Published in the Hebrew Watchman, February 21, 2019
Ask any Bornblum student to tell you what they remember about their years at Bornblum, and most will include Chagigat HaSefer near the top of the list. That’s because, according to Sally Baer, Bornblum’s Assistant Head of School, “For 30 years, our adorable first graders have participated in this beautiful tradition of receiving their first siddur (prayer book) in the school’s annual celebration of reading in both Hebrew and English. It makes such an indelible impression on their young lives.”
During Chagigat HaSefer, students show their parents, grandparents and guests how much they have learned in first grade. The children present songs, sayings and poems, and they tell everyone about their favorite book. According to first grader, Mo Eckstein, “I felt nervous and happy to receive my own siddur.” Classmate Judah Freiden said, “I felt happy because all my family was there.”
Students also lead the morning t’fillot (prayer service) and demonstrated their Hebrew learning by presenting various p’sukim (passages from Jewish texts) corresponding to letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Additionally, students sang a song they wrote in their general studies class that celebrated the themes of the day. According to Bornblum’s Head of School, Daniel R. Weiss, “The T’fillot and accompanying songs demonstrated a love of what it means to be a Jew.”
The highlight of Chagigat HaSefer occurs every year when students receive their very own siddur with a special hand-sewn cover inscribed with their Hebrew name. According to Ryan Baum who attended Bornblum in the 1990s, “I still remember getting my siddur as a 1st grader at Schechter (now Bornblum). It had a green cover with our name written on the front in paint. I can remember walking down the long aisle with my classmates and then taking the stage to accept our coveted siddur. It was a right of passage and the first real thing we earned. I still have that siddur to this day, as do my sisters Carly and Melanie. I hope to pass it on to my son Brody when he attends in a few short years. Congratulations to the newest recipients, and welcome to the club.”
Following presentation of the siddurim to the students, parents were called on stage to share a special parents’ blessing for their children. At the end of the program, students presented their parents with keepsakes, including a painting of their siddur on canvas, a ceramic box with their Hebrew and English names on it and a book they wrote in English and Hebrew about themselves and their families.
Reflecting on this year’s Chagigat HaSefer, first grade teacher Rachael Rovner shared that for her, ”Watching the children demonstrate the depth of learning and stepping out of their comfort zones was awe inspiring!” Jewish Studies first grade teacher, Maya Sharabi added, “I am very proud of our wonderful students. They did an absolutely excellent job.”