Masada College Torah Stream Article published in 2015
Jews have always known and understood that our future is only as rich as the values we inculcate in our children. With this in mind, we can understand the directive from the Torah not to ‘Study Torah’ but rather to ‘Teach Torah to our Children’. This is further enforced in the Midrash that says when Moshiach comes, everyone will run out to greet him with the exception of school children, who will remain in the classroom learning. When I went to visit the Kindergarten and Year 1 Torah stream classroom at Masada College recently, it was apparent to me that these children would have no problem staying in their classroom, as an environment has been created where no one would want to leave. It is a place of learning, thinking, nurturing of spiritual growth and lots of fun.
Pioneers and Community leaders Rabbi Barak Cohen and Rabbi Evan Widmonte had a vision to create an education option for the Torah Observant families on the North Shore close to their homes. They collaborated with Masada College and the parents of the children to produce a product that all parties were excited to work towards building. Through research around the world in various schools and months of hard work, the Torah Stream at Masada was created. There was certainly some trepidation as to how the plan would play out, and when I had an invitation into the Kindergarten and Year 1 classroom, my fears were alleviated.
The Kindergarten class started the year using the ‘Capit’ program and already in Week 4, the students were already reading Hebrew. Their charismatic and nurturing teacher Eytan Moriah has instilled an enthusiasm and eagerness for learning within the children. ‘My son came home so excited to show me how he could say the Aseres Hadibros off by heart’ one mother commented. The children are not simply learning by rote, a boring repetition of information to store in their brains. They are adapting strategies they have been taught to apply to memorise and then apply the foundation knowledge required for any young Jewish student.
While outcomes of learning are usually measurable and these kids certainly have a full, rich and comprehensive learning opportunity, an environment is far harder to quantify. How do I describe the singing celebration that spontaneously breaks out when the students witness a classmate’s victory? How does one adequately portray a child shining with pride as he makes the Asher Yatzar bracha unprompted because he wants to make his Rabbi proud of his application of his knowledge? I feel unable to encapsulate the buzz in the classroom as the students practice their ksiva (writing) and kriya (writing) with teacher’s aids to give each child individual attention.
I am keenly anticipating my invitation into the Year 2 and 3 classroom where a more sophisticated ‘decoding’ of Chumash, Halacha and Parsha are the 'meat and potatoes of the students’ day. It is no surprise that the Torah Stream has fit in with the Culture of Thinking Masada College lives. The students are being challenged to make the learning their own, and spoon feeding has no place here. Old school colouring in and busy work are out and a deeper analysis are the norm.
The children are benefiting from an established institution of excellence in education, established routines of visiting the elderly, sports events and education in Jewish music. This coupled with the new initiative of an educational package that is appropriate for Torah Observant families seems too good to be true. I feel so blessed that my children have the opportunity to thrive in this place where friendship and learning are central in a small and nurturing environment.