Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


November 21, 2013

A lesson in Hebrew names, culture at Beth Israel

“Who was I named after?” “Why did you pick that person?” “What were they like?” “Am I like them?”

Those were some of the questions students posed to their parents at a recent family education program on Hebrew names at Congregation Beth Israel in Andover.

After hearing the story, “The First Gift” by A. S. Gadot, students realized that their names were the first gifts their parents ever gave them. They learned their names were chosen based on a deceased relative, according to the Ashkenazic custom, or in honor of a living relative, according to the Sephardic custom.

Students were reminded that they can each make a good name for themselves based on their actions. They were taught that performing mitzvot (a meritorious or charitable act) and treating one another with kindness and respect will lead to acquiring a good name in their homes, schools and communities.

Parents and students then worked together to create personalized bracelets and necklaces while discussing the spirits of their grandparents and great-grandparents who live on, as do their names.

Also at Congregation Beth Israel, students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten recently had the unusual experience of using FaceTime to communicate with their teacher while she was touring Israel.

Speaking to the students from her hotel room while on a kibbutz (mission) to Israel, Barbara Moverman described the extraordinary ancient synagogues and beautiful artwork she had seen while visiting Haifa and Tzfat. The students, in turn, told Moverman of their scavenger hunt for mezuzot (parchment scrolls) earlier that morning, while Moverman relayed tales of the hundreds of mezuzot she had seen in Israel.

Moverman also shared the story of a plant she found growing on the side of the road, and the students correctly identified it as an olive plant, which grows in abundance in Israel. Despite the seven-hour time difference, the international telecommunications exchange was a success.

Congregation Beth Israel is at 501 South Main St., Andover. For more, visit

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