In the lobby of Bnos Yisroel, a girls’ school with nearly 500 students in Nursery - Grade 12, a crowd of kindergarteners gathers around a large model of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle built by the Jewish people in the wilderness. Their teacher reaches over the plexiglass panel meant to keep curious hands at bay and carefully lifts out an intricate plastic replica of the Shulchan, showing the girls twelve little plastic loaves of the lechem hapanim stacked in two neat rows.
This is a scene which has repeated itself in countless schools around the world, but the staff of Bnos Yisroel is changing the way students approach the ubiquitous and time-honored “Mishkan project.” Thanks to advancements in desktop manufacturing, the ability to produce detailed objects using low-cost materials is now widely available, and Bnos Yisroel is taking full advantage of this to bring old knowledge to life. The school commissioned Mr. Brian Silberberg and Rabbi Hallel Newman to design and build this new replica using the latest 3-D printing technology. Rabbi Newman prepared virtual models of every component as described in the Torah, “printed” them out of plastic on a 3-D printer, and assembled them into a complete structure in the same way the Jews did in the wilderness.
The Bnos Yisroel model measures over four feet wide and eight feet long, making it the largest and most accurate 3-D printed Mishkan replica in the United States.
Although the display model is for eyes only, students will have plenty of opportunities for hands-on interaction with the material. Bnos Yisroel has prepared activity kits for classroom use consisting of different parts of the Tabernacle for the girls to study and assemble. Thanks to the ease of 3-D printing, these pieces can be produced as many times as needed, and at any scale, and all of them are exact replicas of the original. In addition, 100 sets of Kerashim have been prepared for girls to take home and share with their families - furthering the learning process beyond the school walls.
Mrs. Sara Itzkowitz, Founding Principal, is thrilled with the project and its benefits. “From the 3-year-olds to the staff, everyone in the school loves this project. Watching the Mishkan come to life transformed a textual subject into a fascinating demonstration.”
Mrs. Ahuvah Heyman, School Director of Bnos Yisroel, is excited about the learning possibilities offered by a 3-D printed model. “While some students remember what they read in a book or see in a picture, every single student will remember how the Mishkan was assembled after assembling it themselves. We are Bnos Yisroel, and we teach students, not subjects!”
Bnos Yisroel encourages its students to share their lessons beyond the classroom, and with this new Mishkan model the school is now leading by example. Rabbi Chaim Amster, Director of Development at Bnos Yisroel, hopes to leverage the Mishkan’s wide appeal to educate a broad spectrum of Jewish Baltimore, including local schools, congregations, and groups. “I see this project as an opportunity for our students and all members of our community to understand the intricacies of the Torah in a way otherwise impossible.”
Bnos Yisroel of Baltimore Combines Old Testament Knowledge with New Age Engineering, by Rabbi Yoav Elan and Bnos Yisroel Staff