If I buy Air Jordan will I be able to dunk like Michael Jordan? I remember asking that to my buddies when I was bar mitzvah age. Instead of spending time practicing my Torah portion, I would be with my friends seeing who could dunk a basketball. I even stood up and bailed and the Rabbi and Cantor who were waiting for me at the Synagogue to show up for my bar mitzvah lesson. None of us could dunk by the way, but we had so much fun trying.
My recent online bar mitzvah student also loves basketball – way more than me even. He plays whenever he can and is also in a league with friends. He told me from the beginning; “Ben, it’s gonna be hard to find time to practice my bar mitzvah Torah portion because all my spare time will be spent playing basketball this year”. I said – all good, if your life is a pie, just make bar mitzvah one decent slice of the pie. He laughed and we shook on it. He and his parents loved that my way of teaching bar mitzvah online meant that their son could practice his Torah portion at a time of day that suited him, and he did not have to miss out on any basketball practice or tournaments. He and his parents were so fearful that his life would have to change during the year of bar mitzvah study, that he would have to give up something he loved for another thing that while was important – a bar mitzvah, is hard to compete with a favorite sport.
That is a big reason why I innovated the bar mitzvah teaching process. I realize that kids today are maybe more heavily programmed than ever! They have dance, sports, music,tutoring and even therapy. Plus kids need to have down time and chill. Maybe that’s video games or texting their close friends while having chips – whatever it is. I wanted to create a way of teaching Judaism that didn’t take away from what a child was doing or even added a lot of time pressure. By creating a system of teaching Judaism and Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation online, it allows the students to slide it in during the day and during the week at a time that suits them! Of course when I meet with a new student and their parents we have a conversation about accountability and that the student agrees to send me new work after I assign the homework in a timely way. But I never demand that the homework be returned for example on a Tuesday by 5pm. I have students who send me work at 6 am or 11pm. I check it within a day and get back to my student with feedback.That’s the beauty of emails and the internet. It has allowed for asynchronous online education and learning. You can have your pie and eat it too! You can play as much basketball as your heart desires and still get prepared and dominate at your bar or bat mitzvah!