEP study responders believe in the importance of these schools to help students develop a sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Families are yearning for Jewish education, but they need a new model. They need someone to listen to their needs and solve the mismatch between what they want and what currently exists.
Already, 30 families (25 of them are interfaith families) with 52 kids (9 of whom are Jews of Color) from the Los Angeles area have reached out to Keeping It Sacred because KITS has developed a reputation for this kind of accessible, relevant, and empowering programming. Of these 30 families, 25 are interfaith families with 9 families including at least one member of the Jews of Color community.
Beyond the LA KITS Community, our program has the potential for greater reach because of the success because of the expertise we have already developed mixing of in-person and virtual offerings. We have several families across the US and abroad who have expressed similar interest. And, several rabbis and educators have also expressed great interest and excitement for our model. They are following our work because they know it will serve as a source of inspiration for their educational programs. We are highly collaborative and want to help them build out educational opportunities that meet the needs 21st c. families.
At Keeping It Sacred, we have assembled a dynamite team of experienced Jewish educators who are solidly qualified to think outside of the box. Rabbi Heather Miller, serves as KITS Founder, Chavva Olander serves as Director of Family Learning and Engagement, and Jason Kim-Seda serves as Curricular Consultant– each has over two decades of educational leadership experience in either Religious Schools, Jewish Day Schools, or both. The team is supported by our Digital Media Manager, Molly Flanagan.
We have already assembled our KITS Family Focus Group, launched two projects, and designed the framework for our program that is customizable and communal, that motivates learning and encourages engagement, and that delivers real content around holidays and topics of interest. We will continue to build up our plan by measuring our success through surveys and by tracking our enrollment, engagement, celebrations, referrals and financial contributions.
David Bryfman, CEO of the Jewish Education Project stresses that, “We need to invest in our innovators, scale our successes and build more...part time Jewish education models.” Won’t you help us?
In the spirit of reimagining Sunday school, Keeping it Sacred seeks to provide a Family Educational program that integrates/infuses Jewish tradition and wisdom with relevance and practical application for today. In short, we want to explore this question: In an increasingly and paradoxically interconnected yet divided society, what does it mean to live Jewishly? The program aligns with our mission and guiding principles while it meets and affirms families - both children and parents/caregivers - where they are at, what they are interested in, and how they are navigating opportunities and challenges in the world. We want to nurture an engaged, thriving, and social-justice oriented learning community with a dynamic educational program that is accessible, relevant, and empowering.
In line with how educational content and delivery has evolved over the last several years, we will provide materials, lessons, and activities in a variety of modalities. This includes asynchronous and synchronous online material, as well as occasional in-person learning opportunities. We understand that you are juggling a lot of responsibilities, so we aim to create accessible media that fit your lifestyle. This will include, but not be limited to, podcasts, educational videos, interactive live sessions, thought-provoking blogs or columns, book discussions, and collaborative activities.
Our methods and materials aim to integrate the wisdom of Jewish tradition and teachings with topics, interests, and challenges of our modern lives. We aim to educate from interdisciplinary and multi-perspective lenses, understanding that life’s challenges and questions are not answered in a tidy binary; rather, we will wrestle with what is before us, valuing questions and collaboration. While our youngsters will be allowed to explore topics of interest (arts, science, sports, etc.), we will ground the exploration in character and identity development. Parent participants will be seen as learning partners, as we examine how our traditions, lived experiences, cultures, and background can help us learn new ways of seeing the world and develop skills to help us guide our children as they navigate growing up in this society.
We aim to empower participants, young and old, with material and life lessons that can be explored once or many times over and that are grounded in a number of perennial topics relevant to growing up and engaging with the world around us, Our adaptable and dynamic program develops evergreen materials, provides opportunities to learn in community, and sparks relevant conversations about engaging with important societal issues informed by a Jewish lens.
Topics We Explore
Identity Development and Issues of Belonging
Definition of Family
What does it mean to be Jewish (not Jew-ish)
Friendships and Peer Pressure
History and Current Events Connections
Art, Expression, and Culture
Jewish Rituals, Symbols, Prayers, and Traditions
Sacred Values and Character Qualities: Generosity, Truth, Justice, Mercy, Humility etc.
Holidays: then, now, high, low, and across cultures
Untold Stories of the Bible/Marginalized Voices Today
Ethical Living Today: From Conversation to Action
Media Consumption with a Jewish Lens