This Month’s Inspiring Story
Engaging Families throughout the County
“It was the first outing I made as a new mom with each of my daughters. I have made lifelong friends here. The Parenting Center is like Cheers for parents and their kids. Everybody knows your name.” –Dara L., a mother of two, summing up her experience with the Bender-Dosik Parenting Center
The Bender JCC is a place for families, where the groundwork is laid for a life rooted in community (kehillah), repairing the world (Tikkun Olam), and respect for one another (Kavod ha-Briot). It all begins by engaging young families, and our wide range of programming then grows alongside children and families.
The Bender JCC’s family engagement team includes Lauren Dworkin, Director of
Family Engagement and the Bender-Dosik Parenting Center; Jennifer Radosh, J Family Programs Director; and Pam Kaufman, Family Engagement Coordinator. What makes Lauren, Jennifer and Pam uniquely qualified to plan, organize and implement programs for young families is that each of them came to their role by first being participants in Bender JCC classes and offerings for parents with young children.
“We basically create high-quality programs that we would want to bring our own families to,” Lauren states. “And we do!”
In an effort to make programs for young families more accessible, the Bender JCC hosts programs not only at our Center but at venues throughout Montgomery County.
“If families can’t get to the Bender JCC, we go to them,” Lauren explains.
The Bender JCC has created an initiative to make family programming more geographically accessible throughout Montgomery County. Currently, 1,200 families with young children participate in programs hosted by the Bender JCC. The goal is to engage 2,000 families by the year 2021.
Holding programs in more geographically accessible areas makes it convenient for parents with young children to take part in our programs. It also fosters relationships among families in the area in which they live, so that they can find opportunities for support, socialization and lifelong relationships close to home.
One of the ways in which the Bender JCC is able to reach families throughout the county is through the Jewish Family Ambassador (JFA) program, which is fully funded by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. JFA connects parents with children (36 months and younger) with each other and with the greater Jewish community. Five ambassadors, representing different areas in the county, contact parents within their regions to make them aware of family activities and resources that are available in their neighborhoods, at the Bender JCC, and throughout the county.
The Bender JCC is also grateful to the Bender Foundation for their support of the Bender-Dosik Parenting Center. Through their generosity, we are able to continue offering popular programs like Shabbat Shabbang, an initiative that helps fulfill part of the Bender JCC’s mission to provide meaningful experiences and connections for families with young children. Three times a year, families are invited for a special evening featuring a seasonally-inspired gourmet meal, lots of wine (!), engaging entertainment, and educational arts & crafts activities.
As a way to further strengthen our efforts to offer kid-friendly activities throughout the community, the Bender JCC partners with area organizations such as Meadowside Nature Center, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods Market, Stella Barra Pizzeria, Pinstripes, PEP (Parent Encouragement Program), PACE (Parenting and Childhood Education) and Mamas Link.
To meet the needs of parents with young children, we will continue to offer favorite programs like holiday celebrations and J Play activities such as Challah Tots and Littles at the Lanes. In addition, plans are underway to offer new initiatives such as Pathways to Parenting, a resource for those looking to start a family; maternal wellness programs; fitness classes for new moms; and pop-up baby and me classes throughout the county.
Inclusion is a hallmark of the Bender JCC, and we welcome and encourage diverse families to participate in our parenting programs. We provide support for children who have disabilities at all of our events. We plan to offer workshops specifically for dads, multifaith and LGBTQ families. This year, we will also launch our Bender-Dosik Grandparenting Center, which will offer a series of classes and workshops for new grandparents.