November 10, 2017

Tefillah Tidings

Maddie Herman ‘19

Now that the popular Minyan Havaya is only available for one marking period, this year’s iteration of the Tefillah program is a hotly debated topic within the halls of Golda Och.
The start of any new school year brings many changes. Students have seen it all from the death of WOXX Chinese cuisine to the addition of shorts to the dress code. While these alarming events incite much short-lived conversation among students, an everlasting topic of discussion around the halls concerns the Tefillah program.  Although Tefillah in the school is constantly being modified to engage the students, this year in particular, it has changed in a drastic way.
Since the beginning of his position as the GOA head of the Tefillah program, Mr. Metz has devoted significant time to perfecting the program around each student’s religious and spiritual needs.
The new program this year aims at helping our high school students both to see Tefillah as an integral part of Jewish spiritual practice, as well as understand that there are many Jewish paths,” Metz said.
Mr. Metz’s perspective on Tefillah strikes a chord with GOA students. Sixty seven percent of the 87 students polled said that they love the new program. Some noted it captures the way that students want to pray, rather than confining them to traditional forms of prayer. Others stated it  allows students to shape their own religious path; a very modern approach to the issue of conserving Judaism in a contemporary generation.
Ian Rosen, a junior, said that the program allows him to explore his spiritual path and his individual connection to prayer. Rosen said the new program exposes students to new, unique forms of tefillah that stray from the traditional roles taken in the past.
Senior Alissa Lampert echoed Rosen’s sentiments.
“It shows that the administration is ready to listen to us and try new things,” she said.
Junior Ayala Jones also noted that the flexibility of the program is enticing.
“We arent forced into a box of Judaism,” she said. “Instead, it makes it so that everyone can connect in their own way.”
While students may not be able to choose their exact Tefillah class for the year, they are exposed to a variety of different approaches to modern prayer. The five different paths are designed to help students develop a spiritual connection within the traditions.
“Minyan Derech Eretz offers me an opportunity to talk about things that I would never have previously been aware of,” freshman Adina Solomon said.
However, while most students enjoy the freedoms of the new Tefillah program, many still fear that it may be straying too far from the needs of the community.
Solomon also voiced her concerns, saying that “Tefillah is a necessity [and] we need some form of connecting to it.”
Students had varying opinions when asked how this shift in Tefillah would ultimately affect the school's affiliation with the Conservative Movement. While some students expressed concerns over how the Conservative Movement jibes with the new program, some said that it would only affect the school in a positive way, as it shows prospective students that we are accepting of many different forms of Judaism.

Despite these contrasting opinions, it remains a popular belief that, as Jews, there needs to be some basis of Jewish prayer. How that will be executed is the real challenge.

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