'They Teach with Love'
Speaking to Nina Shapiro three days after the video of her son, Benjamin, singing his School rendition of Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, our King) - the sombre song of atonement commonly recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - unexpectedly went viral on social media, she appears at peace with the sudden turbulence visited on her normally quiet life in Perth, Western Australia.
“I’ve chosen to stop looking at comments generated by Bibi’s video. Please G-d, the energy he’s given to the song has had a positive impact” she says of the hundreds of thousands of views and emotion-filled comments elicited so far by six-year-old Bibi’s spontaneous video performance, originally sent as an update to family members before being innocently shared.
About being contacted for comment by the editor of a Chicago-based Jewish Telegraphic Agency journalist, Nina notes, “What struck me when I spoke to the interviewer was that people in America, unlike us, are in total lockdown. They’re not going to be able to go to shule, they’re not going to hear people singing over the chaggim. Bibi’s song has been so meaningful to them, particularly for that reason.
“I do believe it’s G-d’s plan, because it was the furthest thing from my intention,” Nina says of the video finding its way from a family share into the global domain at a time when much of the world finds itself isolated.
Nina and her sons, then aged three and four, migrated to Western Australia almost two years ago, and knew no one in Perth, other than a cousin. “We’ve been welcomed into the Jewish community with nothing but support and positivity since then. As a mother, I’ve felt so accepted and supported and my children feel totally comfortable and familiar with their lives here.”
A large part of Nina’s community support network has involved Carmel Primary School’s Early Learning Centre which she describes as, “a magnificent nurturing place. Morahs Michelle, Irit, Tanya, Steph, Posner and all the teachers are amazing and they teach with love. I greatly appreciate the School for what it’s given my children”.
Relating a tale of the boys’ School canteen order being inadvertently lost one day, leaving her children potentially without lunch provisions for the day, Nina says the teachers stepped in and made sure that her children ate, insisting, when the mix-up later came to light, that they would never let a child go hungry.
“That’s what a mother would do,” says Nina, “but they’re fed in every way. I feel they are cared for in the same way that I would care for them. That’s huge. It’s like a big family. My children are treated like the teachers’ own children,” she remarks.
Despite the relevance of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah to the songs Benjamin enjoys performing at this time of year, Nina maintains he doesn’t have a favourite chag, “he just loves them all. Both my boys just love life and are so vibrant. They’re very happy in Perth and are so at home at Chabad Shule. I’m so grateful for that.
“We come to Shule every Shabbat. They’re actually coming now to choir practice; Rabbi White has been teaching them once a week, which has been a real passion and outlet for Bibi”.
You can imagine Bibi’s delight when Choni G, ‘South Africa’s favourite Jewish Singer’ - known for marrying ancient prayers with modern tunes - reached out to Nina and Bibi with his tweaked version of Bibi’s performance.
We are so grateful that our community can come together this year and celebrate the High Holy Days together. Our thoughts and prayers are with those communities who are not able to celebrate together. From our community to yours, we wish all those celebrating a Shana Tova and hope for peace and health in the year ahead.
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