At their first class of the year, the Middles group had a great time learning about Jewish languages and Sukkot. As we got to know each other, we prepared for a good year by talking about what it means to be respectful, and by sharing High Holiday memories. We talked about Yiddish and Hebrew as the languages of Jewish culture, and thought about why the Jewish people might want their own language. We saw that both Yiddish and Hebrew use the same alphabet, but listening to a song in each language proved that they sound very different. We said that modern Hebrew happened “on purpose,” while Yiddish is a combination of languages that happened gradually and without trying. To explore how this could be, we played a game of “Telephone.” Sarah helped us review (in song!) the Hebrew alphabet and some Sukkot vocabulary words. She also shared a beautiful Yiddish lullabye with us. After music time, we learned about Sukkot and built our very own edible sukkas, using graham crackers and harvest-themed candy. To wrap up the class, the Middles joined the other JCS groups in making harvest garlands to decorate the sukkah. Several Middles students had a great time hanging their harvest garlands on the Sukkah at the Sukkot party following the program.
The JCS Middles class had a great time joining in the Israeli dance program at the May session. After dancing, we joined the other JCS classes for music and Hebrew. We learned to sing the Hebrew alphabet. In class, we worked in small groups to create a poster, skit, or other project about something we learned this year. We shared our projects with each other to review everything we learned.
In April, the Middles class prepared for Tot Shabbat by learning about Shabbat traditions that some Jewish families observe. We did our own candle lighting ceremony to welcome Shabbat. After talking about what happens and doesn’t happen on Shabbat in traditional Jewish homes, we played a sorting game to help us remember. We also played “Shabbat Tag” (like freeze tag). Sarah taught us a song and some Hebrew words related to Shabbat. Sometimes it’s hard to live without most technology the way some Jewish families do on Shabbat, so the Middles read a story about connecting to nature instead of always having “screen time.” A charades-like game called Not A Stick gave students a chance to have fun without technology. We closed with our own Havdalah ceremony.
In March, the Middles class had a great time learning about Passover. We read the story of Passover, and talked about how Humanistic Jews can think about the story. We reviewed the Four Questions by playing a Jeopardy-style game. Sarah even taught us to sing the Four Questions in Hebrew! Then everyone worked together to make yummy homemade matzah. While the matzah was baking, we looked at a Seder plate and went on a scavenger hunt to find all of the Seder plate items. Passover coloring pages wrapped up the class.
At the request of several Middles students, here is the recipe for homemade matzah:
You need: white flour (NOT self-rising), whole wheat flour, salt, water, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, measuring cups, a rolling pin, forks, parchment paper, and baking sheets.This recipe makes about 8 crackers.
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
2. Add 1 cup each of white flour and whole wheat flour to the bowl, and mix it up.
3. Add 1 cup water and a pinch of salt, to taste. Mix with the spoon. When you can’t get it anymore mixed up, use clean hands to get all the flour incorporated into the dough.You may need to add a little more water or flour to get a good consistency.
4. Put parchment paper down on the counter and flour it. Get your hands floury, too.
5. Divide the dough into egg-sized pieces. Knead each piece of dough for 4-5 minutes. (You might ask children do knead it at least 10 times.)
6. Flatten the dough as much as you can with your hands. Then flip it over and use the rolling pin to make it extra thin. Don’t forget to flour the rolling pin.
7. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the dough
8. Place the rolled out dough on a parchment lined baking sheet
9. Bake 5-6 minutes, or a little longer if you want it extra crispy. You may want to flip the matzah partway through.
10. Let cool. Then enjoy! Cream cheese and apple butter are two of my favorite matzah toppings.
In February, the Middles class learned about Purim. Class started on a light note, as each student was asked to share a favorite joke in honor of this fun celebration. Then, after sharing what they already knew about Purim, students compared Esther to another strong Jewish woman, Donna Gracia. Donna Gracia rescued many people from the Inquisition. Students made their own groggers to take home. They also used their groggers while they listened to the Megillah. Class ended early, so that everyone could enjoy JCS’s annual Purim Carnival. It was so much fun this year, with new games created by staff, parents, and students.