Rabbi Reuven Taragin has seen Jewish education from all directions on two continents.
He grew up in New York, attending yeshiva and Yeshiva University’s MTA high school before going to Israel to study and returning to New York to earn an undergraduate degree at Yeshiva College.
He studied for the rabbinate in Israel, where he made a career teaching in yeshiva. He is dean of the overseas program for Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem, overseeing the American high school graduates who come for a year or two of study, and teaching them Talmud.
He even has a hand in informal education: He and his wife, Shani, lead the beit midrash program at Camp Moshava in Indian Orchard, Pennsylvania, each summer.
“Parents are key educators,” he said.
That realization led him to spearhead the Teaneck Community Education Conference, which will be held on Sunday at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck. Last year, the program drew 500 participants.
“It’s an opportunity for the educators in the community to give tips to parents on how they can be better educators,” Rabbi Taragin said.
“What’s special is that it brings together different organizations of different types. There are seven shuls and five elementary schools and six high schools and four summer camps. There are almost 40 organizations coming together.”
The Orthodox Union is a major sponsor. All of the participating organizations are Orthodox.
“None of the organizations are fundraising,” Rabbi Taragin said. “None of the speakers are taking money. The program is free. This is something special that is meta-organizational. It’s very powerful, with education placed front and center.”
The program begins with shacharit at 8, then breakfast, and a keynote address on “Midrashic models of education” by Shani Taragin, who teaches Tanach at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem.”
Five half hour sessions follow. Each offers a choice of five speakers, including synagogue rabbis, elementary and high school educators, and representatives of Israeli yeshivot.
“It’s kind of like a TED talk,” Rabbi Taragin said of the format.
Bnai Yeshurun’s Rabbi Steven Pruzansky will speak on “Making Middot Permanent.”
Dr. Rona Novick, dean of Yeshiva University’s graduate school of education, will speak on “21st Century Learning and Jewish Education: A Match Made in Heaven.”
Rivka Kahan, principal of Teaneck’s Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, will speak on “Metzuveh ve-Oseh: Helping Teenagers Find Inspiration in Commandment.”
Rabbi Michael Taubes, leader of Teaneck’s Congregation Zichron Mordechai and principal of Yeshiva University’s high school for boys, will speak on “What If My Child Isn’t In The Highest Class.”
Rabbi Reuven Taragin also will speak. His topic: “How (The Only Way) To Get Our Children to Identify With Their Parents.”
Here’s the soundbite version of his talk:
“The best way to get children to identify with us is to see that we identify with where they are,” he said. “If our children see us as a vanguard in charting our own way, why shouldn’t they chart their own way? We should be seeing ourselves as a continuation of the mesorah,” or tradition, “that we received. Our children should see what we see ourselves as the continuation and not the beginning of something.”
The program concludes with a keynote from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky of Teaneck, the psychiatrist and chasidic scion: “We have Torah and Mitzvos. What about Yiras Shamayim?”
“There are a variety of different perspectives,” Rabbi Taragin said. “Last year the topic was how to educate and inspire our children. This year it’s the same overall topic. I think we all feel we have a lot to learn. We need all the advice we can get on how to be better parents.”
The program is free. Advance registration is requested, but not required, at bit.ly/NJConf.