February 17 JCS Summaries

Winter weather didn’t keep us from having a great turnout for our February Jewish Cultural School session.  Here’s a look at how each group spent their time together.

Littles and Middles Group  – combined, with teacher Colline Roland and teacher aide Ian Zukor

Today in class we hosted some 3,4, 5 and 6 year olds. Because of this our class activites were a bit more relaxed. Eli read us “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat”, and we talked about what the moral/theme; Bal Taschit. Then we each colored an item mentioned in the book and ordered them accordingly.

From there we talked more in depth about Bal Taschit and watched a video (Shaboom) for kids on Bal Taschit. Lastly we all created our own symbol representing Bal Taschit. (This idea came from recycling and the recycling logo♻️).

Most importantly, shout out to Ian for being with us and hosting a game of red light, green light after snack.

Watch the Shaboom video:



 Juniors Group with teacher Renee Dorman

In February, the Juniors class learned about Ellis Island. We looked at photos and used them as primary sources for evidence of what it would be like to be an immigrant. Then we wrote letters to of welcome and support to immigrants to the United States.

Julian and Rei (Juniors Class) at work.


B’Mitzvah Prep Group with teacher Eva Cohen

Coming soon!


January 20 Jewish Cultural School & Tu B’Shevat Sedar


We started off 2019 with our four lively JCS classes, each summarized below – and great attendance, with only a few absentees, proving that bitter cold doesn’t keep Minnesota’s Humanistic Jews from venturing out on a Sunday morning.

Scroll down for photos from our Tu B’Shevat Seder, as we celebrate the promise of spring’s return, to relieve us of the bare and cold days of winter with new life, growth and hope.


The Littles Group, teacher Josh Kaplan

The focus of the Littles class for today was celebrating Tu B’Shevat. We learned about all of the great things that trees do for us, and about how we use the wood they produce in so many useful things -from pencils to homes! We learned about the foods they produce, and how important they are to our environment. We colored and drew pictures of trees, we read a Tu B’Shevat story, and we wrapped up the day with an excellent Tu B’Shevat Seder. I (Teacher Josh) will be gone for the next session, so the Littles will meet with Teacher Colline.


The Middles Group, teacher Colline Roland

On Sunday we had a taste test! The kids were given 6 things to taste and identify, all of which wouldn’t exist without trees! After the tasting we discussed the immense value trees have and how Nutella exists because of trees…they were all astonished. From there we talked about how habitats are disappearing due to deforestation. After all of this we made gifts for the trees, because of course Tu B Shevat is to celebrate trees. The gift, of course, a bird feeder made from the peels of our taste test ingredients.

Taste Test: lemon juice, orange juice, walnuts, M&Ms, lime, and Nutella

Juniors Group,  teacher Renee Dorman

he Juniors class learned that much of the Torah is written in poetry – specifically in a type of poetry known as parallelism, where the same idea is expressed in multiple ways. Poetry continued as a Jewish tradition. When Jews began moving to Israel at the start of the Zionist movement, they were immersed in interacting with nature in a new way on kibbutz. As a result, there was an increase in Jewish poetry about appreciating nature. We learned about an Israeli poet know as Rachel the Poetess. Then we wrote and illustrated our own parallelism poems to honor a favorite natural wonder.


The B’Mitzvah Group, teacher Eva Cohen

This session the B’ Mitzvah Prep class learned about Sephardic Jewish history and culture and their connections to the Tu B’Shevat seder. After opening with our regular Hebrew conversation exercise, students listened to a talk and engaged in discussion about the history of the Sephardic Jewish community, from the ‘Golden Age’ under Muslim caliphates through the Reconquista, the Inquisition, Jewish expulsion from Spain, Sephardic diaspora, and Sephardic involvement with the development of Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. We learned about some basic beliefs in Kabbalah, and how Sephardic followers of Kabbalah developed the Tu B’Shevat seder as a way to promote what they understood as tikkun (repair) of the cosmos. Students studied some of the traditional symbols of the Tu B’Shevat seder and played a short quiz game about these symbols. Then the class spent time reading over Or Emet’s Tu B’Shevat seder to see how these symbols and their meanings have been Humanistically adapted, and students signed up to lead different parts of the Tu B’Shevat seder. We wrapped up class with a creative activity; students split into groups and created drawings to represent the “four worlds” of the Tu B’Shevat seder. Then we headed to the gym and worked together to lead the Tu B’Shevat seder!


Our Tu B’Shevat Seder,

led by ritual leader Eva Cohen and music/Hebrew teacher Sarah Berman-Young

The “Littles” lead the song “Plant a Tree for Tu B’Shevat”

The “Middles” lead the song “Tree of Life”


The Juniors class divided up and led the Seder in a two-part round, singing Israeli folk song  Hashkediyah  Porachat


       B’Mitzvah class leaders included Kai, Eliana, Noah and Gaian


Or Emet ritual leader Eva Cohen and music/Hebrew teacher Sarah Berman-Young






December JCS Sessions Welcome Snow and Hanukkah

From the Littles class, teacher Josh Kaplan

This week at JCS we welcomed a brand new member of our class -she fit right in! Welcome, Payton! The topic of the day was Hanukkah. We learned two Hanukkah songs, practiced spinning dreidels, and colored some awesome pictures. Later, we practiced lighting a menorah on a toy, non-burning, safety menorah. Then we watched as Teacher Josh lit a real one for the first night of Hanukkah. The next time we see each other will be at the Hanukkah party so make sure to save room for latkes!


From the Middles class, teacher Colline Roland

On Sunday our class  had music with Sarah. The kids decided rather than be alone in front of a group for the Hanukkah party that they’d prefer to be with the littles, so they learned the littles song. After this we attempted to make our own challah bread as we discussed the origins of Hanukkah and the traditions. As our bread baked the two students who were left chose to play dridel rather than bingo. The winner took home a dridel and gelt from Israel.

Middles students making challah and playing dreidel.



From the Juniors class, teacher Renee Dorman

In December, the Juniors reviewed with a game of Hanukkah pictionary. Then they read the story Latkes and Applesauce, and rehearsed for a play of the story for the Hanukkah party. We also reviewed the Hebrew letters found the dreidels – hey, gimmel, nun, and shin – and completed a coloring activity to practice letter recognition and sounds. Hope to see you at the Hanukkah party!


From the B’Mitvah Prep class, teacher Eva Cohen

Today in the B’Mitzvah Prep class, we learned about medieval European Jewish history and prepared for Chanukah. After our regular Hebrew conversation warm-up, students read a selection from The Veterans of History: A Young Person’s History of the Jews that focused on Jewish history and culture in Europe during the Middle Ages. After discussing the reading, students learned about the medieval European origins of dreidel, played a couple games of dreidel, and then learned about how the letters on the dreidel are traditionally read to symbolize “Nes gadol haya sham” (a great miracle happened there–a reference to the religious Chanukah story). Then we practiced some more Hebrew Chanukah vocabulary and a holiday song with Sarah. The last part of class students spent preparing a pantomime of “The Pan of Oil,” a Chanukah story by Chaver Paver translated from the Yiddish, in preparation for the Or Emet Chanukah party.

November JCS News

From Teacher Josh and the Littles Group…

AT JCS on Sunday, we learned about Shabbat. We discussed how we sometimes work, and sometimes rest. We lit candles, said Secular Humanistic prayers, and had challah covered in the challah covers that we made. We read TWO Shabbat stories, and sang songs together. Next week we will be focusing on Hanukkah!

And for those of you who don’t know, my family is growing! We are having a baby in the spring (due 4/28/19). I told the class this news on Sunday but they were less than impressed.

From Teacher Colline and the Middles Group:

During our class on Sunday the theme of the lesson was gratitude. We read “Bagels From Benny” and discussed the varying religious ‘levels’ of being Jewish and gratitude. We then talked about what we were thankful and grateful for as we shared our plans for Thanksgiving. From there the kids made Hanukkah paint scratch cards for the elderly (a compliment to our story and gratitude) which will be delivered to a Jewish retirement home.
We also had a chance to finish and paint our Apple pots!
From Teacher Renee and the Juniors Group
In November, the Juniors class learned about Kabbalah. After a briefly learning the basic idea of Kabbalah, we focused our attention on Jewish lore about golems. We watched two film interpretations of traditional golem stories, and followed up with a group discussion about the Golem of Prague. We also compared traditional Jewish golems to modern interpretations in Minecraft and Pokemon. Students sculpted and painted their own clay golem. (Don’t worry, we decided they can’t really come to life. 😉) We also reviewed the Hebrew letters alef, bet, vet, and dalet. Students practiced with a color-by-letter activity sheet. Try your very best to come next month – we will be learning about and practicing a short play for the Or Emet Hanukkah party!  Below is one of our golem creations:
From Teacher Eva – The B’Mitzvah Class …..
November’s B’ Mitzvah Prep class lesson focused on the beginnings of Jewish diaspora, Talmud, and Yiddish. Students learned about how Jewish communities moved and scattered across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe at increasing rates after the destruction of the Second Temple, and reflected on ways that Jewish religion and culture needed to change to respond to new realities–including the end of Temple worship and sacrifice. We discussed how the debates recorded in the Talmud reflect how rabbis in the beginning of the diaspora period worked to come up with interpretations of biblical laws, et cetera that could guide Jewish community life in the new era. Students read and acted out a bit of Talmud in translation, focusing in on how rabbis reinterpreted and transformed a biblical law from the book of Deuteronomy that describes how a “rebellious son” should be punished. Then the class learned a little about Yiddish, the Jewish language that emerged from the fusion of German and Hebrew in the Ashkenazi diaspora. Students split into teams to play a game where they transliterated some still-commonly-used-today Yiddish words (think “shlep,” “mayven,” “shmaltz,” “megillah,” etc), and then competed to accurately match these words with their definitions in English. We wrapped up the day with some creative writing; students wrote poems, short stories, and jokes that incorporated the Yiddish vocabulary that they learned or reinforced in the game. It was a fun way to end class!

Paul Golin Visited October 14

Paul Golin, Executive Director of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, spent four days with Or Emet, October 11-14, 2018.  On his final day, Paul led an adult discussion on “The Light Within: What do Humanistic Jews Want Their Children to Know About Judaism”

Paul shared his own story, growing up as a Conservative Jew and finding his way to Humanistic Judaism.  The discussion drew on the insights and experience of many of our members, straddling generations.  I heard expressed a desire for or children to value the thousands year old heritage we inherit as Jews, the values of social justice, reasoned inquiry, and adaptation to changing times, and to feel positive and proud of being Jewish.

A valuable point was the distinction between tribalism –  making our Jewishness a way of creating boundaries with other ethnic and religious groups which becomes a path to conflict – and multiculturalism – celebrating what is unique about our Jewish lives, but also valuing the uniqueness of others in climate that respects all cultural heritage.