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Grandfriends Join the Kindergarten Class

grand + friend (noun) • Someone from an older generation who wishes to connect with young children.

Every Sunday a group of more experienced TSTI members arrive at the Religious School’s Kindergarten class. These are the “grandfriends,” and they are quickly becoming integral members of the kids’ school day.

The TSTI Grandfriends Program is part of a three-year fellowship pilot program from IDEAL18, and it’s designed to connect generations and destigmatize aging. During the two-and-a-half-hour class each week, the grandfriends play and chat with the kids at various stations and participate in circle time.

​​​​​​​Murray Blasz, one of the grandfriends, says, “It’s really about the kids. I never knew my grandparents, and there may be some youngsters that have grandparents who live 3,000 miles away. I like sharing and giving the kids another dimension they normally don’t get in school. It’s been an eye-opening experience.”

Jesse and Leslie Bayer are also grandfriends. “When we interact with our kindergarten students as they sing, color and pay attention to the adults around, we know the future is in good hands. It’s very satisfying, and we look forward to it each Sunday.”

Grandfriends Table

Carol Paster, one of the Kindergarten teachers (and TSTI’s Preschool Director), says, “I always wondered how to bring in older friends for more than just a quick story. So when I saw IDEAL18’s program, I jumped at it. I want our grandfriends to have long-term relationships with the kids.”

Grandfriends Shawn

Grandfriend Barbara Schwartz says, “The teachers prepare a fun-filled Sunday morning each week for the Kindergarteners, with stories, games, and arts and crafts projects that make it fun to learn about Jewish history and Torah. Seeing the world through the eyes of 5- and 6-year-olds is truly a joy!”

Grandfriends 2022

“It is a wonderful morning,” grandfriend Lois Larkey remarked. “In the last few weeks the kindergartners have settled down, matured, learned to play with one another, and share. It has been a learning experience watching their growth in only a few weeks. I taught middle school and high school, so the experience with kindergartners is an entirely different level of awakening. Frankly, it is breathtaking.”

Religious School Director Mindy Schreff couldn’t be happier about the program. “When Carol proposed the idea of the grandfriends, I jumped at the opportunity to bring together these two segments of our temple community. It has been a joy to watch the connections between our Kindergarten students, our teens in the classroom and our grandfriends grow and flourish. The grandfriends are a wonderful addition to our Religious School Community.”

The program, officially titled “Sages of All Ages: Creating Deep, Long Lasting Relationships,” received a grant this summer from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

Want to be a grandfriend? Reach out to Carol Paster or Mindy Schreff for more information.