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Asking the Clergy: What are resources for teaching religious education at home?

The Rev. Kevin O'Hara of Lutheran Church of

The Rev. Kevin O'Hara of Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Mahmood Kauser of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Rabbi Karen Reiss Medwed of Plainview, member, Joint Beit Din of the Conservative Movement. Credit: Kevin O’Hara; Mahmood Kauser; Julio Chuy

Religious education doesn’t have to be put on hold as pandemic protocols continue into autumn school days. This week’s clergy discuss online resources parents can use to tutor kids in their faith, including workbooks, catechisms and colorful cartoon videos.

Rabbi Karen Reiss Medwed of Plainview

Member, Joint Beit Din of the Conservative Movement; Assistant Dean, Networks and Digital Engagement, Graduate School of Education, Northeastern University

This year many parents are facing difficult choices for schooling their children and, for some, the most reasonable answer is to opt into schooling at home.

Many online resources for Jewish education are accessible for parents schooling from home. PJ Library (pjlibrary.org/home) hosts a robust website to accompany its book distribution. Myjewishlearning.com provides resources in the written word, videos, quizzes and even recipes. For the older child, sefaria.org is a sophisticated digital collection of Jewish primary sources, as well as study guides and resources on a wide range of topics.

In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin 29a, the rabbis instruct: “A parent is obligated with regard to the child … to teach Torah … to teach a trade, and some say a parent is also obligated to teach a child to swim.” Parents now face many difficult obligations teaching their children at home. Instructing your own children in your religious heritage offers a healthy opportunity to imbue them with values and morals as well as practical tools and skills for growing and sustaining themselves. Online resources can enhance and supplement the love and pride a parent instills in their child's religious instruction.

The Rev. Kevin O’Hara

Pastor, Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Patchogue

During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Martin Luther evaluated the religious education being performed within churches and found it seriously wanting. Many pastors were distorting or picking and choosing Bible stories while ignoring the overarching theme of God’s salvation.

And if pastors weren’t trained correctly, how much less should be expected from the family? From this, Martin Luther wrote "Small Catechism," a short book that explores the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed in child-friendly questions. Many Lutherans have memorized the whole book. It’s available for free in the Google and Apple app stores (look for “Luther’s Small Catechism”).

At this time we need to return to our congregations, which have been working diligently to figure out how to live in a COVID-19 world. Many of us have planned online classes. My congregation will help parents carry out Christian learning in daily activities that include monthly prizes for kids. Ask your pastor about kid-friendly Bibles available at Amazon and other sites, online kids’ weekly bulletins at childrensbulletins.com (a subscriber service from which they can print to do during and after worship) and websites that promote correct faith practices.

Mahmood Kauser

Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community with mosques in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Amityville

In mid-March our mosques made the necessary decision to freeze activities and programs to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The greatest resource that was available for religious studies was the virtual connection via videoconferencing.

Moral education is ideally conducted through personal relationships, which we continued online with weekly classes, presentations and webinars. Recently, the Khalifa and Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, held a historic virtual class with 220 Canadian students, ushering in a new era of religious education. It was unique in the Muslim world for a spiritual leader to take such a direct and active role in the upbringing of future leaders. This has established a blueprint for our mosques around the globe to continue training and educating youth for a brighter future.

For parents who want to continue their children’s Muslim education at home during the pandemic, I recommend the website of the Tahir Academy, which provides religious education for more than 4,000 Ahmadi Muslim boys and girls in the United States. Online workbooks, links to colorful animated lessons for young children and other resources are available at the academy’s website, tahiracademy.org.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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