The focus of this case study is Tefilla (prayer).  Over the course of the last few years I developed an alternative tefilla option for the high school girls. They have the option of leaving the main minyan to participate in a separate tefilla experience. The program began with a few students (about 5-10) and it has grown to include about 50% of the female student body of the high school.  The format is as follows: Optional davening or mandatory silence for the first 10-15 minutes of each session.  Then I either ask the students to create art (visual, poetry, music) to connect with different prayers.  Sometimes I explain a tefilla in more depth and then they express their own understanding of it through an artistic medium. Other times we’ll have a focused conversation on some aspect of tefilla. (Eg something that we’re grateful for, something that gives us a sense of wonder, something that we’d like to ask G-d for, etc).

This program has been more successful than I could have anticipated. I interviewed students to help gain a better understanding of why they were coming. These are some quotes from students who were interviewed.  (I received similar responses from an anonymous survey that was distributed by someone who came from a program sponsored though the Legacy Heritage foundation.)

Me: Why was this davening option more appealing to you than going to the main minyan

Simona B.: because it was easier for us to connect in our own way...here we actually used our brain and thought about what davening means to us…

Abbie S- we can be our own chazans and we don’t have to hear the same boys every day and I like that … knowing that I can say it at my own pace…

Me: Do you feel being in here increased your faith, or connection to God, or spirituality

Michelle a- I see things differently now I see it in my own way

Simona B.…- I feel like it doesn’t specifically give it more (faith), but it preserved my faith… because in the main minyan … when they say sit straight, open your siddur- I don’t want to listen to the teachers … it makes me hate it (davening) more and more… whereas here .. I don’t get angry… I just think about (davening) as a whole

Liz B.- this class gives you a way to express yourself more than the main minyan allows… here you can express how you understand the prayers

The art and poetry included in this case study are some examples of student work from this tefilla program.

Watch the video below for an explanation of how students generated artwork from Tefilla text.