In a darkened room, illuminated only by smiling faces, sit 30 young campers and their staff. They've are waiting eagerly for the beginning of a captivating video now being shown at the Jewish Children's Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y. Finally, the screen lights up to an opening scene featuring charming little Benny Cohen, who is spending an afternoon with his Zaidy.

The grandfather reminds the little boy that their name is Cohen, and not because his great-great grandfather invented the ice-cream "Cohen." Their name refers to their membership in a class known as kohanim, who performed crucial functions in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The two generations then go back in time to visit one of the original Temple priests in his workplace, known by its Hebrew name, the Beit Hamikdash.

The video, produced by the Children's Museum, is being shown to groups to coincide with the three weeks leading up to the anniversary of the Temple's destruction on Tisha B'Av. It depicts a typical day in the Second Temple, which stood until 69 C.E. In their journey, Benny and Zaidy encounter the priest lighting the Temple's menorah, while in the background Levites sing praises to G‑d. Through a mixture of humor and touching dialogue, the film lightly explains the Temple's different areas and its ritual objects in a manner easily digestible for its varied audiences.


Appreciative giggles erupt from the young viewers as Benny and his grandfather finish their visit and return home. Benny, the audience sees, is concerned about the lack of a Temple today. His Zaidy, though, reassures him: "We will have one," he says. "We will have a permanent home for G‑d."

Next, the children are invited to see a complete mock-up of the third and final Temple, which Judaism teaches will be built by the long awaited Moshiach. Inspired by the video, the children ask, "Where is the menorah we saw the Kohen light?" They look with glee at the different parts of the Temple that they now recognize for themselves.

Back for More

Kobi Cunningham, a native of Highland Park, N.J., has been to the museum several times. But despite his frequent visits, the eight-year old is particularly thrilled to be back at the museum with his bunk from Camp Gan Israel of Central New Jersey. Cunningham pronounces the Temple exhibit, with the video at its core, "really nice and cool." He says he plans to "do lots of mitzvot and help people" in order to hasten the rebuilding of the Temple.

The video was so powerful, it instilled a new sense of Jewish pride in Cunningham's counselor, Chana Lustiger. It actually "made me want to be Jewish," she says.

Fellow counselor Malka Margolin adds with a laugh that she is impressed the exhibit has garnered her bunk's attention, "something that isn't easy."

According to Margolin, her camp has placed particular emphasis on learning about the Temple, in keeping with the directives of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. The Rebbe instituted that, especially between the 17th of Tammuz – a fast day marking the date when the walls of Jerusalem were broken through by Roman armies – and the 9th of Av, when the Temple finally fell, Jews everywhere should increase their knowledge of what the Temple looked like, what it accomplished, and the laws governing its use. The goal is to understand the inner-meaning of the Three Weeks, their connection with the Jewish people's exile and from that, how to hasten the coming redemption.

But while the campers have been learning intently about the Temple, as most campers in Chabad-Lubavitch summer camps and Jewish adults everywhere are doing, nothing has had the same impact as the museum's display, says Margolin.

Determined to Take Part

According to the Children's Museum's website, plans are underway for an even more extensive exhibit entitled, "Temple and Tabernacle." Museum planners hope to construct a large area where the children can build their own Temples, blow the shofar and practice on "King David's harp."

At the museum, it's the hands-on aspect that is one of the institution's biggest draws. Tour-guide Chana Nemni, who is currently in her first summer working there, says it's important that children have a tangible knowledge about the Temple, as they should about all of Judaism. For her, the video and accompanying model provide just the right amount of facts that a child can handle. "They can understand that it was," she says. "It was [and] it is going to be again."

In that vein, the children who came to learn about the Temple leave determined to, like Benny in the video, build their own little Temples at home. Benny starts by placing a Jewish prayer book and a tzedakah box in his own room, and encourages the children to do so as well.

For his part, Zaidy tells the audience that the redemption and Third Temple are not far off: "You'll be walking around it yourself," he says.