26 Feb Siyum Ha’Amidah: Meaningful t’filah at Schechter Manhattan

I am really impressed with Kitah Alef, our first grade. On Wednesday morning they presented their Siyum Ha’Amidah, the culmination of their study of the blessings of the weekday amidah. The amidahis a central prayer in Judaism, and it touches on a variety of big ideas including our connection of our ancestors, God’s holiness, the gift of human intelligence, the need for healing, just to name a few. This is complex and nuanced material and the 6 and 7 year old students of Kitah Alef showed that they had thought deeply about it. They considered each of the 19 blessings in the amidah, what it means to them and whether they consider it an example of shevach (praise), bakasha (request), or hodaya (thanks), the categories of prayer articulated in Rabbinic tradition. The students recited the amidah skillfully and presented their own thoughts about the prayer and it was impressive. The students accomplished so much with the guidance and care of their teachers, Elisa Marcus and Meggie Kwait.

This process of careful study of the siddur, what we call iyun t’filah, complements and supports the practice of reciting the traditional prayers. In this way the students are enculturated to the idea that the words of t’filah are meant to mean something and that an important part of their prayer experience is finding their own understanding of and connection to the siddur. In Kitah Alef and the other elementary school grades the students record their thoughts and feelings about the meaning of the prayers in their own individually constructed siddurim. So each time that they turn to a given prayer they are reminded both of the words on the page and the ideas that the words represent.

Of course, the siyum ha’Amidah, while a culmination for a unit of study, is really just the beginning of the first grade students’ deep and meaningful relationship with t’filah. But it is this foundation of connection with and sense of ownership over the siddur that allows for students to build their skills and comfort with t’filah as they get older. I feel quite confident that the culture of student participation and leadership in t’filah among our middle school students is in large part due to their experiences with iyun t’filah, going as far back as their siyum ha’Amidah. It is rewarding to watch as our students continue to grow in their skills, knowledge, understanding, and commitment to Jewish prayer.

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair



Kitah Aleph students have just completed a unit on nonfiction books. The writers chose subjects on which they considered themselves to be experts, then went through a multi-step publication process that involved brainstorming, drafting, editing, and illustrating. The books contain multiple sections, as well as tables of contents and “about the author” sections. Shown here is one chapter from some of the books.



by Tsofia Bloch


Hugtopus is an octopus. He loves hugs. He does not try to bother you when he hugs you. He can carry lots of letters to a lot of people at the same time because he has a lot of arms.



by Pemberley Medvidovsky

Kinds of Dogs

Podls are sam tame mien. coew wo wo are mien taey pretakc tarih saefe tayE pretac thre onre. Godenratr hlaq peole

[Poodles are sometimes mean. Chihuahuas are mean. They protect themselves. They protect their owner. Golden retrievers help people.]



by Natan Isaacs


There are 16 levels. Some levels are hrad [hard]. The 16th level is hrad. On The 16th level you bet kaos [beat chaos].



by Dex Stepeck

Subway Surfers

in Sub way Surfers You need to Get thekeys to RePLaY and You HaFt to Get awaY fRom the PoLes and Get New Hi scoRs and Get a vinits and Get Bals and Get the woays.

[In Subway Surfers you need to get the keys to replay, and you have to get away from the poles and get new high scores and get abilities and get balls and get the ways.]


In Kitah Gimmel we have been writing about small moments in our lives and practicing using sensational sentences and descriptive language to make these moments come alive to our readers. These excerpts are in the draft stage.

When my dad told me my cousins got a dog, I was really excited. I jumped up and down. I went to my cousins’ house to see the dog. When we got to my cousins’ house, only my aunt was there. I hugged my aunt and she said that the dog was on a walk outside. While I was waiting for the dog, I asked some questions. My first question was is it a girl or a boy? My aunt told me that the dog was a girl . My other question was what type of dog it is? My aunt said it was a black lab named Nacho. Finally, Nacho came back from her long walk and was at the door. I ran down the stairs full of excitement. When she was in the house I was a little scared at first. This surprised me because I love dogs and didn’t think I would feel nervous. Later that day, I let her sniff me and felt her wet nose on my hand.



I went out of my big and cozy apartment in London. Then I went across the street bridge to Camden Market. I saw all types of stores and store owners waiting for customers. There were even shoe stores and each one had a giant shoe above the front door! It smelled like delicious food and cooking meat. I heard about one hundred people chatting and asking for something from the store owners.



It was Saturday when it was the Super Bowl. I sat on the couch in front of the TV and turned it on. Then I got some chessy nachos  from the kitchen. Then I just stared at the TV during the beginning. Then I watched some of the long football game. I felt happy because the team I wanted to win was winning. My dad and mom came to watch with me. After that, my sister came and ate all the nachos. I felt happy because I was watching TV.



I went down to the lobby and showed the people where the party was. Then I told them what we were doing. We were playing games and running around. A karate teacher came to teacher a lesson. We learned kicks and punches. We had to bow down. At the end, we had cake. It was so yummy. It was vanilla frosting and vanilla bottom.



Me, Maddy, Maya, Ella, Arielle, Annabelle, Nina, Talia, and Sarah went in to Abby’s ginormous apartment. We put our sleeping bags onto the crowded floor. After we put our soft sleeping bags down, we all started to make pretty bracelets with smooth string but we never finished. Instead we ate pizza and I heard the crunch of its crust. Maddy started making delicate cup towers and everyone else joined. After the pizza we all changed into our cotton pajamas. When we were done putting on our pajamas we watched Cinderella.



Kitah Heh is working on a unit about writing memoir. Student were asked to write about a significant, meaningful  moment that they learned something about themselves/life. 

Click here to read Valentina’s significant moment.

Click here to read Maya’s significant moment.

Click here to read Oliver’s significant moment.


Kitah Zayin has just completed their exhibitions on the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Here are some examples of scripts researched and written by the students.

Click here to read Riley and Allie’s work.

Click here to read Raphy, Itamar, and Asher’s work.