A new year and a new group in Junior Congregation

Every year, our group in junior congregation says goodbye to the seventh graders, as the newly established B'nei Mitzvah class moves upstairs.  For the first time in two years, we welcome new students into our youth service as well.  Six second and third graders joined our ranks, donning tallit and holding tabbed siddurs, beginning their journey towards their own b'nei mitzvah.  

To support this new group, my focus in these first few months is two-fold. 

First, I will strive to create a community among this small group of students, partnering veterans with newcomers, sharing stories, and having conversations about the value of coming together each week.  We end each week with peer-to-peer shout-outs and two ruach (spirit) awards, highlighting the growth and effort we are seeing in each student.  This year, I've been impressed with the sincerity of the students' compliments to each other, and the responsibility that the older students' have taken on to make the new students feel connected and confident.    

Additionally, I hope to provide as much one-on-one instruction as I can during the actual service.  Our teen teachers are crucial to the success of junior congregation, as they can help each student with what they need in that moment.  Often, the teen and the student will work together in the youth lounge for about ten minutes during the service.  Their work together is entirely differentiated - some work on learning and pronouncing the words of a new prayer while others take on mastering "Ashrei" or preparing for an upcoming Torah reading.  My hope is that this differentiation helps all students notice their own growth, and that even the oldest students continue to challenge themselves and learn more before they reach seventh grade and head to their next step in their Jewish education.  

 Please know that our service is designed to be family-friendly, inclusive, and participatory.  We encourage parents to join us occasionally, regardless of how long you can stay, what you are wearing, or how much of the service you know.  As you arrive for pick up, please feel free to come into the back as we conclude our service to hear shout-outs and annoucements.  As always, let me know if you have any concerns or questions.  Thank you for supporting your children in their service leadership, their Torah learning, and their commitment to building Jewish community, each week, together.   

Rebecca Cook-Dubin