Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager
Atideinu, "our future", provides extra support to a select group of 4th- 6th-grade girls and boys prior to their potentially turbulent teen years. Many of these children have difficult family circumstances or simply need more support than their homes or schools can provide.
By inculcating in these children a sense of self-worth, strong Jewish identity, and closely-knit social ties, as well as mentoring them through high school, they will possess the tools necessary to participate fully and joyfully in Jewish life and build the next generation of strong Jewish families.
Using Torah as our source, we choose relevant and timely themes that relate to each Jewish month. These themes are developed in a child-friendly way by incorporating games, learning exercises, and crafts. Every month has both a spiritual theme and a self-development theme that directly correlate with that Jewish month.
For example, the Hebrew month "Nissan" includes the holiday of Passover, when the Jewish people officially became a nation. During this month, the children explore their dual identities as individuals and also as members of the Jewish people. The self-development theme focuses on their roles and relationships with their peers and community, and includes a discussion of healthy and appropriate boundaries.
As another example, the month of "Cheshvan" is void of any Jewish holidays. While considered to be a sad month, the children are taught how they can choose to be happy and hopeful despite feeling confused and frightened. The self-development theme focuses on using personal challenges to grow stronger, including how our reactions to experiences are in our control.
Atideinu is designed to be a 3-year program. Each year, the monthly themes remain the same but the application of these themes is more deeply developed to coincide with the emotional and intellectual development of the children.
It is a primary goal of Atideinu to demonstrate to children that Torah wisdom is directly applicable to their lives. Through the exercises and learning activities tied to each Hebrew month, as described above, the children learn that the Torah is broad and includes purposeful messages related to spiritual growth, self-development, and self-actualization, and is significantly more than just a history chronicle. It is our goal to imbue the children with these values while they are young, so they can continue to rely on this wisdom throughout their teenage and adult lives, ultimately perpetuating these values in their own progeny.
Atideinu uses arts and crafts and creative interactive activities to bring out the themes of each month in an age-appropriate fashion. For example, during the Hebrew month of "Kislev" which includes Hanukkah, the theme focuses on self-respect and being a light unto the nations. During the month, every time a children does a mitzvah or good deed, they are instructed to write it on a paper shaped like a flame (as a reference to the menorah) and place the flame in a jar they crafted in session. At the end of the month, the children bring in their jars filled with flames, and can exchange them for Character
Coupons, which can be redeemed for monthly prizes. In this way, lofty ideals are taught in a child-friendly way, with positive reinforcement.
Atideinu’s hope is to share our curriculum internationally and bring the model of building up resilient children from a young age to communities around the world.
Based on feedback from parents, therapists, school personnel and direct line Atideinu staff, our children have improved in a multitude of ways as a result of this evidence-based program. Anecdotal evidence reported by school teachers and principals as well as excerpts from individual progress reports report a measurable increase in self-management for one of the children, which resulted in his being able to learn in a classroom setting, whereas prior to attending Atideinu he could not; decrease in anxiety symptoms; increase in accepting responsibility for his/her self; increase in respect for social norms, increase in mood overall as well as mood management; increase in effective communication and conflict resolution; increase in healthy coping skills; development and implementation of internal resilience; increase in effective self-advocacy; and an overall improvement in self-image/self- expectation. The three elementary schools that currently refer students to Atideinu are strong proponents of its curriculum and programming. One school has requested that Atideinu share the curriculum so it can be incorporated broadly for all students, not just those who participate in the program. Many letters of reference are available; due to space constraints they are not included in this application.
We note that this program is for mainstream children who do not have significant mental health issues. This program does not provide therapy or mental health services.
Final statistical results are still being tallied.
The Torah, including the Scripture, and our sages understand human nature and the struggles in the world perfectly, but it can be a challenge to present their ideas and wisdom in a rich, meaningful way to young children. We believe that each of us is in this world to perfect ourselves, thereby perfecting our world. We emphasize the goal of self-actualization by using commonly-taught Jewish wisdom and values and applied Jewish wisdom, showing the children that while we are bound to the Torah, the Torah includes many paths for one to find inspiration, a wide range of opportunities to perform chesed, and room to be an individual. We capitalize on this and encourage each girl and boy in the program to be themselves and pride themselves in their individuality. When we teach the children that we are all part of one nation, we emphasize that a nation is strengthened when it is comprised of people with different talents, varying interests, and different ways of relating to Hashem.
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