Fuchs Mizrachi School, Beachwood, Ohio

The tefillah programming for the 2016-2017 school year was constructed with today’s teens in mind, striving to provide them with autonomy, personal meaning and individualization. It included weekly tefillah workshops, three Yamei Dveikut, or days dedicated to closeness to God, meditative prayer art-based spiritual expression, a student-led minyan at a local retirement center and a tefillah library.


Weekly tefillah workshops that students were free to opt in or out of from one week to the next were conducted throughout the school year. Each session, led by different Judaic faculty members, would include a 15-minute period of silent tefillah reflection during which students were encouraged to daven at their own pace or meditate. The students would then join the group facilitator for a tefillah roundtable after examining a particular prayer for two to three minutes on their own and making note of questions or insights they wanted to share with the group. The faculty member would always conclude each session with a specific idea on the tefillah that he/she had prepared in advance.
This program attracted approximately one-third of the boys and half of the girls in the high school on a given week. It was very successful in achieving the school’s goals of autonomy and personal meaning. Students said they appreciated having the opportunity to engage in tefillah at their own pace and in their own way during the 15 minutes of silent tefillah reflection as well as learning more about the structured prayers they say every day.


Fuchs Mizrachi ran three Yom Deveikut programs for the entire high school in 2016-2017. Before davening (twice before Shacharit and once before Minchah), students had the opportunity to select from eight different tefillah programming options subdivided into two different groups: full immersive experiences that included tefillah as well, and shorter tefillah framing sessions that led into a regular tefillah with the main minyan. A week before each Yom Deveikut, students were asked to select which session they wanted to attend.

This program also promoted the schools’ goals of autonomy and personal meaning. Many of the students chose to be in more philosophically-oriented sessions – especially those surrounding the questions of why we pray, why prayer matters, and what exactly we are doing when we engage in tefillah.


Students were given an opportunity to express their feelings, attitudes and emotions both toward tefillah in general and specific tefillot through the medium of art. These art-based initiatives gave a voice to students who had struggled to foster a connection to tefillah, allowing them to open channels of communication with Hashem that they had insisted could never be developed. In addition to the art lining the walls of the school and Beit Midrash, providing visual inspiration to students passing by, this aspect of the tefillah programming became one of the most popular and sought after experiences, even extending into a two-session Ashrei program in the Junior High school.


One of the options in the first Yom Deveikut program was a full immersive experience visiting Menorah Park, a local retirement center, where students led and participated in their daily minyan. After returning from that trip, a number of students were so inspired that they wanted to visit Menorah Park more often. That, in turn, sparked a full-year program, as students -- together with the school’s Rosh Yeshivah (principal) -- visited the retirement home every other week, bringing not only a minyan, but a ruacḥ and spiritual energy that the residents happily anticipated.


Recognizing that many students find it challenging to connect to tefillah, Fuchs Mizrachi purchased more than a dozen English books that explore both the translation and meaning of tefillah. The sefarim were placed in the back of the Beit Midrash, and students had the opportunity to learn from a sefer at various times during tefillah. The idea caught on and, thanks to a donation, the library will grow to include over 100 related volumes in the fall, constituting a full Machshavah (Jewish Thought) Beit Midrash.