Making Jewish Learning Available to Military Families Overseas
By Amanda Gipson, Jewish Education Facilitator at the US Naval Base in Rota, Spain
The Hebrew school here at at the US Navy Base in Rota, Spain began August 2020 and wrapped up this past April. A total of 12 students from Jewish families in 5 countries signed up thanks to support from JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, ShalomLearning, and PJ Library. The JWB Jewish Chaplains Council initiated making Jewish learning available to overseas Jewish families, PJ Library help spread the word, and ShalomLearning provided the curriculum and support needed for success.
When we started, most of the students had no knowledge of the alef-bet. Now they are all able to participate in Hebrew reading and know many common blessings. Families commented on the feeling of community that we were all able to create. I can’t over emphasize that the lesson materials on Jewish values created by the ShalomLearning team are excellent and so easy to use. They have a variety of lesson formats to choose from to keep things interesting and interactive with the kids.
As teachers-facilitators, Deborah Rios Rey and I were amazed and pleased at seeing how quickly kids learn these days. Neither of us are professional educators. We got involved in this program as lay leaders in our local community at our base in Rota, Spain. It is such a pleasure to be part of this project. We are excited for the fall when we will start school again, and are considering offering a shorter program over the summer for students close to being B´nei Mitzvah.
We are very grateful for the interest and support from the institutions that help make this happen.
Amanda Gipson currently serves as lay leader for the Jewish community at U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain where she has lived for the past 12 years. Amanda holds a Master in Spanish Translation and Interpreting from the University of Texas Rio Grande. She completed a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy as a Navy Counselor before continuing her studies and switching careers to translator. She dedicates her free time to community growth and education and leads Hebrew school classes along with her partner Deborah Rios Rey in a special online course for children in military and diplomatic families located around Europe and Africa. They share their home with two cats, Laila and Eluli.