“Moooowww . . . Meeeeeee”

Concentrating intently upon the home-made flash card his teacher is holding in front of him, ten-year-old Joseph Miller intones the sounds of the Hebrew vowels he is memorizing.

Miller is one of five students in a children’s beginning Hebrew class at the Denton City Jewish Community Religious School. The newly founded program serves children of Jewish and interfaith couples (families with one Jewish parent) who have no ties to a synagogue but seek some form of Jewish education for their children. The Hebrew classes, which meet for two hours, one afternoon a week at the Denton City Ministry, began officially in August 2016, but a number of the 15 students have been studying with Rabbi Philippa Hensley Strong, the principal of the school, since as far back as 2015.

Strong says she began tutoring the kids after she was approached by parent Clare Mason, now president of Denton Jewish Community.

“Clare was not affiliated with any synagogue, and she was looking for an alternative Jewish learning situation for her daughter. She said to me. “If you don’t start something soon, my daughter is going to lose interest [in Judaism],” recalls Strong. “So I talked extensively with several families to whom Clare introduced me, until I finally realized that the temple-affiliated religious schools were not an option for these families and that there was a need for education for the unaffiliated,” Strong, then a rabbinical student (she was ordained in 2015) decided to tutor Mason’s daughter privately, along with a group of seven other children that Mason helped to organize. And “as the months rolled by, the families involved invited other families,” Strong says until membership grew to the point that “we founded our own school”.