October: Jewish Cultural School and Sukkot Party

Greetings,

In spite of the cold drizzle, there was enough fall color to make it feel like Sukkot  when we met on Sunday, October 13.  Following JCS classes, we had a Sukkot party, feasting on pizza – leading to cleverly dubbing the Sukkah our “Pizza Hut” – and all ages took part in a service conducted by Or Emet ritual leader Eva Cohen and song leader Sarah Berman Young.

By the way, we had perfect attendance at Sunday’s JCS!  With meeting only once each month, it is so important that our kids make it as often as possible, so please keep up the good work!

Read below to find out what each group did during their class time.

Littles Group – PreK – Kindergarten – Teacher Josh Kaplan

This month we learned about Sukkot. We got to smell an etrog (lemon) and wave a lulav (asparagus). We colored, sang, read a Sukkot story, and made paper chains to decorate our Sukkah!

Middles Group – Grades 1 – 3 – Teacher Colline Roland

In class we started off with a book, The Vanishing Gourd!

After our read aloud the kids discussed what Sukkot is and what is celebrated, based on what they learned from the book and what they knew.

We then connected the holiday of Sukkot with social justice issues as we created a paper chain. Each student decorated a chain. One of the paper chains was decorated to answer the question, “What’s one good deed you’ve done this year?”

Junior Group – Grades 4 & 5 – Teacher Renee Dorman

In October, the JCS Juniors reviewed the holiday of Sukkot. We then moved on to learning about Jews in early America, including Jewish Americans who supported the Revolutionary War. Did you know that the famous George Washington letter featuring the biblical line “everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree” was written to a synagogue, in thanks for their support with the revolution? Pretty cool! We also continued our work on Hebrew phonics. Students sounded out and wrote their own names using Hebrew letters – including the vowels! We tied this all together with a game on jeopardy.

B’Mitzvah Group – Grades 6 & 7 – Teacher Eva Cohen

The B’ Mitzvah class this month continued their humanistic Torah study while building their Hebrew skills. After our usual Hebrew speaking warm-up, we reviewed the differences between the two creation stories at the beginning of Genesis and talked about how they were probably written by two different authors with different theological beliefs and values. From here we pivoted to learning a little about the Documentary Hypothesis, the classic academic model for understanding the Torah as written by four different ancient Israelite/Judahite authors from different time-periods whose writings were edited or redacted together. After a brief discussion of the Garden of Eden story (“If you were a character in this story, would you or wouldn’t you eat from the Tree of Knowledge?”), we shifted gears, went over the aleph-bet, and played a Hebrew letter-recognition game. Students grabbed the right letters faster than me–they get a prize next time! 🙂 Then the class practiced writing the letters of the aleph-bet in block print and Hebrew script. After snack and break, we returned to class and students read short summaries of the remaining chapters of Genesis in tweet form, identifying stories that they were familiar with already as well as ones that were new to them. To tie our humanistic Torah study and Hebrew writing practice together, each student selected a chapter of Genesis and worked with an English-Hebrew glossary to learn and write some Hebrew vocabulary connected to their selected chapter. As we wrapped up for the day, students who wanted to get crafty made paper chain decorations for the sukkah and Sukkot party afterward, while other students continued to experiment with Hebrew writing.

JCS Class Summaries–November 8, 2015

Littles

Today at JCS we learned about mitzvot, and role-played ways that we could help each other. We drew pictures of some mitzvot we could do for each other, and shared them with each other. We also sang songs that helped us learn the names of body parts in Hebrew! At the end of the day, Ari made us all some rock oatmeal outside.

Middles

In November, the Middles had a great time learning about Shabbat. We reviewed what Shabbat is all about, played a game to help us remember, and had our own candle-lighting and Kiddush ceremony. We sung “Shabbat Shalom” and learned body parts in Hebrew with Sarah. Awesome! Then each student decorated a trivet with a picture of her or his family, to remind us what Shabbat is all about.

Juniors

[Coming Soon]

Bat/Bar Mitzvah Prep

After reviewing the Jewish history we’ve learned about so far this year, we turned our attention this lesson to the Talmudic Era. During this period in Jewish history—after the destruction of the Second Temple—the Oral Law grew quickly, people collected it together in the Talmud, and Jewish people across the diaspora began to use the Talmud to guide their daily lives. Students read a little about the Talmud and this period in history in a selection from The Veterans of History course text. Then we read an actual piece of the Talmud in translation; the excerpt, from Mas. Baba Kama 113a, is filled with arguments between rabbis about “dina de’malkhuta dina”—whether Jewish people should have to follow the laws of the non-Jewish lands where they live. After reading, students split into two groups and debated the question themselves in true Talmudic style! We learned a song with words that come from the Talmud along with Sarah, and then we talked about how the Talmud includes lots of discussions about blessings and rules for saying blessings. Students learned the traditional Shabbat blessings—for Jewish literacy’s sake—and then transliterated, learned, and practiced the Humanistic Shabbat blessings. We wrapped up class by creating Shabbat candleholders out of clay (imprinted with Star of David shapes made with Torx screws) and decoupage-ing plastic Kiddush cups with decorative, colorful tissue paper patterns. It was another full morning!

JCS Class Summaries–October 4, 2015

Littles

[Coming Soon]

Middles

In October, the Middles learned all about Sukkot. Sarah taught us some great songs to help us celebrate. We played a Sukkot game to review the history of the holiday, and did one of our favorite projects–making candy sukkahs!

Juniors

[Coming Soon]

Bat/Bar Mitzvah Prep

During our October class, we did a mix of reading, critical thinking exercises, discussion, and creative, hands-on activities as we continued to study the start of the Jewish diaspora. Our lesson began with a brief history “lecture” outlining the Babylonian Exile and changes in Jewish life post-Exile, Judea under Greek rule, the Maccabeean Revolt, and the Hasmonean dynasty. Then students turned to their course text, The Veterans of History, to read about the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We discussed the reading, watched a short video about famous Pharisee and famous Sadducee Hillel and Shammai, and did an activity where students read a mix of quotes from the more lenient, understanding Hillel and the comparatively strict, rule-bound Shammai and had to draw on their knowledge of each rabbi to identify who said what. After singing a Sukkot song and learning some holiday vocabulary with Sarah, students used cut vegetables/fruits and paint to make decorative stamps on decorations for the sukkah. We spent the rest of class learning about Judea under Roman rule and the Judean revolts. The class looked at images of coins minted by Jewish rebels during the Great Revolt (66-70 CE) and at the beginning of the Bar Kokhba War (132 CE) and compared them to a Roman coin from this broad time period. We talked about coins as symbols and the symbolism that appears on these coins in particular—including a very Sukkot-appropriate lulav and etrog on the Bar Kokhba War coin! Then students had the chance to get their hands dirty, creating scaled-up clay models of the coins of their choice. We packed in a lot of learning this lesson!

JCS Class Summaries–September 20, 2015

Littles

What a great first day back! This week we saw some familiar faces, and were introduced to some new ones. The biggest thing that we learned about was forgiveness, forgiving, and making amends. We read a story about telling the truth and earning trust, and drew pictures of situations where “making it right” might be in order. We brainstormed what “making it right” might look like in each situation. At the end of the day, the beautiful day was calling us so we played outside.

Middles

For the first JCS session of the year, the Middle class learned about the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We talked about what each holiday is and how we observe them. Sarah taught us to how to say “happy new year” and “I’m sorry” in Hebrew, and then led us in a Rosh Hashanah song. To celebrate the holidays, we decorated candles, something we use on important Jewish days. Many thanks to Ben Drucker, our excellent assistant!

Juniors

In September, the JCS Juniors class began to explore the idea of the Jewish diaspora, discussing reasons why populations move. We began with the fall of the Second Temple as it pertains to Jewish history, and then broadened our discussion of diaspora to include other ethnic populations. Students were invited to mark on a world map where their Jewish (and non-Jewish) ancestors came from and then we looked for migratory patterns. We did a very quick skim of European Jewish history and talked about the differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. We finished up playing a game where we learned about different High Holiday traditions throughout the Jewish diaspora.

Bat/Bar Mitzvah Prep

For our first class, we dove right into the ancient Jewish history leading up to our focus for the year—the history of the Jewish diaspora. After a quick warm-up, we reviewed the biblical/ancient Jewish stories and history we covered last year, and I introduced The Veterans of History: A Young Person’s History of the Jews, by Mitchell Silver, which will be our main text this year. Students did a short reading from the text that talked about the era of the prophets that came before the Babylonian Exile, and then each used a guide to the aleph-bet and Hebrew vowels to transliterate famous lines from the prophet Isaiah (“Lo yisa goy el goy cherev; v’lo yil’medu od milchamah”). Next students used a mini Hebrew glossary to come up with a rough translation of the lines (“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore”), and we connected these lines to the song “Lo Yisa Goy” that we regularly sing at Or Emet. Our music and Hebrew lesson with Sarah followed; she taught the class Hebrew vocabulary for the High Holidays along with the appropriately reflective song “Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li?” that’s based on Rabbi Hillel’s famous words. After Sarah’s lesson, we touched very quickly on the intervening span of history and then talked about celebrated Jewish thinkers Hillel and Shammai and the following quote from Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” Students brainstormed High Holidays resolutions to align with the first two questions—ways that they can improve themselves, and ways that they can better support their families and/or communities and make the world a better place. To cap off the activity they posed for pictures with these resolutions posted on big cartoon speech bubbles—making their resolutions bold and public! Thanks for a great first lesson, students!