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!
The Juniors class spent the December session focused mostly on Hanukkah. Students opened the class by sharing sentences that included Yiddish terms like “gelt” and “shvitsn” that they learned at the previous session. Then, after briefly reviewing the history of the Ashkenazi Jewish diaspora, they listened to a short talk on the subject of Ashkenazi Jewish folklore and folk heroes that introduced them to the character of Hershel of Ostropol–a famous prankster figure celebrated in Ashkenazi stories for his skill in outwitting the rich and powerful, and whose exploits are based on those of a real person who lived in 18th century Ukraine. Students took turns reading aloud the story Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, breaking in the middle for a lesson with Sarah where they learned to sing the classic Yiddish song “Oy, Chanukah.” After returning to the book and finishing their reading, students took a snack break and then turned their attention to a short play script based on the Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins story, choosing roles and, after a brief round of auditions, voting to select the play’s lead. Once all roles were assigned, the class rehearsed the short play twice and brainstormed simple costuming ideas. The lesson closed with a class discussion that touched on the ways that Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins can be read as an allegory for the Ashkenazi Jewish struggle against antisemitism, and students shared their knowledge about antisemitism, their experiences with it, and thoughts about how best to respond to it. After a morning by turns joyously lively and more thoughtful, the Juniors left the classroom prepared to sing “Oy, Chanukah” and perform their play at the upcoming Or Emet Hanukkah party.
In December, the Middles group learned about Hanukkah and Jews in early America, tying the two ideas together with the themes of hope and optimism. After our warm-up activity, students took turns reading facts about how and why Jews came to the English colonies, as well as Jewish involvement in the American Revolution. We talked about what it’s like to go somewhere you’ve never been before, and made drawings to show our thoughts. After learning Hanukkah-related Hebrew words and music with Sarah, we read an interesting story called Hanukkah at Valley Forge. This book tells how George Washington was inspired when he learned the story of Hanukkah from a Jewish soldier. Believe it or not, it is based on true events! We talked about lighting the menorah, and how at the time of the American Revolution, people might have used oil lamps just like the Maccabees do in the story of Hanukkah. Then we got to work making clay oil lamps – that really work! At the end of class, students got to choose between playing dreidel and completing a Hanukkah coloring page. Note that the oil lamps have now been baked. Students can pick them up at the Hanukkah party, or at the January JCS lesson.
This week at Or Emet JCS we read Chanukah stories, learned how the dreidel game is played, and lit a menorah. We also learned the dreidel song! We are very excited for the Chanukah party!
During the November lesson, the Juniors class shifted its focus to the beginnings of the Ashkenazi Jewish diaspora. After playing a warm-up game of Jewish food-themed Pictionary, students listened to a short lecture that touched on the founding of Jewish communities in Europe by traders about 1500 years ago, the development of Yiddish and Ashkenazi Jewish religious and cultural life, and the ways that Jewish life and migrations in Europe were shaped by antisemitism and economic pressure. To familiarize themselves more with Yiddish and become aware of the Yiddish words already a part of their daily vocabulary, the class split into teams and played a matching game that required students to transliterate Yiddish terms like “shtetl” and “oy vey” with the aid of Yiddish alphabet guides and then match them with their definitions. Sarah came after the game ended to teach everyone to sing the classic Yiddish folk song “Tumbalalaika.” Then, to prepare students for the last portion of the lesson, she taught the class some Hebrew vocabulary focused on cooking and kitchens. Students spent their last hour working together to cook two classic Ashkenazi dishes—potato knishes and carrot tsimmes—and then sampled the tasty results!