SPECIAL FOR THE AJT //
Gesher L’Torah managed to beat out some 200 other synagogues in the U.S. and win two Centennial Schechter Awards for excellence in education.
The Alpharetta synagogue won both the Centennial Schechter Yesode-Foundation Award and a Centennial Schechter Commendation.
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The Yesode-Foudation Award was for a “Virtual Israel Classroom” (VIC), created by Carla Birnbaum and Josh Needle. The VIC is aimed at 7th grade students and helps them experience everyday Israeli life, integrating virtual resources with curriculum and instruction.
Students are immersed in all aspects of Israel. With the aid of the high-tech classroom, they Skype with people who live in Israel; explore videos and photos of modern Israel daily activities and debate Israel’s responses to its challenges.
The program helps cultivate a special bond between Gesher L’Torah students and Israel by giving students the opportunity to have an authentic Israeli experience.
Students get a real-life glimpse into the country through lively experiential activities that encourage students to examine Israeli life and are encouraged to embrace Israel’s unique strengths and qualities.
The Centennial Schechter Commendation was for Gesher L’Torah’s Pre-school’s Shalom Sing program, created and implemented by Carla Birnbaum. The program helps pre-schoolers learn prayers and their spiritual meanings.
Every month, youngsters study a specific mitzvah and learn Hebrew words associated with the mitzvah theme. The children are also exposed to big Jewish ideas, such as Shabbat, G-d, and Mitzvot.
Each week, the pre-school creates a positive, upbeat tone, yet one that requires kavod (respect) and kehillah kedosha (holy community) in the sanctuary. Students are selected to lead prayers, and join the Judaic Studies Coordinator on the bima.
The goal of the program is to address the whole Jewish child and pave the way for a positive, warm Jewish identity, while learning Jewish prayer.