By Meredith Hirschberg, Director of Education, Temple Beth Torah, Wellington, FL
When I received my first copy of The Gateways Haggadah I realized that this was a special gift that I needed to share — immediately — with my Rabbi and Cantor. It was the most unusual Haggadah I had ever seen, and looking at it first through the lens of an educator and then as a mom who leads a Seder, it seemed that much more impressive. I knew that this would be a Haggadah that would not only serve the needs of all our students, but would do so in a way that would equalize not only the learning process but the pleasure of sharing a Seder.
We have used this Haggadah in many different ways during our “All-school and Parent Passover Program.” I have purchased enough Haggadot for each student to have their own to use during their model Seders.
We begin the morning with classes divided into three grade levels: K – 2, 3 – 4 and 5 – 6. Each grade level has their own hour long model Seder utilizing this Haggadah. The teachers choose some of the questions that are posed throughout the Haggadah for discussion during the Seder. Each section of the Haggadah is almost its own lesson plan!
Simultaneously, we host a parent program titled, “How to Have a Family-Friendly Seder.” The Gateways Haggadah is the basis of this presentation. Both activities end at the same time, and are followed by interactive family activities. Parents and students rotate through three stations: (1) the four children, (2) the ten plagues, and (3) a Passover song session.
Our Cantor was thrilled to see how the songs were presented in this Haggadah. We do not have to print out separate song sheets; the songs that are included in the Haggadah are presented so beautifully. And, most importantly, they are accessible for “teachable moments!” The Rabbis teaching the other two segments also use those specific parts of the Haggadah. The ten plagues section will also include “edible plagues.”
As some students require repetition, it is interesting to see how much the students remember the plagues and the different types of children once they complete their activity rotation.
I truly believe that when material is presented using all modalities that it benefits ALL students. Each student has their own individual strengths and weaknesses in an educational environment, and it’s our responsibility, as educators, to be sure that material is presented that is accessible to all.
The language used in The Gateways Haggadah is exceptional in its simplicity. The few words express high-level concepts. As educators and adults, we can absolutely appreciate that we have been exposed to explanation of holidays we do not completely understand, and have even gone through the movements of tradition that were experiential; yet I still did not feel I truly understood what we were doing. The Gateways Haggadah experience is a way to embrace both students and adults and leave them with a sense of understanding of the importance of what a Seder is. Participants are able to more fully comprehend the meaning of the story and share in the music, all with the beautiful goal of inclusion. This is what creating exceptional Jewish memories is within a religious school.