Whole Child Education

The young women of Bais Yaakov have created stunning works of art — out of any number of materials. Shown here, one group has constructed a crab from Twizzlers. (David Stuck)
The young women of Bais Yaakov have created stunning works of art — out of any number of materials. Shown here, one group has constructed a crab from Twizzlers. (David Stuck)

Imagine a classroom transformed into a work of art. Now picture a hallway, several classrooms and stairwells. Vivid colors. Deep and intricate Torah concepts. Engaging design.

You won’t have to go far to discover the fanciful. You’ll just have to travel up Smith Avenue to Bais Yaakov of Baltimore’s High School Exhibit Week.

This year’s theme: The Tapestry of Time.

This year’s location: the entire second floor of the high school campus.

The Bais Yaakov Exhibit started 17 years ago, when the school determined to put on an event to showcase itself to attendees of the national Bais Yaakov Convention. The first one, called “Triumph of Torah in the Twentieth Century,” was a huge success. The school determined to run it about every five years, each time they hosted a convention.

Then, about four years ago, some parents suggested it would be nice to pull it off without the pressure of hosting the convention, too. The school did that, and now, plans are to host Exhibit Week every four years. Wolf said 96 percent of the high school student body participates — they learn, they bond, and they grow, as individuals and as a school.

“It is a project where all of these girls become like a family,” said Rivka Sherman, a senior who is co-chairing the event with senior Aviva Hurvitz. “We’re all working toward the same goal, and it brings a sense of achdus, of cohesiveness.”

The goal is to create a museum-like display based on Torah learning and sources. With this year’s theme centering on the Jewish calendar, the girls are building 12 rooms correlating to the 12 months of the year, plus a special room for Rosh Chodesh, the start of the Jewish month. Special will be a cantata on the same theme.

A walk through the second floor one week until go-live and it is clear the hundreds of hours spent on the project. Work that began over the summer and on some evenings keeps the students at school until midnight.

In the Hebrew month of Teves, for example, there is a large wooden structure depicting the four entrances to Avraham’s tent; they have a resident carpenter — one of the alumna.

In another month, Tammuz, there is a crab made entirely out of Twizzlers; the crab is the mazal, or sign of the month. This was also the month in which the evil Apostamus burned a Sefer Torah. The girls created a Torah scroll … out of matches.

There is a mural sewn of recycled costumes. There is a mosaic glittering with colorful pieces of glass.

Each month, according to Jewish teachings, has a different sense or emotion (taste, touch, sleep, anger). Each month has a different letter of the Hebrew
alphabet. Each classroom has delved deeply into these teachings to create their masterpieces.

“They are learning a lot about the calendar from a historical angle, a religious angle and a mystical angle,” said Rabbi Yechezkel Zweig, high school principal. But the lessons learned beyond the books are equally as meaningful.

“They learn leadership, budgeting, about working together, collaboration, compromise,” he said. “No one is posturing here. No one student gets the limelight. No one is looking to shine. They just want it to work out.”

The project, whose cost to the school is substantial, according to Rabbi Ephraim Blumenkrantz, vice president of development, creates well-rounded girls. Young women who may not find their niche in the classroom can find it in decoupage, in sequins or ceramics.

“We want to build the whole person,” Rabbi Blumenkrantz said.

“Chazal [our Sages] say, ‘Ein chochmat nashim eleh b’pelech’ (‘The primary talent of women [over men] is through their handiwork’),” explained Rabbi Zweig, noting that what this means is women have innate connection to the works of their hands. The exhibit is a form of education, he said, that taps into that power, and it is something one does not have the ability to do inside a typical classroom setting.

The girls do get a little bit behind on their studies. They do have a certain amount of pressure. They do have to learn time-management skills to  make the exhibit — and their schooling — a success.

The school is expecting 2,000 visitors from within the Baltimore community and from various Orthodox day schools across the mid-Atlantic region and New York, who will take class trips to examine the students’ fascinating work.

“Every room has a different twist of creativity. … They are all amazing!” said Co-chair Hurvitz. “You can’t imagine how much work and effort we all put into this. … “I’m just very, very proud.”

Bais Yaakov Exhibit Week
Dec. 25 through Jan. 1
7 to 10 p.m. weeknights

Additional viewings:
Dec. 25, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; 1 to 4 p.m.
Dec. 28, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Dec. 30, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.;
3:30 to 5 p.m. (men only)
Dec. 31 & Jan. 1, 1 to 4 p.m.

Admission: $12 per person; $45 per family

For alternative times and dates, or to schedule an appointment, contact 443-548-7700, ext. 11 or exhibit@baisyaakov.net

For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Rabbi Ephraim Blumenkrantz at 410-363-3300, ext. 202 or eblumenkrantz@baisyaakov.net

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