Exploring Tradition and Growth through Torah

Exploring Tradition and Growth through Torah

The Torah can be intimidating to even the most experienced Jewish learners. How do we make something that is so vast and ingrained in Jewish tradition accessible and engaging to learners ages 5-10? At Makom, we want Torah to be a resource that our learners can turn to and integrate into their lives how they see fit. 

One way our Shorashim (1st and 2nd grade) learners have been interacting with Torah is through our end-of-unit project. To explore our unit theme of “The Power of Communication,” learners are using their unique voices to communicate Torah across their community. We tasked each learner with choosing one short passage of Torah that they connect to and want to communicate outward and then illustrate that text on a fabric patch. When they are done, the Shorashim and Nitzanim (3rd and 4th grade) learners will have their fabric patches sewn together to create Makom’s new Torah cover. It has been so exciting to watch our learners select the Torah passages from the texts we have looked at over the past few years at Makom and hear their interpretations. One second grader chose to illustrate a passage from Parshat Terumah that describes the Jewish people bringing contributions to help build the Mishkan- a portable space of worship- and explained her choice by saying

“I love building holy communities and that’s what we do at Makom. The gift I bring is encouraging people because I want people to say ‘wow’ about what I add to the classroom”.


Another learner chose the passage that describes the Hebrews calling out to God to free them from Egypt and said “I like that the Jewish people cried to God and God helped. If God can help them, God can help anyone.” The ways that our learners are connecting Torah to their lives and sharing it with others is incredibly inspiring. 

In addition to interpreting Torah in new ways, this week our learners had the very exciting opportunity to immerse themselves in the long-lasting traditions Torah gives us access to by meeting with Linda Coppleson, a Soferet– a scribe of Torah and other Jewish documents. Linda showed our learners columns of Hebrew that she had written over the course of five days, according to the standards set hundreds of years ago. The group then discussed why we don’t just print the Torah, or project it on the walls of synagogues now that we can. Our learners shared how holy and special it is to spend so much time on something, and noted that it “feels special to read the same way our ancestors did.” However, one student brainstormed that we could combine tradition and modern technology by creating a hologram Torah for Synagogues that don’t have Torahs– who knows!

In our immersive and explorative study of Torah, we provide our learners with the value of being connected to a vast Jewish tradition and the empowerment to reflect Torah through their own unique voices. Our learners are able to use traditions of the past to build their own futures, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.

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