Makor Year Off to Wonderful Start for All Ages By Rabbi Ari Ballaban

On Sunday, September 23rd, we began another exciting year of Makor at Temple Beth Or! Our first day was action-packed, and it was lovely to see parents and children who had not been together for much of the summer reunite. It also was wonderful to have our “campOrs” (what I call our students) have an opportunity to meet their new teachers for the year.

This month, I’m going to take the liberty here to share a little about the kids’ first day back because of how it was emblematic of what we hope the kids will accomplish over the coming months.

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During the 2018-2019 school year, campOrs’ Judaic education will focus on the foundational narratives of the Torah; during the first day of school, they sought to set the stage for that educational trajectory. For some campOrs, this year may well mark the first time that they learn about things like the story of Korach or even Moses’ encounter with the burning bush; for other campOrs, I anticipate it providing them a great opportunity to delve more deeply into stories about which they know basic details but could probably benefit from studying more closely. By the end of the year, it is my hope that we will have many more Torah scholars at TBO!

In addition to studying Judaics, Makor also emphasizes to our children the importance of their practical engagement with improving the world; it is crucial that the next generation of Jewish adults understand the fundamental importance of Tikkun Olam in Judaism. To that end, the 23rd also included the first of three annual, full-school Tikkun Olam days for 2018-2019. Like last year, Melissa Guadalupe is skillfully organizing these programs; for the session on our first day of school, she—in the spirit of Sukkot—helped the kids to think about the ways that it is important for us to care for animals and nature. With that value in mind, Melissa and our campOrs created birdfeeders that we used to decorate the synagogue’s Sukkah.

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Our high schoolers also had their moment in the spotlight on the first day back: they celebrated a short confirmation ceremony in our outdoor sanctuary. During confirmation, they opened a 20-year-old time capsule that TBO Sunday school students created in 1998 and presented its contents to the rest of the school. Moments of connection like this, where older and younger children campOrs come together, are priceless. Our high schoolers are always great with the younger children, and the younger children love getting to be around the “big kids.” If our current crop of high schoolers serves as the model for rest of Makor, then our younger children have much to aspire to!

Lastly, for me one of the highlights of that first day was definitely the way it concluded: we wrapped up the day with an all-congregation picnic to celebrate all of 1) confirmation; 2) the start of Makor; and 3) the then-impending start of Sukkot. Even though the picnic came during the already celebration-packed High Holiday season, there was something special about marking the beginning of our year in this fashion. Having such a rich cross-section of our community together celebrating Jewish life and continuity somehow manages to encapsulate the essence of every one of Makor’s goals all at once; it truly represents the beauty of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles…every manner of family connection coming together to celebrate their religious identities. Suffice it to say, Makor is off to a great start, and we are doubtlessly on our way to living out our mission of making Judaism here in Dayton vibrant, for today and for generations.