Monday, May 30, 2016

Creative Arts Omer Project: Week 5: Hod/Gratitude

Last week we the week of Hod/Gratitude.) Hod shares a root with todah and modeh/modeh, all ways of saying “thank you.”) Our afternoon in our Creative Arts Omer Project began with a simple yoga pose, actually the last pose done in every yoga class I have attended, bowing our heads in gratitude to our teacher.  (I’m new to yoga and recently, in reading the etiquette for my yoga studio, I learned it was proper etiquette to also thank the teacher before leaving the studio.)  Once in our Omer groups, the students revisited the song Dayenu, which recounts the Israelites journey from Egypt to Israel.  This is the journey we celebrate during the Omer period.  Dayenu, which is often translated as “Enough!” might also be translated as “Thank you so much!”  Dayenu is an expression of gratitude to God.

We then talked about how "Modeh Ani" is the first thing we say in the morning:  Thank you God for giving me this day.  "Model Ani" is followed by the "Morning Blessings".  Students acted out their morning routine and also came up with a movement for each of the morning blessings.  We noted that sometimes things we do every day we might take for granted and forget to be thankful for.  Like seeing, standing up, being free.  Having an “attitude of gratitude” is super important!  The morning blessing help us have an “attitude of gratitude.”

That led to a discussion about how sometimes we have to look for blessings.  Here’s a short story that reminded us to look for blessings even when we are feeling sick: “A sick person said, ‘I can’t go outside to play.  I can’t run.  I don’t feel well.  But you know what?  I appreciate my window more than you appreciate your window.  I look out my window every day.  I notice the change in the trees, how strong the wind is blowing…I am drawn to nature like I’m seeing it for the first time.’”

We sometimes forget how grateful we are to be healthy and strong health until we get sick or injured.  The window in the story is a hidden blessing.  We sometimes forget to recognize the good until things are not so good.

We next looked a photos of scenes where blessings could be hard to find.  Can you find the blessing a traffic jam or in a rainstorm.  Ask your kids where the blessings are in each of these photos:
Possible Hidden Blessings: no one was hurt in a car accident, we got to spend family time in the car with no distractions, we finished listening to a great book on tape, the traffic was caused by a road crew fixing a pothole where we got a flat tire a few weeks ago

Possible Hidden Blessings: it’s been hot and sunny and not rained in a long time.  The earth needs the water, the rain cooled the temperature off, you have an umbrella and a raincoat, soon you’ll be someplace dry.

And finally, our visual art project was super cool.  Each student wrote a blessing or a the word hod with a white crayon on a square paper and then gave it to a partner who watercolor the paper and discovered the hidden blessings. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kitah Vav's Sundays

The past few weeks have been eventful in the Kitah Vav classroom. We studied the story of Ruth and Naomi by performing skits for each other in groups; the class was once again able to demonstrate their enthusiasm and inventive staging with this story of friendship and family. We also took a long look at King Solomon, and the stories of his wisdom and how he attained it. We spent considerable time examining some of the proverbs attributed to him. Students performed close readings of proverbs from Writings, extrapolating their meanings and finding examples of where they felt they did and did not apply in everyday life, using both instances from their own lives and from literature and popular culture. We finished this unit by examining some modern proverbs we use today, and their meanings and contexts.

Kitah Dalet Goings-On

Kitah Dalet has accomplished a great deal in the past few weeks. We explored the story of Ruth and Naomi with an exercise that called for both independent work and group collaboration: the students read a dramatization of the story in their desk groups, and then completed a packet of questions that asked both factual questions, for story review, and larger questions about the relationships explored in the story.

We then moved to a unit on King Solomon. We had a very small class for the beginning of this unit, and spent our time discussing King Solomon’s request that G-d grant him wisdom, why this request pleased G-d, and what “wisdom” means, exactly (for example, as opposed to “intelligence”). We discussed the story of King Solomon’s most famous decree (to two mothers disputing the parentage of a baby), and why King Solomon made the decision to address the problem in this way.

Moving forward in time past the fall of Jerusalem, we ended our class this Sunday with the character of Daniel. The Book of Daniel states that Daniel’s faith in G-d kept him safe from the lions when he was cast into their den; we took some time after the telling of the story to think about and identify “lions” in our own lives, and what we rely on to keep us safe from them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Dear families:
A busy day today!  During breakfast, we talked about Mt. Sinai.  During tefillah, two alef students got to hold the flag for Hatikvah.  Students looked for the vowel .., two dots under a letter, pronounced “ay.”

Back in class, I read the story, First I Say the Shema, about how important that prayer is.  We say it morning and at bedtime, and in services.  We close our eyes, or cover them to avoid being distracted.  We recited the prayer as a class.

Then we studied Hebrew: First we reviewed previous letters, looking for similarities. The class learned the vowel sound “ay,” represented by . . under a letter. We find it in sefer, Yisrael, and several students’ names.  Our letter was “sin” ש, with the dot on the left side—"sin is never right” and “sin shakes left”—the first letter in Simhat Torah.  Then we reviewed letters in pairs.

We said the brachot and enjoyed our snacks.  We also had time for a few songs—David Melech, Hinei Mah Tov to the tune of Glory Glory Halelujah.  The students enjoyed the Color Song. 

Our main activity this morning was the Shema Family Program.  Jacqueline Serebrani-Kesner led us in exploring what we do at bedtime and why the prayer is important.  Then students decorated a pillow inscribed with the words of the shema.  Using their Hebrew name cards, the children wrote their Hebrew names on the pillowcases and decorated them.

Thank you, parents, for attending this morning to learn with your children.

There is no class next Sunday.  See you on June 5!

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update 5-22-16

Today's Gan class had some fun, reviewed Lag B'Omer and the Aleph Bet and covered a sometimes difficult subject: God.

We talked about Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer and the tradition of enjoying the outdoors. The students spent some time in the playground out back, making good use of their imagination. One group put together "Dirt Mountain," another set up an ice cream stand, while others enjoyed the swings, climbed and ran.  Our Aleph Bet review showed that everyone has been doing a good job of learning their letters.  We recently completed the entire Hebrew alphabet.

We spent a good deal of time talking about God, asking such questions as: How do we know that God is around? What are some of the ways we thank God?  Are there times when we hope that God can help us?  We talked about how God is real even if we can't see God.  We offered examples of things which, like God, we can't see, but we know are real, such as love, fear, air, imagination and gravity.  The whole group listened attentively to the book Because Nothing Looks Like God.  Considering that God can be a difficult subject (even for adults!), the students did a nice job of grasping the idea of a God that is real and present and good, but can't be seen or heard.

Each student traced his or her hand and drew or wrote about a time when their hands helped God, such as making a new friend feel welcome or giving to tzedakah.  Students brought home packets about God which parents can review with their kids.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Grades 2-5: Omer Project - Week 4: Netzach/Commitment

Last week our theme was Netzach, which we translated as commitment and focused on things we are committed to.  At the beginning of the session students were given the first part of our core text, “The work is not upon you to complete, but...” and then had to write what they believed would come next.  Eventually the students learned the second part of the text, “but neither are you exempt from trying.”  [Many kids had guessed that even before it was revealed!]

Our game was “Social Issue Pop-Ups” and as a global issue was called out, anyone who felt committed to that issue “popped-up”.  Some of the global issues were: caring about animals, caring for the earth, homelessness, hunger, illiteracy and poverty. 

We then listened to the popular Jewish song, “Lo Alecha” in Hebrew (which is our text) and while listening students illustrated something they have done to help issues they care about (raised money, organized collections, donated goods, volunteered).  Two things each of these issues have in common is that they are all too big for one person to solve or fix alone and they are issues that might not be solved in our lifetime, but as our text suggests, we are still obligated to work on their behalf.

Next students acted out the Honi story and made seed bombs (more info att he end of this blog or google seed bomb).  The Honi story helped students understand why even when things too big for us, we can still work on them and try….and maybe have an impact, even if we don’t see it.  Making seed bombs, which will be placed along the edge of the TI driveway, was a tangible way to understand our text.

Finally students wrote something they are committed to one a leaf and placed it on a side of their cube.  They also cut out pictures that represent netzach in magazines for our collage.

Drama: The Honi Story

Narrator: One day a man named Honi was walking on the road and saw a person planting a carob tree.

Honi: How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?

Person: 70 Years

Honi: And do you think you will live another 70 years and eat the fruit of this tree?

Person: Probably not. However, when I was born I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather.  Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.


What is a native plant seed bomb?
A seed ball is a marble sized ball made of clay, earth and seeds which is used to replant areas.  Seed balls have been used around the world to reseed land that has been abused by man or by Mother Nature.

Why not just seeds?
When seeds are sown on top of the soil they may be baked dry by the sun, blown away by the wind, washed away by heavy rains, or nibbled away by birds or other small wildlife. Very little is left to germinate and grow.

Why native plant seed bomb?
Seed balls protect the seed from the heat of the sun. They’re heavy enough to be unaffected by the wind or heavy rains and the hard clay casing deters animal nibblers as well.

Why native seed balls work
In dry areas, the shape of the ball actually gives enough shade to conserve moisture. The seeds begin to germinate and the ball breaks apart. The small pile of crumbles provides the start for the root system, but is still heavy enough to anchor the emerging seeds to the ground.

The small leaves of the new plants provide enough shade for the soil to conserve more moisture. The plants then mature and produce their own seeds and provide shelter once the second-generation seeds fall to the ground. The seeding and regrowth continues until complete plant cover is achieved.

Making seed balls gives nature the extra boost it needs to make things right.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Grade 5. Kitah hey. May 15, 2016

Temple Israel has been such a fun and active place!
Our new creative arts program has proven to be a great success!
Each week, leading up to Shavuot, we learn a new quality...... and enjoy a different art project.
Students look at Jewish text, then look within themselves, and openly share their own
great thoughts and ideas!  Creativity at its best!
Qualities thus far have included:  kindness ( hesed),  inner strength (gevurah), tiferet (inner beauty/ beauty in nature).  This week we will explore the quality of commitment (netsach).
Stop by the lobby to check out the collages created to display each week's quality!

Midweek we experienced israel's "yom hazikaron" Memorial Day while watching a video of israel.
A loud siren is sounded, and all activity comes to a stop for  two minutes.  Total silence as we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Jewish homeland.  We all stood silently as we watched and was powerful!

Today we talked about yom ha-atsmaut (israel Independence Day), and how israel became a state after 2000 years!  Our amazing homeland has truly accomplished miracles in its 68 years!
Ask your children about israel's many amazing inventions!  Students found it very interesting the way Hebrew became the modern spoken language.  Thank you Ben Yehudah!  Ask them to share the details!
In honor of yom ha-atsmaut, we enjoyed a traditional and very yummy breakfast.......
Bread with chocolate spread!  Who wouldn't love that!
So much we can learn from israel!

Shavua tov,


Grade K/Gan Class Update 5-15-16

Hello Gan Class Families,

I have very exciting news to share! Today we leared our final letter.  Our last letter was zayin which makes the sound z- and begins the word zebra.  Even though we have no new letters to learn, we will spend time in each of our remaining classes we will be engaging in activities to strentghten our letter recognition skills.  We will have our popular Aleph Bet centers one more time before the year is through.

In our Celebrations study today, we talked about some the holidays that take place during the Omer.  There are several but we focused on only two, Yom Ha-atzmaut and Lag BaOmer.  Students compared Yom Ha-atzmaut to the 4th of July and were surprised to learn that Israel is only 68 years old.   Everyone went home with their very own Israeli flag. We discovered that Lag BaOmer is celebrated to remind us of a Rabbi that helped Jews to learn even though it was forbidden.  Children would pretend that they were going out for a picnic or out to use their bows and arrows so that no one would know that they were actually going to learn.  We observe this holiday by enjoying time outside.

There was no new Torah Story today, we will read our last new story in June.  We did review all of our Torah stories from the entire year.  I was so impressed at some of the great retellings of our stories.  Students were able to provie the main idea and supporting details for most of our stories.  This is amazing!

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

See you all next week!


Kitah Gimel Learns about Israel

Kitah Gimel explored the land of Israel today. After watching a travel video about Israel, students were put into small groups and materials to learn about a particular area in Israel.  The groups were assigned the task of creating a travel brochure to highlight that particular area.  These areas included: Jerusalem, the Southern part of Israel (ie the Negev down to Eilat), the Northern Region (the Golan, the Kinnert and the Jezreel Valley) and the Coastal Plain including Tel Aviv.  The children were excited about the variety of places and activities in Israel.  They shared many observations and questions and some of them were quite surprised to learn that Israel is really such a young country.  They will continue to work on their brochures next Sunday.

Shavua Tov,

Kitah Daled May 15

Today Kitah Daled students practiced singing part of Ashrei.  Ashrei has many challenging words.  Nevertheless a number of brave students sang parts on the own and the class as a whole sang the prayer together.  Go Daled daveners!!! In addition, Daled students learned more about the period of sefirah, the time between Pesach and Shavuot when we count the omer.  We reviewed the fact that this is a rather solemn time in the Jewish calendar, a time when we don't generally have weddings or huge parties (of course with the exception of certain special days like Israel Independence Day and Lag B'omer).  Students explored the correspondence between the Hebrew letters and numbers as well.  It was surprising to some students to learn that the reason the Hebrew word Chai is associated with the number 18 is that the letter yod is used to signify 10 and the letter chet to signify 8 and thus together they make 18.  Similarly, the word "lag" in the name of the holiday, Lag B'omer, is simply the letter lamed which is equivalent to the number 30 and the letter gimel which stands for the number 3 put together to make 33 for the 33rd day in the counting of the omer.

The counting continues....


Dear families:

For Yom Ha’Atzmaut, (Israel Independence Day) we enjoyed two treats—an Israeli breakfast favorite of bread and chocolate and a mini-Israeli flag for each student.  We filled in our class Omer chart, for week 3, day 1. Then to tefillah, where the students are getting more adept each week at finding and saying the prayers.  This week, they looked for “Baruch,” ברוך.  There are many in the siddur, at the start of each blessing.

Our Hebrew letter today is פ, which sounds like “f.”  I don’t know any words which start with fay, but it is found in the word shofar  שופר and sefer (book) ספר.  As always, we reviewed previous letters and then partners found the letters that other students suggested.

After snack, I told the story of JOSEPH THE DREAMER.  Jacob had twelve sons, but he loved Joseph the most.  After Jacob made Joseph a coat of many colors, and Joseph had dreams about his own superiority to his parents and brothers, his brothers threw him into a pit.  Telling Jacob that an animal had eaten Joseph, they sold him into slavery in Egypt.  When Joseph was thrown into prison, he interpreted dreams. After Pharaoh had strange dreams, Joseph said that in seven years there would be a famine.  Pharaoh gave Joseph great powers.  During the famine, Joseph was reunited with his brothers, who had become more caring men.  One theme of the story is forgiveness. Your children can fill in the details for you.

Our craft project was “Joseph remembers.”  Each child drew whatever they thought that Joseph would remember of his life—his coat of many colors, his dreams of the stars, being in jail, interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, being reunited with his brothers and father in Egypt.

For supplementary ideas on the story, each child brought home the Torah pamphlet about Joseph.

Our final activity was a brief discussion on Lag B’Omer, which occurs on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.

We look forward to seeing you next Sunday, May 22, at 10 for a discussion with Robin and at 10:30 for our shema program.  Shavua tov! Have a wonderful week!

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Being Thankful: Kitah Vav May 15th

Our time together today revolved around being thankful and learning how and why we should say thank you. We watched an interesting TED talk about the power of saying thank you, learned a variety of Hebrew words surrounding the idea of thanks and the things we could be thankful to people for, talked about prayers where we say thank you, and then learned how to write thank you notes and wrote to Nancy and Esta who helped the students with decorating and sewing their beautiful tallitot.

As the year is drawing to a close, I'm incredibly thankful for all the time I get to spend with your children- they're a remarkable group who are a joy to be around. Thank you for sharing them with us at Temple Israel


Grades 2-5: Creative Arts, Week 3: Tiferet

Everybody Counts!
Week 3: Tiferet/Inner Beauty & Beauty in Nature
Do not look at the container, rather what is in it. (Avot 4:27)

Last week our theme for our Omer Project was Tiferet.  One way tiferet is translated is 
beauty and with the students we focused on inner beauty and beauty in nature.  
As one theme was inner beauty students were first asked to describe the outside of a geode.
Hard, rough, plain were a few of the most frequent descriptive words – definitely
NOT beautiful.  We then cracked open a geode and there was a "WOW!" moment when
students saw the crytals inside.   As one student commented, “It’s like when my teacher says,
‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’”  Our core text last week was, in fact, another way of 
saying just that.  From Pirke Avot we discussed what “Do not look at the container, 
rather what is in it. (Avot 4:27).  Another student offered another way to explain our 
text: "sometimes food looks yucky, but when you taste it, it's good."  After discussing 
how we each have inner qualities students wrote acrostics with their names on scratch art paper.  This was another tangible example of hidden beauty.  While working on these 
students were reminded that acrostics appear throughout Jewish prayer and texts.  
The afternoon concluded with students cutting out images in magazines of beauty in nature.
Check out some photos below.

An unopened geode
Norah Margie cracks open a geode

An opened geode

Rabbi Liben teaches a song.

Our Tiferet Collage