My name is Emily Cryan and I am a native Massachusetts resident and a graduate of Smith College, where I received my degree in psychology and education and child study. Currently, I live in Shrewsbury and I work at the Maria Hastings Elementary school in Lexington. My family belongs to Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, MA and I attended its Hebrew School from pre-school through 12th grade. My family was always a strong advocate for my Jewish education and wanted me to understand my Judaism and to take pride in it. During my bat mitzvah year, I volunteered and assisted in classrooms and social justice programs. It was during this time that I discovered being Jewish means more than just being able to read a prayer, but was able to understand how the values and virtues of Judaism impact my lifestyle and my perception of the world around me. Later, when I worked at the Hebrew school as an assistant, I realized I had a positive influence on the younger students I worked with because they saw me as a role model and I found great joy in this. After entering high school, I continued to work in classrooms and actively participated in our congregation’s Jewish youth group, WAFTY. Through the Jewish Youth Association, I attended regional events with other youth groups throughout the northeast. This was a wonderful time for me because I was able to meet other people my age from different states and we were all connected through Judaism. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 2014 when I went on Birthright that I realized the true significance of my Jewish educational background. Having the opportunity to explore the Israel, visit Jerusalem, and touch the Western Wall was surreal, but it also gave me new things to ponder, explore, and revisit about Judaism. As one of the fifth grade teachers, it is my hope that during this school year I will be able to teach, challenger, and connect with my students about topics that get at the core of Judaism and help them discover what being Jewish means to them.