In January, I attended a RAVSAK Jewish Day School Leadership conference in Los Angeles, which brought together the leadership of community day schools from across the United States and Canada – there were more than 540 other Jewish educators representing 150 schools in attendance. It was a fascinating conference, and I learned a lot, but the best part was getting to network and meet principals from all sorts of schools, some big, some small, some mainstream and some quite different. The range of ideas and programs being delivered across the continent is really quite something. Of all the principals and educators I met, one in particular stood out.
His name is Rabbi Simcha Hoyzen.
Rabbi Hoyzen is the principal of a small alternative yeshiva day school in Boulder, Colorado called Yeshivat Emes Mamash. Himself a convert to Judaism (from a small chicken farming Quebecois family), and now a dedicated Shpieler Chassidic Jew, Rabbi Hoyzen has spent his professional life bringing Judaism to life in the form of authentic activity, or learning by doing, as opposed to studying Judaism out of textbooks alone. Specifically, he specializes in authentic biblical activity.
At the conference, he presented some of what he is doing at his school, and I think I can speak for all those who attended his session that what he is doing is truly revolutionary. For example, he teaches a course to grade 4 students about the dangers of idol worship (a grave threat in biblical times); his students spend the term researching various forms of idol worship in the Torah and how to actually worship said idols (with the exception of the idol Molech, which involves child sacrifice), and then creating the idols out of clay in shop class (like Patrick Swayze in Ghost, only with kippas and their shirts on) – the class culminates in a joyous smashing of the idols (a la Abraham our Forefather in his father’s shop), an event to which parents and grandparents are invited to with much fanfare. When you see the pictures of these Jewish children, filled with joy and pride, jumping up and down with shards of broken idols flying everywhere, it is truly an inspiration and makes you understand just how powerful a Jewish education can be.
Thanks to a generous grant from the MordeCHAI Foundation, we have some exciting news that we want to share with you – we are bringing Rabbi Hoyzen to be a scholar-in-residence at RJDS for the remainder of the school year, as he is currently on Sabbatical from his school! He will be joining us for the first time next Friday, March 21 at our school-wide Kabbalat Shabbat service, Bring in da’ Shabbos, Bring in da’ Funk, to which you are all invited.
He will be leading us in a Bikram Yoga-inspired Lecha Dodi call-and-response service, so we ask that you please dress accordingly in modest loose fitting clothing that you don’t mind sweating in, and that you a) join us for what promises to be a special Kabbalat Shabbat and b) come and meet this unique rabbi.
Rabbi Hoyzen will be working closely with our Judaics staff to bring more authentic activity to the lessons. Here is one area that we have already committed to with Rabbi Hoyzen – as we already have introduced the hatching of baby chicks into our grade 1/2 curriculum earlier this year, we are planning on ordering a new batch of chicks through www.minihatch.com (thanks Morah Joanne!) to help our primary grade students learn how to perform one of the most technically complex forms of bird sacrifice from the times of the mishkan, the tabernacle, a process called “Melika”. That involves the Kohain (Jewish Priest) using just his sharp fingernail to slice through the windpipe, throat and neck bone of the little bird who is being sacrificed. This step is called “Melika” (nipping).
We are very excited that Rabbi Hoyzen will help our young students (Kindergarten to Grade 3) and teachers learn this great biblical skill and valuable way of how our people used to spiritually connect with Our Father In Heaven. Permission slips will of course be sent home in advance.
Please introduce yourselves to Rabbi Hoyzen when you see him around the school. If you would like to know more about Rabbi Hoyzen, you can email him at [email protected] or click here for more information.
Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach, and a Happy Purim to all!