Ariana Estoque is the Director of Adolescent and Adult Education at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.
I grew up at Emanu-El. I’ve been in the Emanu-El education program since I was 8 years old, having my bat mitzvah and confirmation in this synagogue (and now my own three children are in the school). For 5 years, I went to an Orthodox day school in SF. When it was time for my bat mitzvah, the rabbi realized that I had more Hebrew and liturgy in my back pocket than most students and he hired me as a teen teacher. I started on payroll when I was 14 and I never left.
At the age of 15 I was a participant on the March of Living. Returning from that experience, it felt like I had two options: I was going to be an orthodox rebbitzen with 16 kids or a Reform Rabbi. Of course, I didn’t truly follow either path but I did know that education was the key and my passion... For me, it’s all about L’dor v’dor. We sustain Jewish life by passing it on. I went to SF State and earned a BA in Sociology with a minor in Jewish Studies. I continued on to earn a Masters in Education with a focus in Jewish Studies.
Over the years, I’ve participated in almost every educational opportunity that BJE/JLW has offered. Your programs have been the foundation of my professional development for many years. They’re also the foundation for my sense of collegiality. I still meet several times each year with my colleagues from the Shofar Fellowship - even all these years later.
Jewish LearningWorks has given me so many resources, so many tools and so many platforms to learn, grow and impact my students.
It’s interesting to see JLW evolving with the times but I believe that in-person cohorts are key. I’d like to see JLW continue in person networking and professional development so people can step away from screens and really truly connect. Without JLW’s skill building workshops, there is something missing in the community. Educators in the field need the face-to-face, hands on, tactile experience.