The Flagship MagneticShul case measures 8x10x1 inches. The tin attracts magnets one all sides. When closed, there is a small latch to keep the case closed and a handle for easy transport.
Upon opening the case, you’ll find a synagogue backdrop. On the lefthand side is the aron kodesh or ark, open with a Torah inside ready for the scene. On the righthand side, is collection of stained glass windows. The inspiration behind this artwork were various synagogues Justin visited over his life.
Every unit contains three sheets of magnets and a storage bag. There are over 50 magnets of the people and props one encounters at shul such has the Torah, a siddur, tallit, kippa, hanukiya, t’fillin, keter, bimah, parohet (ark covers) and more. The large number of magnets allows for MagneticShul to be used throughout the year, creating engagement on Shabbat as well as holidays.
Through MagneticShul, Justin is trying to remove the “ashke-normative” stereotype of Judaism. When he first conceived of the idea, much of the “Jewish artwork” or “Jewish clipart” depicted Judaism with an Ashkenasi, Orthodox perspective that he didn’t believe was an honest representation of Jews. Justin sought out an artist to illustrate the contemporary diversity that is Jewish, resulting in the different skin tones of the illustrations, various abilities and Sefardic Sefer Torah present in the sets. (Could there be more? YES!!! However, it’s only the beginning, if you would like to assist in further expanding the diversity in MagneticShul, please contact Justin.)
The numerous magnets allow for activities encouraging the children to “own their Jewish experience.” Consider playing a barrier game where every child has a set and a leader asks them to create a scene to illustrate the beginning of the Torah Service with the following prompt: Have someone take the Torah out of the ark. At this point, children will have to choose the person as well as the torah. Who will carry the Torah? Will they choose the ashkenasi torah or the s’fardi torah? If the ashkenasi, will it be the one with the crown and breastplate attached, or will the child chose those individual magnets to layer the scene.* There is also a Torah magnet that looks like it is being lifted for hagba’a or being read on the bimah.
*The latter choice can be its own activity of having the children practice the steps of dressing the Torah.
Similar “guiding activities” can be done, including creating a slihot service where the children can change the parohet.
With all the images in hand, children (and adults) can use a document camera to create their very own stop motion animation of the synagogue experience. Add their own voices to sing the t’fillot appropriate for the scene.
Expansions and Variants
The flagship boxes come in both “Traditional” and “Egalitarian.” There is a longer story behind it; however, know simply that the egalitarian set includes a female clergy magnet. (The longer story is that there technically isn’t any one clergy magnet, but where there is a guy in a tallit, there must also be a woman in a tallit.)
To help further diversify MagneticShul, there are expansion packs available which include an additional background of a sukkah and shabbat table.
Have another idea for MagneticShul?
Don’t be shy! Email Justin with your idea now! firstname.lastname@example.org