February 21, 2021 found us gathering once again on Zoom for our monthly Jewish Cultural School classes. After our whole group singing of Aleph Bet, the Hebrew Alphabet, reciting the Blessing for Children and singing together, our students divided into four breakout rooms for class. Read on to find out what happened in each class.
Littles Group – PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan
This week at JCS we learned about Purim! We sang “My Hat Has Three Corners”, drew pictures of our dream costumes, and read TWO books. Teacher Sarah stopped in to teach us a Purim song. We topped the morning off with our first ever VIRTUAL Purim carnival. It was so great to see everyone’s faces!
Haman’s Three-Cornered Hat
Middles Group – grades 1 – 3, teacher Colline Roland
Today we read “Talia and the Hamam-Tushis” and Rosalie shared her book “Queen Vashti’s Comfy Pants”. In between our readings and video we had 4 directed drawings: our favorite Hamamtashen, Queen Esther, King A., and Haman. It was also decided by the class that while Haman is the main villain in Purim, King A. wasn’t really all that great either because he ordered Queen Vashti around! We also had a visit from Sarah who taught us a song for Purim.
Juniors Group – Grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman
In February, the Juniors group reviewed our knowledge of Purim. Sarah joined the group to teach us a Purim song, in preparation for the carnival. Then we departed from the holiday – and the country – on a virtual escape room journey through Israel. It was tough, but our group solved many of the puzzles! If you would like to try it out for yourself, it is available at https://sites.google.com/view/jcsisrael/home?authuser=0
B’Mitzvah Prep Group – grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen
During our lesson this session, students continued learning about Sephardic contributions to Jewish culture and ideas. After our Hebrew conversation warm-up, the class listened to a short talk about Maimonides and his concept of the “Ladder of Tzedakah.” We looked at a diagram of this ladder and discussed “lower” versus “higher” forms of “charity” or righteous giving. Then students completed a web poll where they indicated the levels of giving that they had engaged in before (ranging from  small donations given grudgingly after being asked to  helping another person become self-sufficient). We looked at poll results for the class, and students reflected on these results while sharing personal stories about giving tzedakah.
Sarah joined our class to teach a Purim song, and afterward we pivoted to learning about Baruch Spinoza and his radical ideas. Students looked at pictures and listened to some information about Spinoza’s life, his challenges to religious orthodoxy, and his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam in 1656. Then each student read a piece of Spinoza’s philosophy in paraphrase and critically evaluated his ideas, coming up with examples to support or disprove his arguments. Next, the class learned about kabbalah and kabbalists’ belief in ‘tikkun’ as a way to mend the damage caused by “shevirat ha-kelim
Maimonides Baruch Spinoza
Finally, we looked at images of postage stamps from Israel, the US, and elsewhere that celebrate Sephardic and other Jewish historical figures and cultural contributions. Inspired by these stamps, students began designing their own postage stamps to celebrate the contributions made by Maimonides, Spinoza, or kabbalah to Jewish culture and ideas.
Israeli postage stamps