Friday, December 9, 2016

Grade 6: Tuesday Dec. 6 - Prozdor Update!

When the Balfour Declaration was written in 1917, what factors led the British government to issue it? 

On Tuesday, students put the Balfour Declaration in a rich historical context and evaluated various reasons that the Jewish people have ended up with a national home in the State of Israel. Students also looked back at the American Declaration of Independence, and assembled "found poems" using language from both historical documents. With a splash of "Hamilton" to add some color to the discussion, students walked away with a deeper understanding of how nation-states are created and some of the shared themes and narratives between the independence of both nations. Also, make sure to ask your children about the Moose that showed up during Mincha! (Yes, the moose.)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Grade 6: Update 11/20/16

Dear Kitah Vav Parents,
      First, I want to thank all the families that contributed both food and funds to the food drive that the Gesher class organized with the help of their teacher, Morah Margalit. The students understood that even in Natick there are families who cannot afford a nice Thanksgiving meal, and that we, and our Temple, can help.

     Our class has been thinking about the four individual blessings we were assigned as our part of the school community ART PROJECT.  The big topic is Birchot haShahar, all the Morning Blessings that happen before Pesukey D’zimra (passages of song that warm the spirit before the Call to Prayer).  Kitah Vav students were divided into groups of three to collaborate in expressing their interpretation of the assigned blessing.  Tova Speter, the artist who is advising us, was really impressed with the insightful and creative understandings that the students demonstrated in their art.  Tova went to each group to hear about their ideas and to help students carry out the design in a clear and bold way.  I think that the “resist” technique we are using will create a batik-like effect.  The art will be installed on the rectangular panels of the room dividers in the Social Hall.  It will be the school’s gift to T.I.  
And speaking of gifts, I am attaching a “family blessing worksheet”  for each family to fill out together.  Based on your thoughts as a family, each student will be creating something special to give to you as a Hanukkah gift.  It’s supposed to be a surprise, so I don’t want to say much more.  Please either print it out, fill in your responses, and send it back to school with your student, or fill it out and return to me by email, and I’ll do the printing.  Thanks so much for responding to your family assignment!
     I wish all a warm and happy Thanksgiving.  Did you know that Governor Bradford of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a serious reader of Bible?  He read about celebrating the harvest in joyous gratitude for all that the people had been given.  In fact, he was reading about our harvest festival of Sukkot, and it resonated for him.  Thus he instituted the idea of a day of thanksgiving, acknowledging G-D’s grace, along with the kindness shown to the pilgrims by the Native Americans.  At that hard time, and with winter approaching, just to survive must have seemed like a blessing.
     Rav Elana

Grade 6: Update 12/8/16

Just wanted to make sure you had on your radar some important upcoming 6th grade dates: There are three Sunday morning programs (one per month) starting in February, and I wanted to remind you again to please arrange ahead of time to take off the day (or the morning) on Wednesday morning, May 31, so you can be here for the end-of-year Torah reading celebration (let me know if you have questions).  I'll include the assignment below the dates.

February 5: World Wide Wrap
March 19: Tallit-Making Program
April 30: Yad-Making; Making a Torah Pointer

Wednesday Morning, May 31, 1st Day of Shavuot: End-of-Year Torah Reading Celebration (services are 9:15-noon, lunch to follow)

In both the Tuesday and Wednesday classes, we finished up learning and highlighting the third paragraph of the Shema, page 14 in your packets. The kids should be able to sing through the whole paragraph using just the trope names instead of words, and also chanting it with the words. If you want to check yourself, track 36 on the CD (or website) is me chanting this paragraph with the words. I didn't record me singing it through with the trope names, but the students should be able to do it from their practice with the trope families (tracks 1-10) and trope song (track 11). I'd like the students to be able to sing the paragraph through (with the trope names and with the words) so confidently that they can do it on their own.

I will be in touch soon about dates for the students to read short Torah portions at a winter Synaplex or Youth Services, and I'll be in touch with the November families (and soon the December families) about starting up individual lessons in early 2017!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Grade 7-Gesher: WHAT IS BRIT MILAH?

What is a brit milah?

Dr./Mohelet Jennifer Novick was our honored guest speaker in the Gesher class on Tuesday, November 22.  Jen led a fascinating discussion of both the ritual and procedure of Brit Milah, ritual circumcision, for our students as part of our Jewish Life Cycle study.  Some of the content of our discussion follows.  For more information, ask a Gesher student!

The session began with a discussion of “brit” or covenant.  What is a covenant?  The Brit Milah is an agreement between God and the Jewish people. In Genesis, chapter 17, G-d promises to be our G-d and to give us the Land of Israel.  In exchange, Avraham promises, on behalf of all Jews, to let G-d be our G-d and to circumcise our sons as a sign of our agreement.  The circumcision is a permanent marking of the body that cannot be undone.  In fact, the mitzvah to circumcise one’s sons is a hok, a type of law for which there is no logical rationale.  We must do it because G-d said so.

The mitzvah of Brit Milah is specifically for fathers and if the father cannot circumcise his own son he must find somebody, a mohel (male) or mohelet (female), who can do it for him.   One student asked, but my father isn’t Jewish?  Jen answered then it is then the mother’s responsibility. And if the child is an orphan, then the responsibility falls on the Jewish community.

According to the Yorei Deah, giving one’s son a Brit Milah is the most important commandment in Judaism.  It's the one that created the Jewish people and it insures Jewish continuity.  The brit milah dedicates a child as the beginning of the next generation of the Jewish people. 

A student asked, is Brit Milah contradictory to Torah values since we’re not supposed to mar the body? (It is forbidden to cut oneself or tattoo for ritual or aesthetic reasons.)  Nonetheless, we are required to circumcise.  Some commentators suggest that circumcision offers humans the opportunity to partner with G-d in the process of Creation. Similarly, the bracha for bread is ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz (who brings forth bread from the earth). Human beings must harvest wheat, mill the wheat into flour, and make bread from the flour in order to have bread with which to make this blessing.  G-d gives us this opportunity to partner with G-d in order to achieve holiness and to perceive G-d’s presence.

We learned that the Brit Milah service has four parts:  (1) Everybody and the baby are welcomed.  It is a special honor to bring the baby into the room in which the Brit Milah will take place and an even greater honor to hold the baby during the circumcision.  (2) The circumcision  (3) naming the baby and (4) the seudat mitzvah or festive meal (all Jewish milestone events are punctuated by a communal meal).

And we learned that the foreskin is not discarded.  It is buried.

Jen brought some of the tools, forceps and a Morgan clamp, used in the brit milah.  Students were fascinated!

Our session with Jen was extraordinary!  We were engaged, informed and brought closer to this significant ritual.  During the presentation, she suggested that like rabbis and cantors, mohelim are klei kodesh, holy vessels, who bring holiness into the lives of others.  This was certainly our experience!  Toddah Rabbah, thank you so very much.

HaMorah Margalit (aka Gretchen Marks Brandt)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Grade 5: Kitah Hey- Diana's Update

Dear Kitah Hey parents,

Fifth grade Hebrew is going great! The students have been working hard on their Hebrew reading skills, participating in a variety of games including a class favorite, BINGO. After learning the Vayehi Binsoa prayer, I created several BINGO boards that included words from this prayer. Words were called out and the students were expected to find the correct word on their boards. The fifth graders had so much fun with this and I was very impressed with their ability to find the words so quickly. 

Last Sunday, the students spent all of class working on their group art projects where they collaborated to artistically represent morning blessings of their choosing. During this time, the students showed their ability to both delegate and compromise. The projects are coming along beautifully.

This past Tuesday, we continued on with Hebrew games. 

Three different games were designed and played during this time:

#1  As our class will soon begin learning the Hebrew vocabulary for emotions (happy, sad, excited, etc.), I created a memory/matching game to preview this. Emotions with their corresponding picture and Hebrew name were put on cards. Teams played this game against each other, competing for the most matches, in order to expose themselves to this new vocabulary. 

#2  Another game students participated in was a Hebrew word race. Students took turns reading a column of Hebrew words as fast as they could, while timed, to see who would win. Some of the students even asked to race against me! They loved doing this.

#3  The last game the students played was designed just like a game board (boxes filled with previously learned Hebrew words winding around the page). Students took turns picking numbers from a deck of cards to find out how many boxes they needed to move. The students had to correctly say the word they landed on. Each word was worth a certain number of points, needless to say, the students got competitive. They each took their time so that they could carefully read each word.

Who knew learning could be so fun?

A brief note regarding homework:
Because of the art project, we have not yet had time to begin learning the prayer said when taking the Torah out of the ark. We will begin this on Tuesday. The fifth graders will receive a December calendar at this time and a copy of that calendar will also be uploaded here on this blog. 

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving break!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I am thankful for the Temple Israel of Natick community.
I am thankful to be part of this generous, caring and compassionate
I am thankful to the Gesher (7th grade) students for enthusiastically leading
our Thanksgiving campaign.
I am thankful to the teachers who provided time and space in their classes and encouraged their students and families to support this campaign.
I am thankful to all the students and parents who gave so generously to our
Thanksgiving campaign.
I am thankful that we met our goal and then some!!!
We succeeded in gathering food to provide eight families with Thanksgiving feasts.  We also donated additional funds, stuffing and quick bread mixes.
With your help, WE DID IT!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Grade 1: Alef SHEMA 11-20-16

Dear alef families:
Thank you for attending our shema workshop, a continuation of the discussion and book we began last week.  I read First I Say the Shema with the class.    Rachel Arcus-Goldberg led the program, showing breathing techniques using the letters sh-mm-aa to relax.  She also read Bedtime Shema to the class. Everyone decorated a pillowcase imprinted with the Shema.  Students added their names in Hebrew.

Rachel reminded everyone to set the colors by ironing it or putting it in the dryer for 30 minutes.  There are pillowcases in the office for absentees.

Students also made an imprint of their hands on kippot, including for the absentees.  In December, the will paint them.

HEBREW:  Our Hebrew letter for today is ר “resh,” which is the first letter in “rabbi,” Rosh Hashanah, “rechevet,” (railroad), and “ruach,” (wind or spirit).

We began a discussion on thankfulness.  Each child got a paper (which I also emailed to you with photos of today’s program).  I hope that you will discuss these ideas over the holiday.

PLEASE NOTE—There is no Sunday class the next two Sundays.  On December 4, teachers will attend the Limmud educators’ conference.  Our next class is on Sunday, December 11.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)