Saturday, April 30, 2016

Grades 2-5: Creative Arts - Week 1

Everybody Counts!
Week 1: Intro & Hesed/ Loving-Kindness

Our Creative Arts program is underway!  This past week we focused on Hesed/Loving Kindness and our core text was: The world is built with hesed (Psalm 89:3).  During the afternoon students made thumbprint counters for our Omer Counter and found images for our Hesed collage.  We defined hesed as “doing something that cannot be returned or reciprocated” and came up with examples such as giving a gift anonymously, comforting mourners, visiting the sick, and hospitality for visitors. Students compares different ways of giving tzedakah (an act of hesed), listened to the core text sung on a youtube video and drew images of what it means that the world is built on hesed. Students then transferred their image to their Omer cube.  As “the world is built on kindness,” each students’ cube is a metaphor for a building block.  Reflection is a significant component of this program and learning in general, at the end of the day everyone shared an observation about a peer's work and something about their work.

Here’s some information for you about the Omer Period.  An omer is a unit of measure. In the days of the Temple a grain offering was referred to as the Omer.  The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah. During the seven week Omer period, the days between Passover and Shavuot, we have the opportunity to consider seven different qualities within each of us and how we can use them to make a difference in our community.  Over the next seven weeks, we will focus on one quality each week.  The seven qualities are: loving-kindness, inner strength, inner beauty, commitment, gratitude, connection, and leadership.  We are creating an Omer Counter for Temple Israel to use during the seven weeks so that each year our community can count the days and reflect on the quality during the week together.

Lastly, this past week an article by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo caught my eye and I thought I would share the beginning with you because I think he does a nice job of explaining why we count the Omer:

“Numerous commentators and philosophers have explained the biblical commandment to count the days between Pesach and Shavuot (See Leviticus 23:15) as a way to encourage people not only to count these days, but to use this time to examine their thoughts and feelings and take stock of their lives. Both the exodus from Egypt — which initiated our forefathers’ first encounter with liberty — as well as its culmination with the giving of the Torah — the law of moral freedom — at Mount Sinai should become ingrained in our personalities, inspiring constant moral elevation. The purpose of the period between the two festivals is to relive these sublime moments so as to ennoble ourselves.  Nothing is more dangerous for a person than to remain spiritually stale. It is for this reason than one is required to count the 49 days of the Omer. To prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah, we are asked to climb a ladder of 49 spiritual steps in which each day will add another dimension to our souls.”

Friday, April 22, 2016


Dear families:

Hag sameach!  I hope that you and your loved ones are together for the two Seders tonight and on Saturday evening.

The children were so excited to make the Seder clock and the Seder pillow that you will be using.  We practiced the four questions, and they have their booklets to help them.

Please remember to start using your sheet on counting the Omer tomorrow evening, the second day of Pesach.

We miss seeing you and the students.  OUR NEXT SUNDAY CLASS IS ON MAY 1.

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Passover Song, With Apologies to Chanukah

By Ann Green

(To the Tune of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel") 

Once we were slaves in Egypt
That wasn’t very fun,
Building stuff for Pharaoh
And burning in the sun.

Moses talked to Pharaoh
And said, “We’re out of here!”
But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen
‘Cause he just didn’t care.

Oh Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Pharaoh,
You should have let us go
You made a real big blunder
When you said, “No, no, no.”

Well Pharaoh had it coming
Frogs and lice and hail,
Locusts, boils and darkness
For him, a major fail.

Oh matzah, matzah, matzah,
There wasn’t time to rise,
Just enough to hurry
And run from Pharaoh’s guys.

Four cups of Manishevitz
So thick and dark and sweet
For getting drunk and sugared
That stuff just can’t be beat.

Oh maror, maror, maror
You make our mouths so hot,
Our bitter time in Egypt
Will not soon be forgot.

The Seder’s songs and stories
Show Pharaoh’s big defeat.
Though sometimes all I think of
Is please when do we eat.

Next year Yerushalayim
Is where I hope I’ll be.
For now I’m celebrating
With friends and family.

Passover -- Eggs Galore

Passover -- Eggs Galore!
By Ann Green

Passover’s coming, there’s so much to do,
Cleaning the house till it shines like it’s new.
Planning the Seder, inviting the guests,
Finding haggadahs and all the rest.
Shopping and cooking are high on the list,
To make those favorites that can’t be missed.
But first on the list, way up high
Is figuring how many eggs to buy.
The Passover recipes that we adore,
Need eggs, eggs, eggs and eggs galore.
My kugel takes nine eggs, my apple cake four,
I think I’m all set, then I still need some more.
Matzah balls for a crowd can take twenty-seven,
My favorite dessert requires eleven.
Would fourteen cartons be too many?
All I know now is I haven’t got any.
Then there’s the egg on the Seder plate…
I should figure this out before it’s too late!
Eggs with matzah, eggs with farfel,
I’ll probably wind up buying a car full.
How many guests?  How many cousins?
I think I’ll need eggs by the dozens of dozens.
Eggs by the truckload, eggs by the ton.
I’ll be buried in shells when dinner’s all done.
Cracking and beating again and again,
I think next year I’ll just buy a hen!

Friday, April 15, 2016

4/10: Kitah Vav: Samuel Skits

This past Sunday, Kitah Vav working on tying tzitzit with Josh from 10 - 11, and had a special program on the origins and intricacies of the chocolate business from 11 - 12. Last week, we worked on dramatizations of the stories of Samuel, Saul, and David. Students were divided into two groups, each of which was given two skits adapted directly from the Hebrew Bible. The skits covered Saul’s coronation, Samuel’s berating of the Israelite people for their desire for a king, Saul’s disobedience to G-d, and the selection of David as the (future) second king of Israel. The students worked independently and with instructor guidance on rehearsing and dramatizing their skits, then came back together at the end of class to present their stories to each other. Once the four skits were performed in order, the whole story was illuminated. The students did a wonderful job bringing color and personality to the characters they played, and I look forward to further exploring the stories of Saul, Samuel, and David with them as we move forward.

Kitah Dalet, 4/10: Saul and David

On Sunday, 4/10, Kitah Dalet continued our exploration of the story of Samuel, Saul, and David. The week before, we had split into groups and each acted out a slice of the story, performing the skits together at the end to tell each other the whole narrative. This week, we gave special attention to the fate of Saul, the once-chosen king. The students were all asked to think about the position Saul is in, having been given a kingship by G-d and now having it taken away. They were asked to think about whether they believe Saul understands what is happening to him, why it is happening, and whether he thinks he is being treated fairly or unfairly. Students all wrote a personal prayer or letter from Saul in regards to his situation. After this activity, we moved on to the best-known story associated with David, the second king of Israel: his slaying of the giant Philistine Goliath. We will continue to explore this story, and others of David’s reign, in the weeks to come.   

Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families,

Gimel students have been very busy preparing for Passover.  They used a variety of activities to review the story of Passover.  Doing a Passover Readers Theatre was definitely a favorite!  Students also talked about different Passover traditions, with the main focus being the items you put on your Seder Plate and Seder table.  Last Sunday everyone had a blast making their very own Seder plates using tissue paper decoupage!  I hope you enjoy using these at your Seders this year!

In Hebrew students have completed Ein Keloheinu and are now reviewing it.  To celebrate the completion students enjoyed a special Oreo cookie snack.  Each student was given a homework calendar for April.  It would be great if they could spend a few minutes a day reviewing the prayer and reading the last 3 lines.  Next month we will start working on the Friday night Erev Shabbat Kiddush.

Wishing everyone a wonderful April break and a Chag Pesach Sameach!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Madrichim Update

                The teen leaders in the Madrichim program are preparing themselves for a new challenge! Recently, the teens completed a training on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation (think the dip in the sidewalk at a crosswalk - this is essential for a person using a wheelchair, but also makes the sidewalk more easily accessible for a person with a bike, or a baby carriage. In thinking about one person's need, it actually improves the environment for all, without the need for adaptation for each person). This same philosophy can be applied to education.

 We know that students learn in a variety of ways and that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective in a diverse classroom. The teens spent the day learning about UDL and thinking about potential barriers for students in the three key areas of learning: Representation of information, Expression of what they have learned, and Engagement in the lesson. They brainstormed different ways that students could be presented with information, different ways that could think about and express their understanding of the information, and different ways to ensure engagement and excitement about the lesson.

Now, the teen leaders will use what they have learned to design and implement a lesson with a UDL approach. They will do this with support and guidance from me, and the support of the classroom teachers. We are so excited for them to take on this ownership role in the classroom and bring even more joy and knowledge to their community!

Sarah Kerstein

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grade 6 - Counting the Omer

Its hard to believe its already that time of year!  Passover is coming and its time to start counting the Omer. 

Each year we count the 49 days from the Second Passover Seder until Shavuot.  This passage of time is a great opportunity to be reflective and insightful. This year we will begin counting the Omer Saturday, April 23rd.

To prepare the Vuv class students have created their own personal Omer counters.  Each student was encouraged to think of new things to try, nice things to do for others, experiences, commitments or encouraging ideas.  They were then asked to write one of these on each of 49 Post-its in a stack.  Each day of the Omer students will try to achieve the personal goal on the post it and by the end they will have engaged in 49 activities they may not have in an ordinary stretch of time.  We will spend class time reflecting on these actions.

Some amazing ideas were Give 110%, try a new food, learn to bake mom's 5 minute cake and give someone a compliment just to name a few.  

If you missed class, no worries!  All you need is a stack of post-its and some great ideas. 

Looking for other ways to Count the Omer?  Take a selfie every day and put them together in a slide show.  Make a picture collage by adding a pictureof something important to you each day.  Keep a journal.  The possibilities are endless.  Be creative!  I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Have a wonderful vacation and great Passover seders!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Grade 5 Kitah hey April 11, 2016

And yesterday was another whirlwind day!
( I mean that in the best possible way!)
So busy, and it went sooooo quickly by!

For our class breakfast cereal, rather than choosing one that could be connected to Torah, we finished all the leftovers before Passover.  No more chamaytz!
I suggested to my Tuesday boys if they have a kosher snack to share from home.......we could have a 
Last "chamaytz sharing"  before our final pre-Passover clean up!  They seemed pretty enthusiastic.
I just love when my boys get excited long as it is in a happy way!

I introduced the Torah portion briefly, and we headed to the sanctuary for our tefillah session.
This week our community tefillah included many Passover songs too!

Back in the classroom, I asked what IS the Torah portion?

Tazria.  Formerly one of my least favorite.........
But no more.
Tazria has now become quite fascinating! 
Leprosy........a type of very serious skin disease.  One would be cast out from the community........
Why?     Leprosy was considered to be highly contagious.  
Besides which, in biblical days, disease was considered to be punishment for wrong behaviors.  
A skin disease........that everyone can see?!    Oy.

We talked about how that would feel to be isolated from the community.  Why was it necessary?
What else can be contagious?  Flu, strep, ........etc.........also yawning, laughter, ........
Then bullying........and gossip, and peer pressure.......and fashion......   And sneakers, charities....just an endless list.  
All that from tazria!, one of my new favorites!

The topics raised were phenomenal.    Ask your children at home and continue the conversation with them around your tables.

We continued with our own retelling of OUR days as slaves, (in every generation...........)
Thank you to Sam!, who remembered the Hebrew!
And we were all so mad at Moses.  We just didn't know if we could trust him.......or if our lives would be even worse!  Many students shared their "own" stories of the original Passover!   We have quite the dramatic group sometimes.  Great learning and great fun can go together!

Chag Pesach sameach

Cindy Nelson 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Grade K - Gan Class Update 4-10-16

Hello Gan Class Families!

Our class was so busy today enjoying learning activities for Passover!

The day started with a choice of different cereals.  We were using up all the non-Kosher for Passover foods much like you will do in your own home.

During Teffilot we practiced with Cantor Ken and the rest of the school the 4 Questions and many other songs that might be a part of your seder.

Today's Torah story described the 10 plagues.  When we last saw Moses, he had communicated with God through the burning bush.  In this story, he and his brother Aaron try to get the Pharaoh to agree to let the Jews go.  Each time he refuses, Egypt experiences a plague.  The plagues made it difficult for the Egyptians to live.  They ruined their water and food, invaded their homes and destroyed their buildings.  The 10th plague was the worst of all.  All of the first born males were killed.  After the 10th plague, Pharaoh told the Jewish people they could leave.  In our next story, we will see how the Jews escaped from Egypt.

There were so many Passover activities to help us better understand the upcoming holiday.  Each student made a placemat that has the order of the seder.  We learned that everyone's seder goes in the same order.  These placemats are laminated so that they can be wiped off if some charoset or maror spills.  Students experienced the story of Passover through Yoga on the rug. Each section of the story had a yoga pose to help learn through movement.  Super huge thank you to Sarah, our Madrichim Coordinator for sharing this activity with us.  A sorting game helped students understand which foods we can and cannot eat on Passover.  Each student got to pretend to be a Jewish save by building a pyramid with blocks.  Finally, students decorated an envelope for the afikomen.  Hopefully this will help contain any crumbs!

Each student went home with a bag of beads and a string.  There is a sheet inside that explains how to use these items to Count the Omer.  Each year we count the 49 days between the second Passover Seder and Shavuot.  I hope that you will practice this at home by adding one bead to the string each day.  The blessing for Counting the Omer was included on the instruction sheet.  Students can wear their necklaces to class each week where we will reflect on how they are growing and changing.

The next time we are together for class it will be May.  There are no classes until May 1st due to April vacation.    

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

Enjoy the vacation and have a wonderful Passover!



 April 10, 2016
Dear families:
I feel so exhilarated each week being with you. The children seem to enjoy our activities, leaving with smiling faces. Your kind words and support are most appreciated.

Today was the culmination of our unit on Pesach.  We were very busy reviewing the important ideas and rituals. 

After breakfast, the students were thrilled to know that the bookplates they created last week with Robin were in the new siddurim.  A few students did get books with classmates names and showed them to each other!  After tefillah, Cantor Ken led us in Pesach melodies like the order of the Seder, Dayenu, Eliyahu HaNavi, and the Four Questions. (The booklet they created last week can help them say them at your Seder.)

THE OMER—Back in class, we talked about counting the Omer from the second day of Pesach until Shavuot.  The farmers count the days from the spring planting.  Day 49 is the day before Shavuot, the harvest and the day the Jews received the Ten Commandments.  Each child got an Omer counting sheet.  Cross off each day as it comes.  We will do this each week in class.

HEBREW: Our lesson this week had two parts: first the vowel “o”--as in shalom, shofar, menorah, Rosh Hashanah.  It can be represented by a “vav” with a dot over it, or by any letter with the dot to the left of the top.  We described it as an orange hitting the top of your head, and you saying “Oh” in surprise.  We also learned the letter ט“tet”--the first letter in tallit, Tu B’Shevat, and the Hebrew version of telephone.

STORY: To review elements of Pesach, we read P is for Passover. A is for afikoman, B is for burning bush, C is for charoset, etc.

CRAFT:  Using felt pieces and fabric markers, we decorated a Seder pillow (we recline as free     people).We stuffed it with hypoallergenic poly fill.  I sewed around most of it, leaving a long thread to be completed at home.  Or, you can staple part of the last side shut.  See the photo.

As time permits, we also did puzzle papers and played my learning games.  Among the favorites are my Uh Oh!  books and my game Find the Afikomen.  Our madricha, Ariel, is a big help to me and the children during breakfast, crafts, games, and Hebrew lessons.

We concluded with a paper on what doesn’t belong on the Seder table.


Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Kitah Vav: Tzitzit and Chocolate

April 10, 2016:
Today in Kitah Vav we had two special activities, and were lucky enough to have a number of you, our parents, join us as well! First, we learned more about tallit and tzitzit, the fringes/strings that we put on the corners, and then our students started tying the tzitzit onto the tallitot that they had made with Nancy the other week. It definitely was not an easy task, but despite some frustration and difficulty, most of us made pretty good progress. Parents, please encourage your kids and remind them that this is hard- even for any of us, me included!- and to not get discouraged if it was more difficult than they'd thought. We'll be continuing with this on May 1st, after we're back form Passover break.

We then had the privilege of having Leora Mallach, co-founder and director of Ganei Beantown/ Boston Jewish Gardens talk to us about where and how chocolate is made, including the connections between Passover and the slavery we remember and the conditions of modern-day cocoa harvesting. We had the chance to winnow cocoa beans, separating the bitter but tasty part inside from the shells, and taste-test some fair trade chocolate that Leora had brought in. 

I won't see the sixth graders again until after Passover, so wanted to take the chance to wish everyone a Chag Sumach. Enjoy the seders, the matzah, the family, and everything else- and I'll see everyone when it's time to eat bread again!

(and here's a little pesach treat i just found with a twist on the 4 questions combined with the tune of one of my favourite songs that I hope you and your kids will enjoy!

wishing you an early Chag Sameach,


TUESDAY, MAY 31 (5:40-7:15pm)

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Parashat haShavua!  In the past few weeks we have explored Parashiot Tzav, Shemini and Tazriya.  Since Gesher is the eldest class, it is their honor to develop our community Torah study questions, which are then discussed in younger classes on Sunday mornings, and they also select a breakfast cereal.  While learning to develop discussion questions has been challenging, students enjoy the challenge of finding a breakfast cereal that they can connect to the parasha and/or the Jewish calendar.  For Tzav, Gesher students selected Cocoa Puffs, since in this Torah portion, prior to their ordination as priests, Aaron and his sons bathed and are transformed by the water. Similarly, the milk is transformed by the Cocoa Puffs. Shemini presents a list of kosher and not-kosher animals, birds and fish.  Students selected Special K because some foods are marked with a ‘K’  to indicate that they are kosher.  Today was our final Sunday prior to Passover.  We embraced the responsibility of eating up our chametz and no cereal was requested.

A few weeks ago, the prophet Amos provided us opportunities to look at a bit of his prophecy and to review the map of Israel.  We began a study of the Amidah focusing on the first bracha.  Sunday, March 27th ended with some soul-searching regarding each student’s signature mitzvah and, moving forward, his/her plans to nourish their Jewish neshamah.

Last Sunday, we continued our study of the Amidah with the Gevurah blessing in which we recognize God’s awesome power and today we discussed the Kedushah blessing.  We counted 10 words within this blessing that share the shoresh (root) kuf-daled-shin. Since Kedushah is only recited with a minyan, one student said, so a minyan says some form of the word ‘holy’ 100 or more times during a sharcharit or mincha service—an interesting insight!   We met with Rabbi Liben to discuss Jewish marriage, divorce and our laundry list of questions that we have accumulated during our various studies.

Today, we met with Cantor Ken to sing some songs based on Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Sages).  We are learning these songs as both text and music in order to share them with you at our Siyyum (Commencement). 

Yesterday, in his d’var Torah, Rabbi Liben mentioned the AJWS website’s Passover Seder resources (
The AJWS Four Children intrigued our inquisitive Gesher students.

THE AWJS FOUR CHILDREN: A Passover reading designed to transform questions into action
  • What does the Activist Child ask?
The Torah tells me, “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” but how can I pursue justice?
Empower her always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”

  • What does the Skeptical Child ask?
How can I solve problems of such enormity?
Encourage him by explaining that he need not solve the problems, he must only do what his is capable of doing.  As we read in Pirkei Avot, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

  • What does the INDIFFERENT Child say?
It’s not my responsibility.
Persuade her that responsibility cannot be shirked.  As Abraham Joshua writes, “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference.  In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Prompt him to see himself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy.  As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.”

At this season of liberation, let us work toward the liberation of all people.
Let us respond to our children’s questions with action and justice.

This alternative Four Children reading provided a wonderful opportunity to talk about values and vocabulary and was a meaningful introduction to our special program on Fair Trade Chocolate.