I knew it in theory: eleven year olds are just at the beginning stages of establishing their own identity, they love doing “adult” things, and are increasingly able to take on different perspectives. Still, the children’s enthusiasm for our Shabbat project blew me away. “Can we work more on our characters today?” they asked RIGHT AWAY.
We wanted to explore how our individuality and our context influence how different people make Shabbat. So the children developed in-depth characters, complete with a back story, family members, trauma, worries, and loves. Their characterization was so real, so in touch with the things they themselves want to understand about the world, I nearly cried. Now in our room, not only do we have 10 – 12 year olds, but we’re joined by these Jewish people across space and time:
- a lonely grandmother who used to organize huge events as a volunteer and now misses her husband and enjoys walking on the beach
- a slightly foolish Roman soldier who worries about his retirement and how his family is doing while he’s away, who wishes that people would see him for the great fighter he really is, instead of seeing only his forgetfulness
- a mom in her 40s, who used to be a racecar driver and is now a pediatrician, now on her second marriage
And more. With our characters, we’ve been able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and imagine what Shabbat could look like for them, and therefore, what choices we have for our own Shabbat. And, our early adolescent children have a platform to explore their fears, to play out choices before them, in a safe and trusting environment. I’m so excited to see what they’ll discover from this project.