Here’s what November brought to Jewish Cultural School

Our four groups were all busy with engaging lessons planned by their teachers, plus a visit in each group from Music & Hebrew Teacher Sarah Berman Young.

Littles group – PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we started getting ready for our Hanukkah party by learning one of the songs we’re planning on singing. We also learned about Shabbat. We made challah covers, ate challah, and Teacher Josh safely lit the candles. We colored, and we read two short books about Shabbat


Middles group, grades 1 – 3, teacher Colline Roland

Today in class we started off with a conversation about gratitude. We acknowledged that we are very fortunate and grateful to have everything we have because not every has what we do. Next, teacher Sarah came in to teach us our Hanukkah song. After, the kids had to build a tower. After a few minutes they were unable to communicate. This led to the Story of Babel.
For our class’s mitzvah we recycled shirts and created dog toys to donate to the humane society.

The Middles groups Tower of Babel in ruins!


Juniors Group, grades 4 – 5, teacher Renee Dorman

In November, the Juniors class talked about the first major wave of Jewish immigration to the United States in the 1800s. We learned Kosher rules, and created Kosher Thanksgiving menus. Then we put our knowledge to practice in the kitchen by making a batch of take-and-bake potato knishes. Look forward to preparing our Hanukkah performance next month!


Boiling potatoes to make knishes!           Isaac and Julian sharing recipe tips


B’Mitvah Group – grades 6 and 7, teacher Eva Cohen

During our November session, we continued our humanistic Torah study with a focus on the book of Exodus. After opening with Hebrew conversation and brief review of last session’s content, students experimented with writing their names in Hebrew (the Hebrew name for Exodus is Sh’mot, meaning “Names”). Then we moved to reading and discussing the first and second chapters of Exodus in translation. We talked about the story’s description of Israelite enslavement and parallels to this in the history of other nations and peoples, we talked about the story’s heroes, and we talked about whether the story has any basis in fact. For those following along at home :), there is no historical proof that the Exodus as described in the Torah really happened, but many scholars believe that its narrative may be inspired by (1) the experiences of a few slaves who escaped from Egypt and became part of the Israelite ethnic group that coalesced in Canaan during the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age, (2) the overthrow and expulsion of the West Semitic Hyksos dynasty from Egypt in the 16th century BCE, and/or (3) Egyptian presence in and control over Canaan through the 12th century BCE, and the experience of dispossessed peasants, escaped slaves, and other marginalized people under Egyptian domination.

Students watched a clip from the animated film The Prince of Egypt that dramatically reimagines scenes from the opening chapters of Exodus, and then acted out and discussed funny skits (from Stan Beiner’s book Sedra Scenes) that retell later chapters of the story. After snack and our music and Hebrew lesson with Sarah, where students practiced singing “Mi Yimalel” in preparation for the Chanukah party, we returned to Exodus. Students watched and discussed a clip from Nina Paley’s 2019 animated film Seder-Masochism that creatively represents the Ten Plagues, and then made their own creative representations of the Exodus story. Looking at some images from (mostly medieval) haggadot for inspiration, students painted their own Haggadah pages that imaginatively depict scenes from Exodus. For next lesson, I have asked students to find out their Hebrew names (and to choose Hebrew names for themselves if they do not have them yet).


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.

September: Jewish Cultural School off to a great start

Thanks to our parents, teachers and students who made our first session of JCS such a happy time.  From my observations, all of the students were happily engaged in active learning.  Read below to find out a little about what each group did.    The bring-your-own-snack worked out really well, too.  I was prepared with a stash if any students (or their parents) had forgotten, but no one did!  What a great community!


The B-Mitzvah Prep Group – 6th and 7th Grade Students, teacher Eva Cohen

For our first JCS session of the year, we kicked off with welcomes, introductions and icebreakers, and Hebrew conversation practice. Students learned a little about the Hebrew Bible from a secular humanistic Jewish perspective, and then the class read aloud and acted out Genesis 1-2 in translation. Through critical discussion, students realized that these two chapters actually contain two different versions of the creation story that come from two different biblical authors/sources. The Torah, our lesson emphasized, reflects the perspectives of different human authors from different time periods with a range of agendas and priorities.     The B-Mitzvah Prep group has 9 students.



Juniors Group  – 4th and 5th Grade Students, teacher Renee Dorman

t was great to come together again in September. This month the Juniors learned about key High Holiday practices and artifacts, and worked in small groups to go deeper into the traditional spiritual importance of Rosh Hashanah. We then watched a short film of the story of Abraham and Isaac and discussed it through a humanistic lens, identifying the beliefs, traditions, and decision making tools we use as Humanistic Jews. We practiced Hebrew phonics and decoded a secret spy message in Hebrew, before writing and illustrating our names in the style of Renaissance-era illuminated manuscripts. (Google “Mishneh Torah” to see our inspiration.) Most students took home a Hebrew alphabet packet with two sheets – consonants and vowels. Please encourage your child to review the letter sounds over the next month.   Thank you!        The Juniors group has 8 students. 



Middles Group – 1st, 2nd and 3rd Grade Students, teacher Colline Roland

On our first day we discussed charitable giving, read a book, crafted, and finished with a video. Our lesson for day 1 revolved around ‘charitable giving’! Each student created their own Tzedekah box and came up with what they wanted to donate their money to to help save the world! Some things the students wanted to save included: Tigers, Mice, and Ocean Life.  In the photo below you will also catch a glimpse of our ace teacher aide, Ian Zukor.   The middles group has 5 students.











Littles Group, PreK and Kindergarten Students, teacher Josh Kaplan

(text coming soon)

The Littles group has 4 students.

Rainbow Graces Summer Havdalah – Picnic

On August 3, 55 Or Emet members and friends, from toddlers to octagenerians, gathered at Crosby Farm Park in St. Paul for a meaningful Havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat, conducted by ritual leader Eva Cohen,



followed by a picnic with hot dogs (meat and vegie) off the grill, all kinds of temptations brought by attendees, lively conversation, kids games, walks on hiking trails to the Mississippi River, and ending with s-mores over the fire pit.

During the service a burst of rain fell but we were safely under a picnic shelter.  After the service, the rain ceased and our picnic was embraced by a beautiful rainbow, captured above by Or Emet and photographer extraordinaire Sonny Taylor