Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gesher and Kitah Vav Assemble Lulavim

On Sunday, our Gesher and Kitah Vav Students assembled 75 lulavim lin preparation for the Sukkot holiday.  We are abundantly grateful to Shimon Blacker who deepened our understanding of the four species through an experiential teaching and also taught us to construct the ties and to assemble the lulavim. His expertise, patience and guidance were remarkable.
Moedim l'simcha!

Kitah Daled and The Smallest Kosher Sukkah

According to the rabbis, there are specific requirements for a sukkah including a minimum size.  Our Kitah Daled students constructed the footprint of the smallest kosher sukkah (28” square) and then brainstormed over 45 activities that one could do in this very small space.  One could eat, drink, sleep (with difficulty), pray, shake a lulav, talk to friends, play electronic games, read, write, draw, sing, laugh, sit, dream, kneel,  breathe, do a ‘sit-dance,’ do math, do homework, tie one’s shoes, blow shofar, look outside, smell an etrog, brush one’s teeth, put on a kippah, get dressed, play Hangman, pack a backpack, pet one’s cat or dog, play music, relax and smile. 

Education Program Update - Sunday, September 20, 2015

It was another busy Sunday morning at Temple Israel!  As I walked through the halls I heard talk of sukkot all around me!  Sukkot is also known as Zman Simchateinu, the time of joy.  I think we are internalizing joy very well at Temple Israel.  Joy abounded.  Sukkah decorations have been created using every art medium you can imagine and I heard lots of talk about hachnasat orchim/welcoming guests.  Many classes were learning about Ushpizin.  Ushpizin are the spiritual guests we welcome into our sukkot each night.  Traditionally these are biblical figures like Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah and Rachel.  But today I like to think of the Ushpizin that I would like to welcome to my sukkah and share a meal with: a grandparent, a friend who live far away, a sports hero, a role model, a political activist, you name it and they can by your Ushpizin!

This coming Sunday we have our annual Sukkah Walks.  The students will leave Temple Israel after tefilah which will include singing hallel with the minyan and then beating willows (more on that below).  Please make sure you have given permission for your child to attend a sukkah walk with their class.  An email permission slip was sent on 9/27.  Email me if you need it resent.

Why, you wonder, are we beating willow?  Sunday (10/4) is Hoshanah Rabah, the seventh day of Sukkot.  This day is marked by a special service in which seven circuits are made by the worshippers with their lulav and etrog.  Hoshana Rabbah is known as the last of the Days of Judgment which began on Rosh Hashanah. The Zohar says that while the judgment for the new year is sealed on Yom Kippur, it is not "delivered" until the end Hoshana Rabbah.[2]

In this spirit the Cantor wears a white kittel as on the Yom Kippur. At the conclusion of services the willow branches from the lulav are beaten on the ground or other surface to symbolize the elimination of sin and as a symbolic a prayer for rain and success in agriculture.

Kitah Daled/Grade 4. Sunday, September 20

The kids worked really hard on Sunday morning and I am proud of them!

We started our morning with a conversation about things we can say and do that demonstrate that we are welcoming.

We talked more about HW and had our first HW check.  HW assignments can be made up, I know that sometimes you might forget to sign the calendar, have a really busy night or week.  Really, what I am trying to impress upon the kids is that the more often they practice reading Hebrew, the more accurate readers they will become.  A few minutes every night is much better than cramming it all into one night.

For every signature a student gets, I put on m&m or candy corn into a jar, when the jar is full we will have a small celebration.  I also told the kids that I would give an m&m for each service they attend if you sign the calendar on the day they attend.  This can be a Shabbat service, weekday service or holiday service.  It does not need to be service at Temple Israel, just a service in a communal setting.

We focused mainly on decoding lines 3,4, 5, 6 and chanting likes 1, 2, 3, 4.  Our class moves at a quick pace and each day we spend time reviewing and learning new material.  Soon we will be moving onto a new blessing and I will upload a new calendar and the new blessing.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gan Class Update 9-27-15

Hello Gan Class Families!

I hope that you all had a meaningful Yom Kippur experience and that you are ready for the more joyous celebrations of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

Today's breakfast cereal was Life.  We had some great discussions about why this particular cereal was chosen for the Sunday after Yom Kippur.  Together, we decided it must be because we all hope to have been written in the Book of Life so that we can have a good year.  After breakfast we joined Robin and Cantor Ken in the Sanctuary for Tefilah.  During Tefilah we have the opportunity to hear and learn prayers and songs as a community with the other Temple Israel classes.  Today we learned about the branches that make up a lulav and even got to ask Cantor Ken some questions about his Sukkah.

Back in the classroom, we started with a community question.  This will happen every week! The question of the day was "Will you have a sukkah at your house?". Though most of the Gan class students said they would not have a sukkah this year, they were looking forward to visiting other sukkot over the holiday.  At Morning Meeting we each got a classroom job.  The jobs will change each day so that everyone has a chance to do each thing.  Some of the jobs include the letter shaper, snack starter, Shabbat sharer and the counter.  Each job is super important to our classroom so everyone gets to help out!

The letters of the day were lamed and dalet.  Each week we will review our previously learned letters and most weeks we will learn at least one new letter.  Lamed makes the sound l- and starts the word lulav.  A lulav is something we shake in all directions during Sukkot to remind us that G-d is everywhere.  Dalet makes the sound d- and begins the word degel which is the Hebrew word for flag.  We made a connection to the Israeli flag that we saw during Tefilah when we sang Hatikvah (Israel's National Anthem) and also learned that on Simchat Torah we wave flags during the celebration.

Our Celebrations topics today were the upcoming holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.  We will explore a sukkah next week during our sukkah walk but one important fact we found out about was that you are supposed to be able to see through the roof of a sukkah.  It was interesting to students that there are two different connections between the Jewish people and being in a sukkah.  The first is that when the Jews left Egypt, they slept in temporary dwellings similar to a sukkah.  The second is that farmers would sleep in a sukkah to be close to their crops.  Our Gan class students made their very own sukkah decorations today.  A picture of their creative leaves is below.

Our exploration of Simchat Torah was a blast!  We learned that Simchat Torah celebrates the day that we read the last part of the Torah and the very first part.  Students practiced hakafot, basically a Torah parade with a little dancing mixed in.  We did this seven times, just like will happen on Simchat Torah next week.  All the students were smiling and laughing as we practiced.

Next week we will be going on a Sukkah walk.  This is a great opportunity to explore a sukkah, experience shaking a lulav and complete at least one mitzvah!

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

Have a great week!

SUKKOT—Tishri 14 5776/September 27, 2015

Today, we learned about Sukkot.  We build “Sukkot” (booths) to remind us of the huts the Hebrews lived in during their trek through the wilderness. Our farmer ancestors also lived in sukkot to collect the harvest more quickly. We saw pictures of different sukkot, etrog and lulav.  We shake the lulav in all directions to show that G-d is everywhere.


We start at 9 a.m. with breakfast and a discussion about the day’s activities.  If your child is late, he/she may miss this important element of class.  Then to the sanctuary, for tefillah, community questions, and songs with Robin and Cantor Ken Richmond.

Today our class made a list of guidelines to make the class a safe and happy place—including full-body listening, handling scissors etc. safely, and as one student said, “Treat others as you want them to treat you.”

I read The Mysterious Guests.  Two brothers Eben and Ezra each built a sukkah.  Mysterious guests—Ushpizin--Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--visit each brother and leave behind unusual gifts that reward not the beauty of the sukkah, but the generosity of the heart.

CRAFT:   We made decoration including ushpizin (guests) to hang in your sukkah.  The Hebrew reads “Baruchim Ha’baim” (welcome).  After class, there will be sukkah decorating for Temple Israel’s sukkah.

HEBREW: Cheryl and I each lead a Hebrew group.  Our letter for today is  בbet, which is the first letter in “bayit” house, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, bet knesset, and “banana,” the same word in both languages.  The letters in the book are not in order. Soon, students will be able to read simple syllables and words.  I am keeping the Hebrew books in class until the end of the year.  Each week students will take home a reinforcement paper.  Please help your child remember the letters through a mid-week review.

At the end of the class, we sang some Sukkot songs.  Then, we shook hands to reinforce the day’s letter, and I put a sticker on each child’s hand.

Esther and Tzipporah (Judy and Cheryl)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Grade 2 Lulav and Etrog Family Program - 9/27

Lulav and Etrog Program
with Rabbi Liben & Cantor Ken

Sunday, September 27th from 11am-12pm

Dear Grade 2 Parents,

As a gift for your family, we have purchased a lulav and etrog set for each of your families and we are looking forward to giving it to you this coming Sunday morning.  (Everyone in grade 2 gets one regardless of where you go to school!)

Please join Rabbi Liben, Cantor Ken on Sunday morning at Temple Israel for a family education program.  You'll have a chance to meet other families with children in grade 2 who belong to Temple Israel.  Rabbi Liben is looking forward to teaching you how to dance with a lulav and etrog and why the lulav is like a human body (I'm totally serious!).  Cantor Ken has some songs for you too!

Come get ready for Sukkot!  By the way, Sukkot's other name is Zman Simchateinu, meaning time of joy!  Join us for a morning filled with joy and celebration!



Shalom Kitah Vav

Shalom Kitah Vav!
We had a great first day on Sunday. This week, we spent most of our time getting to know one another. Each student had 4 minutes to talk about themselves and their background as we all listened and got to know our classmates better. We then went over our plan for the year, introducing our sixth graders to what to expect. Finally, we ended class with Hadass and Naomi sharing with us their favourite dance and song from camp Ramah Palmer this summer, "Ziben Ziben". The students' mission for this week is to try and discover where this song comes from - we'll see if together we can figure out what exactly it is!
Wishing everyone an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur,

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kith Hey/Grade 5 Update 9/20

Shalom to the families of my "hey" (grade 5) class!

Our first Sunday was just a great day!

We began with a wonderful "catered" breakfast of cereal and milk....or soy milk.....or dry cereal.

,Kids totally enjoyed it! 
Some of my boys said it made their time at home more relaxed, knowing they didn't have to gulp down a quick breakfast!
There were lots of smiles!
We were carried away in discussion about the new year, and didn't notice the time!
No one was checking the clock!  (Yay!)
My Fitbit does not display time unless I press the little button..........but we were all so engaged, the time "ran away"... 
We arrived late to tefilllot (prayers) in the sanctuary!

We'll try to do better next week.
It was such a positive beginning to our morning!

After tefilllot, we did a simple dramatization displaying respect of one another's personal space.
From there we created out class rules together.  The students chose our " kavod code".

I was quite surprised that even after all the cereal kids still wanted snack!
So.........snack time.

From there we wrote prayers for the new year.  Some students wanted to write directly to G-d.
Of course they asked for the address......
I used my personal "g-d phone, and talked to one of his/ her secretaries.
Of course, it is a busy time of year for G-d......
I thanked the angel secretary, and we all said shalom.
After pausing. I explained that the address for G-d is .....our heart, our mind, our soul!

We concluded our day with a "world wide web" using a bigggggg ball of yarn.
I began with an apology for a wrong doing (eating all the tomatoes from our tomato plant!)
We all sat in a big circle on the floor, personal or community apologies, and tossed the yarn to someone at the opposite side of the circle!
Everyone participated.........
And asked to go around again.
Marc took pictures........

The end of a really successful day!

Shana tovah oometukah!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kitah Bet/Grade 2 Update from Margie

Kitah Bet (second Grade) has had a terrific start to the year!  
We all had a lot fun at the Apple and Honey Olympics; it was a great way to welcome everyone back and to meet some new friends.  
Sunday morning began with talking about what we are looking forward to achieving this year over a breakfast of cinnamon apple cheerios, followed by singing with Cantor Ken and the entire school. 
Back in the classroom we had our first Hebrew lesson reviewing the letter “Shin” and combining it with an “AH” vowel.  We brainstormed ideas for appropriate classroom behavior and agreed on the need to be kind and respectful to each other.  We also talked about trying our best, being creative and learning from our mistakes.
We ended our day learning about how we observe Yom Kippur in the Synagogue; this included a “field trip” to the sanctuary to see the Torah scrolls dressed in white.  The students were impressed at how many chairs filled the space, speculating on how many people come to services on the High Holidays.  We read a book called  “The Hardest Word”, asks your child what the word is and how it connects to Yom Kippur.
Wishing you all Tzum Kal, an easy fast and a happy and healthy New Year,
Kitah aleph—The Hardest Word    7 Tishri, 5776/ September 20, 2015

Dear Aleph students and families:

It was wonderful seeing so many happy faces today for our first class.  As we will every week, we began with breakfast and discussion.  In the sanctuary, we sang with Robin and Cantor Ken.

Children looked at pictures of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and we reviewed the main elements of the holidays:   the Jewish New Year, apples and honey, round challah, going to the Temple, 5776, the shofar, creation of the world (begun on Rosh Hashanah).  We talked about new beginnings, the chance to make better choices.   We looked ahead to Yom Kippur:  saying “I’m sorry,” Jonah, fasting, making the world better.

Each child thought of a way s/he would make good choices next year. 

As part of starting over, we read the story The Hardest Word.  The Ziz, a clumsy but good-hearted bird, accidentally destroys a vegetable garden.  When he asks G-d for advice, the bird learns the importance of apologizing. The hardest word is SORRY.  The book helps children understand what to do when mistakes are made and the importance of forgiveness. 

I led the class in songs at the end of each session.  Today we sang Tapuchim u’dvash (Apples and honey). The Shofar song, and the story of Jonah.  Weekly, we close with Shalom Chaverim..
Thank you all for your support and enthusiasm.

Brief reminders:  please give your child some water and a small kosher snack, which we will eat mid-morning, and a backpack or tote bag to take home papers.  This week, each child got a magnetic schedule of special events.

Esther and Tzipporah (Judy and Cheryl)

Doing Teshuvah

Shalom Kitah Gimmel,

It was great having the entire Gimmel class together today!

We enjoyed breakfast and conversation together as a classroom community.  Students were asked to think about 3 things they did well last year, 2 things they want to do better at this year and 1 personal goal they have for themselves for this year.  Students shared some great ideas!  We then met with Robin, Cantor Ken and the rest of the school for Tefillot and singing.

Students enjoyed their first morning meeting as a class and did jobs such as taking attendance, figuring out the Hebrew date, day of the week and weather.  The highlight of morning meeting of course is our counting game.  Today's counter chose shmoneh (8) and we went around the circle counting to 8 in Hebrew.  Each time someone landed on 8, they were out the game.  Last one standing wins the game!

Most of today was spent reviewing Yom Kippur.  Students did activities that deepened their understanding of the 10 days of repentance, and they also reviewed the concept of Tefillah, Teshuvah and Tzedakah, the main themes of the High Holidays.  Students also discussed promises they could make for the coming year based on these themes.

We ended our day with a story about a mitzvah (good deed) and used this as a basis for discussing some important rules to make our classroom a happy and successful place.  These are our derech Eretz (good manners) rules.

I am super excited to pass out and start working on our Hebrew reading curriculum next week!

Gamar Hatimah Tovah


Gan Class Update 9-20-15

Hello Gan Class Families!

Our first day of class was FANTASTIC!  It was so great to get to know each of your students and I am so excited about all the great learning we will get to do together this year.

Below is a detailed update about our day. You can look forward to receiving this information on Sunday or Monday of each week that there is class. 

Our day started with some delicious Apple Cinnamon Cheerios for breakfast.  Students had wonderful ideas about why we were enjoying this particular cereal  and many were able to make the connection to Rosh Hashanah and a sweet new year. After breakfast we joined the entire school in the Sanctuary for Tefilah.  We will have Tefilah weekly.  It will be a time to experience the prayers and songs particular to the time of year as well as some of the prayers we say throughout the year such as Modeh Ani and the Shema.

Before beginning our learning together we worked as a community of learners to come up with some guidelines for our class.  We decided on three important things; Be Kind, Be Safe and Make Good Choices.  These ideas will guide us throughout the year in how we interact with each other and how we learn together.   
Back in the classroom our topics were focused on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  In your students' folders is a pamphlet about each of the Celebrations topics that we discussed today.  They will provide you with the same information that was presented in class.  There are activities in each pamphlet that your student can enjoy at home but it is not assigned homework. In some of our activities we discovered that everyone had apples and honey, ate a round challah and heared a shofar on Rosh Hashanah.  We also made a list of some of the things that Gan Class students are sorry for.  A picture of our ideas is below.​​

Inline image 1

We were lucky enough to get to learn two letters today.  The first was shin.  Shin makes the shound sh-.  A word that students know that begins with the letter shin is shofar.  The second letter was tet.  Tet makes the sound t- and begins the word tallit.  To better understand what a tallit is, each student was offered the opportunity to put one on!  Students remarked that wearing a tallit felt cozy, snuggly, soft, smooth and warm.  A visit from Rabbi Liben helped us learn that you can have more than one tallit, in fact Rabbi Liben says he has several, some that he only wears once a year!

In the next few weeks we will be focusing our learning on Sukkot and Simchat Torah.  Students can look forward to learning two new letters that connect to those holidays.

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

I wish all those who are fasting an easy fast on Tuesday/Wednesday.

See you all next week!


Ashrei for Grade 4 Parents

Grade 4 Parents,

I am uploading a copy of Ashrei as it appears in your child's binder and here is the transliteration for those of you who will find it helpful while you listen to your kids practice reading:

Zei-cher rav tu-v'cha ya-bi-u, 
2 v'tsid-ka-t'cha y'ra-nei-nu. 

a Cha-nun v'ra-chum A-do-nai, e-rech a-pa-yim ug-dal cha-sed. 

3 Tov A-do-nai la-kol, 
4 v'ra-cha-mav al kawl ma-a-sav. 
b Yo-du-cha A-do-nai kawl ma-a-se-cha, v'cha-si-de-cha y'va-r'chu-cha.
5 K'vod mal-chu-t'cha yo-mei-ru, 
6 ug-vu-ra-t'cha y'da-bei-ru. 
c L'ho-di-a liv-nei ha-a-dam g'vu-ro-tav, uch'vod ha-dar mal-chu-to.
7 Mal-chut'cha mal-chut kawl o-la-mim, 
8 u-mem-shal-t'cha b'chawl dor va-dor. 

d So-meich A-do-nai l'chawl ha-no-f'lim, v'zo-keif l'chawl ha-k'fu-fim. 

4 Questions for Kitah Dalet/Grade 4

Dear Grade 4 Parents,

I am enjoying getting to know your kids a lot!  They are awesome!

This morning during Hebrew we worked on our class brit/rules a bit, began working on the middle section of Ashrei, and got learned how HW in grade 4 Hebrew works.

A few questions you can ask your kids this week that will support and reinforce Hebrew at home.

1. Ask your kids what they can do with their hands when they hear the vowels that make the "ah" sound - kamatz and patach and what they can do with their hands when they hear or see a shva vowel.

Katmatz - looks like a "T" - short 1
Patach - is a straight horizontal line - short a
Sh'va - 2 dots stacked vertically - short i at the beginning of a word

2.  Ask you kids a way in which they can show respect to others, themselves and the environment/our classroom.

3.  Ask you kids to tell you about their green binder and HW calendar.  (And remind them they have some Hebrew to practice every night.)

4.  Ask you kids to tell you what sound the sh'va makes at the beginning of a word (short i) vs. in the middle of a word (silent).  (We have not yet reviewed the double sh'va rule.)

Have an easy and meaningful fast!


What does an archer say when he misses the mark?

Dear Kitah Daled families,

I am so excited to be exploring the Jewish calendar cycle with Wednesday afternoon Kitah Daled attendees.  On September 16, we wished each other a good and sweet new year and enjoyed apples and honey.  We looked at the Tishrei calendar, counting the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur and learned that this time period is called the Aser Yamei Teshuvah, the ten days of returning.  We learned that when an archer misses the target, he/she may say, “chatati” I missed the mark and that the word for transgression, chayt, is the same.  We talked about our own behaviors that miss the mark, each of us selected one behavior and wrote it on a post-it note, attached the note off-center on a target and decided that we would try to eliminate those behaviors.   We began that process by ripping up the target and our post-its.

Tsom Kal veG’mar Chatimah Tovah—may you have an easy fast and complete the inscription (in the Book of Life) well.

HaMorah Margalit (aka Gretchen Marks Brandt)