Tot Shabbat Research
Exploring Tot Shabbat: A Study on Tot Shabbat Programs and Their Effect on the Engagement in Jewish Life of Families with Young Children
I have always loved attending, leading, and learning about Tot Shabbat services.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are as a toddler at Shabbat services, led by a warm, enthusiastic Rabbi who I adored encouraging me to sing, dance, and learn.
I spent the first decade of my professional career balancing work and school- I worked as an early childhood educator, songleader, musician, and service leader in the Jewish community while I pursued each of my college degrees.
My work was a laboratory of sorts- I was able to take immediate actions to experiment and refine my understanding and abilities of how, what, and why I should work, learn, and teach in the Jewish community. The culminating projects of my graduate degrees were incredible opportunities to formally research my areas of focus.
I researched and read about the histories of American Judaism, Jewish Music, and Early Childhood education. I learned about how religious education and engagement impacts the development of young children. I participated in programs and events for children with young families at museums, churches, art studios, libraries, and more- to see what I could learn from their work.
I researched to better understand what is typically available at ‘Tot Shabbat’ services in Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and nondenominational communities. I discovered (to my delight) that participation in ‘Tot Shabbat’ programs yield enormous impact on the participants.
I am so excited to share my findings, and thrilled that through extensive analysis and data collection, I have insights that will help communities improve their efforts to engage families with young children. It is a privilege to support the sacred work of communities that want to improve and increase their efforts to engage and educate young children and their families.
Exploring Tot Shabbat
‘Miss Emily’ evolved into ‘Dr. Teck’ when this dissertation was successfully defended by the Gratz College faculty in Spring 2018. It is the first contemporary research to be conducted on the topic.
NewCAJE’s Journal, The Jewish Educator, featured an article detailing the research: The Impact and Influence of “Tot Shabbat” Participation
Want the ‘standing on one foot’ version of what I learned about Tot Shabbat?
Here is a quick, animated summary of findings
I am filled with enormous gratitude for the many kind, generous people who supported me as I journeyed through the entirety of my academic career as a student that guided me to this conclusion. In particular, I would like to thank the following experts in the fields related to my topic whose work I admired so much that I reached out directly to them, who were willing to share their expertise:
Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman, Dr. Rela Geffen and Dr. Miriam Feinberg.
Friends and colleagues who provided feedback and support in many ways: Rabbi PJ Schwartz, Alison Westermann, and Dr. Anita Meinbach.
Ellen Allard, Ellen Dreskin, Maxine Handelman, Nancy Bossov, Dr. John Bartkowski, Rabbi Elyse Frischman, Rabbi Paula Feldstein and Dr. Mark Rosen.The students, faculty and staff at Gratz College, particularly those who were willing to share their time, experience and feedback with me as I journeyed through this project: Dr. Shirah Hecht, Dr. Joshua Gutoff, Dr. Eliyahu Krigel, Dr. Sandra Lilienthal, Dr. Joseph Davis, and Dr. Saul Wachs.
Additionally- I have an enormous debt of gratitude to the tens of thousands of families with young children with whom I’ve celebrated Shabbat in the past two decades. The experiences that many communities have invited me to facilitate as a musician, service leader, and early childhood educator guided my path and sparked my passion for exploring, improving, and increasing the ways our community foster Jewish learning and living.