What a great first day back! This week we saw some familiar faces, and were introduced to some new ones. The biggest thing that we learned about was forgiveness, forgiving, and making amends. We read a story about telling the truth and earning trust, and drew pictures of situations where “making it right” might be in order. We brainstormed what “making it right” might look like in each situation. At the end of the day, the beautiful day was calling us so we played outside.
For the first JCS session of the year, the Middle class learned about the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We talked about what each holiday is and how we observe them. Sarah taught us to how to say “happy new year” and “I’m sorry” in Hebrew, and then led us in a Rosh Hashanah song. To celebrate the holidays, we decorated candles, something we use on important Jewish days. Many thanks to Ben Drucker, our excellent assistant!
In September, the JCS Juniors class began to explore the idea of the Jewish diaspora, discussing reasons why populations move. We began with the fall of the Second Temple as it pertains to Jewish history, and then broadened our discussion of diaspora to include other ethnic populations. Students were invited to mark on a world map where their Jewish (and non-Jewish) ancestors came from and then we looked for migratory patterns. We did a very quick skim of European Jewish history and talked about the differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. We finished up playing a game where we learned about different High Holiday traditions throughout the Jewish diaspora.
Bat/Bar Mitzvah Prep
For our first class, we dove right into the ancient Jewish history leading up to our focus for the year—the history of the Jewish diaspora. After a quick warm-up, we reviewed the biblical/ancient Jewish stories and history we covered last year, and I introduced The Veterans of History: A Young Person’s History of the Jews, by Mitchell Silver, which will be our main text this year. Students did a short reading from the text that talked about the era of the prophets that came before the Babylonian Exile, and then each used a guide to the aleph-bet and Hebrew vowels to transliterate famous lines from the prophet Isaiah (“Lo yisa goy el goy cherev; v’lo yil’medu od milchamah”). Next students used a mini Hebrew glossary to come up with a rough translation of the lines (“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore”), and we connected these lines to the song “Lo Yisa Goy” that we regularly sing at Or Emet. Our music and Hebrew lesson with Sarah followed; she taught the class Hebrew vocabulary for the High Holidays along with the appropriately reflective song “Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li?” that’s based on Rabbi Hillel’s famous words. After Sarah’s lesson, we touched very quickly on the intervening span of history and then talked about celebrated Jewish thinkers Hillel and Shammai and the following quote from Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” Students brainstormed High Holidays resolutions to align with the first two questions—ways that they can improve themselves, and ways that they can better support their families and/or communities and make the world a better place. To cap off the activity they posed for pictures with these resolutions posted on big cartoon speech bubbles—making their resolutions bold and public! Thanks for a great first lesson, students!