We all know how frigid Montreal winters can be. The cold slices through your bones mercilessly amid the snow and the long, dark nights. Children can get stuck indoors during those heavy winter months. In the city’s Hasidic community, most parents are not willing to enrol their children in extracurricular activities and classes outside of the community. They feel more comfortable knowing the teachers, and the other students.
But the demand for extracurricular programs taught in a heimish environment has risen greatly. Flip through the local Hasidic brochures, and you will find endless options. Swimming, aerobics, all sorts of activities in the artistic and creative field. This winter, Hasidic parents in Montreal have countless options.
The recently founded The Talent School is located in the heart of the Hasidic community, offering a wide variety of talent development, ranging from musical instruments to ballet and drama classes for all ages. “Our motto is ‘every child is a star’,’” says founder Gittel Perel Breuer. “This is what the children hear from us before we even start the talent training. There is talent and creativity within every child, we are there to help them improve and grow.” Most of the staff members are from the local Hasidic community. “They understand that it’s their job to provide support, while still allowing the student to do their own creating,” explains Breuer, who, in addition to running the school, also teaches a drama class.
Mrs. M., a parent of three young girls, agrees. Her daughters attend classes at The Talent School on Sunday morning. They love the classes, but that’s not all: afterward, her children go home with a friend to spend the afternoon together.
Mindy Reich, founder of the Crochet-It club, expresses similar sentiments. Most of the classes offered in the community, she says, are in art or music. But Reich offers something different.
At first, she wasn’t sure whether there would be a demand in the Hasidic community for a crocheting class. But she took a chance and put out a few advertisements. To her surprise, the reception was great.
For Hasidic teens looking for something fun to do, crocheting seemed to fit the bill.
“The courses begin with the basic crochet stich,” Reich says, “and we progress from there. When my students finish an eight-week session, they have mastered the crocheting skill and are able to crochet something by themselves.” Most of her students end up enjoying the experience even more than expected – so much so that they come back for another eight week session of advanced classes.
A few years back, Shaindy Glauber, a local Hasidic woman, noticed that there were no Jewish recording studios for Hasidic schools and aspiring singers. And she set about changing that.
Now, VoiceIt Recording Studio is widely known in the Hasidic area. They’ll even help out with the singing and harmonies. “It is especially convenient for the Hasidic schools’ musical performances because Jewish music has a certain nuance to it which we understand and appreciate,” Glauber explains.
There is a common motto between The Talent School, Crochet It-Club and VoiceIt Recording Studio. While each one teaches specific skills, it is building a child’s confidence that is truly important to all. Mastering an artistic or musical skill may be important for the child’s future, but it’s the confidence and positive attitude that will take them further.
Mrs. L, a Hasidic mother of a 12-year-old boy, agrees. “My son takes extracurricular classes, but something way different than art or music,” she explains. “For the past two years, he has been taking private English classes with a local Jewish teacher. Some parents might be surprised by this and wonder why a child would want to learn outside of regular school hours, but my son loves it. He is very intelligent and loves acquiring knowledge.
“Every child is unique, and so are their interests.”