When the Torah was given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, a well-known Midrash tells us it possessed seventy faces. Why seventy? At the beginning of Parashat Nitzavim, in Deuteronomy 29:9, it is written: “Behold you are standing this day all of you before the Lord your G-d: your heads, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives and the stranger that is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of wood to the drawer of water.” The Midrash reflects the belief that every single Jewish soul, for all time, was assembled at the foot of the mountain. The Torah was given not just to the leaders or to the wise, but to everyone, and to the “seventy faces” were the means necessary to make the Torah understandable to all those assembled, according to their abilities.
Opportunity for Jewish Learning
Just as there is no one way to understand the Torah, there is no one way to teach it. Jewish education must be accessible to all who seek to learn. As the Midrash indicates, Judaism is an equal-opportunity religion. Opportunity is the key word here. At Beth Torah’s Congregational Learning Center, it is our hope to provide as much opportunity for Jewish learning as possible to our entire membership.
It’s been helpful to have the feedback of our CLC Parents as Partners this spring who provided some valuable insight into what they feel about our educational programs. For several weeks, we publicized an anonymous survey through our email list and Facebook group. Of those who responded, the majority of families felt that their children are learning and are happy most or all of the time with the program. There was consistent input that our Walk through the Siddur program is impacting how and what their children are learning but there is a concern that we must diversify some of the units to make sure the activities are not repetitive.
The engagement specialists (Hillary Block, Steven Duchin, and Chelsea Egenberg) and I met this last week to begin brainstorming on creating a four year curriculum cycle which outlines different prayers and units each year in addition to the essential Saturday morning rotation. We will be adding additional classes (using our same model of activities, music and games) during each year including Friday night services, Birkat Hamazon (prayers after eating), and High Holiday prayers.
The survey also highlighted an interest for parents to start having learning opportunities (either with their students or on their own) during the school year. Some parents were interested in weekly classes but most preferred monthly or quarterly. There was a varied response on what to study with Jewish history taking the lead. We look forward to brainstorming with our families and parents to determine what courses and opportunities we can create!
We are very excited to wrap up the year during our Congregational Learning Center Shabbat Weekend, May 19–21.