Ready, set, engage for new South Peninsula program

Jewish LearningWorks has announced the four educators participating in the inaugural Kesher Fellowship program.

Funded by a grant from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation to increase Jewish engagement in the South Peninsula area, the program will educate the four fellows over the course of one year.

Peri Baloun

Kesher is an initiative targeting unengaged families with children ages 3-7, largely by finding activities that meet their needs.

The fellows in the first cohort all are from local synagogues: Peri Baloun, a teacher at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto; Leslie Brody, community connections coordinator at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto; Barbara Powell, cantor at Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City; and Rabbi Jennifer Clayman, an educator at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.

The fellows will learn how to design programs that are tailored to individuals, after which they will formulate and implement two model programs.

Rabbi Josh Fenton, associate director of community engagement at S.F.-based Jewish LearningWorks, is excited about the fresh approach of the Kesher program.

Leslie Brody

“An assumption that’s made by outreach professionals, especially in our community, is that the reason people aren’t coming to our synagogues, schools or JCCs is that they just don’t know we’re there,” Fenton said. “But for a lot of people … they know what’s out there and they’re just not interested.”

Kesher, he said, will strive to create programming for the specific needs of an individual under the assumption that if something is right for one person, it will find wider resonance.

In addition, Jewish LearningWorks has hired a concierge to connect families with young children to Jewish programming in the region. Another aspect of Kesher is meetings with parents to assess their needs and get feedback.

The Oshman Family JCC and Gideon Hauser Jewish Day School in Palo Alto are also partners in the Kesher program, in addition to the congregations of the four fellows.

Arno Rosenfeld
Arno Rosenfeld

Arno Rosenfeld is a freelance reporter. He is a former J. intern and has worked as a correspondent for JTA and The Times of Israel.