“We were really moved by the fact that the school and all its materials were a major causality of the Memorial Day flood … B’nai B’rith wants to play a part in the school’s rebuilding efforts … We like to make sure that our allocations go to specific projects, so we can connect with a cause, immediately,” longtime B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Committee member Chuck Kaufman told the Jewish Herald-Voice.
The donation will provide a Judaic-music curriculum for five classes of students ages 3-6, as well as cantor services and instruments for the classroom.
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The $5,000 allocation will allow the school to purchase new musical instruments and to hire Cantor Francyne Davis Jacobs to play music with the children each week, following the retirement in 2015 of the school’s longtime music teacher, Cantor Irving Dean.
B’nai B’rith’s Chuck Kaufman presented the grant to the school during UOSGMS’ kindergarten graduation on June 3. The ceremony also included a special farewell to Debra Kira, who served as UOSGMS’ head of school over the past six years, during which time the school twice was displaced by floods.
UOSGMS currently is located at Brith Shalom synagogue, which opened its doors to the school in the aftermath of the 2015 Memorial Day flood.
“We were really moved by the fact that the school and all its materials were a major causality of the Memorial Day flood,” said Kaufman, who serves on B’nai B’rith’s Disaster Relief Committee.
“B’nai B’rith wants to play a part in the school’s rebuilding efforts,” he told the JHV. “We like to make sure that our allocations go to specific projects, so we can connect with a cause, immediately.”
Besides the Goldberg School, B’nai B’rith has given recent disaster recovery allocations to flood-affected communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in Oklahoma.
Kaufman noted that B’nai B’rith’s history in disaster relief dates back to the 1860s.
UOSGMS uses music to help spur early childhood development and to lay the foundation of children’s Jewish identity, according to Kira.
“Musical education is just as important as learning to read and write,” said Kira. “This grant allows us to hire Cantor Francyne Jacobs, who carries on the legacy of Cantor Dean by instilling a love for music in our children.”
Cantor Jacobs volunteered to lead weekly music sessions, both for the primary classes and for the school’s Mommy & Me program, following Cantor Dean’s retirement in November 2015. She said the B’nai B’rith grant will help grow the school’s music program for next year.
“Music is such a huge part of our Jewish lives,” said the cantor, who also is a UOSGMS parent. “We’re looking to buy new instruments, like shakers, drums and other things that are portable, age-appropriate and easy to share. These will allow us to enhance and expand the school’s music program.”
Music was on full display during this year’s kindergarten graduation ceremony.
The graduates performed a selection of musical prayers and Shabbat songs. They also gave a musical tribute to Kira, who leaves Houston this summer to become lower school principal of Columbus Torah Academy in Columbus, Ohio.
Holding signs that spelled out Kira’s name, the children sang: “We want to tell you, ‘Thank you.’ / We’d like to tell you, ‘Goodbye.’/ We’d like to tell you how much we love you. / We love you, Ms. Debra.”
Afterward, each graduate presented Kira with a white rose and a hug.