What image comes to mind when you hear the word “carnival?” Before joining the Yavneh faculty, I immediately pictured the carnival section of Great America – the barkers yelling at passersby to get their attention, the frustration of not being able to get the red ring around the bottle, and the short lived elation of winning a small stuffed animal that fell apart a week later.
All changed in a two hour meeting in the summer of 2016 as Rabbi Hahn Tapper described many of the unique programs that happen in the middle school. I learned about the Keshet Crew, J-STEAM, Purim (Yavneh style), Lag B’Omer, JCAT (Jewish Court of All Time), Torah readers, the buddy program and the Teshuvah Carnival. I easily pictured each program, except for the Teshuvah Carnival. I couldn’t imagine middle school students creating games that taught the rest of the students about the importance of tefillah, tzedakah, and teshuvah.
One of the many advantages of a K-8 school is providing meaningful leadership opportunities for our students. At Yavneh, we instill leadership skills through having our students become teachers; this practice also makes the learning more relevant for everyone. On Monday, the Keshet Krew introduced simcha (joy) as the first middah (character trait) that we will be focusing on this year. They taught about the importance of not only finding joy but keeping it in proper balance. Being together as a Yavneh community is joyful and we are grateful to have a beautiful Beit Kehillah where we can gather for events like the Teshuvah Carnival.
Over the past month, the middle school students have studied the origins of why we focus on Tefillah, Tzedakah, and Teshuvah before Yom Kippur and then turned their learning into practice as they prepared to help the rest of the community understand both why and how we do teshuvah. If you were walking by our Beit Kehillah today, you might have heard some calling out to entice students to their booths or seen a kindergartener toss a ring around a cone. If you walked inside you would have witnessed dynamic Jewish learning through a life-size board, the identification and discussion of ritual objects, student-created choose-your-own adventure games, and genuine excitement around this interactive form of learning.
Kol ha kavod to all of our students for taking on this serious topic and turning it into a joyful learning opportunity.
G’mar hatimah tovah,