Educationally Speaking – May 2017

What A Year!

Debi M. Rowe, MAJE, RJE, Director of Education and Programs

We are entering the last month of our Torah School year with all the excitement and attendant rush to finish everything before “the end”. And, it is indeed the “end” of another school year. At least for the next three months plus, we won’t have children and their abundant energy in the building twice each week.

I am always struck by how much our students accomplish over the course of the year.

Even our youngest three- and four-year-olds learn a great deal – granted that some of that is learning how to sit still! Seriously, though, they become completely comfortable at Temple Beth El as their home, learning the rhythms and patters of their school day, and singing songs and prayers with gusto. Thanks to Cantor Davidson’s masterful leading of an age-appropriate worship experience at the start of their day, all our primary grade students also become great rabbis–thoughtful teachers of Torah. I wish I had been smart enough to record these moments; having a record of their comments would be and enduring legacy.

Older students learn all the consonants and vowels of Hebrew, and can apply this new knowledge and skill set everywhere! Even our Alef Class/3rd graders read Torah and follow along in their new siddurim in which there is no transliteration. They also play Hebrew games in the classroom in which many adults could not compete. All of our Alef/3rd grade through Heh/7th grade students continue our long tradition of reading Torah weekly, and learning trope—the system for chanting biblical text [beginning in Dalet Class/6th grade]. In the 2005-2006 school year, Rabbi Lieb, z’ l, urged us to use our then-new Children’s Torah every week. This practice has become a hallmark of our school, making us unique among synagogue Religious Schools. Not to be outdone, our Confirmation Department (grades 8–10) has delved deep into “adult” conversations about God, Jewish identity and practice with Rabbi Briskin & Cantor Davidson as their core studies. Additionally, they have embraced music, visual arts and moral development led by various members of our TBE community. The products of this work will be on display during our Family Shabbat Service on May 5 and on the last day of Torah School on May 21.

I cherish each time I get to step into the classroom and experience the learning and teaching process with our students and our teachers. It is a palpable encounter with that which is holy.

None of these wonderful achievements (nor many others) could happen without the dedication and commitment of our magnificent faculty: Lisa Weiss, Margaret Moilov, Michelle Shahon, Barbara Rheingold-Gerlicki, Rachel Van Raalte, Jessica Barker, Drew Leach, Grant Perry, as well as Cantor Ilan Davidson and Rabbi Chuck Briskin. They are ably assisted by Gloria Resnick who volunteers in the office every Sunday, dispensing warm smiles, hugs and stickers and our team of Thursday afternoon office volunteers who answer phones and keep us running. Our teen madrikhim continued to be role models of “big kids” who care enough about our Beit El to come back each year to help younger students in classrooms.