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.



May JCS – Zooming Right Along

The logistics of holding Jewish Cultural School classes on Zoom went a lot more smoothly our second time around.  After an opening recitation of the aleph-bet, a song and the Children’s Blessing, all led by Sarah Berman Young, students were digitally divided into their four groups.

The Littles Group, PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we covered Tu B’Shevat, which was the topic that we missed due to our snow cancellation in February. It was nice to talk about Tu B’Shevat in May when everything’s starting to bloom, and people are out planting trees! We talked about celebrating the birthday of the trees, and being thankful for all that trees and plants give us. We planted some sunflower seeds, one for each student, and made guesses as to how much they would grow by our next session. We also read “The Giving Tree”, which is always a favorite!


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

  summary coming soon

Paper cut-outs made by Middles student Ilsa Fine as a Shavout decoration.


The Juniors Group, Grades 4-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In May, the Juniors class studied the holiday of Shavout. We discussed the Ten Commandments and why it’s important for societies to have rules. One Shavout tradition is to decorate with flowers, so we made origami flowers together.  You can see how to make them at this link:

Some students stayed a little longer to practice Hebrew with a Kahoot!


The B’Mitzvah Group, Grades 6-7, teacher Eva Cohen

The B’ Mitzvah prep class started off the morning with opening activities and the introduction of a special project by Seth–our class guest! Then I (Eva) gave a brief reminder run-down/summary of what happens in the Torah, introduced the “Deuteronomistic History,” and talked a little about the difference between this “history” and the actual history of ancient Israel/Judah. We looked at some ancient archaeological evidence from Israel (the Tel Dan Stele), and students used their Hebrew and critical thinking skills to decipher and evaluate the evidence.

We read a few classic stories about King Saul, King David, and King Solomon, and then we explored those stories more by making and sharing dance moves inspired by dramatic moments in each narrative. I unfortunately experienced some disruptions in my internet connectivity throughout the lesson, and I appreciated students’ patience in bearing with me as I reconnected to our Zoom classroom.

The Tel Dan Stele


April JCS Session Zooms to Life

Spring greetings,             

Due to the Corvid 19 pandemic and state-wide stay at home rule, our April 5  Jewish Cultural School session took place using the Zoom on-line meeting platform.  This was a first for us, an experience shared with other programs and K-12 educators around the state and nation.   We got through some minor first-time hiccups to give all of our students an opportunity to connect with their Or Emet friends and teachers, and to continue learning about Jewish culture, history, traditions and values.

We started, as we do when we meet in person, in one large group with Sarah Berman Young leading us through a choral recitation of the alef-bet, our Children’s Blessing, and an opening song.    The students and their teachers were then placed in virtual Zoom break-out rooms for their separate lessons, as described below.

The Littles Group, Pre-School – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

Sunday was our first virtual session of Or Emet’s Jewish Cultural School; a social distancing success! After our group meeting, and humanistic blessings, we sang our morning song from the comfort of our own homes! We learned about Passover, and we watched a short clip from Shalom Sesame about going to a seder. It was great to see everyone’s faces, and to check-in during these challenging times. We’re all looking forward to seeing each other again next month! Chag sameach!


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

After a welcome and checking in on whether or not my students missed school we watched a Passover Shaboom episode. We learned the brief story of Passover and why we throw out all leavened breads. After our shared video, we learned how the Pharaoh of Egypt wouldn’t let the Israelites go, held them as slaves, and then 10 plagues descended upon Egypt. After this we did a group worksheet with Passover specific words so we could learn the meaning and importance of the words that would come in our word search. After doing the vocabulary as a group we then moved on to a Passover word search!

The Juniors Group, Grades 4-5, teacher Renee Dorman

The Juniors group enjoyed seeing each other via Zoom in April. We checked in on how we are all doing. Then we played a tough round of Passover trivia using a Kahoot! We watched a video about Anne Frank and compared her experience in their hiding place to our (much easier) experience during social distancing. Looking at Anne’s quotes about finding beauty in hard times, we made a list of the 10 plagues of Passover, another of some modern plagues, and a most important list of things that give us joy and gratitude. Students finished the class with a color-by-alef-bet worksheet to review Hebrew letters and color names.



The B’Mitzvah Prep Group, Grades 6-7, teacher Eva Cohen

This class session the B’ Mitzvah Prep class focused on continuing study of biblical law and ethics. Class opened with a chance for students to share how they’ve been doing during the pandemic; everyone shared what’s been challenging for them as well as what’s helped them feel positive and hopeful. We also asked each other and responded to the question of how we’re doing in Hebrew.

We moved on to looking closely at similarities and differences between law in Hammurabi’s Code and law in the Torah on the theme of ‘an eye for an eye’; students saw how the Babylonian Code only applies this punishment in response to harm of an aristocratic person, while the Israelite Torah law, written about a thousand years later, legislates this as the punishment for harm of any person of any class, citizen or stranger. Students discussed connections to American laws, and talked about different times in American history–including today–when the law has or has not recognized the lives of all people as equally valuable. Then we moved on to a broader discussion of biblical law, looking at lots of examples and discussing which biblical laws seem ethical from a modern Humanistic Jewish perspective and which do not.

Next, students reviewed a list of kosher laws found in or derived from the Torah, and then we played the “Kosher or Treyf” trivia game. We closed with a chance for high scorers in the game to select dress-up themes for our next JCS Zoom class! 🙂

To prepare for Passover, interested students will take time on their own this week to craft their own model Seder plates–especially useful for celebrating Passover at home this year if their families do not have Seder plates.