Rabbi Steven Eisenberg, Manhattan Day School

Rabbi Steven Eisenberg

I walked away from the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals’s seminar with a newfound appreciation and motivation to include more Sephardic halachot, minhagim, and culture into my school.

I am proud to share that in the weeks that have passed since the seminar we have added several Sephardic additions to our Judaic Studies curriculum. 

  1. Siddur Play- As is traditional in first grade, students receive their first siddur. Not only do the students receive a siddur for school, they also receive a siddur to be used at home. Even though the nusach of the school is Ashkenaz, we still gave the Sephardic families a gift of a Sephardic siddur. Another addition relating to the siddur play was the songs sung at the play. At our siddur play, the students sang several songs from different parts of the tefilah. We made sure to include a Sephardic tune for one of the songs. We taught the students adon olam in a Sephardic tune. In our daily tefilah in school, the students continue to sing adon olam in that Sephardic tune. After the siddur play, I received an email from a Hazzan in a local Sephardic synagogue who shared with me that on shabbat, one of my students requested to sing adon olam in the same tune that was taught in school.   
  2. Chanuka- On Chanuka, we did a special program in each class highlighting Sephardic halachot, minhagim, and niggunim. We invited the Hazzan from the local Sephardic synagogue to come to school and teach some niggunim relating to Chanukah. Rabbi Ariel Cohen, our Director of Sephardic Studies, taught the students Sephardic halachot and minhagim relating to Chanukah. 
  3. Brachot: Our school teaches the students the laws of brachot. The students are given a list of foods to memorize their appropriate brachot. We added a whole list of foods that are customarily eaten in Sephardic homes. We also included differences in the bracha between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. For example, matza during the year, Sephardim do not make hamotzey. 

I would like to personally thank you again for the seminar as well as the generous stipend. The seminar inspired me to instill within my students a greater sense of the mesoret from all of Am Yisrael. We will continue to look for opportunities to incorporate Sephardic halachot, minhagim, and culture into our school wherever possible.