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

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!



October: Jewish Cultural School and Sukkot Party


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


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.


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.


[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


[Coming Soon]


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!


[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!