June JCS

Our final Jewish Cultural School session of the year was held on June 6, 2021.  The year was unlike any other, with every one of our ten sessions held on Zoom, as well as our Sukkot Celebration, Hanukkah Party, Tu’Bshevat Seder, Purim Carnival and Passover Seder.  I know our students missed seeing one another, being able to work with a range of hands-on materials, playing on the playground after class, and our teachers missed the direct contact with students.

Nonetheless, learning continued, values were developed, and there were lots of fun times.  Here is our our students in each group spent this year’s closing JCS session.

Littles Group – PreK-Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we took a look back at our year of learning. We reviewed holidays, special occasions, and traditions. We reread one of our favorite books from the year, and even welcomed Max, an awesome visitor to our Littles’ class!

Middles Group – Grades 1-2, teacher Colline Roland

Our last class of the year was a planned virtual travel expedition to Israel. Because of the engagement and curious questions from the students we visited just two places. We went to Jerusalem and learned of the 3 different cultures and religions that consider Jersualm their holiest place. The students had a great discussion pertaining to kindness and human rights and dignity. We then left Jerusalem for Haifa where we explored the Baha’i Gardens.

Baha’i Gardens in Haifa


Juniors Group- Grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In June, the Juniors class discussed the history of peace between Jews and Muslims. We learned that the Moors allowed Jews to live peacefully during the Spanish Golden Age, and that our cultures share the symbol of the hamsa (in Arabic) or hamesh (in Hebrew). This hand shaped symbol is sometimes said to represent Miriam. We discussed it as a symbol for feeling protected and made hamsa art.
We also learned about a little known element of Sephardic Jewish history – the Jews who, when forced to flee during the inquisition, became pirates. The video we watched about this was a big hit. You can check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDvmzPlmra8

B’Mitzvah Group – Grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen

(from guest teacher Sam Wegner) The B’Mitzvah class rounded out the year with a necessary conversation about Israel, Palestine, and our perspectives on the conflict as American Jews. We visualized what partition might look like in our own living spaces, teased out the meaning of the word “homeland,” and reflected on the proportionality of violence in the region.

We also practiced our Hebrew introductions, sang Balalalaika with Sarah Berman-Young, and said goodbye to a great year in JCS.

And in parting …. for now

I look forward to seeing many of you – old friends, and hopefully some new ones as well – at our Family Havdalah Picnic on Saturday, August 7 at Crosby Farm Park in St. Paul, and of course back at JCS in the fall.  Stay tuned for our plans about reconvening in person – fingers crossed!

Last but not least,  Congratulations to Eliana on her B’Mitzvah, celebrated June 12, 2021.

–   Arty Dorman, Jewish Cultural School Director

May Jewish Cultural School

On a beautiful Sunday morning in May, our Jewish Cultural School students and teachers met over Zoom to connect with one another as members of the Or Emet community, and to continue the process of learning about our Jewish culture, history, traditions, arts and values though a humanistic lens.

The Littles Group – PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we learned about Jewish folktales. We read a great book called Something From Nothing by Pheobe Gilman which is based on an old Jewish folktale. Then I (Teacher Josh) told the class a folktale and, afterwards, the class drew some illustrations for the story.

Note: we did have some background noise issues today. Just a reminder that, if parents are having a conversation while their Little is Zooming, we’ll all hear it on our end.


Middles Group, grades 1- 2 –  teacher Colline Roland

On Sunday we learned about Shavuot and craved dairy products and fruit.  We learned the story of the Ten Commandments being received, including the commandment not to kill Afterwards we each  created our own commandments for society.  We also read the book Kopecks for Blintzes.  We also read  Kopecks for Blintzes by Judy Goldman.

Here are the Ten Commandments each of the Middles Students thought up.


Juniors Group, grades 3-5 – teacher Renee Dorman

In May, the Juniors class learned about Shavuot. We watched a video about this lesser known holiday. We learned about the tradition of reciting acrostic poems of the alef-bet during the Shavuot service, and briefly looked at the content of one such poem, which is full of gratitude for God’s blessings. After a review of Hebrew, we took a humanist lens on the tradition and made our own (English) alphabet books of things we are grateful for. We also included the Hebrew letter(s) that makes the same sound in each alphabet page.


B’Mitzvah Prep Group, grades 6-8 – teacher Eva Cohen

The B Mitzvah Prep class spent this session learning about the Holocaust. After our usual Hebrew conversation warm-up, Teacher Eva gave a presentation on Holocaust history. This presentation touched on the historical and economic conditions that enabled Nazism’s rise. It also explored the ways in which some people actively supported or silently enabled the Nazi cause while other people combatively or peacefully resisted Nazism.
Students then split into groups to study Holocaust survivor testimonies, reading transcript excerpts and watching videos from four different US Holocaust Memorial Museum survivor oral history interviews. After this, we came back together as a large group to discuss the survivor stories, including how each survivor had engaged in some form of resistance to the Nazis. Students concluded by making drawings representing important themes and details in the survivor oral histories.

  A Holocaust survivor’s remembrance of a glove dominated Neva F.’s reflection on oral histories listened to by the B’Mitzvah Prep Class

For next lesson, which will focus on Israel/Palestine, students should prepare for class by exploring the following link and reading/watching at least three of the articles/videos hyperlinked: https://teachmideast.org/resource_guides/the-israeli-palestinian-conflict/

April Jewish Cultural School

On a beautiful April day our Jewish Cultural School classes met.  We had perfect attendance !!!!! so students were able to connect with all of their JCS friend.  Below are summaries of the learning and fun that happened in each group.

The Littles Group, PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we learned about Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah. We listened to a song, read two stories, and shared/drew ideas for ways we can help the world.

an ornate tzedekah box 



The Middles Group, grades 1 & 2, teacher Colline Roland

For our class we reviewed holidays and why/what they celebrate by reading two books.  Then we learned about Lag B’Omer and made our own bonfire craft. Because of the orientation of our fire, student were asked to have their parents take a picture and send it to Arty!

Ilana’s   paper  bonfire for Lag B’Omer

The Juniors Group, grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In April, the juniors class discussed how music can be used to create change and reviewed the history of Israel through music. We watched the music video of “March March” by The Chicks and listened to “The Times They Are A Changin'” by Bob Dylan to discuss the power of music and our duty to fight for justice.

Then we listened to 10 Israeli songs and watched a video putting them in context. We drew as we listened to the music, then went back to add color while we learned the historical context of each song. All the Israeli songs and the informational video can be found at https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt3DCnxWC38o0xk1-m5R4eMsphLv36Bbe

The B’Mitzvah Prep Group, grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen
During JCS this month the B Mitzvah prep class spent most of the lesson focused on Yiddish. After opening with discussion about the Derek Chauvin trial, Daunte Wright’s recent killing, and issues of justice and protest, we did our regular Hebrew conversation warm-up. Then we shifted to Yiddish, reviewing the letters of the aleph-beys and the sounds that they make together.
Next, students worked in teams to transliterate Yiddish terms ranging from מבֿין (meyven) to מענטש (mentsh) and all things in between. Students compared their transliterations to an answer key, then matched transliterated terms to their correct definitions and again compared their matches to an answer key. Finally, students wrote  creative pieces that incorporated at least ten of these Yiddish terms and shared their clever, funny writing with the class.
We closed with students  sharing what they already know about the Holocaust, the topic of our next session.

March JCS News

In March, our Jewish Cultural School classes all had Passover on their minds, with our Or Emet Seder scheduled for the following Sunday.


Here’s the scoop:

Littles Group: PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

Our focus at JCS this week was Passover. We learned about some of the customs we participate in, and the foods that we eat, on this special holiday. We read a book about Passover and we made matzah covers! We also learned to sing the very first part of the four questions.


Rebecca and her matzah cover


Middles Group: Grades 1 and 2, teacher Colline Roland

Today in class we practiced our Passover song with teacher Sarah. Then we reviewed the upcoming Passover holiday, talked about the plagues, and what/why we eat certain foods during Seder. Then, because we couldn’t decide what book to read, we read two books: The Great Passover Escape and Engineer Ari and the Great Passover Rush. To end, we completed a crossword and word search!


by Pamela Moritz                                        by Debra Bodin Cohen


Juniors Group: grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In March, the Juniors group reviewed the story of Passover, did an art project to experience to contrast between constraint and freedom, and had a discussion about when we need to have faith (and what that means for Humanists) and when we need to take action.  We also practiced a Passover song with Teacher Sarah.

A rendition of “freedom” by Ilsa


B’Mitzvah Prep Group: grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen

During class this month we:
  • learned about Jewish immigration to the US
  • learned from JCS parent Sergei Rakhmanov as he shared his immigration experience with us
  • sang Passover songs with Sarah
  • made art to be shared during Or Emet’s Passover Seder
  • started playing a Yiddish word game – to be continued next month

February JCS

February 21, 2021 found us gathering once again on Zoom for our monthly Jewish Cultural School classes.  After our whole group singing of Aleph Bet, the Hebrew Alphabet, reciting the Blessing for Children and singing together, our students divided into four breakout rooms for class.  Read on to find out what happened in each class.

Littles Group – PreK – Kindergarten,  teacher Josh Kaplan

This week at JCS we learned about Purim! We sang “My Hat Has Three Corners”, drew pictures of our dream costumes, and read TWO books.  Teacher Sarah stopped in to teach us a Purim song.  We topped the morning off with our first ever VIRTUAL Purim carnival. It was so great to see everyone’s faces!

         Haman’s Three-Cornered Hat

Middles Group – grades 1 – 3, teacher Colline Roland
Today we read “Talia and the Hamam-Tushis” and Rosalie shared her book “Queen Vashti’s Comfy Pants”. In between our readings and video we had 4 directed drawings: our favorite Hamamtashen, Queen Esther, King A., and Haman. It was also decided by the class that while Haman is the main villain in Purim, King A. wasn’t really all that great either because he ordered Queen Vashti around!   We also had a visit from Sarah who taught us a song for Purim.
Juniors Group – Grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman
In February, the Juniors group reviewed our knowledge of Purim.  Sarah joined the group to teach us a  Purim song, in preparation for the carnival.  Then we departed from the holiday – and the country – on a virtual escape room journey through Israel. It was tough, but our group solved many of the puzzles! If you would like to try it out for yourself, it is available at https://sites.google.com/view/jcsisrael/home?authuser=0
B’Mitzvah Prep Group – grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen
During our lesson this session, students continued learning about Sephardic contributions to Jewish culture and ideas. After our Hebrew conversation warm-up, the class listened to a short talk about Maimonides and his concept of the “Ladder of Tzedakah.” We looked at a diagram of this ladder and discussed “lower” versus “higher” forms of “charity” or righteous giving. Then students completed a web poll where they indicated the levels of giving that they had engaged in before (ranging from [8] small donations given grudgingly after being asked to [1] helping another person become self-sufficient). We looked at poll results for the class, and students reflected on these results while sharing personal stories about giving tzedakah.
Sarah joined our class to teach a Purim song, and afterward we pivoted to learning about Baruch Spinoza and his radical ideas. Students looked at pictures and listened to some information about Spinoza’s life, his challenges to religious orthodoxy, and his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam in 1656. Then each student read a piece of Spinoza’s philosophy in paraphrase and critically evaluated his ideas, coming up with examples to support or disprove his arguments. Next, the class learned about kabbalah and kabbalists’ belief in ‘tikkun’ as a way to mend the damage caused by “shevirat ha-kelim.”
                           Maimonides                                                                  Baruch Spinoza
Finally, we looked at images of postage stamps from Israel, the US, and elsewhere that celebrate Sephardic and other Jewish historical figures and cultural contributions. Inspired by these stamps, students began designing their own postage stamps to celebrate the contributions made by Maimonides, Spinoza, or kabbalah to Jewish culture and ideas.


                                                                   Israeli postage stamps