Ohr Chadash Overview by Morah Ruth Merrill & Morah Shari Zuber

Mother Nature was quite relentless this winter and it was with great anticipation spring was welcomed. Unfortunately, she had one last Arctic blast up her sleeve which forced the cancellation of our Friday evening Shabbat service and dinner for the Aleph through Dalet classes on March 20th.

Despite our disappointment, we were still basking in the glow of our Purim mitzvah. In the fall, our students and their families had donated their gently used Halloween costumes so that needy families in Israel could make use of them to celebrate Purim. We received a letter of appreciation from Rabbi Kogan’s brother-in-law, Rabbi Gustavo Surazski of Ashkelon’s Kehillat Netzach Israel Synagogue, whose families were the beneficiaries of our mitzvah. Thank you to all the Ohr Chadash families who participated in this project. Any excess costumes which could not find their way to Eretz Yisrael this year will be the starters for next year’s mitzvah program.

It has been said that if one can’t go to the mountain, perhaps the mountain can be brought to you.

This year the mountain was brought to Ohr Chadash on Sunday morning, March 15th, in the form of a monumental mobile Model Matzo Bakery event, sponsored by Jewish Children 18 (Tzivos Hashem). All our classes were treated to a thoroughly enjoyable and educational journey into the world of Passover matzo preparation, learning of the 18-minute process from grain grinding to ingredient combining to product shaping to finished baked good.

The impact of the hands-on process was reflected in the smiling faces of students, teachers, and parents. A re-enactment of Moses plight to win freedom from Pharaoh was regarded with awe, inspiration, and a bit of amusement as Rabbi Kogan went against character by portraying the obstinate, chain-carrying, staff-wielding, and tzitzit-wearing Egyptian despot. It was definitely one of the highlights of a thoroughly delightful morning.

As part of Hillcrest Jewish Center’s 75th Anniversary Celebration, Ohr Chadash’s Musical Muse, Morah Janet, and her ever-faithful canine companion, Jack, helped prepare our students for their Sunday, March 29th Commemorative Breakfast performance. Their vocal repertoire consisted of The Star-Spangled Banner, Hatikvah, Torah-Torah, and Etz Chaim He, which was warmly received by the assemblage. Cantor Fuchs helped to maintain the syncopation by bolstering the youthful chorus with his beautiful baritone voice.

Following a well-deserved Passover break, our students returned refreshed to a hectic schedule.

Because this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of the death camps and the end of World War II, there was a two-day commemoration of Yom Hashoah, on Wednesday, April 15th, and on Sunday, April 19th. On Wednesday afternoon, the students were able to view a Yom Hashoah exhibit which was being showcased at Hillcrest Jewish Center. At Sunday’s program, ICCJ member and Holocaust survivor Claire Heymann related her traumatic wartime experiences in Auschwitz to our Bet through Hey students. All in attendance sat mesmerized as Claire spoke of the transformation of her happy childhood into an ordeal of horror and the eventual liberation which enabled her to come to the United States to begin a life of triumph over her oppressors.

One of the highlights of each school year is the presentation of their first siddurim to the Aleph students. This year, Morah Zehavah led her pupils in the ceremony, in which the youngsters exhibited their proficiency in prayers and songs. Proud parents, morot, and schoolmates sat attentively to listen to the Aleph class’ accomplishments. A lovely collation followed the assembly.

Since Ohr Chadash began this academic year at Israel Center of Conservative Judaism, it was only fitting that the school should celebrate its final Shabbat there, on Saturday, April 18th. A morning of learning and prayer was capped by a delicious kiddush prepared by the ICCJ Sisterhood. Todah Rabah Ladies.

With the Omer well underway, we look forward to our Lag B’Omer outing in the park, slated for Sunday morning, May 3rd. If last year’s program was any indication, we should have a wonderful morning of sunshine and fun.

Before we know it, Shavuoth will be here and the school year will be winding down. Although the weather periodically presented obstacles, by-and-large, we overcame them and provided an uninterrupted program of continuous learning and growth. The year has been a fruitful one for both our students and our staff.

All of us at Ohr Chadash wish you a meaningful Shavuoth.