I appreciate that Marsha Greenberg Motzen takes the mitzvah of tefillin very seriously, as she has conveyed in two letters to the editor (Letters, March 14, February 28).
However, I do not appreciate the multiple assumptions she makes about me, somebody she has not met. One assumption is quite offensive: that I would allow my students to “make a mockery of a mitzvah.” That’s ludicrous.
It’s clear that we have different philosophies about how to educate kids about tefillin, but I’m fine with that. I believe that hands-on, experiential learning makes mitzvot more accessible and personal. I hear that synagogues of all backgrounds, including Orthodox, encourage kids to make their own chanukiyah, write their own Torah, decorate their siddur, and shake a plush lulav and etrog, among other projects.
Indeed, separate instruction is needed to convey their sanctity. This is precisely why we had several lessons with the sixth-graders discussing tefillin’s meaning, symbols, and sacredness before they wore their hand-made tefillin, l’shem chinuch, for the purpose of education. A photo can capture only one moment of this extended process.
I ask her to end this back-and-forth in this paper. Instead, I invite her to have a real conversation with me, perhaps at our synagogue. She’ll get to know me in person and see our religious school in action.