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Group Leader Spotlight: Deborah Sacks

deborahsacks

Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, NY

How would you describe the girls in your Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! group?

I’m working with a group of seventh graders. As Brooklyn girls, they are, I believe, forced into a more adult world than the average seventh grader. They have more independence and more autonomy. As a result, they are more skeptical.

How are your meetings structured?

We meet on Saturday afternoons, and after we eat we start the ritual of rosh hodesh with a blessing. Each month, I ask one of the girls to lead the candlighting and blessing to begin the session. These blessing are personal and powerful. They usually do not connect to the tefillot in synagogue but this is a doorway into Jewish prayer for them.

What do the girls discuss in their Rosh Hodesh group?

My girls love to debate right and wrong. I use the biblical sections from the Rosh Hodesh curriculum and the girls argue about the actions of Yael or another heroine. I like to connect their discussions to pop culture as well.

How do you do that?

For example, we were looking at women and song – using the Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! sections about Miriam and Deborah. I asked them how women today use song for a higher, positive purpose and about how women use song to simply entertain.

I asked the girls to think about the women pop stars who they admire and to be critical about what they are saying in their music. The girls have spoken about Kesha, Adele, Lady Gaga and Brittany Spears. They explored the real challenges facing women and how women are either conforming to what the world is telling them to be or are addressing those challenges.

Are there other ways that you build on the Moving Traditions meeting plans?

I am a musician – a singer/songwriter – and I like to bring in women artists to the group to help expand the girl’s idea of what women think and do in the world. This has been a great part of the program for the girls.

How have you gotten the girls to open up about the challenges that they face?

I taught most of these girls in sixth grade, so I know them. They know that I am invested in them, that I am not trying to make them jump through hoops. Because of that, they feel free to open up about the stuff in their lives. The more they are comfortable in the setting and see it as a personal one, the more Jewish content I can integrate into it. The girls look forward to being together now because Rosh Hodesh is authentic and meaningful Judaism in their lives.

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