By Sophie Zelony

Jewish Kids Groups is ready to kick off the second year of a program partnered with and housed at Congregation Or VeShalom in Brookhaven.

JKG and Or VeShalom “really try to take advantage of the fact that we have two strong organizations, and we believe that we could do more together than we can separately,” said Arielle Klebanoff,ED-JKG photo4 JKG’s Brookhaven director. “It was a great first year.”

With most religious schools, you have to be a member of the synagogue to participate. But there is no barrier to participation with JKG; anyone who identifies as Jewish is welcome to join the program.

JKG is an independent and innovative Hebrew school network that educates Jewish children through an experiential approach that focuses on hands-on learning and tries to mimic the special relationships between counselors and children at summer camps.

Or VeShalom, a Sephardic congregation that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, does not operate its own religious school.

Last school year, JKG served just under 200 kids on Sunday mornings: 67 at Or VeShalom and the others at two locations in Morningside. JKG hopes to increase enrollment throughout the Atlanta area and is looking to serve pupils through a variety of places, including synagogues.

JKG and Or VeShalom hope to deepen their partnership through joint programs and collaborative projects, such as Sisterhood cooking sessions with JKG students, holiday celebrations, and gardening initiatives.

Or VeShalom plans to launch a parent association to increase family involvement and child enrollment in the Sunday school.

Erica Krisel, Or VeShalom’s education chairwoman, said the first year of the program was about growth and learning.

“Children, for the most part, were dropped off outside, and parents didn’t really walk into the building,” she said. “This year we are hoping to get parents in the building more for drop-off, to have coffees with parents, and to really improve communications between Or VeShalom and JKG so JKG families know they are welcome to attend the events we are providing.”

Or VeShalom programs are free to JKG families, and the congregation wants to engage more JKG families and to interact with them outside the religious school.

Krisel also said she hopes Or VeShalom and JKG will co-sponsor more programs.

Klebanoff said she learned during the first year at Or VeShalom that families want to get more involved in the Jewish community, leading to great interest in JKG programs. She is optimistic about the future of JKG’s partnership with Or VeShalom.

Photos courtesy of Jewish Kids Groups

Children enjoy a variety of activities in the Jewish Kids Groups program at Congregation Or VeShalom.