When the shofar is sounded during Rosh Hashana services tomorrow and Sunday, 10-year-old Shane Golden will have a better grasp than many of the adults around him, of the mystery behind this Biblical tradition. Like thousands of other children nationwide, Shane participated in the manufacture of a shofar, hollowing out a raw horn and deftly working it down to a smooth finish with his own hands.
The Shofar factory, a unique feature of the Chabad-Lubavitch Living Legacy Programs, has become so successful it has now been incorporated into the educational programs of hundreds of Chabad centers across the country and abroad. Teaching kids the way they learn best—by hands-on experience, the Shofar Factory gives them an enthusiasm and attachment to Jewish holidays and traditions in a way that no classroom lesson ever could.
“My kids came home from the Shofar factory fairly bursting with enthusiasm for the upcoming High Holidays,” says Shane’s mother Kathy Golden. Shane and his older brother Tyler, 12, both attended Chabad of Richmond’s Shofar Factory. “This experience enriched their understanding of Rosh Hashana and the shofar and made the whole concept come alive for them.”
More than 150 children attended the Shofar Factory in Richmond, participating in demonstration that detailed the entire process of creating a shofar and then becoming absorbed in the process of making one of their own. “The fact that they do it themselves makes the whole experience so personal,” explains Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, director of Chabad in Richmond. “So when they’re in the synagogue several days later, they’re thinking, ‘I have a part in this.’ They relate directly to this mitzvah.”
The Shofar Factory in Marion, Pa. includes a petting zoo of horned animals so the children can actually feel the shofar in its previous manifestation. “I can’t think of a more effective way to get the meaning of the holiday across,” says Rabbi Lowenstien, Chabad-Lubavitch representative to Marion Station, who incorporates many Rosh Hashana in the course of the demonstration. “When a kid has actually drilled and sanded and polished his own shofar, the tradition has become a part of him and will stay with him for a very long time.”
One of the newest Chabad Centers, in Commerce, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit presented its first ever Shofar Factory to the community this year. “The response was tremendous,” says Estie Greenberg, who arrived in Commerce with her husband Rabbi Schneor Greenberg in May 2002. “It was a fascinating demonstration that brought the community together and made the holidays really relevant to them.”
In nearby West Bloomfield, Michigan, Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov presented the Shofar Factory to a unique group of people: members of the Friendship Circle, a Chabad organization that works to provide physical and spiritual enrichment to hundreds of special needs children in the Detroit area.
“We had about 80 participating children,” says Bassie, “and every one of them left the demonstration visibly excited and with a special appreciation for the significance of the upcoming holidays.”
The Shofar Factory demonstration often includes other Rosh Hashana related projects—children dip apple in honey, create a honey dish, or bake a round challah in the traditional custom. And the men and women of Chabad who run the demonstration illuminate many important aspects of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur while the children are working their horns. “This is an opportunity we have to teach Jewish children—many who are public school educated—some of the essentials of their tradition,” says Bassie.
And it is one learning opportunity that the children, attentive and thoroughly engaged in the experience, will probably retain well until another new year comes around.