ARS 2018-2019 Vision: B’tzelem Elohim

Amy Deutsch

At ARS, we approach curriculum through a variety of ways. There’s the Hebrew and Judaica curriculum that students examine in the classroom, the tefilah questions that help students dive into prayer and theology at our weekly service, and each year we choose a theme that’s our rallying cry—our vision, our mission, and our goal.

Last year we worked to be a kehillah kedosha, a holy community. In pursuit of that vision, we welcomed new friends, helped others find their own way on their personal Jewish journeys, and elevated our individuality in the bonds of community. This year, we’re taking the work of a holy community to a new level as we enact the value of being b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Or, as I like to call it: Created to be Sacred.

One of the very first lines of the Torah explains that each human is created B’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image. If we are each created in God’s image, we are each equally worthy of respect, kindness, and inclusion. As God’s creations, we are each holy, special, and sacred. We each have value. We each have something to teach, to learn, and to share. We each have endless potential. And because we are all from the same Source, we all share something holy, and it is our sacred task to take care of that holiness in ourselves and others. When we come together as a kehillah kedosha, a holy community, the capacity for change, growth, and friendship is boundless.

A note–talking about God can be intimidating, confusing, and off-putting. The understandings of God that many of us have are influenced by the society in which we live, and sometimes involve that “old man in the sky” theory. I want to be very clear: that’s not the kind of God that we are talking about at ARS! Judaism offers a multiplicity of ways to understand God, and we want to offer that multiplicity to our students, in the hope that each individual will find their own connection to what is greater than us. We can find moments of God in the beauty of a sunset, in dinner conversations with our families, in the beauty of singing Oseh Shalom together at tefilah.

Our fabulous Music Educator Josh Cohen is teaching our students a song called B’tzelem Elohim, by Dan Nichols. The lyrics (anc chords!) can be found here, and here’s a video of Dan Nichols teaching the song. Or if you prefer, a singalong version!

For more on God, here are a few resources:

Talking to your children about God by Rabbi Sarah Reines (who happens to be one of my own very favorite rabbis in the world!).

Another perspective on how to talk to your kids about God, by renowned theologian Rabbi David Wolpe

And a video by parenting expert Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg reassures us that we don’t need to know ALL the answers in order to engage with our kids in conversations about God!