Friday, December 25, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Grade 5/Kitah Hey - Update 12/20/15

Last Sunday, December 13........
We enjoyed cocoa pebbles for breakfast, and discussed some of the themes in the Torah portion.  Thank you to the gesher class for preparing such thought provoking questions.

This was followed by tefillot (prayer) ....... and songs in celebration of Chanukah.

And then...........our latke and cider party!         With lots of dreidles spinning too!
Back in our classroom, we worked on a Chanukah crossword puzzle.
I asked how they might explain Chanukah to a non- Jewish friend.
We concluded the day with a Chanukah video.

Midweek , after prayer, Hebrew reading, and break, I asked "why are we here anyway?"
What do you think our purpose is on this earth?"
 Science looks at How this world came to be.......Judaism looks at WHY!
Great discussions followed.

And today.........
Breakfast was Corn Pops.      Hmmmm, they taste just like kix!......the corn was connected to the corn that Joseph stored for the famine.
A special thanks to Yael from the gesher class for sharing her Torah knowledge!
Once again, time flew too quickly by.  It was time for a wonderful and high energy tefillah with Robin and Cantor Ken.
.......a truly enjoyable and valuable time spent together as community!

We continued our Torah discussion, and then worked on Hebrew.  I am seeing improvement!
We ended our day with the ever popular "Star Wars".
We looked at Jewish themes and Jewish values.  Most kids enjoyed this and had much to contribute!
....Though there were some that disliked the movie intensely.......
It was an eye opening session about the classic film!

Shavua tov!
And have a great winter vacation!
See you all next year!
Cindy  Nelson

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grade K - Gan Class Update 12/20/15

It is so crazy that this was our last class of 2015!  The next time I will see you it will be time sure flies.

We were thrilled to be joined by or Gesher buddy Sam this morning who helped to serve us breakfast and chatted with us about this week's Torah portion before our whole school Teffilot.

Today we heard a new Torah story.  This story was about how Rebekkah was chosen to be Isaac's wife.  She was nice to people and animals which she proved by giving water to the servant's camels.  After break we will learn about the family that Isaac and Rebekkah have together.

There were two new letters today!  Mem makes the sound m- and begins the word mezuzzah.  Aleph is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet and makes no sound!  

In our Celebrations unit, we prepared for our upcoming family learning program by learning about the mezuzzah.  We observed some of the mezzuzot around the building and practiced saying the Shema(the prayer inside the mezuzzah). We are looking forward to making our own mezzuzot next time we are together.

Winter break begins this week.  Our next class will take place on Sunday, January 10th.  I hope you all have a wonderful New Year.  See you in 2016!

Grade 1—Kitah alef       December 20, 2015

Dear Kitah alef families:

Today, during breakfast, we discussed family relationships, relating to the Joseph story.  Then we enjoyed tefillah and music with Robin Kahn and Cantor Ken along with the rest of the school.

In our classroom, everyone helps with their weekly job, such as schedule, pencils, Hebrew books, art project, crayons, etc.  The students are very responsible about working together.  Thank you for having such wonderful children!  We appreciate the help of Noah Blacker at breakfast and Ariel our terrific Madricha.
Our Hebrew lesson today is כ “chaf,” This letter does not begin any Hebrew words, but appears in “kochav,” “star.”  After going over the lesson, the children partnered to use my Hebrew review letters.

We read Justin’s Hebrew Name.  When Jason starts Hebrew school, he discovers he doesn’t have a Hebrew name yet. His parents have many names to choose from. His new friends offer many creative ideas to use until his family settles on his name.  The rabbi suggests a happy temporary solution; he will be simha—happy.

Our craft project is a freehand artistic representation of the student’s Hebrew name or a Hebrew word such as shalom, mishpacha (family), or mitzvah. Ariel showed students how to write ahava-love.

The class began reading about Noah and the Ark.  Noah built the ark with his family.  Two of each animal came aboard, then it began to rain.  It rained for forty days and nights.  We talked about doing what is right even when others don’t.  Noah made good choices.  We sang “Rise and Shine.” More about Noah at the next session.

Happy vacation!  The next Sunday class is on January 10, 2016.

Esther and Tzipporah (Judy and Cheryl)

Grade 4-Kitah Daled Explores Shabbat Bookends

Have you ever noticed that Shabbat begins and ends with similar rituals?  We light candles and we say a blessing over wine as we mark transitions to and from sacred time.

Kitah Daled students are learning about marking these transitions and creating beautiful candleholders and Kiddush cups.  This week we studied two versions of the fourth commandment; one found in Exodus and the other in Deuteronomy.  We found that the version in Exodus begins with the verb, ‘remember’ while the one in Deuteronomy begins with ‘keep’ or ‘protect.’  Each presentation also gives different reasons for Shabbat observance.  In the first, we are commanded to rest on the Sabbath because after creating the world in six days, God rested on the seventh day.  In the second presentation, we are commanded to rest and to permit everyone on our property to rest including our servants and our animals.  Some commentators call this the ethical foundation for Shabbat.  At the end of class, we created a giant Venn diagram with hula-hoops and used it to compare and contrast Shabbat evening rituals with Havdalah.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Human Hebrew Letters and Havdalah!

What a busy week we had in the Gimel class!

This week the letters Tav (ת) and tet (ט) were introduced.  Students had a great time teaming up with classmates to form these letters using their bodies!

Students are doing a great job with their Hebrew reading. They spend a lot of time practicing in class in activity centers and Hebrew reading games.

In our Holidays block we completed our study of Hannukah where students studied the story of Hannukah, and the different food and traditions relating to Hannukah and the Hannukah story.  They also explored Hannukah celebrations in other parts of the world in study groups using parts of the book, Hannukah Around the World.  Of course the highlights were our all school Hannukiyah lighting and sufganiyot during the week, and latkes and dreidels on Sunday.  Thank you to the Men's Club for the delicious latkes we all enjoyed!

This week we reviewed the concept of Shabbat being a holy time separated from the rest of the week. As a group we made a "map of the week" by listing all our extra curricular activities, then discussed how we enter Shabbat (with candles, wine and hallah).  After looking at some pictures together on Google Images, students agreed that we exit Shabbat and separate it from the rest of the week with a Havdalah ceremony using a braided candle, Kiddush wine and sweet smelling spices.  

Students had a great time making their own Havdalah spices using cinnamon and apple sauce.  I hope you enjoy them!

Next week we will learn to sing some of the Havdalah blessings.

Elana Berelowitz

Monday, December 14, 2015

Grade K - Gan Class Update

Happy Hanukkah Gan Class Families!

It was such a fun day for the Gan Class.  There was so much excitement from students about Hanukkah and getting to celebrate as a class was so nice.  Everyone shared something special that their family does for Hanukkah and I heard all about the various celebrations that have gone on in your homes over the past week.

Our day was not consumed by Hanukkah, though it did play a prominent role, we were also able to review our Torah stories and revisit the story we heard before Thanksgiving.  Each student also had the opportunity to work with me  individually on their Hebrew letters.

Obviously the big excitement of the day was the Hanukkah celebrations in the Social Hall.  Our whole class sat together at the same table, played dreidel, ate latkes and drank apple cider.  It was a really great day!

I hope that you have lovely celebrations on this final night of Hannukah and which you a wonderful week!

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the Gan Class.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Grade 4/Kitah Daled - Update 12.13.15

We started our day with a discussion sparked by the Community Questions developed by the seventh grade, focusing especially on the first question, which was about Joseph and the importance of dreams.  We discussed methods of dream interpretation, the function of dreams in our lives today, and the role of dreams in Judaism, which allowed us to circle back to our lessons on prophets and God’s communication with them through dreams or visions.

After this discussion, we moved on to a lesson on Hanukkah, examined through a historical perspective that began with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the subsequent splitting of his empire between his generals. Two of the miniature empires that formed after his death fought for control of the land that contained Judea; Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who appears as the main villain in the Hanukkah story, was a later ruler of one of these warring empires. We talked through the events in the story, and the students filled out a worksheet along the way to check their understanding. We also discussed where mention of Hanukkah is found—and not found—in Jewish writings, and what it might mean that the holiday is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

After tefila and latkes generously served by the Men’s Club, we returned to the classroom for a Hanukkah trivia contest based largely (although not entirely) on the material we had covered earlier in the morning (the students all did extremely well), and closed with a 10-minute game of dreidel.

Happy Hanukkah, all!

Grade 1--December 13, 2015 

Dear families: 

Thank you for the wonderful Hanukkah gifts you gave me today.  I already used the mug.  I am planning a trip to the movies and to one of the restaurants with my husband.  I love to read, so the Barnes and Noble gift card with come in handy.

A busy day today!  Our grade 7 friend Noam Blacker, helped Cheryl and Ariel serve breakfast.  We talked about what is important about Hanukkah and about helping the hungry as Joseph did in time of famine.

We did a Hanukkah review sheet.  The children remember so much about the holiday!

HEBREW:  Our letter for today is ר “resh,” which is the first letter in “rabbi,” Rosh Hashanah, and reglayim (feet).

Then we enjoyed tefillah with the rest of the school.  We pray and sing  together.

Back in class, we read about Adam and Eve.  G-d told Adam and Eve that they could eat any fruit in the Garden of Eden, except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  (Genesis does NOT say that it was an apple).  The snake enticed Eve and then Adam to eat the fruit.  When G-d discovered this, he made Adam and Eve leave the Garden of Eden.  G-d still loved them, so He clothed them before he sent them away.  Adam and Eve realized that you cannot hide form G-d.  Students made their own representation of the story.

Our day ended in the social hall, enjoying latkes and dreidels with the kindergarten and grades 2 and 3.  The latkes and cider were delicious, and the cantor’s songs were fun.

I hope that the children enjoy the puzzles and pencils, as my gift to them.

                                                                                    Esther and Tzipporah (Judy and Cheryl)

Grade 7/Gesher Students Think Like Rabbis

On Tuesday, we constructed and ate edible dreidels 
and our celebrated Bar Mitzvah summarized this week’s Torah portion eloquently.  We learned a verse in Hebrew (Genesis 41:57) noting that there a special Hebrew word meaning ‘to buy grain’ and discussing the bookends-like structure of the verse; beginning and ending with “all the land.”  Our afternoon ended with excitement as all present in religious school gathered to (carefully) light about 39 hanukkiot.  Gesher students addressed their responsibilities as role models. As Rabbi David Wolpe taught: “The shamash is the candle that lights the others.  Be a shamash.” 
On Sunday, our rabbinic Gesher students were faced with interesting questions:  What do you do if you learn that a gift that you sent is lost in the mail?  Do you replace it?  Who is responsible?  Indeed, this happened in our class when an envelope with a gift card mailed to a guest speaker arrived empty.  Students considered this question seriously and chose to replace the gift card with their own funds.  Each student promised to bring $3.00.

The Men’s club provided us with delicious latkes, applesauce and cider, which energized us for still more rabbinic work.  We considered the case of ‘Sam Skateboard’ who sold his Ritalin at his private school.  The question posed:  Should he be expelled from religious school?  Students developed arguments both in favor and against expulsion and then looked at rabbinic texts about Jewish education.  Students were emphatic and articulate in their opinions that Sam should receive a Jewish education and suggested that he could learn something!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Grade 5 - Kitah Hey 12.9.15

Hi all

Happiest Chanukah!

To celebrate our holiday, on Tuesday/Wednesday we took a break from our normal routine to decorate one or two blank CDs as Chanukah decorations......
Hope you liked them.  Your children had lots of fun making them.
Some brought them home, some were left in the classroom.

After break, We talked about the original Chanukah when laws were passed by King Antiochus.
He wanted to force the Jews to turn their backs on our God, and to embrace his ways of life and worship.
He forbade the study of Torah, imposed curfews, made it illegal to keep Shabbat, and forbad circumcision of baby boys.........
Each student had lots to say about how he/she would have reacted.
Would you submit?  Or ignore those harsh laws even if it meant paying a fine...........
What if it meant going to jail??  What about at the risk of life?
Kids had strong reactions to these laws.

We then gathered together for a community lighting of chanukiot (Chanukah menorahs).
Each student lit his/ her own menorah.  Cantor Ken led us in the beautiful blessings and songs.
The room looked beautiful with all the lights on the windowsills.
.........and it was amazing that the little lights made the room soooooooo hot!

Sunday will be our latke party!

Who knew Hebrew school could be such fun?!?!!

Cindy Nelson

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Grade K - Ann Green - My Day At Limmud

My Day At Limmud - Ann Green

"Intriguing Connections Between Judaism and Psychotherapy" -- Best take-away, the poem "There's a Hole in My Sidewalk" by Portia Nelson.  Look it up!

"Moses: Soul of a Leader" -- Actress Annette Miller performed "And This is a Blessing," a midrash in the voice of Moses.  Very moving.

"Pictures Paint a Thousand Words", with Gary Kenzer of the media watchdog Honest Reporting, who spoke at Temple Israel last week (and had Shabbat dinner at our house).  A great lesson in how out-of-context and doctored photos are used to defame Israel.

"The 21st Century Jewish Family" -- focused on making, strengthening and maintaining connections with family and with those who feel like family

"Public Funding of Anti-Semitism" -- NGO Monitor's Anne Herzberg on the Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic actions of NGOs and the UN

"Chiasms: The Bible's Dazzling Literary Structure" -- how Torah and Tefillot are written in a repetition pattern for clarity and emphasis

Grade 1 - Judy Azer - My Day At Limmud

Grade 1—Kitah alef—December 6, 2015

I missed seeing the students today, while we teachers attended the Limmud program at Congregation Mishkan Tefila.  It was a marvelous opportunity for some Jewish learning, some for personal enrichment and some to apply in the classroom.  These are some of the sessions I participated in:

Warriors, Wonders and Wisdom:  The Real Story of Hanukkah.  Through texts like the Book of Maccabees and discussion, we examine the events and changing interpretations of the meaning and rituals of Hanukkah and its parallels to Sukkot.  The miracle of the oil is not mentioned until about the second century C.E.  Cheryl and I both attended this one.

Moses: Soul of a Leader, a Midrash Performance and Discussion.  Actress Annette Miller performed a midrash in the voice of Moses.  Then we discussed the various aspects of Moses’ leadership.

n Pictures Paint a Thousand Words, we discussed how pictures can be cropped, taken out of context, to mislead an audience, particularly regarding Israel.  For example, we examined a staged photograph of a Palestinian rioter and the mislabeled photograph of a supposedly dead Palestinian child.  The speaker, Gary Kenzer, recently spoke at Temple Israel.  Plus, I won one of the door prizes, an Honest Reporting t shirt!

During lunch, several of us told each other about the interesting workshops we had attended.  I saw part of a Sheldon Low concert, before I had to leave for a panel on The Future of Judaism.  Judaism will continue to evolve.

I learned about Utilizing Art and Drawing to Learn About the Hebrew Alphabet from artist Mordechai Rosenstein.  This may show up soon as a class project!

My final session was given by a friend of mine, Nancy Sohn Swartz , on A Potpourri of Teaching Ideas.  She offered suggestions on activities for young learners.

By the time I left at 4:30, I was full of new thoughts, ideas, and inspirations.

Judy Azer

Grade 1 - Cheryl Gelfand - My Day At Limmud

I had the chance today to spend time at Limmud Boston, engaging in Jewish learning. My day included:

  • Learning about the Hannukah story and the history of the holiday from an expert on the subject. We read (translations) of parts of the original texts and discovered that the “miracle of the oil” is not found in those texts.
  • In a discussion answering the question “why be Jewish” based on a book titled John Lennon and the Jews. The author (dragged unwillingly to High Holidays as a child and now living in Israel as a proud Jew) starts with the lyrics to “Imagine” and carries on from there. Such an interesting discussion that I bought the book!
  • Learning from a movement/dance therapist about how movement and our bodies can (and should) be used in praying and in connecting with those around us. Also how those movements and gestures allow even those who cannot speak join in with the community in a way that ultimately speaks to everyone.
It was a great experience and I thank Robin and TI for allowing us to have this opportunity.

Grade 6 - Josh Satok - Limmud!

This morning, instead of going to TI like usual, I, along with the other TI teachers, went to a shul in Chestnut Hill for LimmudBoston, a daylong event of Jewish learning attended by hundreds of Jews from across Boston. I got to go to a number of really interesting sessions. One, with Rabbi Aaron Panken, the President of HUC, was about the origins of Chanukkah. In another, I sat in a circle with 10 people to talk about the "master key" for Jewish leadership (spoiler alert: I'm not sure that we've really found it yet. Hopefully there's some reason I'm doing a whole master's degree in Jewish leadership :). The last session I went to for the day featured three people sharing their stories of loss- of their mother, wife and husband- to try and find lessons about how to live life. Overall, a great day of learning with the Boston community. And of course, Happy Chanukkah to everyone!

Grade K - Michelle Nelson - My Day at Limmud Boston

Hi there families!

I hope you took advantage of the wonderful weather to do something great today!

I just wanted to check in and let you know about my experience at Limmud Boston this morning.  I have attended Limmud for the previous four years with the faculty of Temple Israel's Religious School and find each time that I am exposed to amazing presenters, am surrounded by eager learners and have the opportunity to connect with people (some old friends and some new ones) from the larger Jewish community in Boston.

My morning began with Rebecca Kornblatt, a clinical psychologist, who helped the group to explore the role that Judaism plays in your mental well-being.  It was standing room only and people were even turned away from this popular topic.  Through case studies, we identified the Jewish values that help guide us through difficult situations and how the practices and Jewish rituals can be therapeutic.

Do you like the Beatles?  If so, you may have been interested in the second session I attended.  Titled "John Lenon and the Jews", this seminar used a book of the same title to highlight ideas about Judaism meant to give clarity to what is important about your personal Jewish observances and beliefs.  Led by Jocelyn Robinson, a young professional at CJP, this session was an opportunity to engage with fellow learners and gain information and ideas from others in the group.

By far the most intriguing session that I attended was lead by Adam Chalom, a Humanistic Rabbi from Chicago. He was incredibly engaging, adding humor to what would otherwise be a serious topic.  His focus was "Why Bother Being Jewish in the 21st Century?" To explore this, we first had to go through about 150 years of history(in like 20 minutes) to understand that in previous millenniums there were plenty of reasons to be Jewish.  Common language, close proximity, and common immigration experiences created community.  Other significant factors included, the large amount of choices available to people in the Unites States, solidarity for the creation of Israel as a country and a response after the Holocaust.  At the end of all this history, he identified two aspects that influence us; justification and marketing.  The big take home here was that in previous generations, there were many reasons to be Jewish and everyone was able to identify with a set of  reasons but this doesn't work for people in my peer group...we want that information at the bottom of the website when you order something from Amazon that is labeled "Things you might also like", we want to feel as though someone has personally thought about what we specifically want from our religious observances and has given us choices just for us.  Very interesting....

Thank you for allowing me to grow today!

See you in class soon. Happy Hanukkah!


Grade K - Ann Green - My Day At Limmud

"Intriguing Connections Between Judaism and Psychotherapy" -- Best take-away, the poem "There's a Hole in My Sidewalk" by Portia Nelson.  Look it up!
"Moses: Soul of a Leader" -- Actress Annette Miller performed "And This is a Blessing," a midrash in the voice of Moses.  Very moving.
"Pictures Paint a Thousand Words", with Gary Kenzer of the media watchdog Honest Reporting, who spoke at Temple Israel last week (and had Shabbat dinner at our house).  A great lesson in how out-of-context and doctored photos are used to defame Israel.
"The 21st Century Jewish Family" -- focused on making, strengthening and maintaining connections with family and with those who feel like family
"Public Funding of Anti-Semitism" -- NGO Monitor's Anne Herzberg on the Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic actions of NGOs and the UN
"Chiasms: The Bible's Dazzling Literary Structure" -- how Torah and Tefillot are written in a repetition pattern for clarity and emphasis

Robin Kahn - My Day At Limmud

This morning the TI faculty and I had the chance to spend the day learning about all things related to Judaisim.  On behalf of the faculty, thank you TI for supporting our professional development and Jewish journeys.  A few highlights of my day:

-Learning with R. Aaron Pankin, president of HUC.  R. Panken's sessions was on the uses of the word Hanukkah (meaning "dedication") in the Torah; reading the story of Hanukah from the Book of Maccabees (which is NOT in the Hebrew Bible) and then a later description written by Josephus.  Finally we looked at references to Hanukah in the Mishnah and Talmud.  One of the many colleagues I got to catch up with today was Leslie Grossman.

-Learning about how chocolate is made and fair trade chocolate.  This session ended with a taste test - YUM!  We've got some fait trade gelt at TI.  Let me know if you would like to purchase some.  It's important to support fair trade busines


-A Leading Prayer and Teaching Songs session.  This was something I have wanted to learn about for may years!  I picked up a lot of practical tips which I know I will use when I lead tefila for the kids on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

-Learning how my own Interfaith book group, Daughters of Abraham, came to fruition
 just after 9/11.

-Learning about creating Jewish art with Mordechai Rosenstein.

What a day of Torah Lishma - learning for the sake of learning!

Grade 7/Gesher-HaMorah Margalit's Day at Limmud Boston

My day at Limmud Boston began with a session taught by Professor Jacob Meskin in which he discussed Joseph II’s 1782 Edict of Tolerance.  Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same!  We grappled with the question, “Was the Enlightenment good for the Jews and for Judaism?”  And what did the Jewish leadership of the time think?  As you might imagine; two Jews, three opinions! 

My next session, taught by Rabbi Allan Lehmann, focused on the Israeli author Shai Agnon.  We studied two short texts that even in their brevity demonstrated the complexity and irony in his writing. 

As the Gesher class teacher, I couldn’t resist attending, Why Bother Being Jewish in the 21st Century!  Rabbi Adam Chalom addressed the history of options for Jewish expression available to American Jews beginning in 1915.  One could be a Reform Jew, a Conservative Jew, an Orthodox Jew, a Zionist (a Labor Zionist or a Revisionist Zionist or a Religious Zionist), a Jewish Socialist or a Cosmopolitan Universalist…  Then the Holocaust forced a confrontation with how the outside world defines us.  The founding of the State of Israel provided still more options and today, we feel absolutely at home in America:  which poses questions that are strikingly similar to, Was the Enlightenment good for the Jews?  He went on to specify two aspects of the issue today:  justification and marketing and emphasized the importance of both a positive message and micro-targeting.  He ended the session with a reformulation of Achad HaAm’s dictum, “As much as the Jews have kept being stubborn, being stubborn has kept the Jews!” or to quote Walt Whitman in Song of Myself,
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

During the afternoon, I had the great honor of meeting Jewish artist, Mordecai Rosenstein and the great humility to try and fail to copy his method of forming Hebrew letters.  I suspect that his work will be familiar to you,  

After learning the mishna from Pirki Avot about the "crown of a good name" (keter shem tov), Gesher students may appreciate Rosenstein's depiction:


My day of learning ended with a session on “Managing Conflict When Talking About Israel”,  and finally Hanukkah blessings and candle lighting with those valiant few who remained until the end. I can’t wait until Limmud Boston next year—it was a feast for the heart, soul and brain!