Unusual entertainment awaited the attendees of the Shaarei Tefila senior program on the Tuesday before Purim. Boys walking on stilts, riding a unicycle, performing flips and cartwheels, and juggling various objects (including burning torches) amazed their audience. These students of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu brought much needed Purim cheer to the elderly.
The Purim Extravaganza performance was part of the senior program, run by Mrs. Bernice Gelman. Held at Kanner Hall at Congregation Shaarei Tefila, the program reaches Jewish seniors both within and outside of the Shaarei Tefila community. Every Tuesday, the seniors have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious lunch, followed by a lecture or performance. Close to forty seniors attend the program every week. Two of them are over a hundred years old, and several others are in their nineties.
The luncheons allow them to get out of the house and enjoy the company of other people. “They push themselves to get out,” says Mrs. Gelman. “They look forward to [the program every week].”
This was YAYOE boys’ first performance at the senior program. Prior to that, they performed for Chai Lifeline, for younger students in their school, and for school parents at the yearly cash drawing fundraiser. On their own, the boys also perform at private events, such as bar mitzvahs.
The acrobatics program – called Simcha Productions by its director, Rabbi Yitzchak Golbart – is now in its second year. It is a mandatory part of the school curriculum for boys in Grades 6 through 8. Training takes place every Sunday. While not every student becomes a gymnast, all boys are able to participate in some way – with music and sound, with stage set up, or with designing T-shirts for the group. Everyone is included in the simcha spirit.
Simcha Productions was inspired by a similar program at a Monsey yeshiva. When Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg, the principal of YAYOE, heard about it, he decided to incorporate it into regular curriculum. Rabbi Golbart has been teaching music and extracurricular gymnastics classes at YAYOE for many years. With his background in music, gymnastics, and performing arts, Rabbi Golbart was the perfect instructor for Simcha Productions, and the program took off.
The program has been impacting the boys in a positive way, reports Rabbi Golbart. “It’s good chinuch for life situations,” he says. “You learn to accept failure first. It takes lots of practice to become successful.” Rabbi Golbart lists many benefits of participating in Simcha Productions. It even helps the boys with their learning, by providing a healthy outlet for their energy. It’s also good for those boys who don’t enjoy team sports, giving them another opportunity to excel in athletics.
Most importantly, says Rabbi Golbart, “It is another way for the boys to learn about giving.” After their performances, the boys often talk to their audience, developing empathy and compassion for different members of the Jewish community.