The Ji Team believes that every aspect of Ji Alef-Bet should be a learning moment, and it is for this reason that the character who guides learners through learning the Alef-Bet is called 'Kivi'.
In Israel, 'Kivi' is used as the shortened version of the name 'Akiva' and we chose this having been inspired by the many stories in the Talmud about Rabbi Akiva.
Though recognized as one of the greatest scholars in Jewish history, Rabbi Akiva's early life was anything but scholarly. Akiva had a negative attitude towards Judaism. He disliked Jewish tradition, and had no patience for the teachings of the local Rabbis. He continued this way until he reached the age of 40 when he made a profound observation with life-changing consequences.
One day, Akiva went to get some water from a well in the town of Lydda. Though made of stone, the well looked like it had been sculpted as it had round rather than square edges, and the stone had been hollowed at the bottom.
Though not learned, Akiva was very curious, and so - having made a brief introduction - he inquired from a stranger who was standing by the well 'who hollowed out this stone?'.
The stranger replied: 'Akiva, haven't you read that "water wears away stone (Job 14:19)" - it is shaped this way because water has been falling on this stone, day after day'.
Though discussing water and stone, this reply made Akiva think deeply about his own life choices. 'Is my mind harder than this stone? If the stone can change its shape from dripping water, perhaps I can change myself through learning more about Judaism?' And so, despite being aged 40, Akiva went to a local school where his son was enrolled to begin learning about Judaism.
Akiva sat in the classroom alongside the young children and he began his journey of Jewish learning with the Alef-Bet. We are told that he then progressed to study some of the Torah, and then all of the Torah, and soon he had become the greatest Torah scholar of his generation.
It is for this reason that we gave the name 'Kivi' to the character in the Ji Alef-Bet - and why he is shaped as a drop of water, because we learn from Akiva how the successful study of the Alef-Bet can enable a person to become a truly great Torah scholar.
However, there is one final reason why we chose to use 'Kivi' as opposed to the name Akiva, because there is an etymological link between the name 'Kivi' and the word 'Tikva', which means 'hope'.
When teachers begin teaching their students the Alef-Bet, they have hope and aspiration that their students will go on to grow and learn even more about their Judaism. The Ji team shares this aspiration, and we hope that Ji Alef-Bet will not only teach students - of all ages and backgrounds - about the Alef-Bet, but also be a springboard for further learning and growing.
- Rabbi Johnny Solomon