When Mrs. Ora Schrier, Tanach teacher at Ma’ayanot, clicked “Send” for students to sign up for Thursday night Mishmar during the first week of school, she had no idea what kind of response she would receive. Within a day, her inbox filled up. “We had 225 responses,” beamed Schrier, the school’s Director of Torah Programming.
The opening Mishmar on September 15, an Elul-themed Paint Night, was filled to capacity. Beyond painting a beautiful scene, the activity was inspired by Torah content. “We discussed how each individual has a unique voice or a song that inspires us,” said Schrier. Each student chose a pasuk from Tehillim, a phrase, or a song lyric that describes her unique song. Then, guided by instructor Tova Lahasky, each student painted her own canvas depicting her theme.
“Our goal for Mishmar is to extend Torah learning outside the classroom,” explained Schrier. “Learning lishma, for the sake of learning, is a big part of who we are at Ma’ayanot. We don’t just learn Torah, we live Torah.”
The success of the first Mishmar, in which students stay for an hour after school on Thursday evenings, reflects the enthusiasm, priorities and Torah values of the students, said Schrier.
The second week of Mishmar, held on September 22, was equally successful. Several parents joined their daughters to learn with Dr. Yael Ziegler, professor of Tanach at Machon Herzog and Matan in Israel. Dr. Ziegler gave a lecture on the topic: “Samson and David: Mirror Characters and Freedom of Choice.” Guiding students through various sources from Tanach, Midrash and Talmud, Dr. Ziegler described the similar characteristics of Samson and David. She demonstrated how each character chose to use his God-given strength for opposing purposes—Samson for the negative and David for the positive.
“The shiur was incredible,” said sophomore Penina Krischer. “It was a whole new take on the stories I’d learned when I was younger.”
This year, Ma’ayanot plans to bring in more speakers and design Mishmar programs that cater to different styles of learning. “There will be a balance between hands-on, interactive, experiential learning, as well as shiurim by Ma’ayanot faculty, and outside speakers,” said Schrier.
This week, leading up to Yamim Noraim, Rabbi Jay Goldmintz, teacher of Tanach and Jewish Philosophy at Ma’ayanot, will be giving a guided tour of the machzor using traditional sources as well as mixed media.
On October 6, Daniel Rothner, Founder and Director of Areyvut, will be teaching students about various chesed opportunities. “I will be empowering students to use their time and talents to actively make the world a better place on a daily basis,” he said. Students will engage in “chaburot,” small learning groups, to study sources about social justice, followed by a chesed project to support Leket, a food rescue organization in Israel, organized by Ma’ayanot’s history teacher and Chesed Coordinator, Mrs. Caryn Keller.
Students also have the option of joining the Ma’ayanot Scholars Program, in which they engage in higher-level Torah learning and explore topics in depth during independent study.
The highlight of the year is Mishmover (a Mishmar sleepover), in which the entire student body learns all night in school. Community leaders and faculty members participate in panel discussions and add to the ruach and enjoyable atmosphere.
“We encourage students to dedicate their discretionary time to learning Torah outside the classroom,” said Rabbi Zev Prince, Director of the Ma’ayanot Scholars Program and Director of Co-Curricular Programming. “Mishmar gives our students opportunities to explore topics in Judaism that aren’t covered in the curriculum. What’s more, we are building a community of learners.”
When Rabbi Prince and Mrs. Schrier look around the full Beit Knesset at Ma’ayanot on Thursday evening, they feel the excitement in the air. “We’re succeeding in educating our students that learning Torah is a priority,” says Rabbi Prince. “At the end of a long week, our students aren’t rushing home. They want to stay and learn Torah with their friends.”