December JCS News

Greetings.  The days are short but we will soon brighten the long nights with the glow of Hanukkah candles.  At our December 6 Jewish Cultural School sessions, each of our groups revisited the origins of Hanukkah and its meaning for us today, They also prepared performance pieces to share at our upcoming Or Emet Hanukkah party, which this year, like our classes, will be celebrated over Zoom.

Littles Group – PreK- Kindergarten – teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we learned about Hanukkah! We explored Hanukkah traditions, learned a song about potato latkes, and read Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. We even learned that Burger Kings in Israel made a sufganiyot Whopper for the holiday!







Middles Group – Grades 1 & 2 – teacher Colline Roland

This Sunday our class learned about the similarities and differences between Kwanza and Hanukkah! We compared and contrasted two books, one on Kwanza and one on Hanukkah. We found that the two celebrations are very similar… so similar the class thought they were lighting a Menorah for Kwanza!
After that we learned about the traditions and story behind why we celebrate Hanukkah. Before the end of class the kids shared their collections of dreidels and it was determined that the class has over 50 dreidels between them!
The pictures attached are from our craft, Menorah Hands, for the Hanukkah party!


A menorah (left) for Hanukkah, and a kinara (below) for Kwanza.


Juniors Group – Grades 3-5 – teacher Renee Dorman

In December, the Juniors created a movie based on the recently published book  The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl, to be shown at the Or Emet Hanukkah party. Don’t miss it! We also began research about different cultures within Judaism, specifically the basics of Askenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jews. We learned that all these groups have more similarities than differences, while also learning what makes each group unique.


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

Our class session focused on the Jewish diaspora and connecting this topic to Chanukah preparations. After our regular Hebrew conversation warm-up, we discussed the meaning of “diaspora” and the evolution of the Jewish diaspora over the last 2500 years. To relate their family histories to this diaspora history, students digitally mapped the places that their ancestors came from, marking their Jewish ancestral origins with blue pins, their non-Jewish ancestral origins with green pins, and their ancestry that they were unsure whether it was Jewish or not with reddish-brown pins. A screenshot of our class map accompanies this post. We discussed patterns that we saw in the map, noting that many of our Jewish ancestors came from places in Eastern Europe.  Students listened to a short talk describing how Jewish people–many of them merchants or traders–came from the Middle East to settle in Europe, and learned how these Ashkenazi (European) Jewish communities developed culturally over the Middle Ages and into the modern era.

After a short break, we had a music lesson with Sarah, singing “Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov” in honor of the upcoming holiday. After singing, we focused on our Chanukah play,   called “Hanukah Gelt”  based on a Sholem Aleichem story and set in a shtetl in Eastern Europe–part of the Ashkenazi diaspora.  The class is excited to perform the play at Or Emet’s upcoming Chanukah party!



November 2020 JCS Sessions


On Sunday, November 8, after a pandemic-impacted Halloween, an historic and chaotic election it was comforting to gather on our Zoom call for a stimulating adult program while our students attended Jewish Cultural School.  Below are summaries of what occurred in each group this month.  Come back next month to read about how our classes prepared for celebrating Hanukkah as an online event.

Littles Group – PreK- Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan


Middles Group – grades 1-2, teacher Colline Roland

For our lesson we took a trip to Israel! We learned our important manner words in Hebrew and then we jetted off! We arrived Friday night and learned that we couldn’t take our train because it was Shabbat! From there we went to a Kibbutz and we all decided we would like to live in one! Then we went to the Negev, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. We learned there’s all kinds of people living in Israel!

Kibbutz Barkai

Juniors Group – grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In November, with a nod to the recent elections and Humanistic values, the Juniors class talked about how we decided what we believe and how our society should work. We put our ideas into practice by creating our own constitutions for a new colony on Mars, called Planet B. If you would like to see how Mars looked when we arrived, you can explore it here:


  Ayla, Isla, Ari, Neva & Lila plan an ideal society on Mars.

We also did a Hebrew letter matching activity. The answer key is here:



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

Our class this month focused on learning about the Talmud. After our usual Hebrew conversation warm-up and a game of “Two Truths and a Lie” (connected to the Humanistic Jewish value of “emet”–truth), we reviewed some creepy Jewish mythology with roots in the Talmud–stories about golems, demons, and dybbuks. We looked at visual art incorporating this spooky mythology, and then students drew their own spooky Jewish comic art. We took a short break, and then regathered to study the famous Talmudic story of the Oven of Akhnai. Students listened to a storytelling version of the tale, read it aloud in translation, and then watched a music video retelling of it. We wrapped up with a good discussion of the story, where students reflected on its surprisingly humanistic themes (spoiler–it’s a story about majority rule and rabbis challenging God’s authority).

Dybbuk, by Ephraim Moshe Lilien (1874–1925).

Sukkot Celebration and JCS Classes

Our Jewish Cultural School  met on Sunday, October 4, 2020.  Each  covered a range of topics with engaging activities developed by our excellent teachers.  We concluded with a celebration of Sukkot – all on Zoom!

The Sukkot celebration offered a condensed (befitting both the Zoom format and the attention span of our younger JCS students) service led by Eva Cohen who, in addition to being our B’Mitzvah group’s teacher, is Or Emet’s rabbinic candidate and ritual leader.  That was followed with two songs for Sukkot led by Or Emet’s vocal music leader, Sarah Berman Young.

We concluded with an  Build an Instant Sukkah contest.  Participants were challenged to build a sukkah in three minutes, using materials found around the house.  It needed at least 3 walls, a roof that let light through, and be large enough for “someone” to fit inside.  Those “someones” included babies, Lego people, pets, and the child builders themselves.  Among the building materials were sofa cushions, cardboard boxes, blankets, newspaper, patio chairs and long grasses.  Everyone was a winner!

Instant Sukkah builder Rosie King with her sukkah


The Littles Group, PreK- Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we learned about Sukkot! We talked about why we build a sukkah, and why you shake a lulav and etrog. We also read two awesome books about Sukkut. It was great to see all our friends in the Littles class!

Aravit (willow), Lulav (palm branch), Hdassin (myrtle) and Etrog (citron)


Colline Roland

For our class we managed to all stay on Zoom for 1.5 hours, yay!   We started off with Halloween plans And costumes and then moved on to Jewish holidays! We learned about why and what Sukkot is.  Then we read ‘Tamar’s Sukkah’ on Epic! and scored an 80% on the quiz. We also created and decorated our hand drawn and computer drawn Sukkots. We learned the best thing to fill them with is friends (socially distanced of course) and food!

The Juniors Group, Grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman
In October the Juniors group learned about the Jewish and Arab nationalist movements from the beginning of the 20th century through WWI, using a historical role play involving European Jews,  Palestinians and British officials.
With Sukkot upon us, we watched a cool video taken at Sukkah City, a gathering of sukkah’s as modern sculptural art held in 2010 at New York City’s Union Square.  Then, after reviewing the purpose and requirements for a sukkah, we each designed our own in the medium of our choice, whether that was drawing, Minecraft, or fort building.
“Fractured Bubble” received the People’s Choice Award
at the Sukkah City Competition (2010)
The B’Mitzvah Group, Grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen
This month the B Mitzvah Prep class expanded their knowledge about the Talmud as well as the Jewish holiday calendar. We started out with our regular Hebrew greeting warm-up, and then Leah Chazdon, our teacher’s assistant, led a movement game based on Sukkot vocabulary.
After this opening, students read a quote from the Mishnah that describes “the four new years” in Jewish tradition, and we discussed the timing and significance of these four occasions. Looking closer at how the quote describes a disagreement between “Bet Hillel” and “Bet Shammai” about when the New Year for the Trees happens, we shifted to learning more about Hillel, Shammai, and the famous two-thousand-plus-year-old debates between these two scholars that are recorded in the Talmud and that shape Jewish tradition to this day.  We watched two animated video clips about Hillel and Shammai–one serious and one silly–and students discussed the differences between Shammai’s severity and Hillel’s leniency or flexibility in interpreting Jewish law. Drawing on this knowledge of the two scholars’ differences, and knowing that most Jewish customs came to follow Hillel’s approach, students did an activity where they looked at a series of quotes from the Talmud and guessed which were attributed to Shammai and which to Hillel.
Finally, shifting gears but continuing to focus on the Talmud, we got in the Halloween spirit and learned about creepy Jewish myths and legends that have some roots in the Talmud–including stories about golems, demons, and dybbuks. Then we wrapped up class a little early to join the large-group Or Emet Sukkot celebration.
Painting of a Sukkah, 19th C., Austria – painted on pine

Kicking Off a New Year


Our first Jewish Cultural School session of the 2020-2021 school year, and last of the year 5780 on the Jewish calendar, was on Sunday, September 13.

While we’d much rather be together in person, we continue to meet over Zoom, so that our kids connect with one another, with the bonus of being able to have a glimpse into their homes, perhaps a look at a pet, and share in other ways we cannot in the classroom.  And, of course, our teachers are able to provide lessons and activities to foster appreciation for our Jewish values, traditions, culture and history, seen through a lens of Humanism – see below for some examples.  Each class also had a visit from our Hebrew & Music specialist, Sarah Berman Young.

Some of our current students and recent graduates will be taking part in our upcoming High Holiday services.  Our next JCS session will be the first after the Jewish New Year, 5781, on Sunday, October 4, and will be followed by a celebration of Sukkot.  Hope to see you there!


Littles Group, Pre-school – Kindergarten,  teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS, we welcomed a new student and a guest! They were super fun to meet! We talked about Rosh Hashanah, Tashlikh, we read a story, we shared apples and honey, and we colored together. Even though we wished we could have seen each other in person, it was great to safely get together via Zoom.


Middles Group –  Grades 1 – 3, teacher Colline Roland

For our first session we read a book about Rusty Patched Bumblebee’s and learned they are important for our food supply. We learned that without them we wouldn’t have apples and honey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. We also talked about our New Year’s goals and what we were most looking forward to this year. And parents (and teachers), your kids miss school just as much as you if not more!

above: Middle group student Ben’s drawing of his New Year celebration.\


Juniors Group – grades 4-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In the Juniors class, we reviewed the High Holidays and focused on the act of Teshuva. We thought about what we’re looking forward to in the year ahead and reflected on how to be our best selves. Ask your child about their teshuva reflection! We also did some very tricky Hebrew word hunting. It was great to see everyone again and meet our new classmates!

above: Teacher Renee (center) and Juniors sharing their wishes for the year 5781.  

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

It was great to see everyone in class today, and to have JCS teaching assistant Leah Chazdon join us! We opened the morning with an introduction to the class and time for each of us to introduce ourselves. Then students took turns asking and responding in Hebrew to the question of how they were doing. We played a movement game to learn the High Holidays shofar calls and a verbal response game to learn/review the following three Hebrew words/phrases for Rosh Hashanah: tapuach (apple), d’vash (honey), and shanah tovah (literally “a good year”–greeting to express “happy new year”). After a music and Hebrew lesson with Sarah–including singing “B’chol Adam”–and a short break, we regrouped for discussion. We had a conversation about the High Holidays as a time for thinking about our values, our actions and behaviors, and whether our actions have lined up with our values over the past year. Students shared their core values, reflected on whether their actions of the past year aligned with these values, and wrote down personal goals for the new year to make teshuvah–to return to their values. We also took a group picture holding signs listing the things that we are most looking forward to in the new year. Finally, we looked at examples of “Shanah Tovah” greeting cards from the late 19th century until today. Taking inspiration from these cards and their diverse visual styles and themes, students created their own “Shanah Tovah” greeting cards to give to family or friends.

June JCS ends an eventful year

Our final Jewish Cultural School session for 2019-2020 was held on June 9, 2020, once again using the Zoom media platform.  Read below to find out how each of our groups finished the year.

Attendance has been great throughout the year.  10 of our 29 students had perfect attendance, 5 missed only one session and 9 missed only two sessions.  With the inevitably of illness, family travel, and significant student athletic or performance events posing conflicts, such strong attendance speaks to the value our families place on the knowledge gained and community built for their children through Jewish Cultural School.

Littles Group – PreK – Kindergarten,  teacher Josh Kaplan

                  Coming Soon

The Middles Group, Grades 1 – 3, teacher Colline Roland

In today’s class we focused on social justice and had a productive discussion about the events that took place in our community the past few weeks.  We discussed the following:
1. What is your community like? How are people different?
2. Have you ever been the different one?
3. If you didn’t tell people you were Jewish could they just look at you and know?
4. What does it mean to stand up for people, have you ever stood up for someone?
5. Is different bad or good?

To facilitate the conversation we read “Hannah’s Way”. After our read aloud the ideas of food injustice, environmental injustice, housing inequality, and educational injustice where briefly touched upon. Each of us then chose something that mattered to us and we created a ‘Justice Quilt’.

Top, left to right: Neva: Food Justice;  Leta: Food Justice ;  Ilsa: “I want everybody to be treated the same, nicely”

Bottom, left to right: Colline: Justice for ALL!; Benjamin: Educational Justice, Rosalie: “Everyone should have love”


Juniors Group, Grades 4-5, teacher Renee DormanIn June the Juniors class discussed the recent murder of George Floyd, and connected the protests to the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. Students had the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings on the subject. After our discussion, we switched to learning about Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the history of Israel. After watching a video about Hezekiah’s Tunnel… of brave adventurers were trapped inside! We worked hard to move five big rocks out of our way to escape. Try it at  (copy and paste this address to access the puzzles).



Clockwise from top left – Hezekiah’s Tunnel, King Solomon, divided ancient kingdoms (Israel and Judah), Israeli and Palestinian flags.


B’Mitzvah Group, grades 6-7, teacher Sam Wegner (for Eva Cohen)

The B’Mitzvah group used their time to discuss the dual impacts of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd on the Twin Cities community. The students shared how this crisis is impacting them, and the group discussed ways our community can heal from police violence and work towards alternatives for community safety. We finished by taking some time to view and create works of protest art surrounding the unique evil of police violence in the United States.