Am Yisrael has been bustling with activity this past month. If you are interested in being on my email distribution list, please let me know. I include details about the SJS on a weekly basis in my Limmud (Learning) E-Newsletters. You can also find my weekly emails on our Facebook and Twitter pages, by clicking on the appropriate icon on the upper left-hand corner of our website, amyisrael.org.
Our School of Jewish Studies students are reading Torah and Megillah, reading Hebrew fluently, reciting prayers, participating in plays, performing in band concerts, creating art work that lines our school hallways, taking photographs through a “Jewish Lens,” learning about Israeli culture, singing with ruach (spirit) and making positive associations with Judaism within the walls of our synagogue. Families are joining the exciting journey, and we are getting awesome feedback.
A prime example of Jewish education at its best is the annual Dalet Class Purim Play. Mrs. Moustakis and Mrs. Sender prepared the eleven students in the class who recited their lines in Hebrew and acted with emotion. The students felt a great sense of accomplishment and deserve tremendous praise. How many schools that offer a five-hour a week program, with a once a month Shabbat component can say that their students recite a play entirely in Hebrew? Many congregational schools have given up on Hebrew as a spoken language. At Am Yisrael, we know how to get the most out of our students. Students need to be challenged or else they feel that their time is being wasted. The Purim play is truly one of the highlights of our year. One of our Madrichim (teaching assistants), Ryan Hochman, videotaped the play this year. I could not help but picture him up on this same bimah eight years earlier reciting his lines for Mrs. Moustakis, his family and schoolmates. We are proud to incorporate long standing traditions such as the Purim Play at our school as well as cutting-edge technology opportunities for our students. This approach equals a winning formula.
I asked one of our talented teens, Becky Dolinko, to reflect on her experience at Am Yisrael. She is a senior in high school, a madricha (teaching assistant) in the SJS and our USY President. Becky shared, “Being a part of the Am Yisrael community is very special to me. I love to come to AYSJS every Sunday morning and work as a madricha in the Bet (2nd grade) class. I love seeing my current students and former students learn new things and grow as learners each week. Also, I love being active in USY and helping to set up synagogue-wide events such as the Purim carnival and puppet show. It feels really good to give back to the synagogue, while also giving back to others. This Purim, our USY board raised $352 for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). It makes me happy that we are making a difference by donating the money to people who are less fortunate than us. It is programs like these and my work in AYSJS that make coming to Am Yisrael fun!”
We received fantastic feedback on our Annual Purim Carnival. Rabbi Newman Kamin, Cantor Simon, Nancy Holab Nevins and I would like to give thanks to the entire team of our teachers, Hebrew tutors, madrichim, congregants/parents, USY Executive Board, teens and pre-teens, who devoted their time and energy to make sure that all of the participants had a blast! I want to extend special thanks to Judy Grossbard for serving as the Chair of the Purim Carnival. Her grace, creativity and vision were inspiring to witness. Starting with her “hat of the day” to brand new banners, to new, fun games, she did an tremendous job! Our entire Am Yisrael Community benefited from Mrs. Grossbard’s dedication. This year’s Purim Carnival was one of the best I have ever been to anywhere, and she truly gets credit where credit is due!
It is exciting for my family and me to be a part of such a vibrant community. The excitement level at our synagogue is reaching wonderful levels, and I am proud to be a part of it. I encourage everyone to continue enjoying our Am Yisrael family and all that we have to offer. The spring months are upon us which means celebrating Pesach and our freedom. But as we are instructed in the haggadah, we must not forget our past. We will work together to continue building positive Jewish moments and memories for our youth and all of our congregants. We will clean our kitchens, break matzah together, attend the Cantor’s Concert on Sunday afternoon, April 29th and so much more.