New Programming Created for Children of Hebrew Speakers in the Diaspora

Since Simchas Torah, the particular needs of Israeli families living in the diaspora have become even more apparent. A new initiative provides Hebrew speakers outside of Israel with programs and events created just for them.

In recent years, a growing network of Shluchim have been catering to Israeli families living in the diaspora. Since Oct 7th, the particular needs of this unique community have become even more critical, leading to a unique partnership between CKids and the Hebrew Desk at Merkos 302 to address those necessities.

For many children not currently attending a Jewish day school, their only education is through their local Hebrew school. However, some cannot make it to a weekly class. For them, CKids created the CKids Club, which meets exclusively on Jewish Holidays. Growing for the past six years, these clubs have become a highlight for children looking to feel and experience their Yiddishkeit in a fun way.

Leading up to the launch of this initiative, CKids recognized a group that needed to be catered to. Hebrew-speaking and Israeli families were getting involved in many ways, but it was challenging for the children to feel completely comfortable due to language and cultural differences. In light of the horrific events in the holy land, these families and children are feeling the tragedies in Israel more than most. Their relatives are being affected daily by the war. Celebrating Jewish holidays has a newfound meaning for them, both uniquely challenging and uplifting.

It also feels different being involved in events that are tailored to those in the areas they reside. They speak the language and get along with the other kids, but something needs to be added. The unique Israeli family culture they have been around for years was something they felt would give their children a whole new appreciation for these holidays. As a result, Shluchim felt it necessary to create a set of programming designed for them.

To do that, CKids partnered with the Hebrew Desk at Merkos 302, which is dedicated to providing Hebrew speakers outside of Israel with programs and events created just for them. Taking place in 300 communities, the initial collaborative project was a specially designed CKids Holiday Club for Tu B’Shvat, exploring and celebrating Israel, a topic so dear to the hearts of these children and their families.

“Israeli families living in America have a unique experience,” says Rabbi Shimon Binshtock, Director of Hebrew Desk at Merkos 302. “We recognize that and work together with Shluchim serving these unique communities to make these events as enjoyable and personal as possible.”

The children went on a virtual journey throughout Israel. It began with them learning about Tu’bshvat and praying for their brethren in the holy land. Each child then wrote a letter to a soldier, filled with encouraging messages, letting them know they were on their mind daily.

Then, the exploration began. From Jerusalem to Ein Gedi, then off to Chevron and other locations. At each stop, the children experienced its beauty and history, did some activities, and tasted one of the Sheva Minim. The ‘trip” culminated in Tzfas, where each child got their own piece of art that they created and took part in a campfire jam, where anyone who wanted could play an instrument.

“This is another step in giving these children more opportunities to see the depth, beauty, and delight of Judaism,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302. “As the ugly face of hate rears its head once again, the only answer is educated young Jews who are confident and proud of their heritage.”

The creation of the Hebrew Tu’bshvat program has been part of a broader movement of Shluchim working with the CKids team at Merkos 302 to adapt and translate the innovative and engaging CKids curriculums into French, Spanish, Hungarian, and now Hebrew. With each culture and language, CKids looks for new and creative ways to engage these children and ensuring everyone is catered to.

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