Temple Beth El
What was your response when you heard about the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago? While many felt helpless upon hearing of the violent end of 26 innocent lives, the Goldman Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Lehigh Valley Jewish Federation, responded by performing 26 acts of kindness.
One of these acts was a generous donation to Temple Beth El. The religious school director, Alicia Zahn, put this donation towards a special program.
“It was important that this donation be used for the children,” she said. “I wanted something that was special and memorable, because it was in the wake of something so terrible. This program was one that the school originally thought was financially out of reach.”
This is how Temple Beth El was able to bring in the Building Blocks Workshop on Oct. 20. On the morning of the workshop, architect Stephen Schwartz of SWS Architects of Livingston, N.J., directed over 80 participants in building a scale model of the Old City of Jerusalem using almost 60,000 Legos.
There was learning, there was cooperation, there was fun as the children got busy constructing the walls, the gates, the Kotel, the Beit Hamikdosh, David’s Tower, the Montifiore windmill and many other buildings on the 400-square-foot scale map.
When talking about the Building Blocks Workshop event, the children said it best. “It’s a
lot of fun, we are playing with Legos, and it isn’t what we are used to doing,” said Matthew Zager, 12, as he built the Montifiore Windmill with his peers.
Meanwhile, Bayley Ahdieh, 13, worked with a group of her peers on the wall of the city. “It is actually more challenging than I expected,” she said. “Connecting the blocks properly, so they aren’t stacked but [instead] linked together, is hard. But I am still having a good time.”
“It is kind of hectic but it is fun,” agreed Jennifer Schubach, 10. “There are a lot of Legos everywhere so we need to watch where we step, but I like how we can be creative and use imagination.”
Classroom aide David Zahn called it, “My favorite day ever at Hebrew school!” More than a few around the project nodded their heads in agreement.
Zahn said that the event could not have been so successful without the participation of parents and the guidance of teachers. Eleise Teichman attended the event with her 7-year-old son Joshua and 5-year-old daughter Alexis.
“It is something different, it’s a way to learn about Jerusalem in a fun way,” Teichman said as her kids built an intricate multicolored Lego house.
Third grade teacher Levana Berlin said, “It is a great event, it’s very creative and it makes the kids understand Jerusalem and the different quarters, and why they are where they are.”
After all the building was complete, architect Schwartz led the students through an educational tour of the city and each child saw how his or her part fit with the rest. Many who had never been to Israel could now visualize where everything was.
The program ended with Cantor Kevin Wartell leading Hatikvah, as everyone stood around the virtual homeland. The whole event was over in two hours, but the memories will last a long time.
Written in memory of the 26 who died one year ago in Newtown, Conn. May we only build and not destroy.