The winter holiday season is behind us and the calendar turned to 2021, but Jewish Cultural School continues to be held on Zoom. What we miss in the warmth of an in-person presence, we are making up with great attendance.
Here’s what went on in each of our groups.
The Littles – PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan
Our topic at JCS this month was Tu B’Shevat. We learned about all of the great things trees do for us, all of the different types of trees around us, and how trees change from season to season. We read a great book about celebrating Tu B’Shevat in winter, and ended with our annual Tu B’Shevat Seder.
The Middles – Grades 1- 2, teacher Colline Roland
The Juniors, Grades 3 – 5, teacher Renee Dorman
In January the Juniors each learned about a famous Jewish person who interested them and shared what they learned. We had a range of people represented, ranging from Steven Spielberg to a young climate activist named Isha Clarke. We also practiced sounding out words in Hebrew with a Tu B’Shevat decoding activity.
Environmental activist Isha Clarke Film maker Steven Spielberg
B’Mitzvah Prep Group, Grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen
The B Mitzvah Prep class spent their lesson learning about Sephardic Jewish culture and history and preparing for the Tu B’Shevat Seder. After opening conversation in English and Hebrew, students learned some Hebrew vocabulary words connected to trees and nature. Everyone practiced writing one of these words in Hebrew (such as “אץ” — “etz” — meaning “tree”), drawing a picture to represent the word, and saying the word aloud.
Then the class shifted gears, and students listened to a recording of “El Diya De Purim,” a Sephardic Jewish folk song sung in Ladino, while following along with the lyrics. Students recognized the language’s similarity to Spanish along with Jewish themes in the song. We discussed how Ladino developed as a mix of medieval Spanish and Hebrew and became a Sephardic Jewish language. Next, students listened to a short talk focused on the history of Sephardic Jews from the “Golden Age” under Muslim rule in Spain through the Inquisition and expulsion in 1492.
From here students moved to independently reading The Cardinal’s Snuffbox, a choose-your-own-adventure novel set during the Spanish Inquisition. After reading time, we came together as a large group to discuss the different plotlines that students’ “adventures” followed. Students reflected on challenges that Sephardic Jews encountered during the Inquisition and whether good or bad outcomes were connected more to making “good” or “bad” choices or to luck.
Statue of Sephardic philosopher Maimonides in Cordoba, Spain
Finally, after learning that Sephardic Jewish mystics invented the Tu B’Shevat Seder, students reviewed their Seder readings and prepared to help lead the Or Emet Tu B’Shevat Seder. The class did a great job with their readings; thank you, students!
Tu B’Shevat Seder
Eva led our Seder for Tu B’Shevat, the “Birthday of the Trees”, with help from her students in the B’Mitzvah Prep Class and the other JCS Teachers, with Sarah Berman Young leading us in song. Everyone sampled the fruits and nuts from their Seder plates at home, and mixed the red and white wines – or, grape juices – to represent the different stages in the life of trees.
Tu B’Shevat Seder plate