Teacher in training: Zman Kodesh ozerim act as mentors for middle schoolers


photo by Sally Rogal

Hebrew Department Chair Hannah Rothschild prepares students for prayer services.

Sally Rogal, Reporter

Leadership, communication and working with others are just some of the many skills high school students are able to obtain through being an ozer. Any high school student has the opportunity to become an ozer, the Hebrew word for helper, for a middle school Zman Kodeshes.

Upper School Jewish Life Director Stephanie Hoffman sends out an application to all high school students to become an ozer at the end of each semester. In this application, students state their interests, explain why they want to become an ozer and indicate a teacher to use as a reference. Applicants also select the Zman Kodesh options that they are interested in helping.

Hoffman reads through all of the applications, taking into account what spots are available. She tries to combine different skill sets and interests that she thinks will create a cohesive team for any given Zman Kodesh. There are certain qualities that Hoffman and the rest of the teachers are looking for in any perspective ozer.

All of the teachers want someone who is going to make a commitment, and when they say that they want to be an ozer, they are committing to being there and planning and being a role model for the middle school students,” Hoffman says.

The responsibilities of a ozer are different for each Zman Kodesh. For some Zman Kodesh options, the ozerim create educational programs that can include delivering a D’var Torah to students or delving into a specific prayer in Judaism.

Hebrew Department Chair Hannah Rothschild is the faculty advisor for a seventh grade Zman Kodesh. She values the contribution of her ozerim that serve as role models for her Zman Kodesh students.

“The qualities that I really appreciate [are] the ability to take initiative, their commitment to Judaism and their understanding that we are all different and need to grow in our own ways,” Rothschild said.

Junior Macie Gelb is an ozer for a sixth grade Zman Kodesh. Gelb, along with her fellow ozerim, plans activities based on the weekly Torah portion and help facilitate a learning environment. She also creates engaging activities such as scavenger hunts and jeopardy games. According to Gelb, being an ozer can come with some challenges.

It can be hard getting the students interested in the topic as a lot of people find praying boring and meaningless,” Gelb said, “It is important to teach it in a way that is fun and exciting.”

She decided to become an ozer because she has always looked up to her ozerim when she was in middle school. She also thought that it would be a fun experience to bring her own perspective on Judaism to the middle school students.

Hoffman thinks that, aside from the help during Zman Kodesh, being an ozer is a great experience for the older students to create relationships with younger students so that they have a friendly face in the hallways.

“I look at it as such a wonderful opportunity for leadership for the high school students. It creates a stronger kehillah that our middle school students know our high school students and vise versa,” Hoffman said.