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Note: The opinions expressed here are solely those of each individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of TRT.

Let's Invest Together

February 2016

From the Desk of Rabbi Shira Stern

“Everything I learned about Judaism I learned at Jewish pre-schools.”


I troll lots of webpages and early childhood education catalogs for new ideas to incorporate into our school. You never know what visual memory tool in bright colors or attractive, touchable materials might spark an interest in children these days, what with all the images flooding TV and children’s videos and internet sites vying for their attention.


Your Family's Jewish Future

December 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Stern

When we celebrate seders at my house, the focal point is neither the Lenox nor the silver seder plates we always include. No, it is the matzah plate that Eytan made in Kindergarten, the matzah cover created by Noah and the Kiddush cup painted by Ari.

An Homage ...

October 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Stern

I try to do good things for other people; a phone call when no one else remembers, a birthday card, a shiva minyan. Sometimes I'll do a hospital visit, or sit with a family as they watch their loved one slowly weaken in hospice.  I don't always manage to do everything I intend to do; sometimes I fall short.

Middah Lomeid al Manat La’asot

August 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Stern

Each year, we challenge ourselves and our students to integrate a “middah of the month” - a core Jewish value - into our lives. We have studied “forgiveness” and “not gossiping”; our students have learned about “gratitude” and “being content with what we have.” This year, we will include specific projects based on the middah of the month to ensure that we not stop at just understanding the value, but follow through with making concrete change.

Discovering the Humanity in Eachother

June 2015

From the Desk of Rabbi Stern

Recent events in Monmouth County have highlighted the pervasive undercurrent of anti-Muslim rhetoric and action in our community. Sometimes it comes out in print or on social media; sometimes, it is hateful language directed at kids in school. And then there are the times that a slur or a spray-painted message appears on a house, or school or locker, so no one sees the deed being done, just the result.

And it has to stop.

The Paper Clips Project

April 2015

Yom HaShoa – Holocaust Memorial Day

Far away, in a little town called Whitwell, Tennessee, there is a museum that looks remarkably similar to a circa World War II railcar. Its reason for existence is to teach the world about intolerance. That fact is in itself unique, but for a larger perspective, not 40 miles away from Whitewell is the Rhea County Courthouse, where, in 1925, a teacher was convicted for teaching evolution during the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. The trial upheld a statute which outlawed teaching any theory that denies the Divine Creation. If that were not enough, it is rumored that the infamous Ku Klux Klan was begun just a hundred miles away in Pulaski,Tennessee.

Help is at Hand

February 2015

See What's New @ TRT

I was reminded recently that what we do in school may feel a little daunting to parents whose Hebrew School days were a while ago or non-existent, thereby putting a damper on those parents helping their kids to learn. (I feel the same about math homework, which I stopped overseeing as soon as our children reached middle school. Lucky for our kids, Don felt more analytically capable.)

Let's Do The Sukkah Hop

October 2014

Participating in Jewish life is critical to Jewish survival

What a wonderful opportunity to teach future generations not just the responsibilities of being a Jew, but the joy of being a Jew! 

From the Desk of Rabbi Stern

August 2014

From the Desk of Rabbi Stern

I love back to school shopping - I love the smell of new pencils, the first crackle of new notebook bindings, the pens, the book covers, the three-ring binders, the closely-lined looseleaf paper and the excitement of preparing it all for a new year of school. I love back to school shopping anywhere, anytime except the two first days of public school, when I will drive out of my way to avoid Staples, Costco and the mall.

Sometimes I remember how much it cost us to furnish three boys with all they needed, all at one time. More often, I forget. But this year, I will try to keep reminding myself of that overflowing shopping cart. Why? Because I know there are children out there who will not be entering the new school year with fresh supplies in a nice new backpack, ready for all the challenges and opportunities students face each school day - unless we provide them with those supplies. Will these children learn less well or receive a sub-standard education if they start the year with hand-me-downs or last year's No. 2 pencil stubs? Hardly. But as we experience each Rosh Hashanah with a clean slate and renewed energy, we want our students in the Center for a Jewish Life to begin their spiritual and academic New Year with an understanding that they are part of a greater community which, in all its imperfections, provides us with the opportunity to help in repairing it. 

This year, Temple Rodeph Torah's Social Action Committee and the Center for a Jewish Future are partnering to collect backpacks and school supplies for needy recipients in our area. Why? Because it takes more than a village to raise children; it takes a community of caring.

 To achieve this, we ask you to consider taking your children with you when you make that back-to-school shopping trip. Urge them to choose items other kids might want. Encourage them to feel the excitement the supplies will generate in children whose families have to choose between food and other "discretionary" items. Help your children and grandchildren discover their own power to make the world a better place, even if they are young and their contributions are small. Every little bit helps and every kid makes a difference.

This might not sound like holy work - after all, going shopping seems fairly ordinary. But when it's done well and with the appropriate focus, this year's shopping for ordinary things will become an extraordinary spiritual exercise. Our rabbis taught: "The ultimate purpose of the laws of tzedakah is to nurture in people the quality of mercy and kindness and not just eliminate poverty. God could have accomplished that by providing for the needs of the poor without human intervention." (Sefer Hahinnuch 66, Parashat Mishpatim.) It is up to us to imbue our children with the qualities of mercy and kindness so that they, as the next generation can teach the generations that follow.

Please review the list on the next page and bring the supplies to our atrium any time through the second week in August. We hope to fill that designated box so many times that we will have to enlist help to bring it to those who need it most.

What a way to prepare for Rosh Hashanah!

 Wishing you a sweet and happy New Year!

Rabbi Shira Stern


Backpacks of Love

Wish List


  • New or gently- used backpacks
  • Folders(two-pocket, solid colors only)
  • Notebooks (one subject, wide-ruled, solid colors only, marble composition, 1” loose leafs)
  • Packs of loose leaf filler paper (150/200 count, wide ruled)
  • Packages of pencils (10 count, standard #2, yellow wood)
  • Scissors (gender-neutral color)
  • Glue sticks
  • Blue and/or back pens
  • Packs of crayons (16-24 ct)
  • Soft pencil cases
  • Rulers



Social Action? Yes, we teach that too!

June 2014


The Mishna says, “Lo haMidrash haikkar, elah ha ma’aseh” – “Study is not the essence [of life]; rather, it is how we translate the study into action that counts.”


As we approach summer, our office goes into high gear planning the coming academic year. We plan holiday celebrations, special programming and guest speakers. Often, we include trips within driving distance of the temple to bring the core curriculum to life. We try to be creative, inspiring and thought-provoking to encourage our students to ask questions: after all, this is one of the most important things we teach.

Jews at the Head of the Class

December 2013

Newsletter Article December 2013/January 2014

From the Desk of Rabbi Shira Stern

How do you know whether you've been successful in Jewish Education? When do we as parents, as teachers and as leaders of our community see a correlation between the planning and the programs and the final product: young Jews connected to their community?

Living Mitzvot

October 2013


From the Desk of Rabbi Shira Stern

We teachers of Religious Schools have a dual responsibility when we prepare our classes: we want to infuse the children with facts and feelings that will help them identify strongly with Judaism and all things Jewish, and we want them to understand their place in the world at large. We need to help them grow as Jews, and at the same time, help them adapt to a life they will live outside their Jewish bubble.

How do we do both? 

Pursuit of Happiness

September 2013

Rosh Hashanah Sermon 5774

 The pursuit of Happiness doesn’t always get us to our goal – but the pursuit of goals offers the possibility of happiness.

It’s comforting to me that every year, at least once a year when we gather together on the High Holy days, we get a chance to return to the Garden of Eden. The sound effects include birds chirping, monkeys nattering and waterfalls gently cascading down a cliff. It includes Adam and Eve frolicking amid the trees and grasses, naming animals and enjoying the full glory of God’s new splendor. They are described as blissfully happy, and permitted everything within their reach save the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. An idyllic sort of life.


What Will You Choose?

July 2013

Newletter Article August/September 2013

On the morning of Yom Kippur, when God pretty much has the opportunity to command us to action, we hear a challenge instead: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Choose life? Why not, “follow my laws to the letter, or else you will be punished?” Why not, “you have no choice but to do as I say,” because God is, after all, God? Why is choice so important? Because the truth is, we all have choices in life: where we live, with whom we develop relationships, where to work and yes, where to belong spiritually. Especially here in Central Jersey, where opportunities to find a spiritual home are plentiful, why choose TRT?

What makes TRT different from other Jewish schools? Part 2

June 2013

Newsletter Article June/July 2013

I once had a student in my old congregation who wanted to become Bar Mitzvah, and he was willing to attend school, study his portion and learn how to lead our morning service. He had tried to affiliate with other schools, but because he also had Cerebral Palsy, they told him it was beyond his ability. We said, “Why not try?” 

It was my first lesson in breaking expectations, and one I made sure not to forget. Last I checked, Patrick was fulfilling the requirements for his Ph.D. and was traveling extensively in South America.


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