Quality time, Jewish education combined in Highland Park program


Photo courtesy of Twelve Tribes

Dad and son work on an art project

In this age of overtime and weekends at the office, dads struggle to dedicate enough time to those who need it most--their children.

On June 20 the "Twelve Tribes: Dad and Me" program, run in Highland Park by the Jewish Council for Youth Services, will wrap up its first season. The 15 dads and their kids, preschool through third grade, spend quality time together while exploring Jewish culture and heritage.

Dads take turns planning monthly events, which can range from bowling to ceramic painting. Planning helps motivate them to get together in an organized environment, they say.

"It's a kick in the pants, as well as an excuse to get together to do some things just focused on father and son and not the entire family," said David Zirin of Highland Park, who is participating in the program with his son, Alex, 6.

Program coordinator Andrea Berlow says having each dad and child plan an event gives them a sense of satisfaction.

"Fathers get a certain sense of pride from teaching their children about the Jewish tradition themselves, and planning events teaches children about leadership," says Berlow, who works with the dads to develop ideas. "They get the feeling that ‘This was my event,' and that it went off well for the community."

Many of the programs focus around Jewish holidays, helping to develop knowledge of the faith at a young age--particularly the concept of mitzvah, the act of giving.

"So much of our faith is about supporting each other and helping each other learn," Berlow says. "Passover teaches us that when we have faith we overcome, and Hanukkah teaches us about giving to others who don't have enough."

One Hanukkah-inspired event involved making wrapping paper then wrapping gifts and delivering them to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Berlow says the informal Jewish education provided by the program may be more beneficial for kids than traditional religious education.

"We have kids who go to religious schools and they dread it, but kids take away more from religious education when they enjoy it and want to be there," she says.

The Twelve Tribes program is headquartered at the Lutz Family Center, 800 Clavey Rd. in Highland Park. The program costs $85 per family and applications for next season, starting in September, are currently being accepted.

The current program is just dads and sons, but the center hopes to develop a second program for dads and daughters in the fall.


-- Chris Fichera, Medill News Service


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