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Come into the FoRT!

Families of Rockdale Temple (FoRT) is one of Rockdale’s most fresh and exciting programs. FoRT is a growing community of Jewish families with children aged six and under and their older siblings. The group is spearheaded by Stephanie
De Falco, Alexis Nordrum, and Rabbi Meredith Kahan, along with a committee of dedicated parents and grandparents of young children. Together, FoRT’s leadership puts on monthly programming designed to engage and educate kids and parents alike, including Havdalah PJ parties with adults-only beer tastings, Spaghetti in the Sukkah, Challah Shabbat, and FoRT on the Farm.

“We all want to get together and be together, and to enjoy Jewish activities and watch our children enjoy them, too—that’s the spirit of the group,” says FoRT co-Chair Stephanie De Falco. FoRT events teach children what it means to be Jewish, and a key piece of that is seeing themselves and their parents as part of the friendly and caring community that FoRT has become. “We want to make sure everyone leaves having gotten something out of it. When an event is created with the intention of making a program fun and meaningful for kids, it’s also fun and meaningful for the parents.”

FoRT programs weave a fine balance of family togetherness, kid playtime, and adult camaraderie. Most months, families celebrate Shabbat with musical, interactive services and enjoy a meal together. Afterward, kids play together while adults socialize and build community. Stephanie says “it’s quality time together after a busy week that, if it weren’t for FoRT, we wouldn’t have had.” FoRT Shabbat alternates between Friday evenings, Saturday mornings, and Saturday early evenings with Havdalah.

FoRT co-Chair Alexis Nordrum was pregnant with her first child when the group got its start. “It was perfect for me to get to know other parents of young kids in a city where I had no family. I wanted my kids to understand the meaning of a Jewish community.” Alexis, like others in the group, describes FoRT as a community that is overwhelmingly laidback and nonjudgmental, encouraging families to come and go as their schedules allow. The short, kid-friendly services make it easier for busy families to go to temple and feel engaged by programming that doesn’t treat either the children or their parents as an afterthought. Now a veteran FoRT member and expecting her second child, Alexis believes FoRT was—and will continue to be—instrumental in her young family’s Jewish life.

FoRT was formed at the onset of Rockdale’s participation in a URJ Community of Practice centered on Creating Connected Communities of Families with Young Children. Together with URJ leadership, experts, and our cohort, Rabbi Kahan, Stephanie, and Alexis learned how to best reach, welcome, engage, and connect young families here at Rockdale. FoRT is financially supported by a generous grant from the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati.

You can stay up to date with FoRT via facebook.com/groups/RockdaleFoRT, or email rockdalefort@gmail.com or Rabbi Kahan at mkahan@rockdaletemple.org for more information.

Tue, August 21 2018 10 Elul 5778