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Pardes Levavot

Pardes Levavot, “Orchard of Hearts,” was formed in the spirit of creating conscious holy community. Our name expresses the spiritual blossoming of each individual heart within an inspiring and nurturing orchard.

For information on our congregation please call (303) 563-2110 and leave a message or send email to To join our congregation, please print a copy of our membership form, fill it out, and send it to our Synagogue.

Pardes Levavot gratefully acknowledges Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado for their support of our Circle of Family Education program. Thank you!

Reprinted from Longmont Daily Times-Call, October 27, 2006.

Family circle

Synagogue puts adults, children on parallel faith paths

By Melanie M. Sidwell
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT - Founded on the Torah principle "V'Shinantam l'vanecha - and you shall teach your children" the Circle of Family Education program at Congregation Pardes Levavot takes adults and children on parallel paths to an understanding of Judaism.

Instead of the traditional Sunday school setting, where youngsters head to one room to learn about their faith and the adults gather in another, if at all, this program creates a sense of unity in a family's Jewish beliefs.

Members of the Pardes Levavot congregation gather around the Torah before Simchat Torah holiday services. The congregation's Circle of Family religious education program teaches children and parents on the same topics at age-appropriate levels.

Times-Call/Bradley Wakoff

The program, now in its third year at Pardes Levavot, consists of a seven-year cycle of curriculum, which families can join at any time.

The first two years covered Jewish values; this year and next, participants are studying the liturgical cycle and rituals in the Jewish home. Future topics include a study of Jewish history and culture through family projects and Torah study from a Jewish Renewal perspective.

The program for 2006-07 costs $550 for the first child, with discounted rates for Pardes Levavot members and each additional child enrolled. Participants do not have to be synagogue members or even Jewish - just eager to learn.

The program meets twice a month: once for the whole family, when they gather to sing or celebrate a ritual, and once just for the children.

Also at the family gatherings, families separate into an adult group and three age groups of children, ranging from 4 to 12, to study the same lessons at age-appropriate levels with their peers. The monthly family meetings conclude with a potluck.

Nadya and Victor Gross, rabbis with Pardes Levavot, developed the philosophy about three years ago when they founded the Jewish Renewal congregation, which shares space with Shepherd of the Hills church in Gunbarrel. Nadya Gross said the education program is about developing a shared faith identity within a family, both in the home and at the synagogue.

"It's really about learning and building community and identity and who you share this with at the same time," she said. "We didn't want to be the kind of synagogue where the parents drop off the kids at Hebrew school, and so we said your kids can't be in the program unless you are, too."

The program aims to promote a lifelong pursuit of learning.

"So often the bar or bat mitzvah becomes the graduation from Jewish learning," Gross said, "Our intention is to shift that. We learn all the time, and it's an integral part of the family identity."

Liz Stewart of Longmont is a married mother of a 10-year-old daughter; Stewart, a practitioner and teacher of structural integration who was raised Jewish, is married to Larry, a fence builder who was raised with a spiritual appreciation of nature.

The family has participated in the program for three years. Stewart said she got involved in the Circle of Family Education to "know more about having a Jewish household."

The classes have given Stewart and her interfaith family a common denominator.

"We have something to talk about at the table and to learn about from each other," she said.

Debra McCloskey of Erie, a weight-loss lecturer, said her 7-year-old son was beginning to ask faith-based questions. McCloskey, who was raised Jewish, and her husband, a former Roman Catholic who is agnostic, said their interfaith family celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas "but more on a physical level."

"My son was asking for context, and I really believed it was time to have the answers," she said. "You're not just dropping the kids off at Sunday school and hoping they come home with all the information. We are all participating."

Gross said that's the point.

Adults "either don't know enough or they think they are done learning," she said. "But there's no such thing. There's always something to learn at whatever level you're at, and there's no judgment when you come into the program on how much you do or don't know."

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at