By Sarah DeWoskin
Walking recently amid the enthused activity of an amusement park, I was so overwhelmed by the vastness of the crowd that I didn’t stop to ponder who was not there. It didn’t occur to me to pause in the middle of an activity, clearly attracting thousands, to think about who is not present.
All over our Jewish community, on any given day, hordes of participants at events are reveling in the banter and joy of community and culture. On most Sundays, countless children partake in vibrant educational programs.
What about the many young Jews among us who are not in attendance?
We are failing the absent among us. We must see beyond who is there and find those who are not.
What we propose is a vehicle to literally and figuratively meet absent families where they are and engage them in Judaism through a hands-on, interactive Jewish children’s museum built in unique tiny homes on wheels.
LEV Children’s Museum will fill mobile units with exhibits and activities to wheel through communities, transforming the hot tiny home concept into carriers of Jewish exploration. LEV, meaning heart in Hebrew and an acronym for Learn Engage Venture, will be a low-barrier model of connectivity to seek out those who are not seeking us.
LEV will pop up around communities throughout our country: at food truck events, parks, craft fairs, birthday parties, neighborhoods, and carnivals. We will be in areas where Jewish families reside and socialize. We will create our space to gather. We will open our doors to immersion through adventure, exploration, play, learning, and the arts.
Children, and the adults who love them, will climb aboard and explore Jewish culture in an engaging way. They will interact with stories of Jewish children around the world, engaging with the concept of peoplehood; dig up historic artifacts in an archaeological dig exhibition; create their own movies interpreting Bible stories in an animated motion station; produce Jewish rock music on a life-size piano; bake holiday foods in Bubbe’s Kitchen; curate their own family stories. The opportunities are endless.
We have raised enough seed money that LEV’s first tiny home is under construction and will soon hit the road as a prototype of this unique concept.
LEV Children’s Museum will employ teenage volunteers, ripe with the insight into what engages youth, to design programs and exhibits that attract and excite.
We will collaborate with Jewish legacy institutions, infusing added creativity into their current programs, benefiting those who are engaged and attracting those yet-to-be engaged.
LEV will partner with secular institutions, seeking out disconnected Jews and bringing touchpoints of engaging with Jewish culture to the non-Jewish communities with whom we live and interact.
And, LEV will stand on our own… pushing boundaries, in a quest for the families in our midst who feel pride in their Jewish heritage, yet disconnected from Judaism.
As we spread the LEV around, less people will be absent.
More children of Jewish, interfaith, and non-Jewish families will connect with Jewish culture.
Heightened collaboration will occur among institutions and organizations around the globe.
Higher percentages of Jews who feel proud to be Jewish will also feel proud to do Jewish.
LEV Children’s Museum can change the face of Jewish education and engagement throughout the nation. It holds the potential to bring a 21st century answer to our changing landscape of Jewish families.
As this model gains traction and success, doors will be open and the numbers of absent among us will diminish.
Sarah DeWoskin is the Director and Founder of LEV Children’s Museum, a passionate Jewish educator, a wife and mother of three, and a 2020 graduate of HUC-JIR’s EMA program.