Mothers Circle to begin in Springfield
- The Mothers Circle, an eight-month program for non-Jewish moms
raising Jewish children, will start in Springfield next month.
first session of the Mothers Circle of Springfield will take place
Thursday, April 26, from 9-11 a.m., at the Springfield Jewish Community
Center, 1160 Dickinson St., Springfield. Babysitting will be available.
Mothers Circle, a program developed by the New York-based Jewish
Outreach Institute, began in Western Massachusetts last year with two
circles in Northampton and one in Pittsfield.
Northampton Circles and the one starting in Springfield are
co-sponsored by Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts and the
Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which is also sponsoring the Berkshire
County circle with Congregation Knesset Israel in Pittsfield.
Zonderman, the director of Sulamot: The Family Education Initiative of
the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, coordinator of the Mothers Circles in
Western Massachusetts and leader of the Mothers Circles of Northampton,
said women as well as Jewish communal leaders expressed the need for a
Mothers Circle in Springfield.
Lisa Nascembeni, who also works
as a Sulamot family educator and religious school teacher at Temple
Beth El, will lead the Springfield circle. Nascembeni, whose husband is
not Jewish, said, “The more information people have, the more they feel
in control… With what I’m learning in my family education teaching, I
feel I can help them.”
goals of The Mothers Circle are to create comfortable spaces for women
to learn about Judaism, to explore Jewish holidays and rituals for use
with their families, and to deepen their connection to the religion of
If you ask Shelly Bathe Lenn and Christine Young,
two members the Mothers Circles of Northampton, the program is
accomplishing those goals.
Lenn, an Easthampton resident and the
mother of a 2-year-old son, learned about the Mothers Circle from the
doctor who served as the mohel at her son’s bris.
that the Mothers Circle would be would be a gentle way to learn about
raising Evan Jewish. It just seemed like it had so many parts to it
that would be supportive, safe and welcoming,” she explained.
who was raised Lutheran, and her husband decided to raise their son
Jewish because, she said, “I was the one who felt less of a connection
to my religion and was therefore willing to embrace a new religion.”
joining the Mothers Circle of Northampton, she had minimal knowledge of
Judaism, and her exposure to holidays and rituals came solely from her
husband, her in-laws and their extended family.
But after several months of the program, Lenn and her family are celebrating Shabbat regularly.
“My son is learning the language of it. As a family, we’ve really embraced that particular ritual,” she said.
week we can incorporate something new and learn from what we did last
week,” she said. “The consistency of [Shabbat] gives us something to
look forward to.”
She’s also enjoyed developed friendships with other women who are in similar situations.
all doing this with different degrees of experience,” explained Lenn,
who calls her self the greenest in the group. “We exchange of what
worked, what didn’t work. It really helped to lay a groundwork of
comfort and support for choosing this path.”
about Jewish history, Lenn said, “We go over the traditions and the
holidays. I feel like Shoshana covers every detail, you know why a
certain particular ritual object is used, the history behind it, where
to get it, ways to incorporate it. She’s very helpful.”
added, “It doesn’t come across as dogmatic. [Judaism is] very embracing
and welcoming of different perspectives, opinions. To me it’s so free.”
Lenn, Christine Young of Northampton has had many years of experience
participating in the Jewish community before and even more so after her
three children were born. She is member of Beit Ahavah in Florence and
Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton, where her children —
9-year-old Madison, and 7-year-old twins Reed and Zachary — go to
Young, who is Protestant, said, “I’m someone who has been considering converting to Judaism for many years.”
said the Mothers Circle “has pushed me further and further along in my
journey. And it’s given me a fabulous network of very deeply committed
parents, other moms who are struggling with the same issues.”
But, she added, conversion is not one of the end goals of the Mothers Circle.
adult education. It really is about providing information on the
cultural and spiritual practices in Judaism. That is only so the moms
are more informed. There is no proselytizing going on.”
She’s enjoyed learning about her fellow circle members.
other moms share deeply personal stories of their families, children
and partners is very moving,” she said. “People share deep personal
stories about their own childhood and how their own families have
reacted to the decision to raise children outside the Christian faith…
There’s lots of fun stories, too.”
Young encourages other
non-Jewish moms raising Jewish kids to enroll in the Mothers Circle:
“This is a fabulous way to get your foot into the door and feel more
comfortable with the customs and practices of Judaism.”
For more information about the Mothers Circle of Springfield, e-mail Lisa Nascembeni at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (413) 737-2601. For more information about the other Mothers
Circles, call Shoshana Zonderman at (413) 439-1946 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Comments? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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