(June 25, 2014 / JNS) By Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org
Devorah Katz believes that education, particularly Jewish education, should be an experience that excites and inspires.
It was with this philosophy that Katz launched her website, “Challah Crumbs,” a few years ago. At the time, she saw the website as an opportunity to share her love of Jewish learning and parenting with other modern Orthodox parents. But today, the site has become a resource not only for mothers, but also for early childhood educators across Israel and the United States, especially those not living in large metropolitan areas.
Last April, Katz added a new component to her website: vibrant and modern coloring pages related to the weekly Torah portion (parsha) that is read in synagogue. The product was launched following a successful Kickstarter campaign—Katz fundraised $6,000 in 12 days, surpassing her goal.
The parsha sheets, as Katz calls them, “reflect our values… incorporate the role both women and men have in the Torah… and encourage teachable moments,” she says.
While there are many other Jewish-themed coloring sheets on the market, Katz says few of them that recognize women in positive ways. She also notes that many of the so-called coloring pages are detailed images that are too difficult for kids to design.
Many of the sheets on Katz’s site contain text integrated into the design in Hebrew and English. The verses or questions serve as discussion starters—in the classroom or around the Shabbat table.
“The goal is to make education accessible and inspiring,” says Katz, whose background is in curriculum writing. Katz oversees the curriculum for the Global Day of Jewish Learning initiative of renowned scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. She has also taught extensively in the classroom, working with children ranging in age from preschool to high school.
Katz, who lives near Jerusalem, until now has not fundraised for Challah Crumbs or any of its free Jewish learning products. But because she needs to work closely with a paid graphic designer, she says the coloring pages need a budget. She describes the rest of the task as “a labor of love,” and says her household reflects that passion. Her husband is also an educator. His focus is hands-on Torah learning, including the creation of a mobile planetarium and a matzah factory.
Gila Brill and Aliza Sokol have been using Katz’s learning products since they first became available. Brill says she prints the parsha pages each week and colors them herself. She then hangs them on the wall of her 14-month-old’s bedroom, and uses them to tell her stories and decorate her room. Brill describes the pages as “different, engaging, and fun.”
Sokol, meanwhile, has also found a practical classroom use for Challah Crumbs—and most recently the new coloring pages—in her role as a camp educator. She publishes the pages in her camp’s weekly newsletter, and asks students to color them in and then find the place in the parsha the individual sheet references.
“The sheets are a springboard to talk about main themes in the parsha,” says Sokol. “[Challah Crumbs] is everything you need in one adorable website.”
Katz says she has not determined what her next big project will be. For now, she has more than 40 Torah portions to go to complete the coloring pages. Each week for the next year, she plans to release another sheet in conjunction with that week’s reading. She says some Torah portions— such as Tazriah and Metzorah, which deal with physical ailments resulting from spiritual causes—are more challenging to make into coloring pages than others. But she is confident of being able to get the job done.
“In one year,” says Katz, “our dream will be realized and we will have a full set of parsha coloring pages.”
To download the latest parsha coloring page, visit www.challahcrumbs.com.
Maayan Jaffe is a freelance writer in Overland Park, Kan. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter, @MaayanJaffe.
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