“Inspirational.” “Meaningful.” “Eye-opening.” “Heartwarming.” “Uplifting.” What weekly classroom experience elicits such praise from high school students? Lev Hashavua, “the heart of the week,” is the 40- minute class that Ma’ayanot devotes to building connections between students, helping each person feel that she has others who truly recognize her. A weekly Talmud, Tanach or Jewish philosophy class is transformed, and a different kind of learning and connection takes place.
Students develop a shared language and protocol, beginning with sitting in a circle and each sharing a brief thought about her week. One student, the parnasit, tells a story about herself that invites her classmates to understand her on a deeper level. The class then learns a Torah text, with questions designed to help each student reflect on the Torah through the lens of her personal experiences and goals. “I have a new perspective on everyone; I’m getting to know them in a different way,” said sophomore Avigayil Cyrulnik.
The program is multi-layered. All faculty who facilitate Lev Hashavua groups with students also participate in their own Lev Hashavua, where they too share their stories and dilemmas. Program facilitators are Ma’ayanot’s Dean of Students Bailey Braun, Tanach and Jewish philosophy teacher Rabbi Dr. Jay Goldmintz and Talmud teacher Rabbi Yehuda Chanales, who is also the North American director of Lifnai V’lifnim, the Israeli educational initiative which originated the core concepts and protocol for Lev Hashavua. Rabbi Goldmintz noted that “openness bein adam la-chavero, between fellow students, is a portal to openness bein adam laMakom, between students and God.”
“It’s the dream of parents, of teachers, of everyone in chinuch,” explained Head of School CB Neugroschl, “that students become connected to the Torah, to their teachers and to each other. Lev Hashavua works to achieve that. It has been powerfully received, and the fact that every student participates reflects these Ma’ayanot values.”