From the Folkshul Director

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Posted by jkolodner on Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 10:35pm
Saturday, October 7, 2017 - 4:45pm

Dear Folkshul Community,

This morning, Mindy Blatt (Director of Community Engagement) and I attended a working breakfast with other Philadelphia-area Jewish community professionals entitled “Critical Findings on Identity and Engagement: Results of a recent survey of 998 non-Orthodox Jewish participants, ages 15-26.” The study focused on what they call “under-engaged” individuals, or those who did NOT identify themselves as being highly engaged in Jewish life and activities.

Collecting responses from Philadelphia and Los Angeles Jewish communities, this survey investigated key aspects of participants’ general and Jewish identities, as well as “roadblocks” and “onramps” to Jewish engagement and the implications for creating successful programming to engage teens and young adults.

This may sound a bit dry, but in reality (to the extent that we can extend these findings to our community’s populations) it was tremendously affirming for us here at Folkshul! Many recommendations reflected central aspects of our Folkshul approach to Jewish education and community engagement across all age groups. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

  • Tradition, family and culture are highly valued by the majority of these young adults while religion, ritual, prayer and even spirituality can lack relevance.
  • Jewish food/cooking traditions were especially appreciated.
  • In order to ensure the next generation will value Jewish aspects in their life, it is important to involve parents and the whole family in programs.
  • Informal and casual programs that emphasize interpersonal connection (such as Shabbat dinners) are among the most successful ways of engaging young adults.
  • Teens and young adults want to be entertained and learn at the same time, preferably led by someone they find inspiring and relatable. 
  • Self- improvement was a strong common thread between engaged and unengaged young adults. They prefer the learning modes of doing, utilizing and applying critical thinking skills to Jewish topics, and small group discussions
  • Topics of special interest to young adults include self-improvement and personal growth, so these should be combined with elements of Jewish values and ethics in programming.

That’s not to say we’ve got all of the answers, but it was very validating to see that the central tenets of the “Folkshul way” were supported by this research. We should feel confident that we can double-down on the values, the fun, the FOOD, and the relevance that we build into our classes, holiday programs, and special events.

We’ve got a great thing here, folks, but in order to stay a healthy organization, we need to grow our membership! This summer, please help us spread the word about Folkshul to your family members and friends who may be looking for a warm, inclusive, Jewish community of their own. Share your Folkshul stories at the swim club or at the office. And, please direct any interested folks to (You’ll receive a $50 credit if they join!) While it may seem like the summer is “time off,” we can’t afford to waste a minute! Thank you in advance for your efforts.

All the best for a happy and healthy summer,
Jen Kolodner
Interim Director
Jewish Children’s Folkshul and Adult Community

Posted by on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 10:20pm
Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 1:55pm

Dear Folkshul Community:


As the news sinks in that the voices of xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, bullying, and racism apparently rang out louder than the voices of civil discourse, critical thinking, and inclusiviity, it is hard not to feel defeated. Our hearts ache for undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, our threatened climate - and all of us who fear an uncertain future as a result of this election. We struggle to know what to say to our children, often unsure how to understand it ourselves.  


L’Dor V’dor - from generation to generation – we remember in awe those who rose up in the past to resist injustice; we pass these values and traditions on to our children. These next few years will likely provide many opportunities to “walk the walk” with our children by our sides - at rallies and marches and while volunteering to shore up organizations that help those in need of a voice and support. We took our children to Washington, DC to March for Soviet Jewry, for the Women’s Right to Choose Rally and to Stand Up for Education. Many of our children participated in the AIDS Walk from early on, and some were instrumental in the fight for Public School funding in Philadelphia. And who can forget marching in the recent Climate Rally in Philadelphia in scorching heat!


Justice. Fairness. Equality. Respect for Difference. Care of the Environment. These are the values of our community. We can take some time to grieve - but we will not be stopped. The secular Jewish community has a long and proud history of social action and resistance to injustice. We have fought, demonstrated, sued, picketed, and helped to build coalitions of like-minded people. And rest assured -  we will continue this tradition!  


Still, after so many miles of marching, a certain amount of weariness is understandable. Our children are looking to us for reassurance and guidance. Our elders are looking to us to carry it on. As we brace ourselves for uncertain times, it is crucial that we lean on one another.  We invite you to join us this Sunday morning at Folkshul. We have set aside a time and space for folks to gather - 10:10 AM - to talk, vent and support one another. Let’s begin the process of brainstorming  the next steps to take toward the direction laid out by our past, informed by our present values, and where we want the world to go.


March on!    


With hope from all of us at Folkshul



For some ideas for how to talk to our children about the outcome of this election:


The Day After. By Lauryn Mascareñaz. Teaching Tolerance Blog.11/02/2016.


What Do We Tell The Children? By Ali Michael, PhD. Huffington Post. 11/08/2016.