How to Teach Religion Today – With Purim as an Example

photo of poster called Spring Rules!Matt, the Jewish father in an interfaith family with two young girls, shared with me this story:
His mother, the girls’ Jewish grandmother, asked if he would raise the girls Jewish. “Yes,” he said, “but it won’t look like the Jewish I was raised with, or the Jewish you, Mom, were raised with. It will look like the Jewish they will be raised with.”

Now more than ever we need models for teaching religion to today’s youth in ways that lay the foundation for a new form of religious identity in a safe, loving, and just world. And I mean World. Education is no longer a singular ethnic communal concern. Today we must consider how we fit with others on our shared planet. How are we —the grown ups in the room— supposed to do that?

Religious and secular educators need good examples of lessons that work.

We need success stories of how to teach religion in a way that inspires us to create more of these new kinds of lessons. We need to know that these new kinds of lessons will have positive outcomes. We need to know that we can do so without discarding our existing curricula but also without leaving them as-is.

Religious school teachers need to know that current lesson plans can integrate with a new kind of program. Like the parent of a child who separates to marry, we need to see the inevitable desires of our students/children not as our loss (losing a son or daughter to marriage) but as our gain (adopting a son or daughter in-law through marriage). For youth and parents will soon demand, if they don’t already, this new kind of religious education.

With the Jewish holiday of Purim right around the corner, I encourage Jewish religious school teachers and Jewishly-connected parents to consider adding a new kind of Purim lesson to your repertoire. In my guest blog,  Interfaith Purim Plus, I provide a free example.

Read this blog. Borrow my ideas. Adapt them to fit the specs of your students or family. They work with ages 10-15. Or pass this on to the Jewish educators you know, and…

…this coming weekend, celebrate Esther’s leadership. Plan to develop the religious educational needs of a generation being raised in a multi-faith world with a global culture. The kids will thank you, I will thank you, and eventually, the grandparents will too. 

Lauren Zinn holds a doctorate in educational planning, a masters in philosophy for children, and is a seminary-ordained interfaith officiant. Her original blog post at Multicultural Kids demonstrates “Wide Over Narrow,” one of ten principles for a new kind of religious school education for which she argues in her forthcoming book.

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