May 29

Jewish Education at Intermountain

As the Jewish Educator at Intermountain, Janet provides a safe, one-on-one environment for the Jewish children on campus to explore, relate to and develop their Jewish identity and understanding. This is accomplished in a variety of ways: through story-telling, song, holiday celebrations, discussion, the learning of Hebrew, prayer, bar/bat mitzvah training, and participation in Jewish community events when applicable and feasible within the treatment of the child. Janet is a tremendous asset to not only our Chaplain’s Program, but to the Residential program as a whole. She brings excitement, passion, and energy to the faith formation of Jewish children in residence and has been a great collaborator with Chaplain Chris for joint fellowship meetings around the holidays of Chanukah and Passover. We thought we’d let you hear a bit from Janet in this article about her role here at Intermountain:

“Judaism is a way of life as well as a religion. It focuses on Tikkum Olam (tea-kum o-lum) which means ‘Repairing the World.’ Judaism is about making the world a better place in which to live, emphasizing the need for compassion, justice, and kindness. Through stories, song, prayer and discussion, the children I am entrusted to work with at Intermountain grow in their understanding of Jewish thought and practice.

Most of the Jewish mentoring and education takes place on a one-to-one basis, but in some cases, depending on how many Jewish children are living on campus at any particular time, we may meet for small group and/or holiday celebrations. These sessions, whether one-on-one or in small groups, always take into account the needs of the children within their treatment as well as their prior knowledge of and interest in each activity.

Since the Helena Jewish community only comes together occasionally for holiday celebrations and activities, the children are afforded the opportunity to travel to   Missoula or Bozeman to participate in synagogue-based events. Again, this takes place within the context of their treatment as well as with their parent’s expressed desire and permission for such special off-campus activities to be included in their religious education.

Although synagogue and communal observance is an important part of Jewish practice, the home is considered the center of Jewish life and learning. With that in mind, I am always available to provide Jewish guidance and resource materials to the parents of our Jewish students. This, in turn, helps further develop the bond between parent and child, creating meaningful, positive and shared experiences within the family.

Recognizing that there are several branches/streams of Judaism, and being well versed in all of them, I am available to teach a child at the level of observance and interest that they and their parents prefer. Since Judaism encourages learning, reading and discussion, our one hour sessions provide an opportunity for the child to learn, question and expand their knowledge of Judaism.

In working with the children at Intermountain, I am often reminded of a story:  “When asked to explain the Jewish religion while standing on one foot (obviously a flippant request!), a famous rabbi remarked, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you”.  The rest is all commentary.  Now go study”.  And so we do.


Janet Tatz, Jewish Educator