Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager
iLimud delivers ongoing interaction and high-quality education with a Jewish lens for teens who have become B’nai Mitzvah; the "i" in iLimud represents our learners' personal journey.
iLimud offers a myriad of experiential classes led by young professionals in the community. Each class is framed around a Jewish value that can be expressed through Art, cooking, dance, photography and other cultural outlets. Each week students gather in an emotionally safe space to create ritual through learning and document their successes through our communal media outlets.
Using the Making Mensches period table of values adapted by Rabbi Avi Orlow (the link below*) each month we dive deeply into a Jewish value of our students’ choosing. One of our units was called בטחון ואומץ לב Bitachon and Ometz Lev, confidence and strength of the heart. Here, iLimud students learned about taking care of one another and of the next generation through the conduit of self-expression and art. Each student created a super hero that possessed Jewish power to protect those around him/her and inspire others to do for those around them. After discussing each of the student’s own natural talents, we saw how each is tied to Jewish tradition. They then painted their ideas onto a canvas bringing their hero to life as an everyday reminder to make good choices. Accompanying each painting was an explanation of how their Jewish values influence their everyday decisions.
Additional projects for this year include learning about תיקון עולם, tikkun olam, repairing of the world. Each of our students will be charged to reaching out to the community to collect as many toiletries as possible, driving around Miami Beach hand-delivering what they collect to those in need. More importantly, our students will spend time learning more about the recipients as individuals.
Ritual is one of iLimud’s greatest values. At the beginning of each session we have dinner together, spend that time getting to know each other and building community.
At the end of each day, all of our classes gather in a circle for an Israeli ritual of unity called אחים, achim, Brotherhood, where we all link our arms draped over each others’ shoulders and jump in circular motions to the left shouting the words achim and simcha, which signifies the joy of growing together as a community. **Video attached
After meeting and listening to our teens carefully, we learned that they are stressed from school work, frequently feel pressured by their peers to look and act a certain way, and rarely have moments where they can think about themselves growing spiritually with peers. We knew that designing this program meant having the teens on board and having them become part of the decision making process. This was going to be a partnership. They would provide us with their interests and passion to learn and we would provide Jewish content that fit their learning styles. We asked them to teach us their language of learning. We listened carefully and built our program according to their view of the world. Our participants filled our surveys, spoke to our teachers and even shared the structure of learning which they enjoyed most. Suffice it to say, we created an environment where our students took charge of their learning. It allows our teens to learn and explore the world’s changing and surprising complexities and helps them develop and discover their Jewish identity.
For this program to be successful we knew we had to meet our students where they are. Each educator had to have a relationship with each student in order to make them feel like they mattered. We knew that these relationships made a difference when students began bringing their friends to the program. Within a few short months our program grew exponentially and developed a vibe and culture of its own.
As we continued to experiment with different program ideas for each class, our kids grew into the fabric of our planning. They gave us feedback and were explicit in what they wanted. As a result, when, even one student was missing or late, multiple kids would call or text them to see where they were. Our students rarely miss a class- most of them have perfect attendance.
Additionally, we started to notice the culture of the parents changing as well. When the children were dismissed, parents would normally wait in their car for their children to come out. Within a few weeks of starting iLimud, parents no longer just waited in the car. Rather, they parked their cars and would come inside to watch our finishing ceremony and converse with one another long after we dismissed the teens.
It is clear that our students understand the Jewish value of community and togetherness. As we are entering the second year of iLimud we now have a strong foundation to be able to reach our kids. The fact that we’ve all created a place we love allows us to share Jewish wisdom with each other. They are always eager to take their work home and share it with friends and family. They come in excited to learn and feel a sense of accomplishment when they leave.
Teach a child in the way he [or she] should go and he [or she] will not stray from it even when he [or she] gets older (Proverbs 22:6). This Proverbs verse has inspired iLimud’s Jewish path in many ways. Our educators are young professionals who feel strongly about exciting the next generation of teens about Judaism and Jewish wisdom. We use the פרדס, pardes way of learning; where students first look at a value or Jewish concept from above and slowly dive deeply into each idea. Our students slow down their hectic lives and come together for meaningful experiences. We plant a seed of love for Jewish learning and watch it blossom as they grow.
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