Meet Sabrina Zemil

Hebrew School: It’s not what it used to be.

And fifth grader, Sabrina Zemil, a student at Beth El Congregation’s, Berman-Lipavsky Religious School, is very happy about that. She is among a group of 70 religious school students from three congregations in Baltimore last year who were able to take part in a pilot program called Hebrew School on the Farm at the Pearlstone Center.

Hebrew School on the Farm is an opportunity for students to connect social justice to Judaism. Students plant in the Hebrew calendar garden, while learning about the months, discuss the farm-to-table movement and explore sustainable Jewish farming and Tikkun Olam while composting with cover crop to get the farm ready for winter. The monthly program, offered to fifth grade students from Beth El, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Beth Israel Congregation’s religious schools was taught by educators from the synagogues and from the Pearlstone Center’s staff, shared teaching responsibilities.

“Initially, we were unsure about the program, because it seemed like it was just play,” admitted Sabrina’s mother, Susan Zemil. “But then we found out that each meeting focused on a particular topic like Jewish history, and taught them about a core Jewish value. The kids learned about holidays, gardening and nature, and took part in community service projects. I think it was nice for the kids to get out of the classroom,” says Zemil, who also points out that the program is a good lead-in to the b’nai mitzvah studies that typically begin in the sixth or seventh grade.

As for Sabrina, she says she enjoyed being outside with her friends, gardening, cooking lasagna and cookies for the hungry and getting acquainted with the Pearlstone Center’s chickens and goats. Given a choice between indoor versus outdoor Hebrew School, Sabrina prefers the latter. She hopes the program will continue next year.

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