The 126 year-old Beth Israel Synagogue in Wallingford entered a new era in 2022 with the addition of educational director Marcy Thomaswick.
A professional educator in both secular and religious subjects (K-12) for more than 25 years, Marcy has taught Judaic studies at Ezra Academy in Woodbridge, Kol Ami in Cheshire, Makom Hebrew High School of Greater New Haven and the JCC of Greater New Haven.
She holds a BA in English and an MA in Education from Southern Connecticut State University, an additional Masters in Teacher Leadership from Brandeis University, and a certificate in the Advanced Alternative Preparation Program for Remedial Reading and Language Arts from Albertus Magnus.
“[Marcy] brings experience, energy, intelligence, creativity, curiosity, a love of learning and a pure love of children to our community and our kids every week," says Phyllis Gordon, Beth Israel’s president.
Marcy, who teaches students from all grades on Sunday (with Rabbi Alpert teaching older students on Tuesdays), has expertise in the pedagogy and science of reading, in both English and Hebrew learning. Her curricula emphasizes social justice, social and emotional learning, and outdoor education, all tied in with Judaism. In addition, she is experienced in working with interfaith families.
“In order to allow students the maximum amount of growth, I provide them with hands-on, experiential activities with authentic
problem solving and collaboration,” Marcy said. "Education must encompass all parts of the student life: physical well-being, social/ emotional growth, and positive interactions with the world.”
Marcy’s innovations at Beth Israel’s Hebrew school include having mixed grade levels collaborate together and enabling children to learn to work independently in a “flipped classroom” approach whereby students watch videos about parshiot — Torah portions —at home and then discuss in class. Students also benefit from hands-on creative engagement. One recent project included a group project where students created a miniature edible Sukkah.
A member of Beth Israel Synagogue for more than five years, Marcy considers teaching Sunday school a sacred obligation.
“I’m very lucky. I’ve found my passion as a teacher and a Jew,” she said. “I get to work with kids and have them experience Judaism as a joy as I do, so that their love goes beyond the bar mitzvah. I want them to know Judaism is not just going to synagogue, but also about mitzvoth, such as walking your dog or cleaning up trash. I connect it to the ordinary things we already do.”