Class Update – Pre-School, January 2010

Today we got to celebrate Tu B’shevat together! We started the day with song, of course, and then went to our classroom to say our “shaloms” to one another. We then worked on our Humanistic Judaism coloring books and talked about what it means to be a Humanist. We talked about how we are all connected to one another, in a big world family, just as we have a family in our own home and a Jewish family. We found it helpful to talk about the “chain” of connection that we learned about when discussing our Jewish family.

After that, we moved on to celebrating the earth. We learned the hebrew word olam, meaning earth, and practiced the word by playing our very fun “olam, olam, world” version of duck duck goose. We always have a good time with that game! We then went downstairs to read a story about appreciating the earth and talking about what we can do to make the earth a better place. Then we go to doing just that- we planted some seeds- basil, thyme, and a flower- and hopefully we’ll all see them grow big and tall soon enough!

Class Update – Juniors, January 2010

At the January juniors class session, students learned about Yiddish and the persistence of many Yiddish terms in contemporary English speech. Students received copies of these Yiddish words/terms commonly used in English–written out in standard Yiddish orthography–and transliterated them using a phonetic guide to the Yiddish alphabet. Then members of the class took turns sharing their work, reading aloud words like “schlep,” “shpiel,” “bagel,” and “mazel tov” to the group, and we played a large-group matching game to pair the Yiddish words with their definitions in English. Afterward, students wrote humorous short stories/monologues incorporating all of the Yiddish vocabulary discussed, and read completed work to the class. The morning wrapped up with more service-project discussion; the group voted on different project options and moved forward with plans to volunteer at a Twin Cities soup kitchen (details forthcoming–project is planned for April).

Class Update – Middles, January 2010

The focus of the session was on Tu B’Shevat and trivia was back! We played Tu B’Shevat trivia to learn more about the Jewish holiday that essentially celebrates trees, nature and agriculture. We talked about everything from the ancient origins of the holiday (celebration and worship of the goddess Asherah) to the foods we eat (typically fruits and nuts that grow in Israel) and we even talked about what a Kibbutz is (a communal “village” in Israel).

After trivia, we read a series of poems about trees including one from Karen Shragg, a poet from Richfield, MN. The kids had the opportunity to share what they felt the poets were saying through their poetry. Each student then created their own tree poem. It was a combination of art and poetry, where they both wrote a poem and depicted an image of a tree on the page as well. Some drew a tree and wrote the poem n it, some wrote the poem around their tree and some wrote the words in the shape of a tree. If any parents would like to email us their child’s poem, we can certainly post here on WordPress!

Before joining the adults for the Tu B’Shevat seder we spent a few minutes on some Hebrew words related to Tu B’Shevat. It would be great if the parents would spend a few minutes going over these words with their children prior to the next session.

This link includes our Tu B’Shevat Trivia, the poems we read and the Tu B’Shevat Hebrew words.

Class update – Juniors, December 2009

The December juniors class, organized around a Hanukkah theme, focused on the ways that historical explanation can differently inform how contemporary Jews celebrate and think about the holiday. Class started off with a game of dreidel; students played for gelt and had a chance to re-familiarize themselves with some Hebrew letters. Then the class worked to solve a riddle that engaged them in thinking about how the Hebrew letters on the dreidel connect to the rest of the Hebrew alphabet; taking the phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” the celebrated acronym that takes the dreidel-letters as its basis, they used phonetic principles to spell the words out in Hebrew, and employed a glossary of terms to discover that this phrase translates as “A great miracle happened here.” They discussed the significance of this phrase to the standard retelling of the Hanukkah story and its ‘miracle of lights,’ and then moved on to some theater activities. Two groups of students read two different accounts of the Hanukkah story–one a traditional retelling of the Maccabees’ triumph over Greek oppressors, while the other (supported by most contemporary scholars) an account suggesting that the Maccabees were actually involved in a civil war with more assimilated, Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem (and King Antiochus just intervened). Each group created a mini-play about their version of the Hanukkah story and presented it to the class, and their performances became a springboard for discussion about the reasons one historical explanation might be promoted by Jewish people as opposed to another, more historically true, explanation. The lesson finished with rehearsal and final planning time for the Hanukkah play “Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins.”

Class Summary – Pre-school, December 2009

Since the Humanistic Judaism packets were such a big hit last month, the students continued to work on them again this week. We finished up the section on what it means to be Jewish and have now moved into what it means to be Humanistic. We’re talking about the fact that we below to a world family along with own family and the Jewish family we’ve been talking about. We’ll continue working on these packets until we’re through with them, a little bit at a time, as the student’s seem to enjoy them and we’re about to discuss challenging but important topics.

This week we learned another new word” be’vakasha, which means please. Because our version of duck, duck, goose helped the student’s learn the word mayim in the last session, we worked on learning the word be’vakasha in the same way. Everyone seemed to get it, but learning new words are hard so it would be great if the student’s could try and practice these words at home.

We also practice the student’s parts in the Chanukkah play with the middle’s class and everyone got to be at least two characters! The students did a great job mooing, meowing, neighing, and making noise as children. I’m sure everyone will do smashing at the real thing! To learn a bit more about Hanukkah before it starts, we also read a book about how one family celebrated Hanukkah, complete with drediels, latkes, and the menorah.