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



April Jewish Cultural School

The April JCS session was lively and well attended, with each group preparing for Passover along with learning other lessons.  Music/Hebrew teacher Sarah Berman Young visited each classroom and reviewed songs for the Seder.

One more JCS Session this year – 0n May 19, 2019.

The Littles Group – teacher Josh Kaplan

Today at JCS we learned all about Passover. We got to see an actual Seder plate, and we made sleeves for hiding an afikoman. We read two Passover books and we learned the Four Questions.

Teacher Josh has about two weeks to go before the baby arrives, if all goes as planned. And, because some of you have asked, it’s a boy!


The Middles Group – teacher Colline Rowland

On Sunday our class discussed the upcoming holiday of Passover! We learned the story of Passover, illustrated the plagues, and learned about the Seder plate and why we eat the foods we do. We also played a Passover themed ring toss game that everyone loved!


The Juniors Group – teacher Renee Dorman

The Juniors group reviewed Passover rituals with a game of pictionary. Then we looked at the original story of Exodus using the Brick Testament ( Note that while the Exodus pages are not too racy, other parts of the website are definitely for adults only. Students reflected on the Exodus story. Teacher Renee issued a Passover Lego Challenge to all Juniors students: Create a Passover-related lego scene, snap a photo, and email your photo to Renee at All participants will receive a small prize in May, with a larger prize for the winning photo.


The B’Mitzvah Prep Group – teacher Eva Cohen

Our April class focused on learning about the Holocaust. For the first half of the session, students attended the Or Emet adult program, “The Garden of the Righteous: A Klezmer Music Program and Fundraiser” with Judith Eisner and the Naye Strunes Klezmer Quartet. Afterward, we dismissed to our classroom to discuss our responses to the program and to reflect on what we learned from it about the “Righteous Among the Nations” and their brave efforts during the Holocaust to save the lives of many Jews and others targeted by the Nazis. After break and a music and Hebrew lesson with Sarah where we reviewed the “Four Questions” and some related Passover vocabulary, students returned to thinking about the Holocaust, its causes, and different responses to it. We talked about different forms of resistance to the Nazis, ranging from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and partisan resistance to helping people escape and hide to maintaining hope and Jewish cultural life. Students finished the lesson by each imagining and drawing a design for a memorial to honor brave Holocaust resisters.

March Jewish Cultural School – Celebrating Purim

Thankfully we got through our March JCS session without having to work around a snowstorm.  We had lively classroom sessions, and an even livelier time at our annual Purim Carnival.  Thanks so much to everyone who helped set up the carnival and run the games and activities, and a special thank you to Anne Handley who prepared the dough in advance and worked with all of our students to bake delicious hamanetschen.

Here are summaries of each class’s activities, and some photos from the carnival.  See you next month, when (among other things) our students will prepare for the Passover Seder that will come shortly after.

The Littles Group (pre-school & kindergarten), teacher Josh Kaplan

This week at Jewish Cultural School we learned all about Purim. The Purim story is a hard one to tell to very small children, simply because of the threats of violence, so I tend to keep it light and general. We sang the song “My Hat Has Three Corners,” which is super fun because, each time the verse repeats, you leave out words! We also colored, read two Purim books, and made hamentashen. At the end of the day, we all participated it the school’s Purim carnival which was a ton of fun!

Note: My baby is due April 28th. My expectation is that I am present for the final two sessions but, as you parents are aware, babies don’t always arrive on schedule.


The Middles Group (1st – 3rd grade) – teacher Colline Roland

Today our class revolved around the holiday of Purim! As we anxiously awaited the clock to strike 11:45am we did a couple things in class. Firstly we had a conversation about what the kids remembered about Purim. Then we set the record straight about their thoughts and Ian read Sammy Spiders First Purim. After, Ari thought up a game similar to Simon Says where when you hear Hamans name you clap and stop your feet. From there we played a version of Marco Polo. One of the kids was blindfolded and had to figure out where and who was saying Hamans name. Lastly, we created Stars of David using name specific-enstachens rather than Hamantaschens!

The Juniors Group (4th – 5th grades) – teacher Renee Dorman

In March, the Juniors group reviewed our knowledge of Purim and watched a short film version of Queen Esther’s story. We also had a great time celebrating by making our own Purim costumes!

The B’Mitzvah Prep Group (6th and 7th grades) – teacher Eva Cohen

This month at JCS, B’ Mitzvah students learned about the history of Jewish immigration to the United States. The class did an Ellis Island immigration simulation, and then discussed biases and issues in the US immigration system (both historically and contemporarily). We talked a little about Eastern European Jewish immigration to New York City specifically and Jewish contributions to Broadway/American musical theater, and then students acted out a short purimshpiel based on the musical West Side Story. Students finished the morning by helping to run games for the Purim carnival!

Purim Carnival photos taken by Scott Chazdon (thank you, Scott)