December JCS Sessions Welcome Snow and Hanukkah

From the Littles class, teacher Josh Kaplan

This week at JCS we welcomed a brand new member of our class -she fit right in! Welcome, Payton! The topic of the day was Hanukkah. We learned two Hanukkah songs, practiced spinning dreidels, and colored some awesome pictures. Later, we practiced lighting a menorah on a toy, non-burning, safety menorah. Then we watched as Teacher Josh lit a real one for the first night of Hanukkah. The next time we see each other will be at the Hanukkah party so make sure to save room for latkes!


From the Middles class, teacher Colline Roland

On Sunday our class  had music with Sarah. The kids decided rather than be alone in front of a group for the Hanukkah party that they’d prefer to be with the littles, so they learned the littles song. After this we attempted to make our own challah bread as we discussed the origins of Hanukkah and the traditions. As our bread baked the two students who were left chose to play dridel rather than bingo. The winner took home a dridel and gelt from Israel.

Middles students making challah and playing dreidel.



From the Juniors class, teacher Renee Dorman

In December, the Juniors reviewed with a game of Hanukkah pictionary. Then they read the story Latkes and Applesauce, and rehearsed for a play of the story for the Hanukkah party. We also reviewed the Hebrew letters found the dreidels – hey, gimmel, nun, and shin – and completed a coloring activity to practice letter recognition and sounds. Hope to see you at the Hanukkah party!


From the B’Mitvah Prep class, teacher Eva Cohen

Today in the B’Mitzvah Prep class, we learned about medieval European Jewish history and prepared for Chanukah. After our regular Hebrew conversation warm-up, students read a selection from The Veterans of History: A Young Person’s History of the Jews that focused on Jewish history and culture in Europe during the Middle Ages. After discussing the reading, students learned about the medieval European origins of dreidel, played a couple games of dreidel, and then learned about how the letters on the dreidel are traditionally read to symbolize “Nes gadol haya sham” (a great miracle happened there–a reference to the religious Chanukah story). Then we practiced some more Hebrew Chanukah vocabulary and a holiday song with Sarah. The last part of class students spent preparing a pantomime of “The Pan of Oil,” a Chanukah story by Chaver Paver translated from the Yiddish, in preparation for the Or Emet Chanukah party.

November JCS News

From Teacher Josh and the Littles Group…

AT JCS on Sunday, we learned about Shabbat. We discussed how we sometimes work, and sometimes rest. We lit candles, said Secular Humanistic prayers, and had challah covered in the challah covers that we made. We read TWO Shabbat stories, and sang songs together. Next week we will be focusing on Hanukkah!

And for those of you who don’t know, my family is growing! We are having a baby in the spring (due 4/28/19). I told the class this news on Sunday but they were less than impressed.

From Teacher Colline and the Middles Group:

During our class on Sunday the theme of the lesson was gratitude. We read “Bagels From Benny” and discussed the varying religious ‘levels’ of being Jewish and gratitude. We then talked about what we were thankful and grateful for as we shared our plans for Thanksgiving. From there the kids made Hanukkah paint scratch cards for the elderly (a compliment to our story and gratitude) which will be delivered to a Jewish retirement home.
We also had a chance to finish and paint our Apple pots!
From Teacher Renee and the Juniors Group
In November, the Juniors class learned about Kabbalah. After a briefly learning the basic idea of Kabbalah, we focused our attention on Jewish lore about golems. We watched two film interpretations of traditional golem stories, and followed up with a group discussion about the Golem of Prague. We also compared traditional Jewish golems to modern interpretations in Minecraft and Pokemon. Students sculpted and painted their own clay golem. (Don’t worry, we decided they can’t really come to life. 😉) We also reviewed the Hebrew letters alef, bet, vet, and dalet. Students practiced with a color-by-letter activity sheet. Try your very best to come next month – we will be learning about and practicing a short play for the Or Emet Hanukkah party!  Below is one of our golem creations:
From Teacher Eva – The B’Mitzvah Class …..
November’s B’ Mitzvah Prep class lesson focused on the beginnings of Jewish diaspora, Talmud, and Yiddish. Students learned about how Jewish communities moved and scattered across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe at increasing rates after the destruction of the Second Temple, and reflected on ways that Jewish religion and culture needed to change to respond to new realities–including the end of Temple worship and sacrifice. We discussed how the debates recorded in the Talmud reflect how rabbis in the beginning of the diaspora period worked to come up with interpretations of biblical laws, et cetera that could guide Jewish community life in the new era. Students read and acted out a bit of Talmud in translation, focusing in on how rabbis reinterpreted and transformed a biblical law from the book of Deuteronomy that describes how a “rebellious son” should be punished. Then the class learned a little about Yiddish, the Jewish language that emerged from the fusion of German and Hebrew in the Ashkenazi diaspora. Students split into teams to play a game where they transliterated some still-commonly-used-today Yiddish words (think “shlep,” “mayven,” “shmaltz,” “megillah,” etc), and then competed to accurately match these words with their definitions in English. We wrapped up the day with some creative writing; students wrote poems, short stories, and jokes that incorporated the Yiddish vocabulary that they learned or reinforced in the game. It was a fun way to end class!

Paul Golin Visited October 14

Paul Golin, Executive Director of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, spent four days with Or Emet, October 11-14, 2018.  On his final day, Paul led an adult discussion on “The Light Within: What do Humanistic Jews Want Their Children to Know About Judaism”

Paul shared his own story, growing up as a Conservative Jew and finding his way to Humanistic Judaism.  The discussion drew on the insights and experience of many of our members, straddling generations.  I heard expressed a desire for or children to value the thousands year old heritage we inherit as Jews, the values of social justice, reasoned inquiry, and adaptation to changing times, and to feel positive and proud of being Jewish.

A valuable point was the distinction between tribalism –  making our Jewishness a way of creating boundaries with other ethnic and religious groups which becomes a path to conflict – and multiculturalism – celebrating what is unique about our Jewish lives, but also valuing the uniqueness of others in climate that respects all cultural heritage.


Our 5779 Sukkot Party

Welcome back to the Or Emet – Jewish Cultural School Blog

On September 30, our annual Sukkot party took place at the Saint Paul Jewish Community Center, afterwards taking part in the gala Jewish Community Fall Festival celebrating the re-opening of the JCC after a year of major renovations.

Here are decorations from our Littles, Juniors and B’Mitzvah JCS groups, illuminated by light through the window at the JCC library.

Ritual leader Eva Cohen lead 30 attendees through the Humanistic Sukkot service

JCS students taking part in the service, shaking improvised Lulavs

Students won prizes playing “Build the Sukkah Roof”, constructing a roof of sticks sturdy enough to bear the weight of five gourds.

All Ages Take Part in High Holiday Services

I hope you spent the recent Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays in ways that were meaningful to you.  Those who attended the Or Emet programs had the pleasure of seeing some of our own youngsters among the members sharing in presenting our services.

At the Rosh Hashanah service, Jewish Cultural School alums took part.  Recent  Middlebury University graduate Sam Wegner led the candle lighting,  high school junior Ian Zukor offered an insightful personal commentary, and Leah Chazdon, whose B’Mitzvah was just last month, led a responsive reading.

At the Yom Kippur afternoon service, 4th grader Julian Young did a wonderful job leading us (along with his dad, Adrian) in reading the Yom Kippur Resolutions.

And let us not forget that all of the services were beautifully led by Jewish Cultural School alum (and our rabbinate candidate) Eva Cohen.


January 21, 2019
January 26, 2019
  • St Stephen's Shelter dinner provided by Or Emet volunteers
    Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
February 7, 2019
  • Executive Committee Meeting
    Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
February 9, 2019
  • Shabbat Service | Program: Remnants of Diaspora Synagogues in Greece and Syria: Windows Into Ancient Jewish Diversity
    Time: 10:00 am - 11:30 am