Photo: Courtesy of Tot Shabbat in a Box
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Beth Rabinowitz and I live right outside of Philadelphia. I have been an early childhood Jewish educator for over twenty five years. First as a preschool teacher and then sixteen years as a Jewish Preschool Director. For the last five years I have been a Director of Early Childhood Education plus the Young Family Engagement Director at Temple Sinai in Dresher, PA. For sixteen years I have been involved in the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. Sitting on the board and executive board plus working on several of our national conferences.
I’m also certified in yoga, adult and children. I have taught yoga, using Jewish holidays and values, for the last two years. I also teach a workshop on how to bring yoga and mindfulness into the Jewish preschool and synagogue. I have a 23 year old who is a Kindergarten teacher and a freshman at Syracuse. They both grew up at Camp Harlam and each visited and lived in Israel. I have gone to Israel twice on early childhood programs and was supposed to be in Israel in June with my husband who has never been. My husband actually had Covid the end of March and was hospitalized. We were quarantined for weeks, but luckily he is doing great!
What inspired you to start your business?
My preschool closed on March 11th and it was really tough as an educator and as a Director who was so close to the families and staff. After we were out of quarantine I made packages for all my teachers and, socially distanced, visited each one. It took me about three weeks. After that my older daughter and I made fun interactive bags for every child in the preschool. I delivered over fifty bags and it was so wonderful to socially connect with the families, even 6 ft apart. When I realized the synagogues in our area were not opening for services or programming I thought I could make up boxes for every month and also offer a FREE Virtual Tot Shabbat experience. I was working around the clock to make TOTSHABBATBOX.COM a reality and try to open my school during Covid. My goal was to still be able to provide family engagement and the love of Judaism to families of young children. I also wanted to reach more families than just the ones in my area.
How and where do you work?
I worked 10 years at Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA and 5 years at Temple Sinai in Dresher, PA. I just left Temple Sinai on August 14th. Now I only teach yoga and run TOTSHABBATBOX.COM. I work out of my home, riding my bike, running, swimming, car or any place I can find.
How do you source your products?
I am working with three Jewish companies as a wholesaler. I really want to support the Jewish community.
How do you decide what makes it into the box?
I think about the holiday and the age of the children. I have a Tot Shabbat Junior Box for Infants and toddlers and then the other products are great for 2 year olds to around 7 year olds. I think about how some children have never attended a Jewish preschool or haven’t had the opportunity to attend any Jewish programming. I also think about the families. A family could be interfaith or Jewish and unsure what a holiday is all about. I think about activities that are not “paper cutter”, but how children can create their own items, such as a challah cover or kiddush cup. I like adding books and of course every child loves stamps or stickers. As soon as you open the box there is a postcard with the blessings and Shabbat candles. There is also a 7 by 5 card that explains the holiday or ritual and tells the family about the box. It is basically an informational card so families can really understand the what and why of the box. The inside of the box matches the color of the holiday and everything is fun, interactive and engaging. Plus many items can last for years and become memories, such as the challah cover.
What do you want to achieve with your company and what are your wishes for the future?
I really want to spread my love for Judaism and early childhood education across the country. I want to get into every little nook and cranny. There are so many areas of our country that don’t have a synagogue or any available Jewish programming. Also there are so many families that are interfaith and I hope this can help bring Judaism into a family where a parent might be uncomfortable with our holidays and traditions.
I also volunteer at two amazing agencies that provide assistance to all races and religions, Mitzvah Circle and Mitzvah Food Program. My goal is to help purchase diapers and feminine products with part of my proceeds.
Where can our readers find out more about your business and where can they order your box?
Photos: Courtesy of Tot Shabbat in a Box