Whatever your feelings are on New Year’s resolutions, it’s hard to deny that the beginning of a new year (and in this case, a new decade!) is by its nature a time for renewal, re-examination, and growth. This is especially the case for achieving goals for ourselves and our families in the realm of Jewish involvement. Some of us are building on the momentum of our engagement in the past year, and many of us are looking for easy ways to embark on that journey with increased intention.
Perhaps you are a Jewish educator looking to set goals for your Hebrew school students for the spring semester. Or maybe you are a newlywed searching for ways to increase your and your new spouse’s engagement in your local Jewish community. Or it may be that you are a parent interested in shaking up the ways that your family brings Judaism into your busy, everyday lives.
Wherever you are in your Jewish journey, it can be helpful to remind ourselves of the power of goal setting and the basic principles thereof.
Be Relevant: Ask yourself: Is this goal going to matter to those who are going to try to achieve it? If the goal does not hold power, it is easy to drop with little consequence. This is especially true when children are involved.
Be Attainable: We all have big dreams, but ensure that your resolutions are realistic and attainable! Encourage yourself, your spouse, or your kids/ students to stretch in this new year, but not to overwhelm themselves.
Be Specific: Include a specific goal, whether it’s to study Torah 30 minutes a day, try Jewish summer camp for the first time, or meet five new friends from religious school or Kadima/USY. It makes it so much easier and more satisfying to identify when a goal is achieved!
Be Time-Bound and Measurable: A goal loses its power unless you’re working consistently toward it and tracking progress. Set mini-goals along the way and create fun ways to chart progress together and evaluate as you go.
Resolving to Make Judaism Real and Relevant
If your resolution as a parent is to make Judaism real and relevant for your kids, Rabbi Matthew Nover, Assistant Rabbi and Education Director of Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor, New Jersey, suggests:
Do Judaism Together: Share your Jewish values by picking activities that create togetherness. Light Shabbat candles or go to synagogue as a family and talk about why it’s important. Sign up to do a community service project together as a family and point out how the work reflects Jewish values.
Have Fun with It: What are the things you love about Judaism? Share those with your kids and then do them together! If they are joyful to you, it’s likely that they will bring joy to your children as well. Judaism has serious components, of course, but it’s also meant to bring joy.
Encourage Questions: Encourage curiosity. Judaism loves questions, even the ridiculous. And children ask the best ones. You never know what you’ll learn as you explore together.
Make it Real: If your children learn something in religious school, give them a chance to bring those lessons home in a practical way. Give them opportunities to bring their learning into the home by explaining a lesson to the family, performing a song they learned, or performing a new ritual with you.