Ohr Chayim Models Community Learning

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Leah Zimmerman, Director of Education

I am looking forward to welcoming returning and new families on September 26 for our first Shabbat together in the new year!

This year we will welcome some children and their parents who have attended other BCC family events in the past and who are now old enough to be fully enrolled in the weekly Shabbat program!

Although content and learning is an essential part of the Ohr Chayim curriculum, it is the experience of celebrating Shabbat and studying Torah together that models and teaches what it means to be part of a kehillah, a congregation. Before separating into flexible mixed aged groups for T’filah/Hebrew studies and Jewish studies, parents and students participate in a service together. While our students are studying, the parents schmooze and have Torah study with one of our clergy. We close each week with some reflections and kiddush and motzi. Our students see their parents as learners, and have opportunities to spend Shabbat together.

We are very lucky to have our stellar teaching team, Ms. Purple and Rae Antonoff, returning for yet another year. Ms. Purple has a magical way of connecting with each child. She blends fun and creativity with Jewish learning in ways that are engaging and meaningful for our students. She is a never ending well for ideas for craft projects. Rae has a degree in Jewish Education from HUC, is an accomplished artist, and plays guitar.

Currently, she is developing some of her own Hebrew learning materials that we will be lucky to pilot this year at BCC. She brings a wealth of Torah knowledge and artistic talent to our students, often finding ways to expand their thinking through engaging questions and art projects.

Just as important as what we teach our students is how we teach our students. We teach liturgy and Torah in ways that invite our students to develop their own interpretations and to create meaning. We teach that Jewish learning is based on textual learning that prompts questions, searching for answers, honoring the interpretations that have come before us, and sharing our own insights. Our students enliven the textual learning by creating artwork or dramatic interpretations. As they do, they engage more fully in the meaning of the text.

I have learned so much from the eight years so far of running this program and am excited for all the new ideas the clergy, the teachers, parents and I will bring to this new year!

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