Aside from being the day before the start of the new school year, Labor Day has many other connotations. For some, it is an annually anticipated day of fun and wild partying. For most Brooklynites however, it is just one of those dreaded days when the city is gridlocked, leaving those in it grounded until all the chaos is over.
To make matters worse, they must now go andretrieve their cars which are parked some 20 blocks away in avoidance of a ticket.
But for one group, this year’s Labor Day had a pleasant surprise in store ; a surprise that would prove to be both entertaining and empowering for the unique task which lies ahead of them this year.
It all began at 11:00 am on the corner of St John’s Pl and Kingston Ave, just two blocks away from the heart of the West Indian Day Parade. There, almost 100 young Rabbis boarded busses and headed to a conference in Queens, NY.
The conference was hosted by The Jewish Released Time Program, an organization whose motto is as ambitious as it is simple; to bring Jewish education to the thousands of Jewish children enrolled in the public school system of the Greater New York area.
While some of the young Rabbis were new to the program and others already senior, each one took a brief peek out of their books and headed to Queens in order to be inspired and educated as Released Time instructors. This would be critical to the operation, since it would only be a few short days until this army of Rabbis would set out to bring Jewish values and traditions to the almost 1000 children enrolled in the program. There are currently 48 Jewish Hour locations running every Wednesday between 2-3 p.m.
Arriving in Queens, the boys were welcomed with a gourmet brunch at Kehilas Sha’arei Rachamim. At the start of the brunch a special video presentation by J.E.M was shown, after which Rabbi Sholom Ber Hecht, Chairman of N.C.F.J.E gave an opening address on the history of Released Time as well as its future objectives. “Released Time is not a school,” he pointed out. “It is a happy place where Torah and Mitzvos are celebrated.”
Following the opening address, Rabbi A. Cousin told over some remarkable accounts of Released Time back in the 50’s. Rabbi S. Zalmanov, A senior Shliach to Queens concluded the brunch with a few short stories of his involvement in Released Time during its growing years.
The Rabbis then headed back to the busses on rout to Chabad J.C.C which is led by Rabbi Mordichai Hecht. There, Rabbi Shazak Zirkind who is the director of the program, first shared some warm words on the urgency of bring Torah to all Jewish youth in N.Y.C.
The Bochurim then participated in a 3 part seminar consisting of powerful speeches and beautifully prepared videos and slide shows.
The first and central part was set to give the instructors tips and tools on how to run a proper Jewish Hour on Wednesday. Rabbi S.B Hecht spoke of the importance of structure and discipline and how to motivate the children.
Following that, Rabbi May, a well respected principle of a nearby Jewish school gave his perspective on outreach work.
At the heart and soul of the seminar was a lecture on Lesson Planning, delivered by Rabbi Levi Feldman, a long time Teacher and Educator. It was accompanied by a fantastically choreographed PowerPoint presentation.
“Proper Lesson Planning is an absolute must,” he began. “As instructors in the Digital age we have stiff competition. So, to get the child’s attention you are going to need to earn it.” He then continued to present key points on how to capture a child’s attention.
The next section of the seminar was focused on bringing Released Time’s interaction with the children beyond the one hour on Wednesday. Rabbi L. Katzman of Staten Island and Rabbi A. Winner of Manhattan Beach, spoke about how essential it is for there to be cooperation between Released Time Instructors and the local Chabad Shluchim. Rabbi S. Engel, the Program Coordinator then presented the many activities Released Time provides around the year. The activities cover holiday programming around the year, Shabbatons, winter camps, and home visits to name a few.
The seminar concluded with a glimpse into the mind of those who understand the program best. A panel of notable Released Time instructors shared their thoughts and ideas on how to create an efficient program for the almost 150 classes currently held In N.Y.C.
CTeens coordinator Rabbi Shimon Rivkin, talked of his creative perspective on increasing child enrollment. Rabbis S. Simpson, Y. Grosh, and E. Filler gave over key points on creating a positive environment for an optimal Released Time.
The day was topped off with a well deserved Barbecue Dinner for all to enjoy.
A special thanks goes to Rabbi Mordichai Hecht for hosting the conference, Chaim. L. Cohen for coordinating the conference on the scene, as well as Itche Glassner for his role as chef.
Released time activities around the year
Photo and video By TzemachWeg