The Team that Inspires our Children
By Rachel Mann
As I walk through the halls of our religious school, I am inspired by the engaging, deep learning in each of our classrooms and am reminded of the words of the Shema, “Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you on this day. I impress them upon you to your children.”
We are blessed with an incredible staff who understands and appreciates the responsibilities described in the Shema. Among the many things we teach our students are the prayers and how to be prayerful people; the Hebrew language, so they can be participants in synagogue services; the history of Israel and a love for the Jewish people; the holidays, and many of the Torah stories so central to our tradition. Our teachers masterfully create lessons that grab our students’ attention and challenge them to reach their potential.
Alongside these incredible teachers we have some great artists, musicians, and specialists who brilliantly elevate and deepen our students’ learning. These are individuals who bring their life’s passion to Shaarei Tikvah and share their gifts with our students. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some highlights of this learning.
Briand Gelfand, an incredibly talented musician, lifts the voices of our students with songs of the holidays, prayers from our tradition, and cultural Jewish music. Understanding the importance of building relationships with his students, he greets each student by name. He also meets every student where they are by offering the transliteration, Hebrew, and English for all songs so everyone can actively participate. There is something truly magical about hearing the voices of the next generation singing songs that are both familiar and new.
Pamela Skop is a yoga master who helps our youngest students stretch their bodies, hearts, and minds. During workshops with Pam, you might find our students working together to create a yoga pose or turning inward to reflect on something personal to seek individual growth. This helps to build community, but also offers the opportunity for students to slow down and focus on their inner lives. This can open the door to a deepening spiritual engagement and growth.
Jane Steinman, a master storyteller, brings to life the stories of our tradition and helps us step inside the shoes of characters we read about in the Tanakh. Through activities with Jane, we learn different values connected to stories and holidays of Judaism, such as empathy, patience, collaboration, and compassion.
Sylvia Fallas, nourishes our bodies with her Jewish cultural cooking. She focuses on recipes and techniques that our students can bring home and recreate in their own kitchens, perhaps establishing new traditions! In creating these treats with peers, students learn to collaborate and take part in a greater whole.
Alex Genty-Waksberg collaborates with teachers to create opportunities for students to capture their own interpretations on film. Alex guides our students in taking the learning in the classroom and bringing it to life while also supporting in directing each film created. With this documentation, students and teachers alike are able to reflect and further build each student’s learning.
Eden Cohen, our shinshin (Israeli emissary), brings Israel to life with his experiential, fun, and educational activities. He always greets our students with a smile and his contagious, positive energy. Naturally, the students immediately gravitated to Eden and continue to strengthen their relationship with Israel through their learning with him.
Rabbi Adam and Cantor Cohen are such an integral part of our learning as well. Rabbi Adam will sometimes pop into classrooms to see what students are learning and take part in the lesson while other times, he’ll engage in deeper conversations with our students. It’s always special when Cantor Cohen meets with our students to teach the beautiful melodies of our prayers as well as the Torah and Haftorah trope to our soon-to-be bar and bat mitzvah students!
In addition to these specialists, there is an exceptional group of volunteers for whom I am immensely grateful. These teen volunteers and congregants serve as role models and send a clear message that we value Jewish learning in our community, which extends beyond the walls of our school. Because of these individuals who volunteer their time, we are able to carry out our shared vision of learning.
Our teachers, specialists, and volunteers are truly the greatest team who give our students the greatest gift of all, exposure to deep and meaningful learning, which creates opportunities for each learner to continue developing a rich, personal connection to Judaism.