When, last summer, Chaya Mann began considering ways to impart the lessons she wanted her fifth- and sixth-grade girls to learn, a women’s unity event was not on the list.
It is now. At 6 p.m. March 10, Mann’s students, along with other women’s community groups, will gather for a “Heart and Soul” women’s unity event comprised of seven acts, each representing one of the godly attributes of Kabbalah, the midot. The event will be held at the Zelazo Center, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd., Milwaukee.
In her seven years at Bader Hillel Academy, Mann had taught several different grades, but this would be her first time teaching the bat mitzvah class. The girls spend two years doing a deep dive into a set of topics in advance of becoming bat mitzvah. Mann wanted to engage them in the moment while providing a well of knowledge from which they could draw going forward, hopefully for the rest of their lives.
“I was thinking ‘What topic can I teach them that they’ve never learned about before and that would help them to grow and would make an impact,” she said.
She settled on the midot.
In groups of two, her 14 students have been researching and reporting to their peers what they’ve learned about chesed (kindness), gevurah (severity), tiferet (harmony), netzach (perseverance), hod (humility), yesod (foundation) and malchut (royalty). They’ve created mosaics and are working on short narratives that will precede each group’s presentation at the March event.
In past years, the girls created a presentation for their mothers, showcasing what they’d learned. This year, Mann said, they asked about the possibility of making it more inclusive.
“We thought it was something that all women could appreciate and enjoy,” Mann said.
In early November, she approached Devorah Shmotkin, Bader Hillel Academy principal, about ways to reach more people. Shmotkin loved the idea and helped begin the process of community outreach around the event. Lubavitch of Wisconsin is a sponsor; the event now includes groups from the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Bader Hillel High School, Friendship Circle, the Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale and from individual women from throughout the community.
Chana Friedman is working with the Bader Hillel High School students.
“Different groups have taken on different scenes, and everybody has their own approach and is bringing their own flavor to it,” Chana Friedman said. Her students will be doing a scene on hod (humility).
“I’m going to brainstorm with the girls,” she said, “and want them to come up with what they would like to showcase.”
Each group, Friedman and Mann said, will have total autonomy over their scene, and each performer will bring her own interpretation of the midah she is representing.
“It’s about bringing what they enjoy and what they like to other women,” Mann said, adding that the event, at its core, is about inclusion.
“We’re all equal and we all have something to bring to the table,” she said. “Women from the West Side, Bayside, Glendale, the East Side, Mequon and every part of the community who are happy to come together and share our talents.”
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How to go
What: “Heart and Soul,” an evening of unity for women by women
When: Sunday, March 10 from 6-8 p.m.
Where: Zelazo Center, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd., Milwaukee
Cost: $12 in advance, $18 at the door
Contact: Bader Hillel Academy. 414-962-9545