At this time last year, we were all preparing for our first ever Zoom seder. Under the leadership of Rabbi Hahn Tapper our students and teachers created a Yavneh Haggadah specifically designed for Zoom Seders – it included artwork, poetry, reflections, and prayers. Three generations of my own family used it at our seder and my parents kept commenting on how thoughtful and talented the Yavneh students were. I never would have imagined that I’d be planning on using it again this year for another seder on Zoom.
While this year has had many challenges, there are also some silver linings for needing to have our big events on Zoom. The most obvious advantage is that people from all over the world can come together. We see that benefit each week when grandparents from other countries join us for Kabbalat Shabbat and we saw families from across the country be able to be present at the Kitah Bet and Kitah Dalet milestones.
An unintended benefit of this year is that we were compelled to focus on our “why” or the intention behind everything that we do as a school. One of Yavneh’s fundamental beliefs is that learning is more effective when it is purposeful and relevant. In order for our students to truly benefit from these events, we make every attempt to allow students to create their own meaning and purpose by their involvement in the creation and execution of these ceremonies.
The Kitah Bet milestone is the culmination of the study of Havdalah – the students write poetry, create beautiful ritual objects, and learn how to lead the blessings. Because we could not be all together this year, we focused the Zoom ceremony on the students reciting their reflective poetry and then leading their own families in Havdalah. More than ever before, our students demonstrated mastery because the “why” was so relevant.
Making students partners in their education isn’t limited to ceremonies, it is evident throughout the Yavneh experience. From choosing organizations to partner with for a social justice project in Kitah Hay to creating their own cities in Kitah Alef to designing games for others to play at a future Yavneh camping trip in Kitah Vav, students are at the center of their learning.
Our students’ curiosity is insatiable… and it is our job to continue to foster that curiosity in every way that we can. #ThisIsWhy! L’shalom -Cindy