Miles Roger grew up learning about the importance of Jewish service and Jewish education, values that have shaped his professional career and personal life. Roger is now the director of education at Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, Va., and is working to provide guidance to young Jews, while educating others about the history and practices of the Jewish people. With 14 years of experience in the field, Roger is able to bring a great perspective driven by learned experiences and a desire for continual self-improvement.
Can you tell me what you love about education and why you enjoy working in the education field?
The passion has always been in Jewish communal service – I actually come from a long line of Jewish professionals. And education has been a place that I have found that I can make a real impact, which is why I’ve focused my career in the Jewish education realm. So much of how we pass our tradition from one generation to the next is based on the commandment we find in Deuteronomy of “veshinantam levanecha” – you should teach it diligently to your children. And growing up that was a strong influence in my life. It has really been the source of my inspiration in my professional career, as I have worked in a variety of Jewish communal and educational settings over the past 14 years now.
Can you tell me about your start at Temple B’nai Shalom and your career path?
Like every good individual, we’re always looking to grow our skills and continue our career paths. And I certainly loved and appreciated my time at Washington Hebrew Congregation, where I was the assistant director. I knew I was ready to take that next step in my career, and as I was in the course of interviewing in a variety of different congregations, both in the area and around the eastern half of the country, one of the things I really appreciated about TBS was their commitment to academic excellence, as well as their commitment to Reform Jewish living and learning. As a lifelong Reform Jew, I have always been so impressed with the wide variety of ways that people can express their views. And one of the things I have loved doing as a Reform Jewish educator is helping people find ways that Judaism can bring holiness into their lives. As I was interviewing, TBS just had a really great standard for this, and I was really excited to be able to continue that.
What does your day-to-day look like as director of education?
It can vary from one day to the next, especially days that we have our midweek Hebrew classes versus days without. But my average day-to-day experience typically involves some combination of working on planning for upcoming sessions, religious school, responding to parents and staff inquiries, making sure that setups and materials are assembled and teaching both Hebrew classes for seventh graders as well as individuals for B’nai Mitzvah tutoring appointments.
What does your life look like outside work?
I like that you think your Jewish professional has time for life outside of work (he said with a laugh). I try very hard to make time and there are certain times of year where it’s easier than others. Like so many people, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I’ve got, having been here now for nearly 10 years, a lovely social circle of people that I’m able to do stuff with, whether that’s enjoying good restaurants or exploring museums, the area, or just hanging around and seeing a movie … Resting is also super important given how much I have to be on when I am working. So that refresh time is important. I also really enjoy baking and exploring different recipes and different challenges and whatnot in the baking world.
How does your Jewish identity play a part in your life and career?
One of my teachers taught me that one of the things that we do as Jewish educators is we help our congregants, help our learners see the world through Jewish eyes. And I think having grown up in a household of strong Jewish involvement, that’s something that I’ve always just naturally done and just the perspective that I’ve regularly looked at the world. So, it’s finding those Jewish themes, those Jewish messages, even in the ordinary. One of my favorite programs that I’ve done with families is helping them explore the variety of blessings that we have for the miracles we experience every day, whether that is seeing a rainbow or having a seasonal fruit for the first time in the year. Judaism has a great tradition of finding ways to make the ordinary holy. And that’s what I tend to do throughout my life, is I find those ways that I can make the ordinary [into] holy stuff. I’ve also done a lot of work in the secular world of educating the larger community about Judaism and in our history, and I think that’s such an important thing. That is necessary, especially right now, with all the antisemitism going on around the world that we can be that light. It says ‘Be a light unto the nations’ – that we can help educate others about Judaism, because it’s through education that we’re able to dispel all those myths and rumors about what Judaism and Jewish people are all about. So, I think it’s certainly blending both professional and personal life, but my identity as a Jew is a strong part of who I am. It really colors how I see the world.