Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls (SKA), Hewlett, New York

SKA’s tefillah programs consisted of new inspirational prayer workshops, Hallel recited every month in memory of an Israeli teenage girl murdered by Palestinian terrorists, davening at the beach at sunrise, and students and faculty sharing and discussing parts of the Shacharit prayer that are particularly meaningful to them. All the SKA initiatives had a very positive impact on the students’ tefillah and connection to God.


The students at SKA davened Hallel every month on Rosh Chodesh in memory of Hallel Yaffa Ariel (H”YD), a young teenage girl killed by Palestinian terrorists in her bed in Kiryat Arba in June 2016. Students created an “SKA nusach” so that all students would sing the same tunes for Hallel in a unified way. Graphic design students prepared the Hallel text on a laminated sheet with proper tunes indicated for each paragraph as well as an inspirational visual (including a picture of Hallel) that was projected at the front of the room. Each month right before davening Hallel, the students watched a two to three-minute video presentation from a different Torah personality in Israel connecting the words of Hallel to that particular month. They also heard inspiring words from Rina Ariel, Hallel’s mother, who spoke about Hallel’s positive nature and her ability to see the good in people. The Hallel Project helped SKA students connect in a personal way to Hallel.


Due directly to the funding and support it received from Legacy 613, SKA was able to pilot three tefillah workshop series – Building Blocks, Foundations and Shmonei Esrei – for its students in the 2016-2017 academic year. Students in 12th grade were offered the option of joining a workshop two days a week during Shacharit. The other three alternating days they davened with the rest of the school. Workshops averaged 10- 12 participants and were offered on a rotating basis, each group meeting for approximately three weeks (a total of six to eight sessions).
Students chose to join a “beginner level group” or an “intermediate level group” or remain in a traditional davening setting. At the completion of the six sessions, another three-week rotation began for a new group of students. Participation was entirely voluntary. After the seniors graduated, freshmen were offered an opportunity to attend the workshops on a more limited basis.


A few times a year (weather and school schedule permitting), SKA students were given the opportunity to pray together at Atlantic Beach at sunrise. The inspirational 6:30 a.m. davening was followed by breakfast and reflections from students and faculty about how their connections to God and tefillah were enhanced by praying as they watched the sun rise over the ocean. Special focus was given to specific words and phrases that took on deeper meaning when davening at the beach. Students felt good about waking up early and doing something “extra” for tefillah. They saw that a change of locale and focus could bring tangible improvements to their tefillah.


SKA expanded and enhanced its V’aani Tefillati library in which students and faculty submit a Google form that highlights words of Shacharit that have special meaning to them and explain why. Twice a week a different entry was projected at the front of the room, with the name and photograph of the person who submitted it, and read aloud.
V’aani Tefillati allowed members of the SKA community to share inspiration that they find in the words of tefillah. The full library is available every day, including non-school days, for the students to access. The library is organized by sections of davening and provides easy reference for different parts of Shacharit.