JCS Class Summaries–November 10, 2013

Littles Class

This week we learned about Hanukkah. We learned about the menorah, the letters on a dreidel, how to play the dreidel game, and practiced our Hanukkah party songs. We also made wonderful cards expressing our condolences to one of our classmates who lost a loved one between sessions.

Middles Class

In November, the Middles class learned about Hanukkah. We read Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah and played a game of Freeze (when the music stops) to remember how the Jews hid their studies from the Romans. Sarah taught us two Hanukkah songs, including Or Emet’s Hanukkah blessing. Then we found out why Hanukkah is so early this year by learning about the Jewish calendar. We played a matching game with the Jewish months, and found our Jewish calendar birthdays. For our craft project we drew turkey-themed menorahs in honor of “Thanksgivakah.” We wrapped the day up with a game of dreidel.

Juniors Class

During our third lesson of the school year, students learned more about the factors that caused so many Jewish people to emigrate from the Russian Empire to the U.S. between 1880 and 1920, and then prepared to sing and perform a short play at the Or Emet Hanukkah party. Class opened with a discussion comparing and contrasting the experiences of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. a hundred years ago and immigrants to the U.S. today. Then we watched a selection from the Minnesota-made documentary Ida’s Story, which explores how Or Emet member Donna Sherlock’s mother survived a 1918 pogrom and made a long and treacherous journey with her siblings from their small town in the Ukraine to Ellis Island. The class discussed how they would have felt in Ida’s position and ways that people can prevent the kinds of mass violence that caused such suffering for Ida’s family and millions of other Jews. Then we enjoyed a snack of Streit’s matzo and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, classic NYC Jewish foods that Jewish immigrants like Ida’s family enjoyed after settling on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After break, we learned to sing “Mi Y’Malel” and “Oy Chanukah” with Sarah, and then started work with our Hanukkah play. The play, called Hanukka Gelt: A Short Play for Hanukka, by Leon Levenson, takes place at Hanukkah time in a shtetl in Russia ~100 years ago; it focuses on a Jewish family in the midst of deciding to immigrate to America in search of safety and opportunity. Students chose characters and then did a read-through of the play. Then the class split into two groups, and for the last half hour of the lesson one group made their own edits to the play script while the other group painted a backdrop for the performance. Students are excited to rehearse and perform the play!

 

Juniors Class Summary–October 13, 2013

For our second lesson of the school year, we focused on Jewish immigration to the US through Ellis Island and Jewish immigrant life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Juniors class had several visitors this session, so we took time at the beginning of class to introduce ourselves and “introduce” Humanistic Judaism to our guests. Next, we talked about America’s history of immigration, and students shared where their ancestors came from before arriving in this country. After a short lecture describing how pogroms, discrimination, and lack of economic opportunity caused millions of Jews to immigrate to the US from Russia in the late 19th/early 20th century, the whole class took part in an Ellis Island simulation. Students played the roles of medical examiners, primary line inspectors, and Jewish immigrants entering the US, and reflected afterward on what the experience felt like and whether the immigration process was truly fair. After break, the class learned some Yiddish vocabulary and sang part of the humorous and nostalgic New York Yiddish theater song “Rumania, Rumania!” with Sarah. Then students split into groups and looked at old photos depicting Jewish immigrant life on the Lower East Side, sharing their impressions. We talked about the average dimensions of the tenement apartments that NYC Jewish immigrants lived in, and then used a tape measure and string to mark out these dimensions in our classroom. Students piled into the makeshift “apartment” that we created, and discussed what it must have felt like for Jewish immigrants to live together in such tiny spaces. After learning some other tenement facts, the class watched a short clip from the documentary Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, learning about Yiddish newspapers, Yiddish theater, and other aspects of immigrant Jewish cultural life on the Lower East Side. The whole lesson gave students insight into the hardships Jewish immigrants to the US (including many of their ancestors) faced, as well as the strength and community ties of support that made Jewish immigrant survival possible.

Middles Class Summary–October 13, 2013

In October, the Middles Class learned about Ellis Island. We started by sharing where our ancestors were from before they came to the United States. We found those places on the map. With Sarah, we reviewed the Aleph-Bet, and learned a few Yiddish phrases. She also shared a folk song sung by immigrant families. Together, we “read” the pictures-only book The Arrival by Shaun Tan. It is the story of a man who emigrates to a new place. Although the book seems like fantasy, there are many parallels to the journeys some Jewish immigrants took to Ellis Island. As we read, we paused to act out different experiences the man went through – the big ship, seeing his destination for the first time, security, payment – and thought about how he might feel during each event. We decided that immigrating would be scary and confusing, but worth it to get away from something scary. We ended our time by celebrating our arrival in a new place – the playground!

Littles Class Summary–October 13, 2013

This week we learned the song “Shalom Chaverim” with Teacher Sarah, and did some Hebrew alphabet yoga. We colored, read a book about helping others, and learned the word “mitzvah.” We discussed ways that we could perform mitzvot in our community, and with our friends and family.

Juniors Class Summary–September 22, 2013

It was great to see students back in the Juniors class, and we kicked off our year of studying modern Jewish history with a fun and interactive lesson focused on modern Yiddish literature. After greetings and a game of Jewish Cultural School name bingo, students gave feedback on the kinds of topics and activities they are interested in having incorporated into lessons this year. Then they listened to a short presentation on the history of Yiddish literature, reviewing the origins of Yiddish and learning about the Yiddish renaissance writers who wrote stories, in the people’s language, that empathetically told of the sorrows, joys, and struggles of ordinary Ashkenazi Jewish people. After a short break, students returned to the classroom to learn some Hebrew vocabulary for the Sukkot holiday and sing a classic Yiddish holiday song called “A Sikele, a Kleyne” with Sarah. Next, the class split into small groups, and each group read a short story in translation by Shalom Aleichem or I.L. Peretz, two classic Yiddish writers. After talking over some discussion questions related to their stories, each group worked to create a puppet show retelling their assigned story using a set of provided paper puppets cut out from images of Marc Chagall paintings, early 20th century shtetl photos, et cetera. Groups performed their puppet shows for each other and offered their perspectives on the big ideas that the stories raised. To round out the day’s lesson, we headed downstairs and created some leaf cut-outs for a decorative banner for Or Emet’s sukkah. It was a fun, action-packed morning!

Calendar
December 15, 2018
  • Shabbat Service and Program: "Whither Israeli Democracy?"
    Time: 10:00 am - 11:30 am
December 25, 2018
  • St Stephen's Shelter Christmas lunch provided by Or Emet volunteers
    Time: 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
January 10, 2019
  • Executive Committee Meeting
    Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
January 12, 2019
  • Shabbat Service | Program: Voice to Vision presented by David Feinberg
    Time: 10:00 am - 11:30 am