Q. How did the Malkas Tehillim program come about?
Mrs. Liora Rosen (Kriah Coordinator, Lower Elementary School Limudei Kodesh Coordinator Emerita): The Malkas Tehillim program was a result of dedicated moros looking for ways to motivate their talmidos to practice Kriah (Hebrew reading). The second grade moros chose Sefer Tehillim to achieve their goal. The school printed an in-house user-friendly edition of Sefer Tehillim for our second graders with a large, clear font, and numbered and double spaced lines. In 2013, to our delight, ArtScroll published a beautiful Sefer Tehillim that matches the girls’ Siddurim and is suitable for second graders.
Q. How is the program introduced to the girls?
Mrs. Liora Rosen: Each year, shortly after Sukkos, our second graders receive their own Sefer Tehillim at a special assembly. We share with our students that they were fortunate to receive two treasures in first grade, a Siddur and a Chumash. Now, in Second Grade, they are receiving a third treasure, Sefer Tehillim. The girls are introduced to Sefer Tehillim with a beautiful story “My Special Power” adapted from a story by Yona Weinberg. This begins their journey and relationship with Tehillim.
Q. Please walk us through the program as it progresses through the year.
Mrs. Liora Rosen: As each girl completes reading each perek (chapter), she colors in a square on a special chart that is placed in their Tehillim to mark their progress. When she completes reading a “Yom (Day)” (Sefer Tehillim is divided into seven days), she receives a personalized necklace and medallion that says ‘I Completed Yom _____ in Sefer Tehillim.’ By the time a girl completes Sefer Tehillim, she is the proud owner of seven beautiful necklaces.
Upon completing Sefer Tehillim (it could be in second, third, or fourth grade) each talmida and her class, parents, and often grandparents, celebrates with a very meaningful siyum celebration. All eyes are on her as she is crowned Malkas Tehillim. She receives her seventh necklace and a certificate. The class sings and dances as the Malkas Tehillim sits beaming in the middle of the circle. She distributes a special treat. Last, a photo is taken of the Malkas Tehillim and posted on the school wall to highlight her accomplishment.
Q. How many girls finish the entire program?
Rabbi Yochanon Stein (Upper Elementary School Principal): I collected some data on this recently. In the second grade, about 30 to 40 girls finish Sefer Tehillim. In the third and fourth grades, it varies between around 36 to around 60. Sometimes a student with special needs will have her Malkas Tehillim in ninth grade.
At each siyum, I share a brief d’var Torah or story about a kapittel (chapter) of Tehillim with the girls, going sequentially in the order of the sefer. This year, im yirtzeh Hashem, we are starting with kapittel 93!
Q. What is the impact of the program on the girls’ lives?
Rabbi Yitzchok Sanders (Lower Elementary School Principal): It does two things at once – instills a love of Yiddishkeit while practicing Kriah. Becoming comfortable with Tehillim is a great way to get closer to Hashem.
Rabbi Yochanon Stein: It makes the girls feel good about themselves, as it is a huge accomplishment!
Tehillim is a value in Bais Yaakov. Even if the girls don’t understand the words at the beginning, they will come to understand them as they get older, and it’s the start, for many, of a beautiful relationship with these words of David Hamelech, through which each girl can connect powerfully to Hashem.
Mrs. Liora Rosen: Sefer Tehilim is used for Kriah practice, but so much more is gained by our talmidos. The girls learn that anytime is a good time to say Tehillim and we can ask Hashem for anything we need or want. In addition, we can thank Hashem for the wonderful things in our lives.
Some girls plan to have their Siyum coincide with a yahrtzeit of a grandparent, which is especially meaningful. A few talmidos completed Sefer Tehillim at the Kosel in Yerushalayim. Some girls have completed Sefer Tehillim multiple times since second grade, where they forged a bond with it.
We’ve heard delightful stories of granddaughters reading with their grandmothers face-to-face or over the phone many miles apart. One grandmother commented that if her granddaughter can finish Sefer Tehillim, then she could too! The family celebrated the grandmother’s siyum by crowning her Malkas Tehillim and presenting her with a certificate. We’ve also heard stories from grandmothers of twins who made time to read with both granddaughters. One grandmother shared that she always had a Sefer Tehillim with her in the car so if a granddaughter called she would park at the side of the road to hear her read.
Rabbi Yochanon Stein: The Malkas Tehillim program is such a strong vehicle for intergenerational connection, that we often have grandmothers travel in from far away to attend their granddaughter’s siyum, sometimes even flying across the country! To accommodate them, we hold the second grade siyumim in the public rooms of the school instead of upstairs in the classrooms.
Mrs. Liora Rosen: May Hakadosh Boruch Hu accept all the Tefillos coming out of the pure mouths of our talmidos!