There is a Yiddish song called “Oyfn Pripetchok,” and in the refrain it says that we must practice the Hebrew letters over and over again to learn. “Remember children, what you learn, repeat it again and again-kometz aleph o.”
Repeating words, prayers, and teachings out loud is essential to learning about our tradition. The model for carrying on our tradition is from a teacher, a tutor, a guide, a rabbi, a cantor, or a wise person. We learn in groups like Torah study. The transmission of the beauty of our teachings happens through community.
We as a community have found that we take this value of teaching into the broader community. We have many examples of repeatedly showing up to reiterate a message important to us. Our mitzvoteinu program is made up of Mitzvah Mentors, who work with our B’nai Mitzvah students teaching them that doing mitzvot requires constant attention and dedication to the Mitzvah garden, to the food insecure through our HaMotzi Program, and to the Lowell Elementary School students.
For many years, we have brought our love of teaching to Lowell Elementary School. We have found that we could support the learning gaps, provide mentoring, school incentives, and support field trips and school supplies. Additionally, we reached out to the food insecure of their community. Our tutoring team consists of retired teachers, doctors, scientists, moms etc.
When the pandemic hit, the doors of schools closed to students, staff, and volunteers. And when doors to schools opened, our ability to go back in as tutors changed. We were no longer able to come and go freely, and mostly, we were not even allowed into Lowell Elementary as volunteers. Toby Grubman, chair of our Tutoring Program at Lowell, and Marci Abt continued to keep our KI connection with Lowell by bringing them donations and student incentive gifts.
During this last year, schools have suffered from low staffing. I know from my own experience within the Cheltenham School system that staffing is low, and sometimes teachers don’t get a break and there aren’t even enough subs to cover when a teacher is out. Of course, volunteers also weren’t allowed into the Cheltenham Schools.
Thankfully these policies, regarding restrictions due to the pandemic, are shifting. We have come to realize how behind our students are, how exhausted everyone is, and just how very much we need volunteers, tutors, and support from community within our public schools. I am happy to announce that we will begin our tutoring program again within the Cheltenham School District by supporting their summer academic program at the elementary level. To learn more about how you can become a tutor, click here.
As we continue to live by the value of teaching what is most important to us “over and over” again, may we consider becoming a tutor for the Cheltenham School District and making a difference within our community.