18 Shabbats

We are not doing Mini Services this year.  Wait. Hear me out. Last winter each rabbi individually asked me “Nora, what are your goals for Mini Services?”  I was speechless. I didn’t know. I thought they knew. I wanted to answer, “We’ve always done it that way?” but I knew that was never the right answer.  That started us thinking about why we did Mini Services each class day and questioning whether it was serving our students in the way we had hoped.  

Because there are certain prayers required every time you do a service (Shema, Barchu, Amidah, Aleinu) the students got to practice these prayers over and over in the Mini Service, but there was never time for much more.

This school year the students will have prayer practice lessons in the sanctuary on Wednesdays.  It will not be a service, the students will practice the prayers they are learning at the time. Because it is a lesson and not a service, the teachers can work on any prayers and not have to follow service order or time of day.  We hope it will result in better learning for our students and will be monitoring to be sure it does.

One very important part of prayer learning that cannot happen during school hours is learning the beautiful order and structure of our service.  This can only be done during a service itself. We are going to build on our successes last year with Derech Eretz and my philosophy that “you can motivate a child to do what is best if you just know how many shekels are required”.  You can substitute many other rewards for “shekels”. Often a smile or word of praise does just as well. We want our children to attend services and we are going to offer rewards and make it easy for them to do so. Our goal is that students attend services 18 times this school year.

Service attendance is very important for our students.  It helps them understand that they are part of the larger Jewish community and it also teaches them the beauty of our services in ways that could never happen in a classroom.

We are giving students credit for any services attended since the last day of school last May. Any service in a synagogue counts. Has your child attended a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Tot Shabbat? Music Shabbat? Even a Havdalah service held at a synagogue counts between now and the end of the first semester. For little ones (PreK-2), they don’t even need to stay for the whole service. Parents can document their child’s service attendance on the Special Club Forms (linked on the sidebar of the blog). Prizes will be awarded for each 3 services a student attends.

This is where we need the help of everyone.  We are asking parents and congregants to help in these two ways:

  1. Volunteer to drive a student to services.  Would you be willing to pick up a student who lives near you and take them to services when you go?  You would only be asked to give rides on days you are already planning to go to services. You will be matched with students from your congregation.  We will try to match you with students who live near to you.
  2. Donate the shekels.  Well, not really shekels.  We need prizes for this. Good prizes that will motivate students to make the effort.  You can give us ideas for prizes, donate actually prizes or write a check earmarked for 18 Shabbats.

If your child would like to go to services and you aren’t available to take them or if you would like to volunteer to drive another student to services or make a donation for prizes, contact me at okcjsDirector@gmail.com or 269-373-4138.

As always, thanks for the honor of teaching your children,

Nora Chaus, Director OKCJS

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