The school hall is packed to the rafters and filled with an ambient, static
buzz. Huddles of three or four are spread around the room, and intimate
discussions are flowing freely. There is both a hush and a hum to the place, a
little like Friday night at the Western Wall. Something truly electric is
happening here, although it’s not immediately apparent what that is.
is the Herzlia Weizmann Primary School in Cape Town – one of more than 100
Jewish day schools in 38 cities and on six continents taking part in Generation
Held on the morning of May 10, 2013 – Rosh Hodesh Sivan – the
initiative saw tens of thousands of parents and children worldwide gathering in
halls and classrooms at their local schools to study the very same Torah
South African Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein is the originator of
Generation Sinai, which, he explains, is powered by a fusion of three key Jewish
values – Jewish unity, family bonding and Torah study.
is about Jewish parents and children sitting down together to learn the same
Torah that Jewish parents and children have learnt together since time
immemorial, unifying Jews across the globe and throughout the
“There’s a connection that happens between people when they learn
a spiritual energy that creates a bond between parents
and children like nothing else can,” Goldstein says.
Generation Sinai was
first piloted in South Africa in 2011 and 2012, and was an immediate success,
with more than 10,000 parents and children in cities across the country
participating in the program.
“It seemed to touch a cord,” says
Goldstein. “We saw a remarkable outpouring of emotion and enthusiasm from
parents and children across the spectrum of religious observance.
many, this was something new and beautiful.”
With a winning concept on
their hands, Goldstein and his team decided it was ripe for sharing with the
rest of world, and assigned 2013 for the global launch of Generation Sinai.
First up, they had to decide which aspect of Torah would be studied.
Fortunately, the decision wasn’t a difficult one.
“This being the global
launch of the program, we thought it fitting that the learning material covered
Judaism’s foundational, universal proclamation, the Shema,” says
The materials were produced centrally to ensure consistency,
with learning sheets for different age groups (the program targeted children in
grades one to six) made available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, German
The content explored the Shema from several perspectives –
philosophical underpinnings, textual analysis, historical context and
contemporary relevance – and was prepared in such a way as to facilitate
Of course, an initiative of this scope and magnitude
required plenty of cross-country cooperation. To this end, Goldstein enlisted
the help of partner organizations across the world to ensure smooth
implementation and maximum impact, and to cater for local
This was especially important in countries where a large
number of schools were taking part. In England, for instance, Generation Sinai
partnered with Seed, an organization specializing in parental education, to help
deliver the program at 23 schools spread across Manchester, Leeds, London and
“Generation Sinai is quite simply one of the most exciting
Jewish educational endeavors in decades, and we were thrilled to work with Chief
Rabbi Goldstein in bringing the program to the UK for the very first time,” says
Rabbi Malcolm Herman, the associate national director of Seed UK.
to the superb efforts of our team, we were able to reach out to more than 2,000
parents and 5,000 children, and from this great platform, I am confident that
Generation Sinai will grow year by year and take its place as one of the key
events on the Jewish calendar – not just here in England, but
Similarly, the Ner Le’elef outreach organization used its
network to enable Generation Sinai to reach countries in the former Soviet Union
and South America, while in Israel, Generation Sinai joined forces with Ayelet
Hashachar, an NGO that works toward creating a united society of religious and
non-religious Israeli Jews.
The organization proceeded to sign up 25
schools, including those from traditionally secular cities such as Acre, Arad,
Bat Yam, Nahariya and Lod.
Shlomo Raanan, who founded Ayelet Hashachar in
1997, provides background on the partnership: “Israeli society is becoming
increasingly divided, as the average Israeli looks at his fellow religious Jew
with contempt, while the religious Jew cannot accept the ways of his secular
neighbor,” he explains.
“At Ayelet Hashachar, we strive to remind Israeli
Jews of all levels of religious belief of our common history and our shared
roots. We saw the Generation Sinai program as a great way to bridge the divide –
and we were simply astounded at the passionate response we got.”
seems to be the response across the board.
From Los Angeles to London,
Melbourne to Montevideo, Buenos Aires to Berlin, tens of thousands of Jewish
parents and children have come forward to bask in a sublime moment of Torah
study, family bonding and national unity; to take their place in the great chain
of transmission that has sustained the the People of the Book since the first
Generation Sinai stood at the foot of a small mountain in the
Back in Cape Town, the allotted time is drawing to a close,
and some of the administrators at Herzlia Weizmann begin glancing at their
watches, eager to begin the regular school timetable.
Even so, the groups
of learners don’t seem to notice, and the energy in the room shows no signs of
A furrowed brow, a pair of eyes lit up. A pat on the head, a
pinch of the cheek, an arm round the shoulder. Questions are asked, answers are
offered, thoughts are shared, hearts are opened. The electricity in the air is
the sound of families connecting. The sound of Jewish continuity.
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