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Northern Virginia Ethical Society (NoVES)

Director of Ethical Education Blog

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  • Friday, December 16, 2022 9:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Back in September, I posted about the different types of rest. I want to revisit that not because I just entered "holiday mode" and am low on ideas (I am), but because it's a reminder that I think we could all use right now. 

    During Holiday breaks, I often feel like I'm going to get a lot of things done. By the end I always feel like all I did was marathon-watch a new show while trying to avoid eye contact with the messy corner of my living room. 

    This break, I'm going in with a different attitude, especially because Josie is home from school for most of it and that redefines what "break" means. As we make our grand plans for day trips or cookie baking, we'll also talk about what our bodies and our brains need. Do we need a break from other people? Do we want to feel inspired by nature or art? Do we want to do something kind for someone else to create a connection? My goal this break is to define its success by how well we meet these needs rather than the number of items donated or books read. 

  • Friday, December 09, 2022 11:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying seeing my friends sharing their holiday traditions. I’m lucky that my own traditions are fairly flexible, largely free of family or cultural pressures. That freedom allows me to choose every year what traditions serve me and what traditions we can do without.

    I appreciate this opportunity for choice, and I’ve been thrilled to see how members celebrate this season in their own ways based on their own traditions and values.

    In the remaining two weeks that we meet this year, we’ll be working on a service project to make no-sew blankets for a local shelter and the Every Day is Earth Day students will make some homemade recyclable wrapping paper. Both activities focus on giving and sharing what we have, embracing some of the best traditions that we encounter this time of year.

  • Friday, December 02, 2022 10:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Most things are hard to learn without experience. Baking a cake is different than reading a recipe or watching a video. Even 16 years of riding in cars is little preparation for your first driving practice. That's why I love our tradition of bringing our Comparative Religion students to visit houses of worship. 

    Tonight, our students had their first visit! We joined the Family Shabbat Service at Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax Station.

    Part of our Comparative Religion class is identifying themes across religions and tying those themes to our own Ethical Culture. During our visit we saw plenty of differences between our platforms and the service, but we also saw some similarities, noting the lighting of candles and language that reminded us of our own Commitments. 

    On Sunday, we will spend a few minutes reflecting on our visit. I encourage the parents who attended to do the same and talk to your kids about the experience. What was surprising? What did they recognize and what felt different? I can't wait to hear your reactions on Sunday! 

  • Friday, November 25, 2022 10:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As a reminder, NOVES is taking our Thanksgiving break so we will not be holding Sunday School tomorrow. 

    In the spirit of gratitude I want to thank our teachers — Iris, Jim, and Elham — for sharing their time and energy with our kids each week! I’m so  grateful for your willingness to step into the role and your flexibility as we navigate our way back to our regular, in-person classes. 

    I’ll see most of you next week, and some of you on Friday evening for  our Comparative Religion class’s synagogue visit!

  • Friday, November 18, 2022 9:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form" - Jean Luc Godard

    I remember reading Stone Soup as a kid. I was an ardent rule-follower as a kid and I remember wondering whether the young man was technically lying to get everyone to share their food with him. After all, he could make soup from a stone. I remember feeling the twinge of jealousy that I always felt when I read stories like that, where someone was brave enough to break a rule and it ended up benefitting others. 

    Like many books, this one helped me better understand myself and how I fit into the world around me. We think about this a lot with kids -- we know how critical storytelling is for their development. At NoVES we even honor this with our weekly Story for All Ages. 

    We sometimes forget how important storytelling is for us as adults, too. Stories are more than just an escape from the day, Stories are how we learn and process things around us. Imagine that someone is trying to explain something abstract to you that you're not quite getting. What do you do? You probably ask for an example. What you're really asking for in that moment is a story to give you real-life context. 

    On Sunday, I hope we can all embrace the joy of making a story come to life! 

  • Friday, November 11, 2022 10:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Lately, I've been thinking about this old xkcd webcomic. It shows how we naturally fall into rhythms in how we talk to people and those can be tough to get out of.

    It's been on my mind lately because I use Twitter professionally. When I started in my field, I was the only person who did the job at my company. Twitter provided me a huge community of other practitioners who I learned a lot from. As a result, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who I've met through the platform. Some of us have found new ways to connect off of the platform, and drastic changes to Twitter this week have made it clear that I need to find alternative methods for everyone else!

    This also brings up the broader question of how we communicate. I tend to prefer text over email, but that doesn't mean that you do! Let me know what you prefer so I can make sure that I'm getting information to you in the best way I can.

    I'm also starting a new connection point between the Sunday school and NoVES friends and members! Today you'll receive our first monthly newsletter, which details what we've been working on, what we've been reading, and what's coming up. Keep an eye on your inbox -- more from me soon! 

  • Friday, November 04, 2022 10:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A week or two ago, Josie and I were looking through my memories on my phone and came across this picture from 2017. She asked what we were doing, and I told her that I took her canvassing because an election was coming up.

    "Can we do that again?" she asked. I paused for a second. I was furiously chipping away at work deadlines before leaving for a conference. I knew I'd be exhausted the next weekend, then there were more deadlines to hit.

    Then the guilt got to me. Not only had I not done anything this year to help get out the vote, but I wasn't modeling the civic engagement and action that I wanted to. "Of course we can," I said. "We'll figure out something that we can do".

    Do I feel like I have time this weekend? Absolutely not! I have a house to clean! I have graphics to make for future platforms and a newsletter to write (by the way, look for the first monthly Sunday School newsletter in the next few days)! Whether it's handing out ballots for a while at an early voting site, knocking a few doors until she gets tired, or taking some time off on Tuesday to grab a shift at my polling place, I'm promising to do something. I hope you'll join me in that promise! 

  • Saturday, October 29, 2022 12:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week while our members were discussing causes worth dying for, the Sunday School students were having their own discussion — what causes did they want to trick-or-treat for?

    Each year, for our October service project, the kids trick-or-treat after platform for donations to a charity. This year, we switched it up a little bit and let them pick their own charities while they decorated their collection boxes. We settled on two causes: LGBTQ+ rights and animals (specifically sea animals). With some research, we picked a local organization that works with LGBTQ+ youth and a global non-profit that cleans up trash in the ocean.

    So…How did we do?

    The children raised a total of $150, which we split between SMYAL and #TeamSeas! This money will go to provide programming and housing for LGBTQ+ youth in DC AND clean 75 pounds of trash from the ocean.

    Thanks to our members for their generous support of this project! Without your help, this experience selecting a cause and donating wouldn’t be possible. I’m glad that we’re able to instill in our children that by working together towards a goal, we can do big things.

  • Saturday, October 22, 2022 12:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the world of Learning & Development, where I spend most of my time, we talk about learner choice. It's important, we often preach, to give our learners autonomy and opportunities to choose what works best for them. 

    I've seen this described as a difference between adult learners and children, as if kids don't need choice or can't be trusted to make good decisions. In fact, all learners need, and deserve, autonomy. Sometimes our role is to deliver information and clear direction. Other times, our role is to stand back and provide guidance and support. 

    This Sunday, our students will participate in a Service Project to "trick or treat" for charity. What I know about this activity is that at the end of Platform the students will come around and collect donations for charity. What I don't know is what that charity will be.

    While I was thinking about it and talking to some members, I realized that it doesn't need to be my decision. While we decorate our collection boxes, we'll talk about what cause the students would like to support and do research together to find the right place to donate. 

    If you're joining us at Green Hedges on Sunday, I ask that you bring some coins or a small amount of cash if you're able. I also ask that you trust the students to make a good decision. 

  • Friday, October 14, 2022 11:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tom Nyilasi’s platform last week in Existentialism was a great excuse to share one of my favorite Frog & Toad stories — The Surprise. It led into a discussion with our Sunday school students about whether a kind act is “worth it” if it turns out to have no impact. The idea of doing the best you can without knowing the outcome reminded me of what I do daily as a parent.

    Last month, I was part of a conversation about Ethical Education across our Ethical Societies. In that conversation, someone mentioned the idea that raising ethical children is a form of ethical action. Not only that, but the work that all of you do to help sustain our Sunday School program is an ethical action that we undertake as a society.

    I appreciate all that you do for our Sunday School program! By teaching classes, reading our Story for All Ages (look out for a sign-up sheet Sunday!), and creating a welcoming environment for families, you are supporting this goal of raising our next generation of ethical children.

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