Reflection on the “performance” aspects at our School of Jewish Studies

Students rise to the occasion during adrenaline filled “performances.” We have seen this time and again this year at AYSJS. During the month of February we honored our 18th Torah reader this year between the ages of four and eleven at our SMFP services. The Library/Resource Room in our school building had one hundred people watching seven children chant from the Torah scroll at our SMFP during Synaplex Shabbat. There was hardly a dry eye in the room as these confident children took the “yad” from my hand and sang the words so flawlessly. I truly believe that B’nai Mitzvah for these children will be very different from those children who have not had these synagogue experiences.

Rabbi Newman Kamin addresses the children and their families each month at these services. One of the joys of our Torah readings is that we get to celebrate with the children’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends of the family and the list goes on. Preparing the MP3’s for the participants using my Garageband program and emailing them is so much easier than the days of putting them on cassettes or even CD’s.

Our Vav students and other 6th graders from the congregation had the opportunity to lead services this past month. In the past, the 6th graders leading services in conjunction with the B’nai Mitzvah Workshop was a once a year event. This year, our students help lead services monthly as a part of SMFP. The Shabbat “regulars” often tell me that our students’ comfort level clearly shows. Another special aspect of the morning was getting to see one of our 9th graders chant Haftarah on the second anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. One of the themes of our school year is that Jewish learning is a life-long proc- ess. It is not something that is meant to end at the age of thirteen.

A new service we featured this past month was the Prozdor and Pardes Kabbalat Shabbat. The students had an opportunity to learn or refresh their learning of prayers that they studied in earlier years. The Rabbi and the parents blessed the 8th and 9th graders, and it was a special moment to cherish.

Finally, I want to highlight the Bet Class Havdalah. I have been sitting in a Tefillah (prayer) circle with the 2nd graders for most of the year. Along with their teacher, madricha and the art teachers, the students created Havdalah sets to use at the program and take home. For the Havdalah service we gathered together at the synagogue and the students recited Tefillot. We used the beautiful new prayer books that were donated by Randy Horton’s parents, Jason and Janis Horton, in honor of Randy’s Presidency at the synagogue. After the Rabbi’s inspiring words, we lit our candles and recited the blessings. The bimah was filled with light and a memory that none of us or our children will soon forget.

“Performers” rise to the challenge, just as students often do their best work when they need to produce something, whether it is a science fair project, a swim meet competition, a homecoming football game, or a ten minute session in a recording studio. Human nature and adrenaline dictate that when we have our “eyes on the prize” and a goal we are trying to reach, oftentimes it makes us better. I want to take this time to thank all of the students and all those who have been educating and inspiring them to “reach for the stars” at Am Yisrael in these specific programs as well as others throughout the year.

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