The little kids at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County loved the book about a classroom of students who take turns bringing home a box filled with everything their families needed to celebrate Shabbat.
The Shabbat Box was the story that inspired early childhood teachers at the Marlboro school to create the Shabbat Backpack. “After reading this book, the children decided that they, too, would like to celebrate Shabbat at home with family and friends,” said kindergarten teacher Susan Gordon.
Every Friday a different student in each of the pre-K and kindergarten classes brings home the Shabbat Backpack; it contains a hallah and hallah cover, Shabbat candlesticks and candles, grape juice and a Kiddush cup, a book of Shabbat prayers, and a journal. The children are instructed to draw a picture and have a family member write their thoughts about their Shabbat experience in the journal.
“The sharing of photographs and pictures makes this activity come to life and is enjoyed by all,” said kindergarten teacher Bonnie Lurie. “Our Shabbat Backpack became an important part of our curriculum by bridging school and home,” said Gordon.
When pre-K student Sarah Cooperman brought the backpack home, the Shabbat journal was inscribed: “Thanks for making our Shabbat so special this week!”
“Our Shabbat table was brighter because of your Shabbat treat,” was pre-K youngster Jonathan Weiss’s family message.
“I am really happy I was able to bring the Shabbat backpack home,” said Alexa Tanzer, who is also in the pre-K class. “It was so exciting showing my family the special candlesticks, Kiddush cup, and hallah cover. I loved helping my sister drink the grape juice and eating the delicious hallah.”
Students clearly love the Shabbat Backpack, said pre-K teacher Robin Slad. When it’s their turn to take it home, “their faces beam when they leave the school on Friday.” And when class resumes on Monday, she said, the students “eagerly wait until we read the journal together in front of the class. As soon as we are finished reading, all the children ask the same question in unison: ‘When is it going to be my turn?’”