I am enjoying every minute of Tefillah (prayer) with all the students at AYSJS, Gan (Kindergarten) through Con- firmation (10th Grade). Last year I led the prayer services once a month on Shabbat mornings and once a week for the 3rd through 5th Graders. This year I am lead- ing prayers for the Gan (Kindergarten) through Heh (5th Graders) every week. I put on my Tallit and Tefillin and join Sun- day morning minyan with our 6th through 10th graders. Having led services for hun- dreds of students per week in my sixteen years as a New York City Jewish educator, it was something that I missed doing. It is awesome for me to see each student follow along with his/her etzba (Hebrew word for finger) in their siddurim (prayer books) and to sing with ruach (spirit).
When you attend services on the remaining dates of our Shabbat Morning Family Programming (SMFP), which are February 4th, March 17th, April 21st and May 19th or any Sunday morning that AYSJS is in session, you will be able to witness our next generation praying.
The students at each level have such different needs and desires when it comes to prayer services. Some days they pray with more kavanah (intention) than others. They are no different than adults. Sometimes we are thinking about God when we pray and other times we are thinking about our task lists.
There is something profound about reciting words that have been in prayer books for centuries. One of the most precious sounds in the world is the voices of young children praying. One of the most precious sights is seeing teens wearing their tallitot (plural for tallit) post-B’nai Mitzvah.
I emphasize to our students that with each Hebrew word that we read in our lives, we become better Hebrew readers. After just thirteen weeks of reading Hebrew, even our Aleph (1st Grade) students are able to follow along with the Hebrew words in our new prayer books. These books were donated by Am Yis- rael Board President Randy Horton’s parents in honor of his Presidency at our synagogue. These prayer books are extremely user friendly and ideal for Gan (Kindergarten) through Heh (5th Grade) students.
The students in our Vav (6th Grade) Class are becoming comfortable leading parts of the prayer services and are getting a lot of practice in front of large groups. They do so every Sunday morning, once a month at SMFP and in their classrooms. In fact, this year our 6th through 10th graders have each been up on the bimah in the Sanctuary on a nearly weekly basis. Their participation has been inspiring.
Facilitating a fluency with, and connection to prayer in our students is one of my key roles in our community. I look forward to watching our students continue to shine in this area.