The Tefilla project is a student engagement platform for creating a positive and high-impact Tefilla experience for Jewish students around the world, supporting educators from all denominations to create a positive Tefilla experience for their students.
Our vision is to elevate the level of Tefilla in all Jewish Day Schools, Youth groups, Synagogue youth forums, and any other Jewish organization that sets its sights on incorporating Tefilla into their curriculum and schedule. Tefilla is a main staple in the Jewish communal structure, and it is becoming a challenge to continue to create an engaging environment for Tefilla for our students. The Tefilla Project is an educational platform that can give our younger generation a positive association of Tefilla and the tools to continue to pursue Tefilla in their adult years.
The Tefilla Project provides a clear, accessible and user-friendly framework for any educator, Rabbi, teacher, administrator or lay-leader who believes in the true power of Tefilla for their students or participants. The framework is a basic model of student engagement that can be applied at any age, for any denomination of Judaism and for educators and students of any background. Whether the students are devout Orthodox, Conservative, Reform Jews, non-denominational, Communal oragnization, Conserva-dox, Modern Orthodox or other denomination – the Tefilla Project’s basic model of student engagement will always apply.
The model is based on 3 guiding principles, that have been proven with students from North America, Israel and the UK in both formal and informal educational settings:
- Say it Out Loud
- Less is More
- Small group setting
The Tefilla Project offers a multi-tiered support for educators seeking to enhance the Tefilla in their organizations, and is suited both for administrators or lay leaders at the heads of their organizations, as well as the teacher or youth director seeking to improve the Tefilla in their focused group setting. The site is geared towards educators, administrators or lay leaders – giving them the support and consultations they need in order to succeed with their students. The content, support, Skype consultations and Presentations are specifically designed for the educators, not the students, as a professional development support.
The Tefilla Project has also developed metrics of success for student engagement in Tefilla. The metrics are broken down into three main categories:
- Student engagement
Each metric has sub-categories and nuances depending on the students’ age, background and affiliation. The metrics are clear and easy to follow, so that educators can determine the success of their Tefilla in concrete terms, track what is improving and what areas are still in need of improvement. Each client of The Tefilla Project will receive ongoing follow up and support from Rabbi Ariel Tal during the course of their membership, to ensure the success of their Tefilla Program.
There are synagogues which regularly poll their congregants about their tefillah experience and adjust their service based on the assembled data. Questions about tefillah are regularly part of exit surveys distributed by Jewish camps and retreats. Grades for tefillah also occupy significant real estate in the progress report or report card of Jewish day school/yeshiva/cheder where set times for prayer are part of the curriculum. Assigning a mark for tefillah becomes contentious when a student (and parent) raise an objection with the comment, “You can’t grade my spirituality!”
For most school subjects and experiences there is an understanding of what excellence looks like. In language arts, it could be the organization of an essay, the proper use of grammar, or the critical analysis of a text. For math the performance of understanding could be the application of a formula, or the solution to word problems.
But what about tefillah? Indeed, some schools have chosen to exclude tefillah from the formal curriculum and grading. For those who are tasked to created structured tefillah, the challenge is how to embed a passion for the daily routine of prayer. There is a need to create a rubric for assessing tefillah that goes beyond the externals, can be applied to different settings across denominational lines, and which does not invade the personal space of the individual whose spirituality cannot be subject to outside evaluation.
Rav Eliot Feldman, Educational Coordinator for The Tefilla Project, has developed a metric system based on the updated model of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Tefilla Project’s tefillah metrics is a unique and one-of-its-kind educational evaluation system that helps professionalize a school’s approach to enhancing student Tefilla engagement.