Actress Debra Messing joined members of Temple Beth Sholom
of New City on Friday to dedicate the Howard Simons Mensch Program. The program
named about Messing’s uncle Howard Simons is an initiative aimed at integrating
the teaching of emotional intelligence through a Jewish context to nursery and
religious school students.
Messing, spoke about her uncle, who passed away in 2012, and his deep sensitivity to other people and the need for synagogues to offer this type of education. The program will utilize many resources developed by professionals who advocate teaching emotional intelligence skills in public schools.
Rabbi Brian Leiken thanked Messing for helping the synagogue launch the program to inspire students.
"The time has come to teach our children why to be Jewish,” said Rabbi Leiken. “We have an obligation to teach them that being Jewish is innately connected with being compassionate, empathetic and responsible for the other. We will be teaching skills such as active listening, mindfulness, self awareness and self confidence through Jewish texts.”
The Howard Simons Mensch Program will work to remind Jews of the connection between Judaism and everyday life.
"Our psalms teach us that children are the fruit of the womb, our rabbis teach us that they are the guarantors of the Torah,” said Rabbi Leiken. “Why? Judaism understands that our children are our future, the realization of L'dor va'dor. We are living in a world that will present this generation of children with incredible challenges. As a synagogue, we must work together to prepare them as proud Jews and proud human beings."
Messing is known for her television roles in Will & Grace and The Starter Wife.