Voices from the field

Preserving the Teachings of My Bubby: Shavuot

By Brett Kopin

Brett Kopin edited a volume in Jewish education for early childhood written by his Bubby, Marvell Ginsburg.

In many different ways Judaism teaches that the individual is part of the community. Each one of us must act as though the constructive good of the community depends on our individual action. We can begin to lay this foundation now, when young children are internalizing a value system.

Teaching Holidays to Young Children: Shavu'ot, Marvell Ginsburg (1970)

On Shavuot we celebrate the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The tradition says that as the people stood at the foot of the mountain, God spoke to each person individually, on a level each one could understand. Perhaps this enthralling image - less dramatic perhaps than the thunder-bolts and lighting - encapsulates the care, empathy, and individual attention that depicts the Ultimate Educator. In these regards, the celebration of Shavu’ot speaks to learner-centeredness; empowering the people to become both learners and educators. And on Shavuot, I remember Bubby, who – among so many things – was my first Torah teacher.

When I was five years old, taking out the Torah on Shabbat was the most exciting part of the service for me. But during the inbetween times, to be frank, I was rather bored. My Bubby picked up on this and would do her best to keep me entertained with little games throughout the service. There was one that I enjoyed the most: She’d open up the prayer book and then say, “It’s your job is to find me all the bets on this page.” Bet is the first letter of my Hebrew name, so I was excited to get to work. I would count the bets, reporting back to her, and wait in anticipation as Bubby slowly counted each after me.

Bubby’s model for teaching reflects the philosophy inherent to the role of an educator. She sparked a passion for learning within me, and elicited an excitement to continue in the mystery of wanting more. All these years later, it’s a lesson I continue to think about as I now pursue my rabbinate at Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.

Chag Sameach!