Barrack Provides New Shacharit Opportunities

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Barrack students during Shavuot programming | Photo provided

Matt Bar of the Bible Raps organization has said that rap and Judaism both have a strong relationship to words.

With this connection, Bar developed a curriculum to teach Mussar, or Jewish ethics, through rap and hip-hop. He will pilot the Chai Mitzvah Mussar Teen curriculum this upcoming trimester at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.

“It involves normal text study and discussion questions,” Bar said, “but also a lot of rap activities, and I kind of help the students put it in their own language and their voice behind their words when they have to rap it. There are different ways to make rap pretty easy for almost anyone, but there’s also alternative creative expressions because it’s hip-hop.”


Upper school students will have the opportunity to take this class instead of participating in a liturgical tefillah service as one option in Barrack’s shacharit programming.

This programming can include exploring spirituality through nature, a class on Jewish mindfulness or studying historical dilemmas for Judaism and Israel. Students also can participate in liturgical services, including Reform, Conservative-egalitarian and Orthodox-mechitza, or join in services with younger students, where they can provide mentorship. The options available change each trimester.

For this upcoming trimester, Barrack will offer several new alternative shacharit programs including a Chai Mitzvah Mussar Teen class taught by Bar; a creative arts tefillah class taught by Rabbi Daniel Rosenberg; and a Mussar journaling class taught by Rabbi David Levin.

“Our students like to try everything on the menu,” said Rabbi Will Keller, director of Jewish life at Barrack. “Our students may start off in a liturgical minyan, they may try the journaling and then they may try nature in a year. … They can really sample everything.”

Another development in the program is that upper school students are no longer required to take a liturgical tefillah class for one trimester per year, as the school dropped the requirement. Keller said that did not affect enrollment in the liturgical options.

Keller said the 200 upper school students have chosen evenly between liturgical and non-liturgical options.

“Our students don’t want to be obligated to pray,” he said. “They want to be invited to pray.”

When deciding options, Keller said they take into consideration student interests.

A group of boys in a yoga option last year, for example, said they wanted shacharit options that provided more opportunities to get active. This led to Bar’s rap class.

“We want our students to recognize that Judaism has so many entry points to spirituality,” Keller said. “As a pluralistic school, it’s our responsibility to give our students a glimpse and an opportunity to dive deeper as well into those experiences. As they grow into adults, they have a rich spiritual life and are able to kind of navigate adulthood using our programming.” 

szighelboim@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0729

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