Shabbat Gam Yachad– our monthly children’s activities connect the children with the Jewish holidays and introduces the weekly Torah portion to them. Most of the children who attend have not had any Jewish experience before. Watching them walk with small Torah scrolls around the room during the Torah procession, or waving Israeli flags on Yom Haatzmaut is really heartwarming.
A new approach to educating local Jewish children in Poland has been operating in Beit Warszawa since the Fall of 2012.
Although the Sunday School model is a reasonable approach to Jewish childhood education, we favor a school that meets on Saturday mornings for the following reasons:
- Meeting on Shabbat mornings will best allow the children to not only learn about Jewish life, ritual, holidays, and Shabbat, but to experience Shabbat first-hand. The experience of Shabbat- its rituals, foods, blessings, Hebrew prayers, songs, Torah readings, melodies, and sense of Jewish community- is best taught through active participation. Meeting while Shabbat morning services are taking place in the sanctuary will enable the children to learn first-hand about this cornerstone of Jewish life as well as to engage in further Jewish learning activities taught at their level of understanding.
- Over the past two years, we have held a monthly child-oriented Saturday morning program called Shabbat Gam Yachad (“Sabbath all together”), during which children have engaged in hands-on activities designed to teach them about the Torah portion being read that morning, as well as singing, dancing, and joining with the adults for the procession of the Torah and closing songs.
- If our students choose to participate in another local Jewish childhood education program that meets on Sunday, they could potentially participate in both.
- Meeting on Saturday mornings allows some flexibility of programming; some meetings could be like Shabbat Gam Yachad, with the children going in and out of the adult service, while others could participate in an occasional special prayer service open to all ages which is especially family-friendly.
- By scheduling our Jewish childhood education program on Saturday mornings, when we already have a service designed for adults, we provide an open door for parents who might otherwise be unlikely to stay at Beit Warszawa. They will now have the opportunity to join Shabbat morning services while their children are in “Shabbat School” or to be invited to participate directly in the school’s activities on any given meeting. We feel this model has the potential to increase parents’ involvement in the Jewish education of their children and also enhance their Jewish learning as adults.
Children and staff meet from 10:30 am until 13:00 pm, at which time children are engaged in activities of Jewish content: participating in the Torah procession, learning Hebrew word and songs, discuss the weekly portion or the approaching Jewish holiday. The meetings include arts and crafts and tasting foods relating to the subject matter.,
The children join the adult congregation for Kiddush, Netila Yadayim and haMotzi (the three blessing for the Sabbath table).
- The Rhythm of the Jewish Year: The Hebrew Calendar; Sabbath; Holidays; Memorial Days; names of the days of the week & months
- The Language of Our People: Hebrew alphabet recognition and basic decoding skills; learning core prayers from the prayerbook (such as the Sh’ma and first 3 blessings of the Amidah) and Birkot haNehenin (blessings over food); some basic conversational Hebrew.
- The Stories of our People: Torah stories and folktales illustrating Jewish values and mitzvot
- How We Live Shabbat: prayers, songs, blessings, rituals
- Jewish music in the form of prayers, folk songs, Israeli dances
- Derekh Eretz: the Jewish way of treating each other with kindness and respect.