By Mary Klaus
A beloved Jewish community educator has been appointed as the Gesher Lifelong Learning Director.
Mandy Cheskis, longtime member of Chisuk Emuna and a teacher at Gesher Religious School, will succeed Hilary Greenberg in the position beginning on July 1.
Gesher is a collaborative educational initiative between Beth El Temple and Chisuk Emuna Congregation in Harrisburg to offer supplementary religious, family, and adult education. It reaches students from kindergarten through seventh grade, while adult education focuses on increasing liturgical skills and enriching knowledge of Jewish traditions and Jewish living.
“A lot of adults wish they had more skills leading prayers and Torah,” Cheskis said. “I want to provide opportunities for people to be more involved in services.”
Cheskis, past director of the Chisuk Emuna Religious School for more than a decade and a Bar and Bat Mitzvah tutor at both Chisuk Emuna and Beth El Temple, also has taught trope class in the Gesher School.
Her new position involves engaging children, their families, and Beth El and Chisuk Emuna members of all ages in Jewish learning. Gesher classes, which have been done by Zoom for the past year, will alternate between Beth El Temple and Chisuk Emuna when in-person classes return.
“I would love to get us all back into the synagogue after a year of social distancing,” Cheskis said, adding that she anticipates “celebrating Shabbat and holidays together again as a community.”
The school has three returning teachers -- Lynne Harlacher, Jodie Raffensperger, and Alex Loux. Cheskis said that there are open teaching positions. Anyone interested in these positions or in enrolling for Gesher classes should contact her at 717-649-4220.
Beth El and Chisuk Emuna are both conservative congregations with different histories and culture, she said. “Our combined school has forged friendships. We have had some combined services. We’ve celebrated holidays such as Purim together. This has been a bridge between our congregations.”
Noting that she grew up as one of the only Jewish children in her school, Cheskis said she has been teaching others about Judaism since childhood.
“I always loved teaching others about my religious practices,” she said. “I love being Jewish!”
Cheskis, a speech-language pathologist specializing in dementia care, also tutors both children and adults in Hebrew reading, prayer, and chanting Torah and Haftarah. She is the wife of Joel Cheskis and the mother of their three children.