November 29, 2015

The Tefillah Conundrum

Dina Doctoroff ‘18



Tefillah is a heavily-discussed topic at GOA, with many student holding varied and strong opinions on the matter.
There is a large sect of students within the student body that are highly critical of the period and gener­ally hold negative views on the subject. Many believe that this is due to the current system in which students in younger grades are influenced by upperclassmen, many of whom bear strong opinions on the subject.
“When incoming freshman first join the high school in prayer, it is not difficult for them to look around and see bored faces, disrespectful students and aggravated teachers threatening detention,” sophomore Yael Lieb­man said.
Liebman continued with the theory that the preex­isting negative mood does not exactly create the best atmosphere to develop a fondness, or at least a toler­ance, for this expression of collective worship. Un­fortunately, it seems as though as the year progresses, Liebman’s perceived negativity of the majority of the upperclassmen rubs off on the newcomers.
Rabbi Gindea, the coordinator for Tefillah, ac­knowledged this problem and has attempted fix the perpetual cycle that has been an ongoing issue for many years. Despite there not seeming to be any pres­ent solutions to the problem of negative response, the administration has put forth many new engaging mea­sures in an attempt to find a solution.
Rather than have students repeatthe same service every day, studentsnow participate in a varietyof programs throughout the week. Studentsstill take part in the traditional shacharitservice with a torah service  on  Mondays  and Thursdays,  but  are  also able to explorenew ways of experiencing Tefillah on Tuesdaysand Wednesdays. It is the hope of the school that through varied Tefillahexperiences, stu- dents will have the opportunity to explore the impact of Tefillah on a personaland individual level, while participating in communal prayer.
Even with these measures being put into place, however, there is still a generallynegative consensus regarding both the implementation of Tefillah service and the concept of its prevalence in the schoolday.
Sophomore Elijah Taitel explainedthat the gen- eralsentiment of the Tefillah-critical sect of the high school can be summed into one phrase.
“I have heard many students claimthe following:
‘If you talk you get detention, if you dont pray you getdetention, if you laugh you get detention.’”
It seems as if those who are criticalof Tefillah generally see the problem as resulting from the systemicsupposed-persecution of students, as opposed to the existence of a Tefillahprogram. Alternatively, otherstudents feel that the Tefillah system has caused so much conflict, becauseof the existence of strin-gent rules regarding behavior.
Tefillah is a good idea because its supposed to givepeople a personalspiritual connection,” said sophomore Lizzie Irwin, “but the flaw at our school is the rigidness (of therules regarding behavior).”
While many feel that Tefillah has become a negative part of GOA life, some students believethat tefil- lah is an eye-opening experience.
Tefillah at GOA is both inspiringand breathtak-ing,” said sophomore SharoniMarcus. We go from thanking Hashemfor all the things we have in life to praying about keepingour soldiers in Israel safe. Its truly inspirational.”
Many students see the problemswith the Tefillah program,but still believe that to deny someone the right to prayer and connection with God at a religiousJewish day school is unfair. The majority of the students who pray during Tefillahare not asking
the everyone be forced to pray, but rather would like
respect from the collective and an open and acceptingenvironment for their worship.
“If we are all capableof showing respectto those engagingin prayer during the mourners kaddish, why do we not do so throughoutthe rest of the service as well?”asked sophomore Jordan Mayor.
When somebody in the Golda Och community needs to say kaddish, the community attemptsto make them feel welcomeand tries as hard as it can to provide aloving and comfortable environment.
While it is highly improbable that the either the studentbody or the administration will undergo a paradigmshift and will change their opinion on the topicof Tefillah, it is possible that the communaldis- course regarding the topic itself can become a more respectful one.
As Golda Och has always been an environment open to criticism and new  ideas,  the  community shouldattempt to come together as a whole and en- gage in  a productive and meaningful conversation regarding the Tefillah system and how to better im-
prove it.


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