The great Mechina experiment of last year, extending the class’ schedule to a full three and one- half hours has borne wonderful fruit. The students relish the extra time so they can readily absorb the full course of study. New books also enhance the learning process, providing more intensive investigation of various subject matter. Additionally, enrichment programs, such as the Hands-on Shofar-making Program, which taught about the beginnings of the musical instrument and all the hard work involved in making it a viable kosher horn usable in religious practice, and the Sofer Program, where the art of sacred document writing was experienced close-up, have served to embellish upon normal classroom fare.
With the later start of the Tishrei holidays, the class was able to delve deeply into the High Holidays, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. Utilizing both a textbook and Jewish celebration pamphlets, all aspects of commemoration, both historical and present-day, were examined. Ever eager to artistically express themselves, the students reveled in creating decorations for the sukkahs of the three synagogues. Presently they are investigating the wonders of Shabbat and look forward to uncovering the origins of Chanukah and the traditions at the root of the Festival of Lights.
Following Simchat Torah, the class began the Parashat Hashavua in sync with the congregational readings. By exploring the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noach, the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, they familiarized themselves with the humanity of our Biblical ancestors and realized they also were fraught with mortal frailties. In the months ahead, we hope to examine the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt and the selection of Moses as the prophet who would lead them to freedom.
The new Hebrew primer, Journeys Through the Alef-Bet, has pleasantly enhanced the weekly study of the language. Nekudot, or vowels, are taught concurrently with the consonants and are addressed by their names. Words beginning with the letter showcased in each chapter provides the students with a rudimentary vocabulary upon which they will build as the term progresses.
Essential to Ohr Chadash’s curricula is the study of Israel. City by city, from Jerusalem, to Tel Aviv, to Haifa, and beyond, from northern climbs to southern resorts, the students are traversing our religious homeland in a booklet tour.
Blessings and prayers are part and parcel of the learning process and snack time becomes an appreciation of what G-d has provided and serves as a lesson in which bracha to say over what is going to be consumed. Shabbat melodies which accompany the synagogal prayers facilitate and enliven their growing liturgy knowledge.
The enthusiasm of the Mechina youngsters makes the teaching process a sheer joy. I look forward to the balance of the semester, where so much more enlightenment awaits in our sojourn along the path to academic advancement.