The cold finally caught up with us and we moved indoors for our JCS classes in November, but students and teachers kept their masks on and we observed safe social distancing.  Hopefully by January, all but our very youngest students will be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but we will continue to observe these protocols for as long as needed.

During our gathering time, before splitting into separate group,  music and Hebrew teacher Sarah Berman Young taught students, parents and other adults a new song for the upcoming Hanukkah observance, which we will sing – along with a lively dance – at our Hanukkah party on December 5.

Here are highlights of each group’s activities in November.

The Littles Group, age 3 – Kindergarten – teacher Amy Leavitt

We learned all about Hanukkah this week! We read The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel and The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser, made our own menorahs to take home, played dreidel, and learned what each of the sides say (nes gadol hayah sham-a great miracle happened there). We learned 5 Little Latkes and 2 new verses to “I Had a Little Dreidel”, and we listened to the PJ Library Hanukkah Mix on Spotify (be sure to check it out!) while we built a menorah out of blocks.


Isaac and Lela play dreidel and build a menorah

The Middles Group, grades 1-2 – teacher Colline Roland
Today we made special Hanukkah cards for those in senior living communities. We learned about the Macabees and how their oil lasted for eight days, which seemed to be a miracle. We also learned that the stormed temple had a menorah with 7 branches and there was a horrible king!  Finally, we read Nonna’s Hanukkah Surprise by Karen Goodman.
During our November class, we continued our humanistic exploration of B’reishit/Genesis, the Torah’s first book, and then we pivoted to learning about Chanukah history through theater. After our regular opening, students finished their Genesis creation story drawings. These drawings, begun last month, took inspiration from a diverse mix of famous art that riffs on the creation stories in Genesis 1-2. As students put final touches on their drawings, I read Genesis 3 (aka the Garden of Eden story) aloud to the class. Students shared their reactions to the story and discussed the following questions:
(1) If you were in the Garden of Eden or the Gan Eden, would you eat from the Tree of Knowledge? Why or why not?
(2) Do you think the ancient author(s) of the story saw the characters’ actions (eating from the Tree of Knowledge, getting expelled from the garden) in a negative or positive light? What about later Jewish tradition? Later Christian tradition?
(3) How has this story and its later interpretations promoted sexist ideas? Could we interpret Eve’s choice to eat from the tree and give fruit to Adam in a different, positive way?
After this discussion we shifted gears, from the earlier period when the Torah was written and edited (800s-400s BCE) to the second century BCE–the time of the Maccabean Revolt. Students had fun acting out a play I wrote that tries to humorously retell the “real” history of the revolt and the holiday, Chanukah, that it inspired. We won’t be performing the play at this year’s Or Emet Chanukah party, but it was great to see everyone flex their dramatic muscles in the classroom!

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