The siddur play is a highlight of every yeshiva day school first grader’s year. Learning how to daven and the importance of possessing one’s own siddur is an important aspect of the curriculum. Each child receives his or her own siddur—as well as an appreciation for prayer and developing a relationship with God.
“This milestone is so important because it gives our kids the tools to speak to Hashem in their own way. Tefilla is such a personal thing and now our children can make it special to them,” Westchester Day School parent Sarra Lorbert noted. “I will always remember looking at the siddur that has the names of the grandfathers and great-grandfathers that Jacob was named for.”
According to SAR first grade teacher Morah Gaby Zevi, “We call the siddur play ‘chag hasiddur.’ I believe that it is a real chag. It is a beginning of their beautiful journey with Hashem. It hopefully teaches them love and caring for their community. We hope the children will remember their sense of excitement, love, happiness and strong individual connection to Hashem.”
SAR first grader Clara Fraenkel said, “I’m excited about getting my own siddur because I can show how much I love Hashem.” Her father, William Fraenkel of Harrison, added, “Prayer is a quintessential Jewish activity going back to Avraham. Our daughter receiving her ‘real siddur’ is one of the first steps on the road to becoming a full member of the Jewish people. I think I will particularly remember the great effort and enthusiasm that she had in preparing for the siddur play. I can only hope she continues that enthusiasm throughout her entire educational career.”
Clara’s friend Sydney added, “I am excited to have my own siddur because I love to daven.”
SAR Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss said, “I hope that the excitement they feel today for tefilla will guide them through their tefillot in the future. I hope that they remember that they love to sing, and that tefilla and shira are forever intertwined.” On a personal note, Rabbi Krauss added, “For me and my wife, this is our ‘mezinka,’ as our youngest child receives her siddur. I look forward to seeing her care for it and use it as we go on our family vacation in a few weeks.”
Morah Sarah Richter, SAR associate principal, added, “We host a ‘Siddur Sparks’ workshop where parents learn and share strategies to inspire their children about tefilla. This milestone links our children to previous generations and encourages us as we see the excitement they will bring to future generations. My hope is that the closeness our children feel to Hashem on this special day will continue to develop and they will daven with the excitement of a shir chadash throughout their lives.”
The Hebrew teachers at Kinneret Day School, Ada Melzer, Rachel Baroukh and Ofer Assaf, stated, “This is the beginning of what we hope will be a lifetime of being a part of our people who have used these prayers to connect both to fellow Jews and to God. We hope they will remember the words they spoke at the ceremony connecting the letters of the Hebrew alphabet forming words of the prayers. We hope it will instill pride in their Jewish heritage as well.” They continued, “Our theme is the familiar Agada from the Zohar about the Hebrew letters. Each wanted to be the first one written in the Torah and they each make their arguments why they deserve to be first.”
Penelope Jacobs, of Westchester Torah Academy, was excited to receive her siddur and see Hashem’s written name. Her mother, Shirah Schwartz-Jacobs, described WTA’s siddur play as “the next step in her daughter’s development as a ‘bat Yisrael.’ The siddur enables her to connect emotionally through prayer and intellectually via the written word.”
Teacher Nellie Harris of WTA directed their four-scene siddur play of song, dance and narrative, highlighting the perpetuity of the siddur, connections to Hashem, different types of prayer and personal prayer.
Head of School Rabbi Joshua Lookstein of Westchester Day School explained, “The siddur is probably the most personal Jewish book that a Jew will ever own, more so than even a Chumash. It is used three times a day. While children learn to daven prior to first grade, the ritual of receiving a siddur is often the first tefilla memory that children have. As I told our students at the end of their chag hasiddur, I still have my siddur 41 years later. And while we all grow and age, and siddurim become more sophisticated literally around the margins, the excitement of seeing the words on the pages of their own siddurim never fades.”
By Judy Berger