The Littles had lots of fun dancing with Shira Schwartz! After dancing, we sang the Hebrew alphabet song and “Zum Gali Gali” with Sarah and the other classes, and did some end-of-the-year activities in our classroom. At the end of class, we went back to the gym and watched Shira perform with her Israeli dance group. It was a fun end to a fun year!
In April, students in the Juniors class focused on learning about different Jewish spiritual/intellectual movements that emerged between the Inquisition and the late 18th century. After discussing Baruch Spinoza’s life and ideas a bit further, the class reviewed some basic Hebrew with Sarah and learned to sing “Waters of Babylon” in a round. Afterward, students worked with partners to complete a worksheet that reinforced and developed their knowledge of Jewish history between 1492 and 1789 CE. Then the class took a short break and, after returning, students split into small groups to read stories connected to four of the main Jewish intellectual/spiritual movements to emerge between 1492 and 1789—Kabbalah/mysticism, messianism, Hasidism, and the Haskalah. They considered what each story taught them about the movement it represented, and discussed the pluses and minuses of each movement/belief system. Finally, after looking at some early modern Jewish political cartoons and propaganda art, students imagined that they, too, were alive during this era and created posters to either promote or discredit their respective movement in the eyes of other Jewish people of the time period.
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.
This week at Or Emet JCS we learned a tiny bit about the State of Israel with Mrs. Sarah. We colored pictures, reviewed the important phrase “Tikkun Olam,” and read the book If Everybody Did. We brainstormed ways that we can help take care of ourselves, each other, and our world. At the very end, we cleaned up paper towels that had been hidden around the room by a mysterious, messy person (me). The class had fun finding them, and then flattening them out so we could reuse them (their idea). Thus, we learned that we can still clean up even if we didn’t make the mess.
In March, the Juniors class concentrated on preparing for Passover as well as learning about the life and philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, one of Humanistic Judaism’s most significant intellectual forebears. After sharing their favorite Passover foods/traditions and participating in an ice-breaker game, students listened to a brief talk focused on Baruch Spinoza, his Marrano ancestry and position within Amsterdam’s Sephardic Jewish community of the 1500s, and this community’s response to Spinoza’s heretical ideas. Sarah Berman-Young arrived next to present the day’s music and Hebrew lesson, and students worked along with her to review the Hebrew vocabulary of the Seder plate and practice singing “Ma Nishtana” (aka the Four Questions). After singing, the class returned to Spinoza, divvying up roles and acting out two scenes from John A. Gunn’s 1932 play, Spinoza, The Maker of Lenses, to better acquaint themselves with the philosopher’s life and ideas as well as the controversies that surrounded him. Performance concluded, students reflected briefly on the play and then turned their attention to reading short selections from Baruch Spinoza’s The Ethics and A Theologico-Political Treatise. Selections touched on Spinoza’s ideas about determinism and relativism, God as a dispassionate force synonymous with nature, the foundations of a free and democratic state, and the Torah as a document compiled by ancient Jewish historians instead of the actual word of God as received by Moses. Students explained the meaning of their assigned selections to each other in their own words. Finally, the morning wrapped up with a fun opportunity for everyone to write their first letter to their assigned SHJ pen pal!