Notes of a 21st Century Jewish Dad – Teshuvah

Dear friends, 

I’m not only the luckiest guy in the world to have the greatest job in the world – working with the most talented educators in the world – but I’m also blessed to be a ShalomLearning parent with a third grader and a fifth grader, who are learning in our virtual classrooms this year on Sunday mornings. In the spirit of growing our community of parents, I thought I’d try my hand at a personal blog on how the ShalomLearning lessons are helping my family shape our Jewish sensibilities and helping us to live a better life. 

Just a little note: as a writer, I’m changing the names of my wife and kids to protect their real identities. Also, from time to time I might incorporate stories and feedback from other parents into these characters and others, to give voice to the many ways ShalomLearning affects the lives of our children and families. 

My plan is to write at least one blog post for each of ShalomLearning’s seven units. I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to write back or comment anytime, as I really care about how ShalomLearning is impacting your lives. 


“You are beautiful when you are angry,” I told my wife Kristen. But this wasn’t worth fighting about. (Most arguments aren’t.) I took a breath and let it out, “Ok. I am sorry that I put the dishes in the wrong cabinet. I wasn’t paying attention.”

She rolled her eyes, as she caught the popping toast lefty, with psychic precision, the perfect amount of butter already cued up on the knife in her right hand “I know that you think that it is no big deal,” she buttered, “but these things matter…”

“You know what matters most at the end of one’s life?” I offered on top of the cutlery scratching as I recalled what I read last night, “The 5 F’s.”

“Are the first two, ‘first focus’ on what your wife tells you, for example… remember to put away the dishes in the right cabinet?” She chided me while I handed her the raspberry jelly and a separate knife, carefully keeping the jar contents as gluten free for her celiac.

“Not exactly…but family is close to the top. I read last night, that according to a wealth manager, they

Family Selfie

Family Selfie!

are in the following order of importance: faith, family, friends, fitness and finance.

“Faith’s number one?” she threw me a nod, while pouring a cup of tea.

“Yeah, well one is…the loneliest number,” I replied

“Yes, but you’re not exactly Harry Neilson either…”

“I am not sure if he said the Shmah before bed every night”

Sunday morning. 8:59 am in our Brookline household. My eight-year old son, Jonah, is in the sun-soaked dining room facing a laptop, drawing on paper with crayons waiting for his third grade ShalomLearning class to start. And in the living room, my ten-year old daughter, Hannah is logging in through my wife’s imac, next to the freshly delivered toast and tea Kristen just brought her.

Both kids are in their pajamas. It is a lucky day today as Hannah’s travel soccer game isn’t until noon and Jonah’s drum lesson isn’t until 2. This is Luxury compared to usual schedule crazed fall weekends, no early morning sports games.

But the academics are well underway, as ShalomLearning had already dedicated the opening four weeks of lessons to the overarching topic of “Teshuvah.” Our kids are doing their Hebrew School at home this year: one hour, one day a week while meeting with their virtual communities of peers around the country; a schedule and a community that works in harmony with the common frantic schedule of a modern family.

9:03. “Kids are all set, “ I reported. “Still on the Teshuvah unit,” I told Kristen, meeting her back in the kitchen.

“Four lessons in four weeks spent on just the concept of “repentance?” Kristen asked, while baking gluten free, eggless muffins in the kitchen.  We were discussing unit one of the ShalomLearning curriculum.

“How guilty do we want our kids to feel? Yom Kippur’s only one day, “ she joked.

 “I know, huh. What is next? Confession booths?”

“I bet there’s an app for that,” Kristen didn’t miss a beat. Quick Google-check on my iphone by the coffee machine…”Yes there is and Catholics love it…five stars.”

“I wonder if I had that app if I would have liked Sunday school more when I was a kid?”

Jonah setting the table for his sister as part of her 5th grade Teshuvah dinner assignment

Jonah setting the table for his sister as part of her 5th grade Teshuvah dinner assignment

“It’s good for me that technology hadn’t caught up then, perhaps you wouldn’t have been so open to raise your kids in an intermarriage if your Sunday school had better resources and professional development.”

“You’re not going to quote the 2013 Pew study again?” she begged.

“Not enough coffee yet, don’t worry,” I assured.

Well it means that ShalomLearning has treated the concept of Teshuvah as one of the core values of Jewish Identity. Creating the groundwork for proper forgiveness and ultimately how we treat each other in this world is of paramount importance.

My eyes catch the bag of food and supplies that Kristen has created for “The Family Table” food drive to drop off at the synagogue (yes we are members of a shul too). I remember once again that it is the relationships that we create and the people that we help, that matters most in this life. I stir that thought into the cup of Joe, getting ready to walk through my children’s lessons again.

9:30. Teshuvah permeates our house these days on both sides of the equation, parents and children. The good news is that it is never too late to set things right and start again. “As long as they are still here,” I say to myself, passing my father’s picture by the piano.

So here’s the deal…turning ourselves around when we go astray and being our best selves is central to living a Jewish life. Teshuvah is a process that lasts a lifetime, and each day we begin anew. Each day, and moment to moment, we have a choice on how we behave.

I return to the kitchen, “So four lessons seems fair since this is going to take a whole lifetime to get it right for all of us.” Kristen looks up from her ipad and I give her a hug.

“You might need more than one lifetime in your case,” she hugs me back. “Just put the bowls on the right side of the cabinet.”

We’d love to hear from you! How is the ShalomLearning curriculum impacting your family? Let us know.

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About Josh Troderman

Joshua Troderman, President of ShalomLearning has been a passionate innovator of Jewish education for 20 years. Josh has held teaching and administrative positions at a number of Jewish day schools, synagogues, and summer camps, including The Rashi School, The Rodeph Shalom Day School, The Kesher Community Hebrew School, The Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor High School, Congregation Kehillath Israel, Camp Ramah, Camp Edward Isaacs, and Storahtelling. Since 2009, Josh has also directed, a giving platform that empowers Jewish youth to learn about and experience the mitzvah of Tzedakah. Josh holds a master’s degree in Jewish Education (2005) from The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife and two children, and can be seen playing keyboards and singing on Thursdays with his soul and funk band called The New Mother Earth.