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.
This week at Or Emet JCS we learned the Purim story. We stomped our feet, shouted, and made noise every time we heard the name “Haman.” We got to make fun noise-makers out of paper plates and beans, and we learned an awesome Purim song. Afterwards, we all had fun at our Purim carnival with all of the JCS students!
The January session of the Juniors class focused on exploring the three main philosophies/ways of thinking about life and religion that Jewish people in the Sephardi and Mizrahi world developed during the Middle Ages. After opening with a brief opportunity for students to reflect on Tu B’Shevat and their own concerns about the environment, the class listened to a short talk that outlined these three primary philosophies–traditionalist, rationalist, and Kabbalist–and reinforced their connection to the holiday of Tu B’Shevat (which, with its focus on Israeli fruits and a “New Year for the Trees” that happens at a time when places like Minnesota are covered in snow, is very much connected to the Middle Eastern Jewish experience). Then Sarah came in to lead the regular Hebrew and music lesson, and students learned some Tu B’Shevat-appropriate Hebrew vocabulary for fruits, grains, etc (like “rimon,” meaning pomegranate) and sang the Israeli pioneer-farmer song “Zum Gali Gali” in rounds. Students returned then to their earlier discussion, and to learn more about traditional Jewish philosophy, they took part in a Talmudic-style debate about a real question from the Talmud–is it right for someone to remove rocks from their field and pile them on public land? Students debated the question in teams, and then reflected on how traditional Jewish philosophy agreed with their own judgement that public land must be protected and respected for the good of all. Next, after considering some ways that they didn’t agree with traditional Jewish philosophy, the class moved to consider the rationalist philosophy–exemplified by Maimonides–that grew out of medieval Jewish interest in science. However, instead of using rationalism to support religious ideas, students took turns coming up with rational explanations for ‘miraculous’ events described in the Torah. Finally, to learn more about Kabbalah, or Jewish mystical philosophy, students collaborated on a creative fill-in-the-blanks activity that required them to draw or act out missing words in a short reading about the kabbalist origins of the Tu B’Shevat seder and kabbalist ideas about spheres of energy, divinity, and tikkun olam. Students closed the day by joining in the Or Emet Tu B’Shevat seder.
In January, the Middles class prepared for Or Emet’s annual Tu B’Shevat seder by learning about nature and how we can respect the earth. We read A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, and talked about why we love trees. Then we made our own Tu B’Shevat trees, and each student decorated their tree by writing about how we can respect nature on the different leaves. Ms. Sarah taught the class a great song to share at the seder, and then we planted parsley seeds to celebrate growth and nature. With careful care, students may be able to use their parsley on their family’s Passover seder plates.
It was a very fun and enlightening Sunday at Or Emet this week. We learned about trees, including the astonishing fact that they provide us with much of the oxygen that we breathe! We also read one of my all time favorite books: The Giving Tree. We sang, we colored, and we ate some really great snacks at our Seder!