June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

‘JAZ’ Up Your Child’s Torah Learning

(Courtesy of JAZ) It’s 7:30 in the morning, and Tali Guttman is in the car on her way to Stirling Elementary School in Hollywood, and like most fourth graders, she is glued to her phone. But no, she isn’t on social media, she is actually davening with other public school kids across America. Jewish American Zoom (JAZ) is a free, innovative program, funded by generous sponsors, that is on the verge of changing the face of American Jewry. Unaffiliated public school kids can daven as a group in the morning and after school, and join a Torah class on Zoom.

When asked why kids would want to join in, Rabbi Isaac Melnick explained the draw: “Prizes, lots of prizes, an entertaining story format and wacky competitions.”

Mrs. Beniaminov enrolled her two boys with a healthy dose of skepticism, but after only a couple of classes she was all in. “Thank you,” she said, “my boys are in heaven!” Another mom, Mrs. Goldberg, was frantic on Friday morning when she realized that JAZ was only Monday through Thursday. “Please, is there any way to have JAZ on Friday? My daughter loves starting her day with your Tefillah session.”

It makes sense that Rabbi Melnick is a pro at making learning a blast. Before he started JAZ, he was the director of the successful Torah 4 Everyone afterschool program at Ben Gamla, and the director of the highly popular Camp Coolanu.

A little zaniness and a ton of energy don’t hurt either. Class starts off with music pumping, as Rabbi Melnick spotlights each kid doing something crazy. The class laughs at today’s winner—a kid dancing with his dog. The kid, Michael Sitbon, clearly earned his prize, an Amazon gift card.

“Who wants to lead us in Birchat HaTorah?” Rabbi Melnick roars. A few meek hands are raised. “Today’s grand prize is a drone with a camera! Now who wants to lead us in Birchat HaTorah?” Fifty hands shoot in the air. Next comes an acting competition, with three kids demonstrating the scene of Avraham refusing to bow to Nimrod. There is laughter and cheering as the class votes by Zoom poll who will be shipped a massive Hershey Kiss for the best performance. The fun continues for an entire hour, and the kids are genuinely upset when the time is up.

As Rabbi Melnick logs off Zoom, adrenaline still pumping, a message pops up in his email from a mom in Ohio: “This is fantastic! Thank you! For the first time my kids are excited! It has been SO long!” The rabbi’s face lights up. “That makes it all worth it.”

To try out JAZ, check out www.JAZOOM.com  or log onto Zoom, Monday-Thursday, from 4 to 5 p.m. (Meeting Id:899 9420 5447 Passcode: 1234)

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