Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Grade 7 Update: Gesher is Amazing!

This Gesher class continues to amaze me!

It’s been a very busy, rich and rigorous few weeks—
We completed three banners for the Birkot haShachar arts project, each student created a personal birkat ha-bayit (blessing for the home), and, as part of our Jewish Life Cycle Speakers Series, we met with Robin Kahn who taught us about Jewish education.  The following is their thank you note to Robin:
Dear Robin,
Thank you for educating us on the topic of Jewish education, an important part of the Jewish Life cycle.  We learned that Jewish education lasts throughout the duration of one’s life.  We also learned that Jewish learning will never end as the generations go on.  And we learned about the importance of Jewish education to the Jewish community.  We enjoyed the videos of the children singing and the boy dancing.  The text taught us about how God teaches parents to teach their children who will then teach their children and so on about Jewish values.
We hope to learn from you again in the future.
Sincerely yours, The Gesher Class (your favorite!)

The Men’s Club treated our school to a festive Hanukkah celebration with latkes, dreidels and gelt.  Gesher students represented our school in writing a thank you note to Men’s Club too:

Dear Men’s Club,
Thank you for the delicious latkes.  Thank you for your time.  The dreidels  were very fun to use.  We had a lot of fun getting ready for the upcoming holiday! 
We are so grateful for everything that you do for us.  And we are very proud that many of our fathers are members of the Men’s Club.
The Gesher Class (the best class!)
On behalf of the Temple Israel of Natick Religious School


We were rabbinic thinkers discussing developmentally salient questions of should a child who has sold drugs be permitted to attend religious school?  And, if a post bar mitzvah teen shoplifts, should his parents be held responsible?
            Having succeeded on our Thanksgiving campaign, students were excited to embark on a new mitzvah project. Have you noticed the JF&CS Family Table Food Pantry wood box in the temple hallway?  Did you know that our synagogue community is responsible for collecting 45 4-packs of toilet paper each month for the JF&CS Family Table Food Pantry?  Dafne Blacker taught us about this important mitzvah and our students are busy developing ideas to inform our congregation and to generate donations.
            We have also continued to study the weekly Torah portion.  Students have been particularly observant recognizing details, commenting, and working to make personal connections.  Today we watched G-dcast videos to summarize the parshiot from last week, this week and next week:
Vayishlach (last week) http://www.g-dcast.com/vayishlach/

We ended class today with Hanukkah gifts:  chocolate gelt from the Religious School and from HaMorah Margalit, a thinking tool (aka fidget), a dreidel kit (gelt, dreidel and a dreidel-game refresher).  The students expressed genuine appreciation and gratitude for everything that they received.

May your Hanukkah be filled with light, joy and gratitude!

HaMorah Margalit (aka Gretchen Marks Brandt)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Grade 6 Update 12.18.16

Dear Kitah Vav Families,

Yesterday found us deep into Hanukkah and celebration. First we sang with Cantor Ken, then The Men's Club of TI treated us to latkes, applesauce, and cider while we perfected spinning our dreidels upside down. 

Kitah Vav and Kesher moved to the sanctuary for blessings and songs, including "haNerot Halalu, and Al haNissim.

We returned to class to wrap a gift for your family. Please note that if your student was absent on Sunday, December 11, they missed this project.

After the wrapping I was able to hear most students read the blessing before Haftarah. We have been practicing this blessing for two weeks. If your student was not in class, please read this blessing to my Google Voice 617 410-8145.

As I write this I have started my journey to India. ✈.  I will be gone from December 19 through January 3. Michelle Nelson is my substitute. She has my lesson plans, and will be teaching the blessings we say as we place our tefillin on for morning, weekday tefillah /prayer. On January 3 there is a lesson on prophets, leadership, and Moses, of whom Torah says:  "There has never been a greater prophet in Israel." (Students have been alerted to my trip for several weeks now.)

We finished class with a video tour of Haifa. Our class has been paired with the Yavnielli School Sixth Grade. We hope to form a friendship and collaboration with this school in the new year.

I wish you all a happy holiday break that is filled with warmth and light. Please note that I will have Wifi almost everywhere, so I will listen to any student that records on Google Voice.חג אורים שמח!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Grade K - Gan Class Update 12/18/16

Hello Gan Class Families!

Today's class was all about Hanukkah!  Its a very exciting time of year and the Gan Class students are definitely looking forward to celebrating Hanukkah with family and friends.

We started our day with a whole school Hanukkah celebration in the Social Hall.  First we practiced the blessings and sang some of our favorite Hanukkah songs with Cantor Ken. Then we played dreidel before enjoying some delicious latkes and apple cider provided by the Men's Club.

In our classroom we read a story about the Macabees and how they knew what was right and fought to save the Jewish people.  Students called the Macabees brave heroes during the story.  We heard that after the Macabees defeated the Greeks and made them Jerusalem, there was only enough oil which lit the ner tamid to last for one day but a miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days!  We learned that we eat latkes and soufganiyot (delicious jelly donuts) which are fried in oil to remind us of this miracle and that the letters on our dreidel mean "A great miracle happened there."  Perhaps the most interesting thing that students realized was that in our story and all of the things we learned about Hanukkah, there was no mention of presents.  Students decided that they are lucky to get presents from loved ones.

Before our Hanukkah experiences were over, we read a silly story called There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Dreidel and had some dreidel spinning contests.  Everyone has done lots of spinning and they are now experts.

Another special opportunity we had today was that we got to learn some Hebrew with Penni Rochwerger.  Penni is a mother of two of the older students in our school and is also a Hebrew Through Movement Teacher.  Students learned the Hebrew words for sit, stand, walk, stop and jump by experiencing those actions along with Penni, Bina, Ann and myself. 

Lastly, everyone took home their personal Arts Project Kippah today.  The whole school has worked so hard on this magnificent project and the panels we have painted are currently being sewn to create the piece of art that will be displayed for our whole community to enjoy.  To commemorate the experience, the Gan Class students created personal hand-print kippot using the same technique that was used on the panels. The kippot are theirs to keep and enjoy for years to come.  Many of them wore them during class today.  Below is a picture of all of the Gan Class kippot.  They look great!

Our next class will be on January 8, 2017!  Please enjoy the winter break and the Holiday Season.  I can't wait to see you all next year!

Michelle

Grade 1: Alef--Hanukkah, December 18, 2016

Thank you so much for your gifts to us.  It was very thoughtful of you to get me a gift card to buy books!  Thank you also for making sure that everyone donated toilet tissue for Family Table! (My synagogue gives canned fruits and vegetables).

First a community get-together for Hanukkah songs, led by Cantor Ken.  We enjoyed latkes and cider—and everyone got a dreidel.

Back in class. I took a photo of everyone wearing their new painted kippot.  They look wonderful!
Our Hebrew lesson today was the letter chafכ –no words begin with chaf, but it is I the word kochav, “star.”  I explained that Hanukkah and hallah begin with het, which we have not studied yet.  The mnemonic is “chaf has a cough, but no cough drop.”  Then snack with brachot.

We brainstormed Hanukkah, from my pictures.  Ann Green, assistant teacher in gan, shared her poem with us, about how to place and light the candles.  Then we read A Family Hanukkah, how one extended family celebrates and remembers the holiday.  We discussed why it was necessary to clean out the Temple.  One student asked what would have happened if the Jews had lost—Judaism might not have survived.  We talked about the oil lasting for eight days.

Then we made our gift to you—a photo magnet for the refrigerator.  I hope that you enjoy it.  I also hope that the children enjoy my little gift to them—puzzles and pencils. 

At the end of the day—some Hanukkah singing, games, and more chances to play Dreidel.  They also received chocolate gelt.

Happy Hanukkah.  No Sunday class until January 8, 2017.
Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Grade 6: Trope Update

We worked on the 1st (v'ahavta) and 3rd (tzitzit) paragraphs of the Shema this week, pages 12 and 14 in the packet, tracks 33, 34, and 36.  Students should be able to sing through the paragraphs both singing the trope names and singing the words.  Students can feel free to take a peek at their Maftir Torah portion in their bar/bat mitzvah folder and use that to practice the Torah trope. (let me know if you have questions).

Next week, I'll be giving out some short Torah portions for the students to chant at some upcoming services. We'll need approximately three volunteers each for:

January 28 (a Synaplex)
and for the following Youth Services (in the chapel):
February 4 
February 18
March 4 
March 18

Please let me know which dates would work for you-- thanks!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Grade 5: Kitah Hey- Diana's Update

Dear Kitah Hey families,

The fifth graders have had a very busy couple of weeks! On Sunday, the class finished up their art projects (where they worked together in small groups to artistically represent morning blessings of their choosing). The kids did an amazing job with this and wrote beautiful final reflections about their designs. They all took such pride in their work. All of the teachers were impressed!

In Hebrew class, we have been working more on practicing our vocabulary for emotions. During class, the fifth graders were given a "face" template and an envelope filled with different types of eyes and mouth expressions. Students were assigned a particular emotion in Hebrew and were then expected to choose which eyes and mouth best showed their assigned emotion. The fifth graders were encouraged to add details to best show their mood. After finishing this project, each student held up their "face" and the class was given the opportunity to practice their vocabulary, guessing the correct emotion. These were then put up on our classroom bulletin board to display.



In addition to this vocabulary, the fifth graders have been working hard on the prayers recited during the Torah service. This week, to help students practice their decoding in a fun way, we played a game of "Pick-Up Sticks". (For this game, I taped all of the words from the prayers we are learning onto popsicle sticks). The kids sat in a circle and, one by one, tried their best to pick up a popsicle stick without wiggling surrounding sticks, correctly read the Hebrew word on it, and then put it in their personal pile. Whoever ended with the most popsicle sticks in their pile at the end was the winner. The fifth graders had so much fun with this game!



Attached below is the homework calendar for December as well as a copy of the prayers we are currently learning for your convenience.

Best,
Diana







Grade 2: Kitah Bet Happenings

Kitah Bet students had an extremely busy morning on Sunday.  The children have been working very hard to complete their panels for the school wide art project.  Our class was responsible for illustrating four of the morning blessings: Thank you God for helping the rooster/heart tell the difference between night and day; Thank you God for making me Jewish; Thank you God for making me free and Thank you God for creating me in your image. These are not easy blessings for young children to understand let alone translate into images but the Kitah Bet students rose to the challenge.  Each blessing was assigned to a group of 4-5 students.  Each group had to conceptualize the blessing, make hand motions for it, write about it, translate the meaning of the blessing into a design and execute the design on fabric. These activities happened over a series of Sundays.

This past Sunday, each group completed an artist statement explaining what had led them to make the design as they did.  Then as a group, they chose paint colors and completed painting their panel.  The results were really beautiful and inspiring. Creating this artwork was demanding on a number of different levels not the least of which was in the need for the children to work together, collaborating and compromising with each other.  This was difficult at times but they managed to work through any problems and as all will see the results were wonderful.

In other class notes, the children have begun learning about the upcoming holiday of Chanukkah.  They have begun practicing the blessings over the Chanukkah candles.  We also reviewed the history of the holiday and why we eat latkes and sufganiot.  We read a story by the well known writer, Eric Kimmel, about a boy and a magic dreidel.  More Chanukkah learning and celebrations will follow this week and next Sunday too!

Hebrew learning continues with Hamorah Margie.  The children are learning to read more letters all of the time.

Shavua Tov,
Hamorah Joanne and Hamorah Margie

Monday, December 12, 2016

Grade 3: Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families,

The Gimel Students have been hard at work and having fun with all of their Hebrew School activities.  It has been an exciting few weeks!

Hebrew
Students have learned most of the Birkot Hashachar and have made great strides in reading and singing.  Many students are utilizing Google Voice and calling on a regular basis to do their reading. Every student is working very hard and you can be very proud of their accomplishments (as I am!)

Holidays
Hannukah will be here before we know it!  Students have been hard at work learning about the history of Hannukah, the food and the traditions.  After accessing prior knowledge from students about the holiday through listening to a song by the Maccabeats and completing a graphic organizer, students worked in groups to do a readers theatre of the Hannukah story.  Next week they will be introduced to the iPad app, Tellagami to retell the story and review what they have learned.

Special Activities
Last Tuesday Josh Satok from Camp Ramah visited the school where he led Tefillah and had a discussion with the students about the fires that happened in Israel over the last few weeks.  Students also talked about the importance of trees and planting trees in Israel.
The Wednesday group were introduced to the website, Padlet.com.  This is an app where students can collaborate with each other and share ideas while working on the iPads.  Students used this to brainstorm more ideas about celebrating Hannukah.  I look forward to using this technology tool with the students for future units of study.

Birkot Hashachar Quilt
Over the last three Sundays of Hebrew School, students had a blast working on the school wide Birkot Hashachar Quilt.  What a great experience it was to work in groups to study the meaning of one of the Birkot Hashachar,  deciding on a design related to the blessing, sketching, tracing, gluing and finally painting their panel!  Yesterday students had fun choosing their colors, painting their panel and writing their "Artist Statement".  I can't wait to see the finished product!

Shalom,

Elana


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Grade 1 Update: ALEF PAINTING 12-11-16

Dear alef families:

A wonderful day of art and working together!  I shared with the class our award from the gesher class for bringing in the most stuffing for the Thanksgiving food drive!

We began with tefillah with the kindergarten and cantor Ken.  He also led us in some Hanukkah songs.

Back in class, we reviewed what we are thankful for, how we make people welcome in our home, and how we make guests feel welcome. We also discussed what Jewish things we like to do, such as observing Shabbat, giving tzedakah, celebrating Hanukkah.  The children already know so much about the holiday!

Then, in their “arty clothes,” the students painted three handprint panels green.  They will become part of the larger school panels of the birchat hashachar, the morning blessings.

The students also painted their kippot, which were decorated with handprints.  Soon, they will be able to wear them to school.

We then discussed several of the morning blessings.  In pairs, students illustrated these: for helping the rooster/heart tell the difference between the day and night, for creating me in G-d’s image. For making me Jewish, for taking care of what I need, for separating the land from the water, and for helping me wake up and be ready for the day.  They worked so well together to make their drawings.  I took them home to copy them in color; next week I will give them out to the children.

We closed with some Hanukkah melodies and our usual Shalom Haverim.

Next week, we will learn more about Hanukkah,  Shavua tov.


Judy and Cheryl  (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update 12-11-16

Hello Gan Class Families!

Today we painted!  We did a lot of painting.....

Before the painting started we met with Cantor Ken in the Sanctuary for Tefillah.  Students were excited to learn that Hanukkah is in just a few weeks as we began to practice the blessings and some holiday songs. 

Next it was time to work on our whole school Birkot HaShachar project.  In November we started the project by thinking about things that we are thankful for each day and making a handprint in glue on one of the panels that will outline some of the visual representations of the prayers that were made by the older students.  Today we got to paint those panels teal. They will be washed and then sewn together with the other panels to create a piece of art we can't wait for you to see.

Next we painted our very own dreidels.  They were very colorful and students got to practice making the letters nun, gimel, hay and shin.  Next week we will explore the holiday of Hanukkah as well as enjoy some celebrations!

Lastly, we painted the kippot we made handprints on during our last class.  Students were very creative and when we wash the paint off, each kippah will have the students' handprint on it!

It was a messy and fun day!

Next week we will not be doing any painting.  We will discover new things about Hanukkah and we will get to learn a new letter together too!

Have a wonderful week!

Michelle

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Grade 6 Update 12.10.16

Dear Kitah Vav Families,
      This week your students are assigned to practice reading The Blessing Before the Haftarah, aiming for accuracy and smooth reading.  We have worked on this blessing in class this week and last.  Please have your child call into my Google Voice (617 410-8145) and read this Haftarah Blessing ( I call it HB1).  In January we will begin reading and practicing the Blessing After the Haftarah (HB2). 
      Sunday, Dec. 11, will find Kitah Vav/Grade 6 working on two art projects; one is a for the temple community and the other is a gift for your family.  I am attaching the “Family Blessing” worksheet for you to do in collaboration with your student.  Some of you have already done this, and I thank you.  If you have not, please be sure to print, complete, and send the sheet in to school for Sunday’s project. Todah rabbah.
      This Sunday students should wear clothing to paint in; the older the better!  Thanks.

      Rav Elana

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.
     
      Enjoy!
      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!

Thanks!

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)