By Sam Spinrad, Religious School Director
COVID-19 forced our religious school to move online. It delayed Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, cancelled our Montreal trip, and took the ice cream from our end-of-year celebration. We tried to conduct tefillah, classes, and assemblies as close to normally as possible. As the school year ended, I could see this would not be a normal Maine summer with families traveling and students attending camps. With unexpected time at home, the synagogue and religious school got a unique opportunity to try some new programming.
The first new program was a virtual Havdalah service. It was a learning experience: my first try was outdoors, and the wind kept blowing out the lighter! I had disruptions from my kids and I had technology issues. However, it was fun to create a new routine of doing a d’var Torah and then chanting the blessings. Seeing responses on Facebook Live was rewarding.
I created a chicken-raising meet-up group for Bet Ha’am congregants to discuss poultry issues. These discussions stretched a full hour as we talked about eggs, meat, breeds, structures, predators, feed stores, and more. It has been a fun way to engage socially without any religious context.
This is also a golden opportunity to offer more advanced learning opportunities. In late June, several evening school students came together on Zoom to discuss the portion of the week. We discussed topics ranging from God’s judgments to the morality of passivity to the role of women in a male-dominated scripture story. The students showed true Torah scholar abilities in our class.
I am interested in hearing about both needs and interests of school community members. What do you want to see offered this summer, and online, perhaps on weekday evenings, in the future?
Registration is open for the fall. There is also a survey you can fill out to give feedback on virtual school format. Both links are in the weekly email. The first day of religious school (virtual or in-person) will be September 13. We look forward to seeing you then.