New Year in a natural setting

By Susie Davidson

Special to the Advocate

Fun programs help children connect with the New Year.

As any parent will attest, it can be challenging to keep young children both occupied and meaningfully engaged. Now kids can channel some of that pent-up energy and natural curiosity into unique, outdoorsy activities geared to the Jewish High Holidays. The Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston’s (JCCGB) family programs, produced in conjunction with PJ Library, guarantee just that in their “Back to Nature New Year” events.

How about introducing them to the exciting new hobby of letterboxing, which combines navigation, rubber stamps, and other creative elements into an enhanced type of treasure hunting? On Sept. 28, they can explore this new form of adventure, infused with New Year elements, at Middlesex Fells Reservation inWinchester.

We focus on outdoor and nature activities for the New Year, since it is important to be connected to the world around us, especially as we prepare for the coming year,” said Samantha Levine-Neudel, online marketing manager for JCCGB.

Middlesex Fells Reservation [is a] local gem and destination for families that encourage an appreciation of the natural world around us,” said Levine-Neudel, who added that there is no better time than the Jewish New Year to focus on the Jewish value of caring for the earth and all living things. “ Through nature, we have a common and shared experience for Jews of all backgrounds,” she said. “Outdoor activities also provide wonderful opportunities for families to completely disconnect from the demands of our hectic daily lives and reconnect with one another.”

Midge Merlin, JCCGB director of Family Engagement & Jewish Life, also believes that Jewish New Year celebrations easily and inherently connect to nature. “ Just as we prepare for the New Year, so does the world around us,” she said. “ Taking time out of our busy lives to reconnect with one another and our surroundings is an important element of preparing for the new season ahead.”

The PJ Library, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation made possible through partnerships with philanthropists and local Jewish organizations, mails free, high-quality Jewish children’s literature and music to families across North America.

The program, which was founded in Springfield by real estate executive Grinspoon in 1993, is based in Agawam, and its programming is implemented throughout North America. For the past six years, JCCGB has administered the program locally. “PJ Library is a cornerstone of the JCC’s family outreach and engagement strategy, celebrating important aspects of Jewish culture, values and tradition,” said Levine-Neudel.

PJ and JCC share the goals of reaching unaffiliated and not yet affiliated families, and deepening the connections for those already affiliated,” she explained. “It is about bringing families together, whether in their own home or through programs that bring the stories to life while building community.”

Said Levine-Neudel, “Both PJ and JCC function as gateways to the overall Jewish community, introducing Jewish values in a way that are accessible to all.” PJ Pioneers Letterboxing Adventure for the New Year at Middlesex Fells Reservation (Long Pond) parking lot, South Border Road) in Winchester, will be held on Sept. 28, from 10-11:30 a.m. Event is free and geared to families with children under f ive.

Terrain is easy to moderate. Snacks will be provided. For more information about letterboxing, visit letterboxing.org. Please visit www.bostonjcc.org for more information about JCCGB programming, or call 617-558-6444.

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