Teaching Judaism Using Multiple Intelligences

Thursday, 19 January, 2017 - 3:42 pm

Way back when, there was only one standard method of teaching: transmitting information in writing or through speech. During the second half of the 20th century a flurry of alternative educational methods were introduced: multiple intelligences, learning modalities and so forth. There are some for whom a visual method is ideal. For some it is music. For some it is kinesthetic, etc. There are some matters that are better taught using multiple methods. These theories revolutionized education, to the benefit of the recipients.

Truth be told, Judaism has long known this, and these methods were incorporated into our oldest “teachable moment,” the Passover Seder. We use auditory, visual, music, kinesthetic and other methods to relate the Passover story to our children and families. But it really didn’t catch on as much in other settings for thousands of years.

In the 1980s, Chabad Rabbis started to develop programs that incorporated hands-on experiences into the teaching of holidays and traditions. Programs such as the Model Matzah Bakery and the Shofar Factory became effective tools in bringing holidays and traditions to life for the children (and adults).

We can get up and speak about Passover. To kids it sounds like this: “Next week we’re celebrating Passover. Our ancestors the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt… blah blah… Moses brought the ten plagues (kid thinks, “cool”), blood, frogs… blah blah… so therefore we eat this Matzah every year to remember. (Kid thinks, “Wait, why do we eat Matzah? I must have missed that part.”) But when we do a hands-on program, utilizing multiple intelligences and various learning modalities, that catches their attention. The feeling of the dough in their hands, the excitement of sifting, mixing, kneading and shaping, and the smell of the Matzah in the oven, all contribute to an inspired learning experience that they will not soon forget.

The same is true of the Shofar Factory, the Torah Factory, the Olive Press and the Mezuzah Factory. They all capture the attention and the imagination of the participants and leave them with a richer appreciation of the particular holiday or tradition.

A recent addition to this approach is the Kids Mega Challah Bake. Our region’s first one is scheduled for Sunday, January 29 and is presented by Camp Gan Israel in partnership with PJ Library. The program will make Shabbat more real for the children. Instead of just hearing about why we celebrate Shabbat, eat Challah or the other traditions, they will experience it with their own hands. These opportunities must not be missed. They can have life-long impact on our children. Check it out at

Chabad of Montana has launched a project to combat the anti-Semitism that has raised its ugly head in Whitefish by spreading light. The goal is to gift a Chumash to each of the 1500 Jewish households in Montana, on behalf of Chabad, from Jewish and gentile supporters from around the nation. To show your support go to

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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