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A weekend of meaning and insight

With the support of a generous sponsorship from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, Keneseth Beth Israel is excited to be collaborating with Dr. Rona Novick to craft a meaningful weekend for the Richmond Jewish community.

Over Shabbat, Dr. Novick will be sharing talks related to spirituality, psychology and generosity, including “Giving and Getting, the Psychological Significance of Gratitude and Generosity” and “Let’s Get Spiritual & Mindful: Pathways to Physical and Emotional Health.”

In addition, Keneseth Beth Israel is excited to also partner with the Weinstein JCC, Aleph Bet Preschool, and Rudlin Torah Academy for a special Sunday morning lecture for parents and caregivers, “Raising Children Who Care: The How and Why of Developing Empathy.”

We are excited to explore their important and meaningful topics, and look forward to joining with you!

Get to Know Dr. Novick:

Rivka S.: What compelled you to pursue your line of work?

Rona N.: As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a child psychologist.  Children fascinated me.  I trained for clinical work and spent working in clinical settings with children and families.  As rewarding as it was, it was also frustrating.  In clinical settings, you often meet children only after they have experienced years of struggle and pain.

I wanted a way to help earlier and to build children’s strengths so they could experience success.  Schools seemed a logical place to build children’s skills and strengths on multiple fronts – cognitive, social, and emotional.

When Yeshiva University approached me to join the faculty of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, I was excited.  I had been working with schools, helping them support students’ growth cognitively, socially, and emotionally.  At Azrieli, I could add an important dimension, supporting spiritual growth, too.

Rivka S.: What about your work is most meaningful to you?

Rona N.: I am so lucky to really love all three components of my work.  I love teaching, and I have the best students!  They are aspiring and dedicated Jewish educators and educational leaders, and their commitment to their work is extraordinary.

When I am not learning from my students, I am inspired by the children, families and adults I see in my private practice.  In every session, I have a window into how much we all want to grow and change, how much we all seek happiness.

And I love my research and writing.  Studying the impact of the COVID pandemic on preschooler’s development, or the reasons individuals choose Jewish education careers, or the nature of bullying, I feel fortunate to contribute to the field of education and psychology.

The writing closest to my heart, however, is writing for children and families.

I started a blog for parents and educators, Life’s Tool Box (www.lifestoolbox.wordpress.com)  years ago.  I write articles and edit books for parents.  I have always wanted to write picture books that parents would love reading with their children. I was so excited when my first, Mommy, Can You Stop the Rain, was published in 2020, and a second book is currently in the works with Behrman House Apples and Honey Press.

Rivka S.: Can you share your favorite part of your day?

Rona N.: As much as I love writing and research, the best part of my day is when I’m working directly with people.  It could be teaching, or with patients, or collaborating with colleagues.  One of my favorite activities is speaking with children or observing in a classroom.

I learn something every time!  Working at Azrieli Graduate School at Yeshiva University, I feel so blessed to have my personal Jewish life and my professional life integrated.  I am inspired constantly, by the wisdom of our Jewish traditions, the power of parents and educators and positive psychology and the resilience of the human spirit.

Rivka S.: Are there one or two things you think today’s children, educators and parents need to know?

Rona N.: Only one or two?  There are dozens!  But I guess a lot of it comes down to this.  Parents and educators need to be the grown-ups – 24/7/365!  This is hard.  It means you have to be agents of care, growth, reassurance, connection and love . . . all the time.

You may not receive thanks, you may even be told “you are the worst parent, the meanest teacher” – but being the grown-up means accepting the short -term difficulties for the longterm gains.

The only thing more important is relationship building.  Also, a 24/7/365 job.  This means putting down our phones, closing our work files, and investing time in fully being present with our children and students.  Playing, reading, talking and especially listening.  As parents and teachers, we do invest time in shaping children’s behavior, teaching them, correcting their errors.

Relationship building requires something different, something more.

It means letting them take the lead, joining in the activities they like, letting them be who they are, and letting them know we respect, appreciate and love that person!

Rivka S.: This has been a difficult time for many.  Any words of wisdom for the days ahead?

Rona N.: It will sound corny and simple – but count your blessings, and go easy on yourself.  In good times, and especially in times of stress, focusing on what we are grateful for makes us happier and healthier, even physically healthier.

Taking Small Steps

We have all learned how unpredictable life is, and that it doesn’t always match our expectations.  We have to allow that lesson to teach us about ourselves as well.  We are not perfect, we make mistakes, we may not always meet expectations.  We do ourselves a disservice if we don’t give credit for all we do manage – even imperfectly.

Especially in times of stress, being resilient doesn’t mean doing everything, or doing it all.  Taking small steps.  Holding steady, or moving ever forward, even by inches, that is the key to the days ahead.

May they be filled with strength and growth, with many blessings and good health.

To learn more about our upcoming events with Dr. Rona Novick, please reach out to Rivka Skaist at Rivka.Skaist@gmail.com.

About Dr. Novick

Rona Novick, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, is the dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and holds the Raine and Stanley Silverstein Chair in Professional Ethics and Values.

Dr. Novick also serves as the Co-Educational Director of the Hidden Sparks program which provides consultation and professional development to day schools and Yeshivas.

Dr. Novick is a frequent presenter at community and professional programs, and is the author of multiple children’s books, including Mommy, Can You Stop the Rain, a picture book for parents and children to deal with life’s storms and worries.

In addition, Dr. Novick developed the Alliance for School Mental Health at North-Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center and served as its director, where she authored the BRAVE bully prevention program for schools.

Her blog is called Life’s Tool Box and can be found at www.lifestoolbox.wordpress.com, and her children’s stories can be found on www.storybird.com, by searching under “drronovick” on the website.

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