Our Bnei Mitzvah Learning Program: Inspiration during an Uncertain Time

On March 1 st , a group of 11- and 12-year-olds paired off and waded into the small pool of the GTA’s only liberal mikvah in Thornhill, as parents looked on with obvious emotion. Students recited prayers and dunked the traditional three times into the special water, as the “mikvah lady” guided them. This unique ritual experience is part of Shir Libeynu’s B’nei Mitzvah Learning Program. 
Now in its sixth year, the program explores topics of Jewish philosophy and ethics including Tikkun Olam , different understandings of Tzedakah, and other Jewish perspectives on justice. Students (11 in the cohort this year) make tangible real-world connections to these ideas through our partnership with Ve’ahavta (a Jewish humanitarian and relief organization committed to tackling homelessness in Toronto), which brings kids along in their vans to do outreach and food distribution to street-involved people. There are also classes on the Jewish year and life cycle, histories of different communities in Toronto and beyond, and on Jewish rituals and holidays. This includes a well-loved, hands-on challah-baking tutorial (see photo below taken by parent Juana Berinstein). Students are required to attend regular Shabbat services with their families, and new this year, meet with their teacher afterwards at kiddish for a discussion and debrief. 
March’s mikvah visit was the last time this year’s group was able to meet in person, but even now during physical distancing, the program carries on. The group and their teacher are communicating virtually to bring the year to a close in a meaningful, if adapted, way. Together, they are creating a group Haggadah, to which each student has thoughtfully contributed, and they will be communicating online for a final session. 

With ongoing curriculum input from Rabbi Goldberg, and education director Jonathan Silin, as well as our current teacher, Elise Eisenkraft Klein, the program continues to flourish and adapt to the changing needs of Shir Libeynu families. Although it is not a requirement to be part of the learning program, over the years most participants have gone on to celebrate their Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremonies with the community and their own circles. It is especially sweet to see how many of these young people have remained active in the shul, coming back to sing, worship and volunteer with us.  

These points of connection are particularly poignant as we move through this difficult time, and look at different ways of engaging people of all ages as Shir Libeynu changes and grows. 

Please see our website page for more information on the program. To inquire about participating in our future program, please email us at education@shirlibeynu.ca .

May 15, 2020/5780
BNEI MITZVAH KIDS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND OTHER MEMBERS ON JEWISH TORONTO TOUR
STUDENTS IN THE 2017/2018 PROGRAM
AT THE OPENING ONEG SHABBAT EVENT, 2016
Congregation Shir Libeynu