ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The Gesher L’Torah was chosen out of 175 applicants for two Centennial Schechter awards through the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), which were presented at a national conference on Oct. 7. After reviewing the applicants, the USCJ selected the Gesher L’Torah for its innovative programs for education and community. These awards are handed out every two years.
The first award, the Centennial Schechter Yesode-Foundation Award, was awarded to the synagogue for its Virtual Israel Classroom (VIC). This program was created by Carla Birnbaum and Josh Needle for seventh-grade students to experience everyday Israeli life, integrating virtual resources with curriculum and instruction. Students immerse themselves in Israeli culture; they have the opportunity to Skype residents in Israel, explore videos and photos of modern Israel daily activities, debate Israel’s responses to its challenges and help them create a personal relationship with their homeland.
The second award, the Centennial Schechter Commendation, was awarded to the synagogue for its preschool’s Shalom Sing Program. Through this program, created by Birnbaum, preschoolers learn prayers and their spiritual meanings. Every month, the temple focuses on a specific mitzvah and teaches Hebrew words associated with the mitzvah theme. The children are also exposed to the prominent Jewish ideals and beliefs.