Hillel Day School First Graders Receive Personalized Siddurim (Prayer Books)
Siddur Party Celebrates Commitment to Jewish Communal Prayer
On February 7, 2013, Hillel Day School first grade students rejoiced in prayer while demonstrating their fluency in Hebrew, at the annual Siddur Party. Saul Rube, Dean of Judaic Studies, said, “After years of preparing first graders for this milestone, where they can share with parents, friends, and other family members how much they’ve learned at such a young age, I am still awed by the excitement, energy, and passion each grade exhibits.”
Each child received their own siddur (or prayer book), decorated with a personalized book cover. In many cases, parents spent countless hours creating the covers using needlepoint, fabric paint or some other artistic medium so their child(ren) will have a cherished keepsake representing the commitment to Jewish Communal Prayer.
This is the third siddur part for parent, Susan Feber, whose daughter Julia is in first grade. “The siddur party is special every time, but this year it was the most beautiful for us because we can see how confident Julia is becoming in her use of the siddur. Now when we open it as a family, she will be able to keep up with her older brothers, so prayer and spirituality really become something the whole family is involved in together.”
The giving of a personal siddur is a decades-old annual tradition. The prayer book is used by the students for daily prayer services at Hillel, and will become an active vehicle through which they dialogue with G-d throughout their lives.
“The Siddur Party is at the heart of so much of what we do at Hillel,” said Rabbi Jonathan Berger, rabbi in residence. “Because our students are fluent in Hebrew, they understand the prayers’ themes and meaning. Our students learn to become appreciative human beings, never taking their blessings for granted. They feel connected to Jewish communities all over the world, because they know they can walk into any synagogue and find a way to participate. Second language fluency, character development, Jewish identity, and a chance to build a relationship with God—all these emerge from the Siddur Party and the act of praying that it honors.”
The students proudly sang many prayers that are part of the morning Shacharit service, as well as popular songs in both Hebrew and Yiddish; they even performed a Hasidic dance that was a crowd-pleaser for all generations.
Several community rabbis blessed the children on the occasion of receiving their siddurim. Rabbi Aaron Starr, of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, summed up the collective emotions when he said, "My hope for all of you at this auspicious milestone is this -- may your siddurim never collect dust!" Also in attendance were Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel, and Rabbi Rachel Shere and Cantor Daniel Gross of Adat Shalom Synagogue.