This is sponsored content from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund and the Helen Diller Family Foundation.
Parents with young children often seek support, guidance, and a strong peer network. For the Jewish community, bringing these families into Jewish life with programs and resources that speak to their needs is critical. And for more than 20 years, Jeni Markowitz Clancy, the Jewish Family Programs and Engagement Manager at Peninsula JCC (PJCC) in Foster City, has been welcoming and connecting with young parents at this formative life stage showing them the helpful, central role that Judaism can play in their lives.
These exemplary efforts led to Jeni Markowitz Clancy‘s selection as one of four recipients of the 2020 Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. The Awards, an initiative of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund and the Helen Diller Family Foundation, honor outstanding Jewish educators in the Bay Area annually. Educators are nominated by their organizations or community members and are reviewed by a Federation volunteer selection committee. Recipients receive a $10,000 prize, and their institutions receive $2,500.
“I strive to create opportunities that invite families to engage in joyful Jewish experiences and welcome parents into conversations about the challenges they are facing,” says Markowitz Clancy. “Jewish community, ritual, wisdom, and celebration all provide important support for our families.”
Truly effective Jewish family engagement offers parents insights and lessons into Jewish tradition and teaching, which helps them overcome daily challenges.
New parents might feel lonely, unsure of themselves at times, or feel a lack of confidence in modeling a Jewish practice. Jeni approached these challenges by establishing the Nest, a parent resource center focused on Jewish wellness, where Jewish rituals and celebrations attract a community of young parents.
“I contacted individual Jewish and interfaith parents and invited them to join something unique—a framework that, at its core, would be a Jewish place to connect with other families—where all would be welcome, and where families would be invited to build a network of support,” adds Markowitz Clancy.
“Jeni creates a community in which you feel included and valued for who you are and what you bring with you,” states a parent who often attends Jeni’s Shabbat program. “With Jeni, you are seen, heard, and made to feel that you matter.”
New parents might worry that they are not properly blessing their children on Shabbat or saying the Shema correctly. Jeni helps to alleviate feelings of inadequacy that can be a barrier for Jewish home practice. As her supervisor and nominator, Stephanie Levin comments, “Jeni exemplifies the value of Tzelem Elohim—she respects and honors each parent as they are and creates an environment that allows participants to bring their full selves to the experience.”
Whether supporting parents through challenges, creating space for them to relax, or finding ways to bring parents and children together in community, Jeni’s work demonstrates the impact family engagement has—not only on families, but on how to foster a growing and vibrant Jewish community.
Join us virtually on September 16 at 4:00 pm to honor the outstanding award recipients, including Jeni, and learn with noted keynote speaker, Rabbi Ed Feinstein. For event details, and to learn more about the award, visit Jewishfed.org/DillerAwards2020.