/SPECIAL FOR THE AJT/ GHA first graders celebrated Chagigat
HaSiddur, when they are presented with a siddur
of their very own. Here, the students gathered
under a giant tallit to receive the Blessing
of the Children recited by Rabbi Israel Robinson.

First graders at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy marked a milestone in their education when they celebrated their Chagigat HaSiddur earlier this month.

Dressed in blue and white, the young guests of honor paraded down the aisles of the auditorium to take their seats onstage. After students, parents, grandparents and friends were welcomed by Interim Head of School Leah Summers, Rabbi Adam Starr, halakhic decisor for GHA, addressed the crowd.

“We talk about connecting a lot these days. We connect through the internet, Facebook, cellphones – now and then, we even talk to each other,” Rabbi Starr began. “A siddur is like a time machine; it can connect us to the past and to the future. When you read tefillot in your new siddur, you are reading the same words your parents and grandparents read, all the way back to Moses. And as hard as it is to imagine now, someday your children and grandchildren will also open their siddurim and read these very same tefillot that you do, today.”

Rabbi Starr added, “A siddur is also like a cellphone. It can connect us directly to Hashem; when you read these words, Hashem will listen. My blessing is that you always cherish your siddur—but not up on a shelf.

I hope that it’s well-used, each and every day.”

The first graders then performed for their audience, singing tefillot (prayers) from their siddurim, dancing with scarves, and accompanying themselves on rhythm instruments.

There was an impressive “cups”-style performance of “V’ha’er Aynenu,” a prayer they recite daily.

The first graders prayed for the happiness and safety of their parents, for the United States and for Israel, and for peace.

Each student was called by name and presented with his or her very own siddur by the teachers who had worked so hard to prepare them for this day, Hilly Simchony and Cheryl Kunis.

Leah Summers took the stage once more to speak to her students.

“When my daughter was not much older than you,” she told them, “we went to a shul in the faraway country of Norway. My daughter opened a siddur, and was shocked to find that one side of the siddur’s pages was written in a language that she didn’t know. But then she realized that the other side was in Hebrew, just like her siddur at home, and the tefillot were exactly the same. In Norway, the tefillot are the same as they are in the United States and in Israel and everywhere else in the world.

“Just as Rabbi Starr explained, the siddur connects us in so many ways – and, as you see, it connects all the Jewish people around the world to each other too.”

The ceremony came to a perfect conclusion with all the young students gathered under a giant tallit, as Rabbi Israel Robinson recited the blessing for the children.

“May you always be embraced by love and comfort,” Ms. Summers concluded, “with the guidance and supportof Hashem.”