Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thank Heavens for Marshmallow Fluff (Or, how to build a Jewish Youth Program)

All you need is fluff – and lots of it. 

During the summer of 2011, my friend and fellow synagogue member, Robin, and I were just two shul-going gals in desperate need of corralling upwards of 20-plus children, (aged 2 and up) inside our Temple’s small social hall to help ensure a peaceful davening experience in the sanctuary next door. 
While we’d no formal training, we’d unofficially and electively served as Shabbas Den Mothers during the winter months and between us were busy raising six youngsters of our own.  However, when the warm season hits, our membership doubles in size.  The added youth energy proved both welcome and disruptive at once.
Where to begin?  For starters, we turned to Torah.  Each Parsha offers an easy-to-branch-off-of lesson plan for related activities and discussions.  We relied on such weekly teachings for inspiration, content and themes. 
Things soared in to high gear upon our discovery of a no-fail, time-tested, kid-approved, edible substance – Marshmallow Fluff. 
Out of respect for Halakha (Shabbat Laws), we used this sticky white goop as the “glue” for edible Torah Scrolls, Noah’s Arks, and every other eatable, Parsha-focused craft we could think up.  We’d found our fun-factor! Our kids returned each week eager for more Shabbos enlightenment and yes – a sugar high.
Thanks to the support of our congregation and our own dedication, we’re about to launch our fourth Summer Shabbos Youth Program this year.  With two newly-hired Youth Leaders, Robin and I have been freed up to enrich the agenda and supervise it from the sidelines. 

The point of all this? We learned that it doesn’t take much to build community or to invest in youth education.  Just a bit of elbow grease, commitment and a certain jarred product found on any supermarket shelf.

Copyright 2014 by Erika Prafder. 



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