by Elaine Durbach, New Jeresy Jewish News
At first there was an atmosphere of cliquishness among the fifth-graders gathered at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains on Nov. 2, with the 80 or so youngsters gathering in clusters made up of friends. But shared goals lowered barriers, and as the afternoon progressed, more mingling occurred.
Linda Poleyeff, the Jewish education director at the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, said that was the objective of Sunday’s Hay Happening program. “I convened a meeting of religious school directors from the different synagogues to discuss what we could do to bring the kids together, and this is what we decided on.”
She organized the event for hay — or fifth-grade — students, together with the religious school directors from Temple Har Shalom in Warren, Temple Sholom in Fanwood, Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, and Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains. They also had help from the Union County Torah Center and the Chabad Jewish Center at Basking Ridge.
Staff members from all those institutions, together with music educator Rina Maimon, joined forces with Poleyeff to provide an afternoon of widely varied activities all revolving around Jewish themes.
The program started with singing and ended with eating; in between the kids each chose two from an array of workshops. Those included Jewish Jeopardy, baking rugelach, making Marc Chagall-style paper “stained-glass” windows, decorating hamsas (hands of good fortune), making Havdala candles, fashioning Jewish ritual items from plastic blocks, and exploring the lives and deeds of Jewish heroes.