Leora Mazurovsky

Leora is a full time mother of four and a part time admin assistant at Tents of Mercy. Her job titles do not do justice to all the tasks she performs.
Tents of Mercy Network
"The word for congregation in Hebrew is "kehilah," literally "community." These little people who join us each week as we worship and learn together, make up more than a third of our congregation. The manner in which we involve them in our meetings and the teachings that they receive in the Shabbat classes is an integral part of shaping their lives into maturing believers."

By Leora Mazurovsky

Last week during our Shabbat service, a young couple dedicated their infant daughter. In a congregation with over 60 children, a baby dedication is not an unusual event. Yet this little girl is unique because her father, Andrey, was one of Tents of Mercy's first generation of children. During the dedication, he spoke of being given the precious trust of a new soul, to raise in the knowledge and the love of the Lord. I was awed and inspired anew as our elders, an integral part of Andrey's life since he was twelve years old, gathered around with the family to pray over the life of his new baby.

As a fellow parent, I know very well that the spiritual education of our children begins at home, but very soon our children grow and become a part of the larger community of believers. The word for congregation in Hebrew is "kehilah", literally "community". These little people who join us each week as we worship and learn together, make up more than a third of our congregation. The manner in which we involve them in our meetings and the teachings that they receive in the Shabbat classes is an integral part of shaping their lives into maturing believers. The children's program is woven into every element of our congregation, uniting people in an unseen pattern of partnership and caring. Adults and young people teach and get to know children from other families. Kids grow up learning together and being taught by teens not much older than they are and likewise grow up to do the same themselves.

In a multi-cultural, multi-lingual community such as ours, a Shabbat school is something that must be grown and developed over time. Katya Morrison took on this task in 1996, when Tents of Mercy had only just begun. Though she had years of experience in organizing a Shabbat school in the States, working in Israel, in a fledgling immigrant congregation offered new challenges. Creative solutions and flexibility were often called for. If there was no space for the pre-teens to meet, a Ford van became their classroom. On hot summer evenings, the cramped warehouse was sometimes too small to hold all those energetic little souls and so they were taken to the nearby beach for teaching and games. Though our facility has grown in size and there are now too many kids to take to the beach, Katya still enjoys organizing activities that help bring the children together in fun as well as in learning. Some of these are: an annual Purim Carnival, special teaching sessions for the older kids, prize days, holiday crafts and celebrations and the crowning event of the year - a week long summer camp.

As a native English speaker among mainly Russian speakers, Katya forged a close working friendship with Svyeta (an immigrant from Ukraine who also runs the humanitarian aid center and the Pro-Life office) and together they set up classes with Russian as the primary language. Parents in the congregation were asked to give of their time and gradually the new immigrant teachers learned Hebrew along with the children they were teaching. Over the years those same children grew into teenagers and they themselves began to help, so the lesson plans were translated into Hebrew. Now all the classes are taught in Hebrew using several different curriculums. Only the very youngest children still learn in a multi-language classroom.

Katya often laughingly says that because of the constant organizational "drudge work", overseeing Shabbat school is a duty that nobody wants. Though the overall goal of every congregational children's program is to instill in our children a love and understanding of God, there must be an underlying structure that enables the weekly classes to function. Katya is grateful for the gifts that enable her to handle the organizational aspects of the job, but her true dedication is to the children. "I like the kids. I like watching them grow up and fulfill their callings. I enjoy having the opportunity to work with the older kids who have grown up in the Shabbat school and who then return to become helpers. Our 7th graders help for a year and then move on to be teachers. Many of them begin to request the opportunity to teach. Not all of them are good teachers, but many persevere and really do become gifted teachers and counselors."

As the young people move from being students in Shabbat school to helpers and teachers in their own right, they begin attending our teen program. The teen pastor is the very same Andrey mentioned at the beginning of this article. Over 12 years ago, he was one of the preteens who attended classes in the van parked outside of the rented warehouse where we held our meetings.

Andrey described that time to me. "I became a believer at 14 at a youth camp. [This camp was the predecessor to the one now sponsored by the national Israeli teen ministry Katzir-Harvest.] I was filled with the questions that trouble many young teens, 'Why am I alive? What is my purpose in life?' In this search God met me. When I received the answer, I wanted to share with others like me. That was the beginning of our youth group. As I grew older, my heart was constantly turned to that age group. I was discipled by others and this desire to disciple to young people stayed with me, even after the army. I believe that young people reach a critical juncture around the time of their bar/bat mitzvah. If these young people choose to follow God at this age, it will be the foundation for their life."

Though Andrey did not start out in our nursery class, as a youth leader he is now working with teens who did. Those who came through the Shabbat school have a background of knowledge and understanding that enables them to understand and grow in their faith. Andrey is also enthusiastic about the interaction between the teens, the younger children and the overall congregational community. "They help in the classes and as counselors in the summer camps and are an example to the little ones. It's wonderful to see this year, for perhaps the first time, those who grew up in our Shabbat school are also beginning to serve in the congregation as ushers, media operators, translators, and much more."

Eitan, who dedicates much of his time to teen ministry through Katzir, sees the great potential in these young ones - our first generation of believers to grow into adulthood in the land. "Today's young adults are yesterday's Shabbat school students. This foundation that we are creating for them through love, teaching and fellowship activities is discipling the children so that they can ultimately become the influencers of society for the Kingdom of God!"

"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

By Leora Mazurovsky
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07:00 02Nov11 Jill Robertson -
Absolutely beautiful. This IS the "church", God's community, how it should be, how He intended right from Genesis when He instructed Moses, through the whole Bible. How precious are these children in God's sight, who are being nurtured and fashioned for "such a time as this"!

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: The Purpose of the United States
Eitan Shishkoff: The Day Gilad Came Home
Asher Intrater: Three Generational God
Asher Intrater: Yad Hashmonah