Robin Kahn's Blog (Our educational Director)
What Sammy Spider Saw (Annual Meeting June 2011)
What Sammy Spider Saw
(State of the Education Program)
Remarks for BAI’s Annual Meeting
June 22, 2011/Sivan 5771
In this week’s parsha, Korah and his followers rebel against Moses – in a nutshell, they don’t like Moses’ leadership style. As a punishment, God opens the ground and swallows Korah and his followers. Rebellion against leaders and the subsequent punishment did not seem to be a good theme to contextualize a summary of our education program.
So I thought maybe last week’s parsha would provide a framework. In Shelah, Moses sends 12 spies to check out the Land of Israel. Ten of them come back with an overly pessimistic report. God responds to these spies discouraging account of the Land by punishing the Israelites with 40 years of wandering in the desert. Like rebellion, neither spying nor wandering seemed like an appropriate context to summarize our education program.
Temporarily putting Torah aside, as I continued to reflect on this past year and organize my thoughts, my page of notes began to resemble a web – a spider web.
As lines and arrows crisscrossed my paper connecting programs with goals and constituencies; I was reminded of what I sometimes take for granted: Our education program is like a spider web. It is integrated and intertwined into the larger synagogue community. We are connected.
My aspirations of a nice neat list quickly spun themselves into a spider web and I was reminded of Sammy Spider, the main character – or insect – in a popular children’s book series about the Jewish year. I imagine that some of you know Sammy Spider – if you don’t know him, I invite you to spend time with our young students on Shabbat mornings.
Anyway I thought, what if Sammy Spider had spent a year spying at Beth Am, kind of like the spies Moses sent to scope out the land? Maybe spying could be a theme after all. So what if Sammy Spider were spying from his webs in our building...
From his web in Room 101, with our Tot Shabbaters and their parents, Sammy sang, studied Torah, and talked about God without inhibition.
From his web in Room 102, Sammy gazed at the Israeli flag while our 3rd graders wrote prayers and blessings for the State of Israel.
From his web in Room 103, every Shabbat morning Sammy watched our 1st graders don their mitzvah hats as they shared ways they had performed gimilut hasadim during the week. And during the week, also from his web in Room 103 Sammy watched many movies with our 7th graders who explored Jewish identity through film. From his web Sammy had the best seat in the house.
From his web in Room 104, Sammy quietly hummed “Ozi” as our high students compared the Song of the Sea to collegiate fight songs. With our 5th graders in Room 104 he studied Exodus 20 and imagined himself with every Jew -- and spider -- at Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were given. On Shabbat mornings our youngest children’s imaginations ran wild as they played and read Sammy Spider stories.
From his web in Room 105, Sammy watched the 4th graders produce and act in a Passover video. On Shabbat mornings he wished his voice was loud enough to play “Gam Ani” with our gan class.
From his web in the coatroom, Sammy played cards, board games, read books and played hide-and-seek with our day school students.
From his web in upstairs in Room 201, Sammy observed the Religious Life and Education Committees joint meeting as they shared what they would like to see more of -- and less of -- on Shabbat mornings.
From his web in Room 202, Sammy listened to El Adon over and over and over as our 4th graders belted it out over and over and over. In Room 102 he also studied parsha hashavua with our faculty. When the kids, teachers and I had left the room Sammy safely crawled around a giant map of Israel the 4th graders created. (I assure you that if I had caught Sammy crawling on that map, I’d have squashed him.)
From his web in Room 203, every week Sammy learned from volunteers about teaching and learning, mussar and Jewish values with our teen madrichim. On Monday nights Sammy participated in the pilot of a new Israel curriculum with our 8th and 9th graders and Hazzan Harold. The walls of Room 203 were covered with our 5th graders projects and posters of Jewish heroes. Despite having a starring role in his own book series, Sammy was a little disappointed that he wasn’t included among Israeli’s like Yitzchak Rabin, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Hannah Senesh and Theodore Herzl.
From his web in Room 204, with our Beit Sefer students, Sammy rebound and restored humashim with broken spines and learned about world religions with our 9th graders. He also learned some Torah trope and if he wasn’t so shy he would have chanted a verse in the Family Service last month.
From his web in Room 205, Sammy learned to roll his reshes with kids and adults learning Hebrew.
From his web in the Chapel, Sammy participated in family services or Family Torah Study on Shabbat. And in the Chapel on Thursday afternoons, Sammy davened mincha with our 5th to 7th graders and sung “Just Another Foreigner” and “Va’asuli-Make Me a Sanctuary” with Hazzan Harold’s youth choir.
From his web in “The Room Next to the Chapel”, Sammy loved watching our 5th grade Kfar Yaldah girls giggle and bend bendaroos. He probably knew he really should have been playing frisbee with the 5th grade Kfar Yeled boys, girls are more interesting to Sammy.
Most exciting perhaps was what happened late at night on the bimah during our Shul-Ins. From his web in the Santuary’s ner tamid, Sammy listened as we read Chelm stories on the bimah and reminded us to clean up very well after our midnight snack. He also knew not to tell Grace about the food in the sanctuary. On Shabbat morning Sammy liked Rabbi David’s interactive Dvar Torah and Hazzan Harold’s family service, especially when the puppets came out to play.
From his web in the Social Hall, Sammy watched us enjoy Shabbat dinners, Shabbat lunches and snacks on Mondays and Thursdays. Since Sammy is all about the Jewish year, our holiday celebrations in the Social Hall were among his favorite events: a Chanukah Dinner, A Tu Bishvat Seder with the Green Team, the Purim carnival, and bibliodrama or interactive midrash making on Shavuot. On Rosh Hodesh it was cool to see the Rosh Hodesh girls learning self-defense in the Flex Space.
From his web in Rabbi’s David’s office, Sammy was able to eavesdrop on all the conversations the Rabbi had with the Confirmation class and amazed that each month the number of post-Confirmation students that showed up to schmooze with the Rabbi increased.
Once the weather warmed and Sammy could be outside, during a USY barbeque, he spun a new web between the legs of the new picnic table, a gift of the Confirmation class. Here he enjoyed stories and games with the students on Shabbat mornings.
This summer Sammy’s taking a break and not spinning any new webs. In fact he’s hoping his webs aren’t wiped away as we clean the classrooms and prepare for 5772.
Returning to this week’s parsha and rebellion. I began by saying that I was not going to speak about rebellion and I am not. I am going to say a word about support -- the opposite of rebellion. It is because of your support that Sammy could see what he saw. It is because of your support that we are able to do what we do.
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