Sunday, August 11, 2013

Orot Israel College’s Noga Dance Company Performs at Bar Ilan University

The Noga Dance Company recently performed at Bar Ilan University’s Midrashah for Women. The well-received program included a beautiful performance, a fascinating panel discussion with the choreographer and the dancers, and an interactive dance workshop.
Every Rosh Chodesh, the Midrashah at Bar Ilan organizes a special event focusing on a different branch of the arts. The Noga Dance Company was asked to appear as a fitting tribute to Miriam HaNeviah, who famously sang “with drum and dance.”
Garnering loud applause from the audience, the dancers performed two dances. The first, “Naftulai” by Tziona Shabtai, portrays one woman’s inner world and its inherent contradictions, and the second, part of a new production by Avital Ben-Gad, revolves around the concept of prayer.
Following the performance, the dancers spoke about Orot Israel College’s one-of-a-kind dance program and discussed some of the personal and halachic challenges involved. The enchanted audience was very interested to learn how the dancers are able to incorporate both faith and art into their lives.
Finally, the Bar Ilan students were treated to a dance workshop led by Sharona Florsheim, the dance company’s artistic director. She demonstrated how one can communicate and express oneself via movement and dance.
The entire evening received rave reviews. The Bar Ilan students later described the event as a profound, meaningful, and joyous experience, and Dr. Ruth Ben Meir and Mrs. Yael Schlossberg of the Midrashah sent a lovely thank you note to the members of the dance company:
“The performance made a deep impression on us. You performed before an audience for whom dance is not their ‘mother tongue,’ but nevertheless, you managed to break the language barrier and touch our hearts. We were able to become part of the struggle, the escape, the
return, the search, the tension, the longing, the yearning, and the prayer, which you expressed with such talent. Meeting young religious artists - who face the tension and the connection between creativity and faith and who choose to express themselves while living halachic lives - added depth and meaning to the encounter.”
Thanks to the generous support of Mifal HaPayis’s Council for Culture and Art and the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Noga Dance Company is currently working on a children’s dance by Avital Ben-Gad.

Sensory-Motor Book Exhibit at Orot Israel College

by Dr. Avia Guttman – Head, Special Education Department, Elkana Campus

This year, the Department of Special Education unveiled a special audio-visual exhibit at Orot Israel College’s Elkana campus. Entitled “What Happens When I Read,” the exhibit presents sensory-motor books for children with special needs. Rav Professor Neria Guttel, President of Orot Israel College, and Dr. Avia Guttman, head of Orot’s Department of Special Education, cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony and thanked all those who made the exhibit possible.
Dr. Yael Segev, who was the driving force behind the exhibit, explained,
“R’ Nachman says: ‘When a person sees and learns from a book, and everywhere that he sees and looks, he finds himself.’ (Likutei Moharan 141, Torah 121) Special needs children require mediation and a heavier reliance on various senses in order to allow them to understand the story and to identify with its heroes.” 
When a child identifies with the characters in a book, he benefits emotionally and cognitively. However, special needs children are often unable to identify with the characters or even with the story itself. In contrast, the sensory-motor books in this exhibit are creatively designed to tell the story via different sensory channels, thus enabling the child to comprehend the story on his or her own level.
The curators divided the exhibit into four categories: books for children with attention deficit disorders, books for children with sensory modulation disorders, books for children with developmental disabilities, and books for blind and deaf children. Each display case included specific instructions.
For instance, readers were asked to sit on a chair covered with spikes in order to simulate the experiences of a child with ADHD or to enter the “dialogue in the dark” room to simulate the experiences of a blind child. In addition, audio-visual presentations offered explanations of the various disorders.
Many people were involved in making the exhibit possible. Special thanks go to Rav Professor Neria Guttel, President of Orot Israel College; Mr. Yaniv David, assistant director-general for operations; Mrs. Naama Meyersdorf, director of our pedagogic center; Dr. Yael Segev, an Orot lecturer; and of course, the students, who produced all of the sensory-motor books in the collection.

Orot Israel College Students Organize Preschool Math Fair

by Luzit Odesser – Early Childhood Education Department, Elkana Campus

Recently, a group of second-year students from Orot Israel College’s early education department organized a math fair at an Elkana kindergarten.
The fair consisted of six interactive stations, with each station focusing on a different math skill, including counting, numbering, addition, and more.
The preschool years are a critical stage in a child’s development. Among other things, this is an age when children are capable of acquiring and developing basic mathematical concepts and skills. Since younger children learn best when they are active participants in the process, preschool teachers typically employ a wide range of sensory, visual, and experiential activities, such as games, songs, stories, and other pedagogical tools.
Thus, when planning the stations, the Orot students made sure to incorporate various fun activities, including jumping, skipping, basketball, and even fishing.
The math fair proved to be a resounding success. As the Orot students were packing up and getting ready to leave, the kindergarten kids asked, “When are you coming back?”

Elul During Summer Vacation?

by Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Judaic Studies Lecturer

Every few years, before the Jewish calendar can adjust itself with an additional month during the spring, the summer and winter chagim arrive unusually early. This year, for example, Rosh Hashanah, which "normally" falls towards the end of September, begins this year during the first week of September. Simchat Torah ends before the end of the month! It's an "early" year in every sense.
What difference does that make? Why should the secular date that Rosh Hashanah falls on matter? It shouldn't – but it does, because much of our lives revolve not around the Jewish calendar, but the secular one.
We take our vacations not based on the Jewish calendar, but on the secular one. Our lives are often governed by work and school schedules almost always set not according to the Jewish calendar, but the secular one. For this reason, you may well be on vacation right now because your children are still on vacation, which will continue until the end of the month. This is true not only around the world, but especially in Israel. It's a yearly tradition in August for parents of young children to complain that that they don't know how to go to work while their kids are off from school.
The Jewish calendar cares not for summer vacation or secular school schedules. While we were on vacation, the month of Elul began, ushering in the first pangs of the High Holiday season.  For men who attend shul in the morning (and especially for Sephardim who recite Selichot each night), the Shofar reminds us: Rosh Hashanah is coming. But for many women, and especially for our children who are enjoying their vacation, Elul has yet to enter their consciousness.
Recently, Rav Yona Goodman, head of Chinuch Emuni at Orot, shared a short audio (link here) which got me thinking about this issue. While during a normal year, it might make sense to leave the lion's share of Rosh Hashanah preparation to our kids' schools, this year, when they begin school only a short time before Rosh Hashanah, we must take it upon ourselves to educate our children both about Elul, and about the process of Teshuvah.
When do we do it? Actually, opportunities abound. You can:
  • Talk about Elul around the Shabbat table
  • Do your yearly Tzedakah accounting, sharing with your children how much you "owe"
  • Instead of the beach, use a vacation day for a family chessed project
  • Take a family Tiyyul to a spiritual location (shofar factory?), to put us in the mood for Rosh Hashanah
Rav Yona's words were ringing in my ears as we sat down to dinner last week, and two of my children briefly entered into minor spat over some insignificant slight. While I would normally try and ignore the argument during dinner, I instead noted that it was Rosh Chodesh Elul, and entered into a short discussion around the table about controlling our anger – and that perhaps this could be a goal that we could share as a family during Elul.
In truth, Elul during the summer presents a unique educational opportunity. Because our children learn about the High Holidays in school, a danger exists that they might come to see Teshuvah not as a personal, intimate process, but instead as yet another subject that they cover in school (which is entirely unrelated to their home lives). Nothing could be farther from the truth. The very best way to counter this mistaken perception is to bring Teshuvah into our homes, and make the process of introspection and self-improvement a household affair -- even when you're on vacation.