5th Grade Family Service Reflections

“I can’t wait to do it again.”  That is what Matt wrote about his first time reading from the Torah, and he is only in the 5th grade!  On December 10th,, his class held its family Shabbat service, which each grade does every year by singing songs, and depending on age, leading some prayers and  individual English readings. Only this year, each student was given the opportunity to learn one verse (sentence) from the Torah to read in front of the congregation. The expectation is that, if they can learn one verse now, they will be less apprehensive when starting Bar or Bat Mitzvah training.  They all claimed to be nervous (even scared) before the service, which is to be expected, but feelings shifted afterwards.

In class two days later, their Hebrew teacher asked them to write about the evening, and Matt also wrote, “The service was very exciting. I felt a little nervous before the service, but I also felt brave. I learned that if I can read the Torah now, it should be a piece of cake when I’m thirteen.” Anna wrote, “After I felt good. Once I started reading it was easy. I can’t believe I was so worried.” Jordan said, “It was nice to co-lead the service. It was meaningful to me to be able to read from the Torah.  I learned that I can read from the Torah without vowels and I should practice a little more. When I finished I felt happy, proud of myself, and I felt like I got something accomplished.”  Sara learned that she is more responsible than she thought she was, and learned a lot of new words that she didn’t know before. It was meaningful to her to read a verse from the Torah, since it is so special to the Jewish religion. Ted wrote of feeling proud of himself for reading in front of everyone, and now he is not scared to do things in front of people.

Bobby was similarly affected. “This whole Shabbat service deal of studying and singing has taught me a lot,” he wrote.  “It taught me that I can’t wait till the last moment to do everything, but I have to do it right as I’m told to. I was really nervous about the service that something would go wrong for me, but the exact opposite happened.  I rocked my English reading, I did my Torah reading, and I carried the Torah (it was heavy).”  Adam added, “It was more meaningful than I expected to read out of the Torah. It meant a great deal to my parents and grandparents for me to read out of the Torah. That was a great family service.” Jessica wrote, “Before the service I was really scared and a little excited, but after, I was really happy and glad I did it. It was a lot of fun. It was really cool being able to read the Torah and co-lead the service.  When I was scared, I just relaxed, and I wasn’t scared anymore.  It was really fun.”  Sam summed it up. “Before the service I felt nervous and didn’t know if I’d do good.  After I was very proud of myself. I learned it takes a lot of work to read from the Torah.  It is hard with no vowels. Even though it was hard it was meaningful. I felt proud and like a real Jewish kid. I thought it was good.  The service was very good.”

So, as you can tell, these boys and girls benefited more than merely improving Hebrew skills. Obviously, some life lessons were learned.  We pride ourselves at Beth Miriam for exposing our young congregants to more than classroom learning.  From Kindergarten through Youth Group we kvell when any of our students are on the bima leading the congregation in song and prayer. They get more familiar with sanctuary surroundings each year of participation in a family service, particularly with the hope that when Bar or Bat Mitzvah time comes, each will feel more secure in his or her  abilities, and be that “piece of cake”. It is so rewarding when they can feel proud of themselves, but I also happen to know that the 5th grade Hebrew teacher is VERY proud of them, too!  If you haven’t yet experienced a Shabbat family service, they occur once a month at 7:30 from October through May. We welcome and encourage you to join us.

Sharon Silverman