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November 12, 1993 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-11-12

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ff i Ctifill

)11-11 -

Si ed.





well as parents and teachers fa-
lissa Berg, the education-
cilitating the program, to pick
al director at Temple Kol
14 of 59 listed items they
Ami, wanted to know
thought were important to them
what being Jewish meant
as Jews. Choices ranged from
to seventh- and eighth-grade re-
knowing the significance of the
ligious school students — but
holidays to putting on tefillin.
she never dreamed she would
"When I made up this list I
get some of the responses she
tried to have very-secular to
very- observant choices for them
"I expected some of their an-
swers to be
sort of silly,"
she said. "But
they all gave
good, well-
and partici-
pation was
When stu-
dents arrived
at religious
school on
Nov. 1, Ms.
Berg had an
planned that
would give
students the
chance to
think and
talk about
Judaism. But
she was not Elissa Berg: Why being Jewish is important.
sure how well
to pick from," she said.
the students would respond.
Some of the other choices in-
Ms. Berg began the program
cluded: reading Hebrew, not
by dividing the 53 students into
having a Christmas tree, hav-
small groups and asking each
ing a Hebrew name, attending
of them to write why being Jew-
services on Rosh Hashanah and
ish is important to them.
Yom Kippur, having a bar or
One student wrote: "Being
bat mitzvah, wearing a kippah,
Jewish is important to me be-
saying Kaddish for relatives
cause we are a small part of the
population which makes us
unique and shows we are part
of a select and special group.
We are not afraid to stand up
for our beliefs. This is shown by
not joining the majority of the
world in other religions. I like
being a Jew because I'm carry-
ing on an old religion that has
— Elissa Berg
been passed down through gen-
who have passed away and vis-
Another student wrote: "Be-
iting Israel.
ing a Jew is important to me be-
Posted around the room were
cause I learn to be truthful."
59 sheets of paper, each repre-
Another response: "Being
senting one of the choices. The
Jewish is important to me be-
students were each given 14
cause it makes me feel special
stickers to indicate their choic-
to be part of such a terrific re-
ligion since the Jews have gone
The parents and teachers
through so much. It makes me
were then given different col-
feel good to be part of a group
ored stickers and asked to do
that has survived through so
the same thing.
much anti-Semitism and cruel-
The students chose getting
an education, taking care of the
To set the tone for the pro-
Jewish population and stand-
gram, Ms. Berg read a handful
ing up for injustice as the con-
of responses. She then asked the
cepts most important to them.
seventh- and eighth-graders, as

"You don't get a
total message but
you certainly get
some information."

Only a few students said it
was important not to have a
Christmas tree or to date or
marry another Jew, but Ms.
Berg said that may not be in-
terpreted as negative.
"They could only pick 14 out
of 59 different choices," she said.
"If they were allowed to check
off as many choices as they

wanted, the results could be
very different. I also think the
dating issue was not really ad-
dressed because these kids are
still young.
`To a larger degree, the adult
responses were more about rit-
uals and ceremonies while the
kids had a lot of community-
type comments," Ms. Berg
said."You don't get a total mes-
sage but you certainly get some
Eighth grader Jon Pepper
said this activity helped him
explore his feelings about Ju-
daism. He also thought it in-
teresting that the responses
given by the adults were dif-
ferent than his classmates.
"Some of the kids thought
knowing about the holidays and
having a bar or bat mitzvah
were better while adults
thought learning history or ob-
serving Sabbath was better,"
said Jon, who indicated that
knowing what the Torah is
about is most important to him.
"The idea was to spark con-
versation," Ms. Berg said. "I
was really surprised at their
level of seriousness throughout
the program. This age group
does not usually stay engaged
in discussion for over an hour
like they did." ❑

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