Friday, February 5, 2010

Veshinantam - Aseh Chayil Creatively Educates Parents & Children

This month, Voices Magazine celebrates its 13th anniversary, IY"H. Since 13 is the Bar Mitzvah year, this month’s issue, which will be uploaded to the internet next week,, focuses on the concept of Bar Mitzvah and the responsibilities that come along with it. One of those responsibilities is for parents to educate their children. "Vshinantam levanecha"..."Teach the [commandments] thoroughly to your children and speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when retire and when you arise..." Almost twenty years ago, Rabbi Aharon Falk, the rav of the Aseh Chayil School in Efrat, attended a Torah U’Mesorah educators’ convention in America. There it was revealed that basic Jewish day school education had absolutely no impact on a child’s Jewish identity and end-of-the-road assimilation. The reason was clear. The school was giving one message of Jewish values and education, while the parents were unfortunately giving quite another on fundamental issues, such as Shabbat and kashruth. Rabbi Falk determined right then that he would develop a program to include the parents as partners in their children’s Jewish education. “There are no better educators than parents,” Rabbi Falk said. Fifteen years ago, he instituted Veshinantam (teach [your children] thoroughly), a bi-monthly learning program in Efrat that paired parent and child in a chavruta (learning partnership) and then an experiential activity. Topics varied from honoring one’s parents to traffic safety, assimilation to protecting one’s health and body. First and second graders learn on one night, and third and fourth graders on another. Over the past year, thanks to the monetary support of the Parents’ Board of the Aseh Chayil School, the program has been enhanced and expanded. Voices visited Aseh Chayil when children and parents were delving into the topic of emotions. With source sheets, games and fun activities, they learned about joy, sadness and shame. Children had the joy of “completing the writing of a Sefer Torah”, rolling the scroll and carrying it to the chuppah for their own personal Hachnasat Sefer Torah (Torah dedication). Then girls were bedecked in white veils and new (candy) jewelry and boys each received a “Kiddush cup” to carry to the chuppah (wedding canopy). They learned that even at the happiest of times (a Jewish wedding), they had to take a moment to remember the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, recite the phrase “If I forget thee, O’ Jerusalem,” and break the cup. Excitement filled the room as parents snapped photos of their little brides and grooms. Suddenly I also felt a sadness in the midst of the hubbub, as I noticed that the school was using a chuppah that had been made from the tallit of IDF officer Lt. Haggai Lev, HY”D, who was killed in Rafah, Gaza in 2002 while searching for illegal weapons smuggling tunnels. Fourth and eighth grade Aseh Chayil students helped the children through the different activities of the evening. Parents interacted with their children with great enthusiasm, just as Rav Falk had envisioned. Adena Haber, mother of five and a member of Aseh Chayil’s Parent Board, told Voices that it is a luxurious opportunity to be able to spend “one-on-one time with an individual child and learn with him.” They both look forward to each session. Adena commented that Veshinantam has also given her a different view of her children. One program asked children to list things they were proud that their parents noticed about them. She was very surprised at their answers. HaRav Aharon Falk, founder of Veshinantam, remarked that schools “do not impact on children if they don’t work closely with the parents. When we created Veshinantam, I was very surprised. I was always under the impression that the kids hated school, but ...the kids didn’t want to miss it. [In order to entice greater parental participation], we looked for experiential activities, where the smiles of the children would be so enticing that the parents wouldn’t want to miss them.” Rav Falk noted, “The Amutah has invested considerable sums in investing in these programs. We really have a living and kicking Veshinantam program. But I’m fearful that the parents who need it most don’t come, and the parents who are already involved with their children are the ones who join us.” “Veshinantam was designed and implemented to … give the message to the parents that kids are a lot of fun, and one can enjoy conveying values and Jewish education and love to their children, and developing the bond of love,” Rav Falk said. “There are no better teachers than the parents,” Rav Falk said. “I think it’s vital for the parents to understand how important they are to their children. No computer or TV can laugh and cry, embrace and kiss the children. Only parents can do that.” Rav Falk has published the Veshinantam program and would love other schools to implement it as well. My personal thanks to Dina Mann for her help. A Hebrew Veshinantam video in which Dina is interviewed, will be available, IY"H, next week. In our ONE HUNDREDTH VIDEO ON VOICES TV, Voices Gush Etzion/Efrat TV gives you an insider’s look at Aseh Chayil’s Veshinantam program, .

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