A Columbus, Ohio, kindergarten morah, Rochell Weisfogel transfigured her love for children into the newly published children’s book “The Lonely Ayil” to aid children in reinterpreting the new year as something more than just glorified produce. “Being a kindergarten teacher gave me the chance and idea for writing this story. There [were] never any books written for children about where a shofar comes from, so that is what inspired me to write one,” noted Weisfogel, a graduate of Stern College for Women and Yeshiva University Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.
As a spiritually oriented ram resolves to do something more with his listless bucolic existence, he chances upon a local shul in need of shofarot for the upcoming holiday. Graciously donating his horns, the ayil inculcates “the message for Rosh Hashanah as the importance in helping the Jewish community and finding a reason for existence,” Weisfogel explained.
Tending to a child’s mentality and where they are developmentally, Weisfogel guides children from the very beginning to crave fulfillment, to want something more than just loitering in the playroom, to produce something meaningful with their boredom. She instills the same new-year fervor that Rosh Hashanah inspires in adults, lowering without undermining the promotion of self-development.
“The Lonely Ayil” allows children to effectively grasp its content through questions and direct communication with the reader. The children’s involvement elicits personal association, which in turn allows for a more palpable understanding of the holiday. Weisfogel also includes the safety of subsequent answers, buffering any fault apprehension with expressions like “You’re right…,” all while maintaining climactic drama bereft of anxietal distress. The statement “We must now find out what happened to the Ayil” seeks to ensure that children be privy to sequencing early on, as opposed to its conventional third-grade introduction.
Complying with the concisely forthright terminology, the colorful illustrations and animal personification attach a friendly relatability to its 4- to 8-year-old audience. This playful ease turns something educational into something fun. Weisfogel ensures divine mention, writing, “Hashem has answered our prayers,” introducing God from the onset as our loving Father and provider. Teaching both English and Hebrew literacy skills, “The Lonely Ayil” transmits Torah and Torah values to Jewish children on all levels with a brief glossary included. The short and familiar diction can also provide an early reader with insights into zoology and the monetary value of shofarot as a substantive alternative to cat headpiece preferences.
Despite the story’s covert depth toward character advancement, this is her first published work. “This is my first story I wrote after telling it many years in my classroom. Right now this is the only book I have written and plan to write, but readers have told me to write others for other Yomim Tovim,” Mrs. Weisfogel related. “It is my own original story that I made up as I went along in my classroom and perfected it every year for 27 years.”
“The Lonely Ayil” is available for purchase on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and wholesale through www.ingramcontent.com.
By Rachel Liebling
Rachel Liebling is a freshman at Stern College for Women.