MOMs of Machane Builds Community at Temple Beth Ami

From left: Andrea Shore, Rachel Hochheiser Schwartz, Amy Moncarz and Tammy Cohen. Photo courtesy Temple Beth Ami

On a screened-in porch in the spring of 2022, a group of moms gathered. All belonged to Temple Beth Ami, a Reform synagogue in Rockville. Many of them had joined during the pandemic and because so many of the activities were virtual, they felt like they hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know each other and really develop their community. They wanted a way to meet other people in the temple and create connections. They just weren’t sure how.

Around the same time, Shelly Gordon, Temple Beth Ami’s program and engagement director, was brainstorming ways to create a sense of community among parents of older kids. According to Gordon, the bulk of the synagogue’s members have kids in Machane, the religious school.

Parents of preschoolers are very involved, Gordon said –– they’re there all the time. But that engagement wanes as kids get older.

“We realized that the one group we had the most difficulty attracting were parents of grade school kids, which is understandable since they’re among the busiest people I know,” she explained.

It was from this moment of serendipity that the group Moms of Machane (MOMs) was born.“It was perfect, because I knew Shelly was looking to do this and we were looking to do this, and so we can all do this together,” said Rachel Hochheiser Schwartz, who had been at that first porch meeting. Now, she co-chairs MOMs, alongside congregants Tammy Cohen, Amy Moncarz and Andrea Shore.

Since last fall, the group has met every month or so on Sunday mornings while the religious school is in session. The timing is ideal to “capture the moms,” because Sunday mornings don’t compete with soccer practice or ballet or work. Plus, many moms are already coming to Temple Beth Ami to drop off their kids. So why not stay?

During this mom time, group members have had clothing swaps, created Miriam cups and decorated succulent pots. Many moms also come to a monthly Wednesday mah-jongg night. And there is one big social Saturday event that includes the dads. Last year’s inaugural event was a trivia night, with about 60 adults.

While the temple sponsors the group, the moms are the real powerhouses behind the activities.

“It’s up to them to come up with what they want to do and when they want to do it,” Gordon said, noting that when they “own” it, they will be more invested in its success, inviting others to join them.

Talking to Gordon and Schwartz, the impact of the program is evident. There have even been suggestions to add another program on Tuesday nights, when the religious school also meets. Many of the moms are also helping to organize the annual Back to Shul Bash. “We’ve given the moms community and a lot of the connection has emanated out,” Schwartz explained.

Gordon and Schwartz envision a complementary dads group.

“I have hope the more they see this and the more we include them in the one thing a year, someone will step up at some point down the road,” Schwartz said, noting that the men’s group could have its own fun acronym of “DADs of dropoff.”

As Gordon explained, the program is about creating opportunities for the moms to meet each other, and in many cases continue friendships that started while their kids were in preschool. At the end of the day, it’s really all about relationship building.

“The kids get to do it, the parents should get to also,” Gordon said. ■

Hanna Docter-Loeb is a freelance writer.

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