Students Complete Hand-Crafted Tallitot

On Monday, December 18th, 5th Grade students from Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS) presented their finished tallit to parents and peers as they concluded a five-part tallit workshop.

The workshop, which began on October 17th, is the result of a community partnership with the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and KSDS. It was designed to give students a deeper understanding of the meaning and beauty of wearing a tallit by giving each student the opportunity to create his/her own tallit by hand using KSDS’s brand new, state-of-the-art Abramoff MakerSpace.

Rabbi Jessy Gross, JCC’s Director of Jewish Life, and Jodi Wahlberg, KSDS’s Director of Community Partnerships and Middle School teacher, conceptualized the workshop while discussing ways to enhance the KSDS curriculum and t’fillah experience with an interactive, integrated project. Rabbi Jessy, who has led similar workshops before, suggested the tallit idea. Rabbi Jessy and Wahlberg carefully crafted the workshops to include text study sessions and meaningful discussions surrounding the wearing of the tallit, as well as sessions that allowed students to be creative and make the tallit with their own hands out of fabrics they selected. The hope was to provide a way for students to find a deeper, personal connection to prayer.

The project started with students picking out their material and hand selecting Jewish texts for the atara. Rabbi Jessy, Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, KSDS Head of School, and 5th Grade teachers Shuli Raffel, Lilach Arie, and Jodi Wahlberg worked with students to help them find a text that was meaningful to them that they would read each time they put on their tallit, helping to bring students to a spiritual state of mind.

With the guidance and expertise of KSDS teacher, Robin Nesky, a digital cutting machine in the school’s Abramoff MakerSpace was used during the third session to cut out the student-selected text. Students then ironed the text onto the atara which was sewn onto each tallit.

In the fourth workshop, students tied the tzitzit knots to turn the ordinary garment into a ritual garment, a tallit. Students learned about the significance of the number 613 in Gematria (numerical value). They worked together to tie the knots, often finding strategies to help each other when the tying became cumbersome or complicated. 

The workshop concluded on December 18th, with students proudly wearing their tallitot for the first time as they daven Shacharit. Students explained the five-part process to a room full of parents and read their selected text and described why it is meaningful to them.