Getting creative about prayer

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Teacher Sharon Freundel and her students discuss the ark cover, whose art they helped design. Photos by Suzanne Pollak
Teacher Sharon Freundel and her students discuss the ark cover, whose art they helped design. Photos by Suzanne Pollak

Thirteen third- through sixth-graders munched on their lunches last Friday as their teacher unveiled an artist’s rendition of a Torah curtain they have spent much time designing.

The group, the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital’s tefillah (prayer) committee, uses its lunch and free time on Fridays trying to make its religious services more meaningful. To that end, sixth-grader Gabriel Kanter-Goodell designed a PowerPoint presentation that displays inspirational pictures of birds, the sun peeking out through the clouds, the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem and stained glass windows. The idea is to help focus the wandering student’s mind.


They also opted to use a disco ball for their ner tamid, or eternal light.

Recently, Kanter-Goodell’s parents informed the school they wanted to donate an ark cover in memory of someone close to their family who was studying to be a rabbi. Teacher Sharon Freundel turned to her students on the committee and let them do the designing.

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They came up with a two-sided curtain. On the front, which will be visible whenever the ark is closed, is a light blue background with the skylines of Washington, D.C., and Jerusalem on the bottom.Then, when the ark is opened, a mass of bright colors around a tent is displayed, symbolizing the openness of Abraham’s tent.

Once they finished their design, artist Jeanete Kuvin Oren, whose artwork appears throughout the area, including a large wall hanging at Congregation Etz Hayim in Arlington and mosaics at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, began to bring their ideas
into reality.


Always keeping in mind their desire for bright colors and the need for a few Jewish stars, Kuvin Oren put their ideas down on paper. Then, on April 4, the students gathered around Freundel’s computer as they Skyped with Kuvin Oren from her Connecticut studio.

Freundel and students talk about their reactions to the ark cover with artist Jeanete Kuvin Oren (on computer screen)
Freundel and students talk about their reactions to the ark cover with artist Jeanete Kuvin Oren (on computer screen)

There was joy all around as the students approved of the results, pointing out different items on the drawings.

And the artist was equally excited, declaring, “I am so happy that you like it. I think this is great.”

“I am just so impressed with these kids,” Freundel said. “The adults are the guides on the side. This is a committee that works really well together. One idea morphed into another.”
Ellie Goldenberg, a sixth-grader, said she enjoyed working on the design.

“I think it’s really nice especially because we get to be a part of it,” she said, “and we get to help Gabriel’s family.”

“We like doing it. We like making tefillah for kids” so they won’t be bored, said Jennifer Nehrer, a fourth- grader.

Matthew Siff, a sixth-grader, said he can’t wait “to see the shock on people’s faces” when the ark cover is used for the first time.

Kuvin Oren now will create the actual curtain, with the goal of finishing it so it can be revealed to the rest of the school during Shavuot, in the beginning of June.

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