Many of us are missing our grandchildren, and sometimes those weekly conversations are just a little repetitive. Can we overcome the restrictions of shielding, and not being able to visit with the kids, by strengthening our relationships and finding more meaningful topics to talk about?
For many families, shielding from infection has meant missing Shabbat visits, spending the Chagim apart, and weakening the bond between the generations. Telephone conversations and even Zoom conversations with grandparents have become stilted – neither side has much to say, because life has become limited and boring. It has been particularly difficult for parents with children and grandchildren living overseas, who can no longer fly over to visit one another.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, I heard an idea on the radio phone-in show from a grandmother who was setting weekly quiz questions for her grandchildren, and I thought “We could do a quiz about the Parsha!” I spoke with the education experts at Herzog College, and we came up with a way to help Jewish grandparents all over the world to stay connected with their grandchildren. In the summer we launched the Mi’Dor L’Dor Herzog College Grandparent Chat Project, to give parents and grandparents inspiring ideas each week for productive conversations with their grandchildren.
The project involves a free weekly source sheet developed by educational experts around the weekly Torah reading, with questions and discussion points for children of different ages. It is designed to engage children in grades 2 – 5, but it can really be used for conversations with the whole family. The idea is to encourage grandparents not only to learn ideas from the Parsha with their grandchildren, but also to open up opportunities for personal conversations about their own life experiences.
For example, the source sheet for Parshat Yitro about the Ten Commandments included questions about the rules that families make today, and the different rules that grandparents grew up with back in the day. Kids were encouraged to think about why families and societies need rules, and how life has changed since their grandparents were young.
Six months into the project, we have received very positive feedback from grandparents all over the world, who said they enjoy discussing the texts and the topics with their grandchildren. One grandmother wrote: “I think it is a wonderful tool. Lovely ideas for conversation, and not just burping out answers – there was some good thinking happening!”
It also turns out that you don’t actually have to be a grandparent to utilize these free educational materials! We discovered that our source sheets are being used by several Rabbis and educators in the U.S., and some families were even using the materials as a resource for their Shabbat table conversations, particularly during lockdown periods when their kids were not bringing Parsha sheets home from school.
If you are looking for ideas to engage your grandchildren in conversation, or if you are a parent who would love to get your parents and your kids talking together about something more meaningful than what they had for dinner, you can download a sample source sheet and sign up for free weekly emails at http://herzog.activetrail.biz/Mi’Dor-L’Dor.
Herzog College is the world’s leading Jewish teacher training college, with 3,500 students enrolled in their education courses and degree programs on four campuses in Jerusalem & Gush Etzion. Herzog’s Global department provides Jewish Studies teachers around the world with training and resources, including websites, apps and online tools in Hebrew, English and Spanish. Herzog College also runs adult education programs that promote Jewish and Zionist values and encourage in-depth understanding of the Tanakh. Website: www.friendsofherzog.org
Sarah Manning is a public relations and marketing consultant advising commercial companies and Jewish NGOS involved with education and outreach.