Art Gallery and Education Center, B'nai Mitzvah, Jewish Community, Youth

by Janis Knight, Director of the Center for Jewish Education, Congregation Shirat Hayam

Thanks to support from CJP and the Jim Joseph Foundation, Mayyim Hayyim shared the curriculum and funding to run Beneath the Surface, our highly successful program for Bat Mitzvah girls and their mothers, with communities in the greater Boston area, including Congregation Shirat Hayam.

I am amazed at the simple and effective way to for mothers and daughters to connect that the curriculum for Beneath the Surface creates. Honestly, I thought it was too simple . . . then I put it into action.

Last month, we had a new group of women and daughters sitting around the table. They came from three different congregations and four towns. They came from diverse Jewish backgrounds: some were liberal, some Conservative, and some were Chabad members; some had all-Jewish families, some had interfaith families, some were lesbian, and some straight; some were raised in large Jewish communities, some came from small communities. Some of the daughters attended day school and some public school; some of the moms were older and some younger – and it was a joy to see them begin talking, sharing, laughing and validating each other’s experiences almost from the first question!

The personal stories that came from the girls (who shared art projects they had decorated with symbols of important moments in their personal journeys) were meaningful, and the sense of connection in the group was palpable. Best of all were the moments where moms and daughters looked at each other with surprise and wonder at learning something new about this person sitting beside them!

Bring Beneath the Surface to your community with Mayyim Hayyim’s innovative and comprehensive curricula that include everything you need: handouts, activities, discussion questions, supply lists, and more. Contact Leeza Negelev, Associate Director of Education, with any questions. 

Janis Knight is the Director of the Center for Jewish Education at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott. She has been a teacher, a congregational educator, a program director, a youth group leader in Jewish communities around the country, including Springfield, MA, Orlando, FL, Ventura, CA, Manalapan, NJ and Nashua, NH. She and her husband, Tom Spisak, love learning and working in diverse Jewish communities. “The richness and variety of American Judaism is inspiring and reassuring to me as a Jewish educator. My goal is to help young Jews find their own individual pathways into Jewish tradition and to continue on into the future, transforming themselves and Jewish life and practice so that it remains vibrant and relevant.”