Including ALEH’s Children in Their Heritage
Apr 3, 2014
Every child deserves to learn about their tradition and appreciate its significance and value within their lives.
Jewish tradition has always stressed the significance of love of Torah. Giving ALEH’s children, who suffer from severe physical and cognitive disabilities, a taste of this tradition presented a unique challenge for the ALEH teaching staff.
The creative, interactive workshops developed by two wonderful music teachers throughout this winter brought Jewish tradition alive for our special children. The workshops intertwined holiday and Jewish themes with the significance of Torah in Jewish life.
It was fascinating to see how the teachers brought to life some of the most famous stories of Jewish sages who expressed their love of Torah in extraordinary ways.
One such example was the story of the great sage Hillel, who almost lost his life while attempting to learn Torah on a freezing, snowy day.
In honor of Tu Bishvat, the students learned about the significance of the trees and their fruit. They opened stalls selling trees, including the trees that Hillel would cut down in his pursuit of a livelihood.
From the fees he earned, Hillel paid the guard of the synagogue to be allowed to enter and hear the daily lecture. In this context, the children learned about the synagogue’s features and holy functions; they also decorated different models of synagogues with various crafts.
When Hillel reached a point where he didn’t even have two pennies to rub together, he climbed up on the roof during a snow storm to listen to the lecture through an open window. The following morning, when the students came in and noticed it was dark due to the blocked window, they found Hillel’s frozen body, brought him inside and saved his life.
At the conclusion of the workshop series, the children went to visit the main synagogue. They were greeted by the Rabbi, who gave them a tour of the synagogue and showed them the Holy Ark, the Bimah, different prayers in the siddur, and the Torah itself, which they all had a chance to kiss.
It was obvious that the children felt the significance of the holy site and the tradition they were part of. The effort and investment to give the children a taste of their rich heritage was certainly worthwhile!