Grandmas telling stories
by (Grandma) Maxine Dorot
Congregation Netzach Israel is a special community in many ways. Besides being the only conservative synagogue in the city in a sea of Orthodox ones, Netzach Israel has been the home of “TALI” nursery kindergartens for the last 32 years.
The Netzach Israel Tali gan starts at age 3 and runs through pre-kindergarten, ages 4-5, and kindergarten, 5-6. Being in the “TALI” network, means the kids enjoy the regular secular curriculum along with Jewish traditions and values, including special holiday events. In the case of our pre-kindergarten, there is, as far as we know, a one-of-a-kind project called “Sipurim Savta” (“Grandma’s Stories”). The program began in December, 2019 as a weekly event before Corona hit. The idea was the result of a brainstorming session between Rabbi Gustavo and our student rabbi, Doron Rubin. As part of his involvement with the Netzach Israel community, it was suggested that Doron get involved with all the many aspects of the congregation and especially with the senior citizens. And so “Sipurim Savta” was born.
The project started with the pre-kindergarten class of 4-5 years old, led by Simcha, the ganenet (teacher). Every week, a different grandmother of one of the kids would come to the group and read a short story chosen either by the grandmother, Simcha or Doron. Each grandma presented their story in their own style: some come with costumes, props, use sound effects, dolls and/or puppets. The kids are all delighted and excited, waiting in great anticipation to see whose grandmother would be their reader for that day and what story they will be hearing.
Israel’s 3 lockdowns hasn’t stopped the project which is continuing via zoom. In preparation, Doron teaches the grandmothers how to use zoom if they aren’t familiar with it, and makes sure all the computers, cameras and microphones are all in good working order. He even does a run through to make sure everything goes glitch-free.
Along with the grandmother, the ganenet (teacher) and Rav Gustavo are a major part of the program. Simcha is exceptionally cooperative, flexible and creative. As a follow-up to a grandmother’s story about a seed that grew in a little girl’s special garden, Simcha and the children planted seeds in the nursery school’s backyard. The kids lovingly watered them, protected them from one exceptionally strong wind storm, and watched them grow to their utter excitement and joy. During regular gan days, Rabbi Gustavo would visit the children and lead mini services with a song. He continues to do so during the zoom “Savta Stories” with a session starting with a few words from Simcha, followed by a greeting and a song with the Rabbi and the kids. Lockdown or not, the show must go on!
“Sipurim Savta” has been so successful that next month, the program will be expanding to include the kindergarten “Tali” class, and, by request from both sides….yes, you guessed it!! “Sipurim Saba”!