Epstein students dive deep into Noah story

Maytal Needle, daughter of Rayeh and Aviv Needle, gets instruction from Rabbi Yaakov Green, Epstein Hebrew Academy head of school,  during the school’s Noach Extravaganza. The annual program for second graders marks the culmination of students’ study of the Biblical story of Noah. 

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

It is Shaindy Goldman’s first time getting to touch an actual Torah scroll, but she can tell you quite a lot about it nonetheless, sharing details of the parchment, ink and the quill pen a sofer (scribe) uses to create one.

“It is made out of animal skins, and also the pen is not a normal pen,” the 8-year-old said. “It is a feather.”

Why is all this necessary?

“So you can write the Torah in a very holy way,” she said.


Shaindy was one of 16 second-graders exploring the beauty of Torah last week during an annual program at Epstein Hebrew Academy. The Noach Extravaganza has become a cherished school tradition that marks the completion of study of the story of Noah with a gymnasium full of sights, sounds and tastes focusing on the Torah portion about the Great Flood and the Ark full of animals. 

A different verse of the story was demonstrated at each of 15 stations around the room. One table illustrated, in Hebrew, a verse in which the world spoke only one language. Another used prisms to show how rainbows work. At another, children made umbrellas to prepare for the deluge. At still another, students built an ark and tested its seaworthiness on water.

The school designed each station to prompt a conversation between the children and their parents, who accompanied them. 

“Number one, it is interactive with parents on a Torah level and on a critical-thinking level,” said Chanie Winter, a teacher at the school. “Number two, it is integrating all the different arts and disciplines, and it is multisensory. We’ve done this for many years. It just grows and becomes more progressive and more creative.”

Some of the demonstrations paired science and technology with Torah, such as one in which the  children took selfies with an iPad against an ark-themed backdrop. Others stressed art and creativity, such as one where students made depictions of rainbows using everything from a brightly painted box fan to a multicolor cake. 

Other media included ceramics, yarn, eggs and golf balls.

Winter said students look forward to the event so much that they count down the days. Shaindy Goldman’s parents, who live in Chesterfield and attend Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha, said that was certainly the case with their daughter.

“She couldn’t sleep for days before,” Rabbi Dovid Goldman said.  “This is an event she’s been looking forward to probably since the beginning of second grade.”

Shaindy’s mother, Chana, said it was as exciting for parents to participate as for their children.

“It seems like the pulse of Epstein Hebrew Academy,” she said. “It is the celebration of Torah learning in such a unique and powerful way because it is really an experience of every single discipline that they’ve learned, putting it all together.”

Rabbi Levi Landa said his son Mendel, who did a rainbow design using duct tape, was too excited to sleep the night before.

“It’s a big celebration,” he said. “The kids look forward to this the entire year.”

Rabbi Yaakov Green, head of school at Epstein, said the stations were about more than just presenting a verse of the story. They allowed the students to interact with one another in a unique way.

“These stations are to engage every sense, the audio learner, the visual learner, the kinesthetic learner,” Green said. “It is an opportunity to bombard all of their senses – smell, touch, taste, everything around them – as well as engage them in all the various 21st century educational tools and techniques.”

Moreover, the event is “cross-curricular” with art, science, English and religious studies playing a part.

“You have all of the different subjects coalescing together, not in this hodgepodge but really in this beautiful salad of all of the different elements of education coming together around a central theme,” he said.

Green said thanks to initiatives like the Noah event, Winter, the academy teacher, is always a popular presence at the school.

“When graduates come back, the first place they make a beeline to is Morah Chanie’sroom,” he said. “The most obvious memories they have from Epstein Hebrew Academy is their second grade Torah extravaganza.”

TICK congregants Steve and Batya Wertman were enjoying watching their daughter Ella, 7,  work on an umbrella.

“It is about hands-on and love of children and love of Torah,” said Batya Wertman, who called it the “pinnacle” of the year. “It is about integrating English and Hebrew subjects together. It is first and foremost about the children, what they’ve done and accomplished and how they’ve built this for all of us to enjoy.”