Every Jewish child deserves a fun and high-quality Jewish education, regardless of their special education needs. For families whose children need additional resources not provided by local Jewish schools, the decision to send them to public school can be tough — especially if their siblings do attend a Jewish school. They may wonder if their child will feel left out, or worry that they will fall behind in their Hebrew alphabet. Most of all, parents are concerned for their children’s enthusiasm towards their Jewish heritage.
For four years now, the Friendship Circle Talmud Torah has alleviated these fears, providing an exciting hands-on Jewish educational experience. Caring and professional instructors offer an interactive program that enables children of all abilities to learn Alef Bais, develop Hebrew reading skills, celebrate Jewish holidays, and gain a better understanding of Mitzvos.
True to the Friendship Circle’s successful model, each student is paired with a volunteer buddy to guide and support their growth. This year has seen tangible progress in the kids’ ability to not only recognize the Alef Bais and its sounds but string them together in order to read sentences.
Furthermore, we’ve adopted a more advanced curriculum, which explores a practical Mitzvah lesson each week.
“One of my favorite parts about teaching Talmud Torah is watching the kids Daven (pray). I love how all the children participate and sing along. The students all have specific jobs — including handing out the Torahs, giving out the coins for Tzedakah (charity), or being the Chazan (leader); every child is involved and shines in their own way. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such an important program in our community,” says teacher Gitty Ebert.
Not only do we learn to read and write Hebrew, but we also learn about the important elements of daily Jewish life. We focus on doing mitzvos, and each story of the Yomim Tovim comes alive as we learn lessons we can take from them. Every action is infused with Yiddishkeit, in a warm and meaningful way; even simple actions such as making Brachos when we eat snack are exciting. Everything we do at Talmud Torah is to help our students feel proud to be Jewish.
“We are constantly amazed at how significantly Friendship Circle Talmud Torah has inspired our son to love and celebrate his Judaism. It has been difficult for us to have to send our son to a school where he is the only observant Jew in his grade. Yet, the love and commitment of his teachers at Friendship Circle have helped foster such a deep appreciation of Torah and Mitzvot that even our son’s public school teacher commented on how proud our son is to be Jewish!” Parent: Aviva I.
The greatest joy we have is when our students “graduate” and transition to a Jewish Day School.
“My son Akiva attended Talmud Torah for one year, before he enrolled at Yeshiva Tiferes Tzvi. I discovered the program by speaking to a mother of an alumnus, when I was looking into different options to provide for my son’s needs and exploring the possibilities. He enjoyed the atmosphere and loved the learning. Every week was an excitement, making learning so enjoyable. Our favorite was Purim and Chanukah, celebrating and exploring the meaning of the holidays. Knowing others, having friends and seeing familiar faces was what helped him the most upon transitioning to a traditional school setting. He also had the exposure and experience to be a student, and Talmud Torah helped establish that foundation. We are grateful for the boost it gave Akiva, and I would definitely recommend the program to other families.” Parent: Naomi S.
The dedicated teen volunteers are a tremendous asset to the program. They form a close bond with their buddy and give personal attention to each child. Be it practicing Aleph Beis on their level through games and sensory activities, guiding them during Davening and circle time and helping them with art projects, the students are thrilled to have an older mentor who truly cares. They are in touch with their buddy’s needs and focus on positive reinforcement. The volunteers are empowered to use their own creativity and build; both groups thrive from the experience!
Talmud Torah is conveniently located in West Rogers Park. If you know a child between the ages of 4 and 8, who would benefit from the Talmud Torah program, or to learn more visit www.fcil.org/TalmudTorah or contact Bassie Moscowitz at Bassie@fcil.org.