Wednesday, June 15, 2016


At Shavuot we celebrate Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai and we hear the Aseret HaDibrot (Ten Commandments) chanted.  During our class session, we prepared for this event by exploring the Ten Commandments.  Each student received a mixed up set of cards with the 10 Commandments and used a Chumash to order them. 

Some scholars suggest that the first five commandments are mitzvot between People and God and the second five are mitzvot between People.  Students then placed their cards accordingly.

The Ten Commandments  הדיברות עשרת
Laws regulating relationships
between people and God
Laws regulating relationships
between people
I am the Lord Your God Who Brought You Out of Land of Egypt, Out of the House of Bondage.  (Exodus 20:2)
You Shall Not Murder             (Exodus 20:13)
You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me                              (Exodus 20:3)
You Shall Not Commit Adultery (20:13)
You Shall not Carry the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain                     (Exodus 20:7)
You Shall Not Steal                 (Exodus (20:13)
Remember the Sabbath Day to Make it Holy
(Exodus 20:8)
You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor                           (Exodus 20:13)
Honor Your Father and Your Mother         
(Exodus 20:12)

You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House:  You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife, or His Male or Female Slave, or His Ox or His Donkey, or Anything that is Your Neighbor’s     (20:14)

We discussed these vertical lists of laws.  Then we examined them horizontally: How can we understand these in parallel?  A sample of our discussion follows:
·      I am the Lord your God & You shall not murder:  Students suggested that since people are God’s creations and created b’tzelem hashem (in the image of God), killing a person would be killing one of God’s creations and an image of God. 
·      You shall not carry the name of the Lord in vain & You shall not steal:  By misusing the name of God, a person is stealing God’s reputation.

The philosopher Abraham ben Chiyya suggested a different organization:

Relations between:
God and Humans
Human and Family
Human and Human



Students noted that this table has just nine cells however there are ten commandments.  Ben Chiyya believed that the first commandment, “I am the Lord your God,” was a statement not a commandment.  We wondered if it were a statement of ‘I am God, you’re not’ or if it was intended to be the commandment to believe in God.

Students attempted to duplicate ben Chuiyya’s representation with their cards.  All suggestions were accepted as long as the student had a reason for why he/she placed a mitzvah accordingly.

Students thought philosophically about  how the Aseret HaDibrot are explained and related to each other based on these structures.

Prior to joining the Shavuot service in the sanctuary, we celebrated our learning with cheese Danish—Yummy!

Monday, June 13, 2016


Dear families:

I can’t believe that the school year is ending!  I have enjoyed working with the children this year.  They have worked so well together.

We enjoyed cheese Danish, because it is traditional to eat dairy foods.  Then we talked about Shavuot.

I read The Jewish Holiday ABC, about the things Jews do, such as A fin the afikomen, C for candles, etc.  For each page, we added our own , like A for apples, or aron kodesh, etc.  The children know so much.

Then it time for some games.  At 10 a.m., we went upstairs to the sanctuary for the Shavuot service, where parents met their children.

Later in the morning, the preK, Kindergartaen, and grade 1 children, along with many parents, went downstairs with Shira, Cheryl Gelfand, and me. Led by Shira, the children skewered bananas, pineapple, raisins, and marshmallows, then dipped them in chocolate. 

While they were hardening in the refrigerator, I read the story Shavuot. It described the background of Shavuot.  Starting on the second night of Passover, we count the 49 days of the Omer.  We are watching the crops, hoping for the right amount of sun and rain so that the crops will prosper.  On the fiftieth day, it was Shavuot.  Ancient Israelites brought their bikkurim (first fruits) to Jerusalem.  As part of the harvest, farmers left stalks of wheat and other crops uncut, and if something fell, it was left on the ground.  Poor people would pick them up, along with whatever was left in the corners of the fields.  This was GLEANING.  On Shavuot, we also celebrate receiving the Torah and the Ten Commandments.  It is as if WE were all at Mt. Sinai.

Afterwards, I led the children in some songs—Tree of Life, Here’s My Yad, and The Color Song.  Then we marched into the sanctuary with our fruit baskets (the skewers were stuck into watermelon)

Thank you very much for the candy and the generous Amazon gift card.  Have a wonderful summer.

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Grade 7-GESHER Jewish Humor isn't always funny!

E.B. White said,
“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. 
Few people are interested and the frog dies.”

Studying Jewish humor, our goals were to maintain interest, to learn what we could about Jewish culture, history, the idiosyncrasies of Jewish humor, and not to kill the frog too many times!

Ann Green provided an introduction to Jewish humor and shared a statistic that at one time, while Jews made up about 2% of the American population, 80% of working comedians were Jewish. She noted our tendency to be a bit pessimistic,

A Jewish optimist and a Jewish pessimist were siting around talking. 
The Jewish pessimist turns to the Jewish optimist and says,
“Oy, things can’t get worse for our people.”
The Jewish optimist turns to the Jewish pessimist, smiles, and says,
“Sure it can!”

 We can be self deprecating, we often laugh at our situations especially political leadership and currently much of our humor involves anachronisms—chronological inconsistencies that are funny.

We viewed (and at times tried to view) video clips of Borat, The Wonder Years, Mel Brooks and Charlton Heston (The Ten Commandments). On Yom Yerushalayim, we looked at jokes from the Six-Day War.  Fiddler on the Roof provided a favorite line,

“Is there a blessing for the Czar?”
“May God bless and keep the Czar… far away from us!”

And we discussed an important life lesson, ‘correlation is not causation’ recognizing that some humor, especially Chelm stories, leverage illogical correlations.

We are very grateful to Ann Green for her time, creativity and expertise in working on this unit for us and for providing us with a beautiful insight from Rabbi Harold Kushner, “the holiness of laughter, it's magical healing quality, its ability to change the air and to connect people who had been separate until then."

And we are very grateful to the Gesher students for our time learning and laughing together!  May you go from strength to strength!

Sunday, June 5, 2016


Dear families:

Today we began learning about Shavuot, which actually begins next Saturday evening, continuing for Sunday and Monday.  In class, we colored more of our Omer chart; today is 43 (week 6 plus 1 day). We talked about several aspects of Shavuot.  We celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments to all the Jewish people. We also discussed the need for rules to keep a society running in a fair way.  We celebrate the first harvest and being a gleaner—someone who picked up what was left during the harvest. This was an ancient method of tzedakah.

STORY:  We read the story THE PRECIOUS GIFT.  Before G-d gave the Jews the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, He wanted the most precious thing the Jews had as a guarantee that they would keep the Commandments.  After thinking of gold and money, the people decided that what G-d really wanted was the children.  After the Jews promised to teach the Commandments to their children, G-d gave Moses the two tablets.

CRAFT:  Our project is Moses going up and down Mt. Sinai to get the tablets.  He looks different on the way down, as he is carrying the Commandments.  Since G-d gave the Torah to Moses for ALL the Jewish people, the children could put themselves among the people at Mount Sinai.

HEBREW:  We finished the book, and we signed the certificates in the backOne Hebrew letter this week is גSome  גwords are “geshem” (rain), “gamal” (camel), and “g’lidah” (ice cream). We also learned the sound “oo” represented by three diagonal dots under a letter or a vav with a dot in the middle, as in “boobah,” doll, sukkah, lulav.  The last letter in the book is  ז“zion,” the first letter in  z’ayv” (wolf), and the cognate “zebra.”

After a break, we sang several songs, including “Torah Torah,” “Tree of Life,”  “David Melech,” and “Yom Rishon Avodah.”

I gave the children the pictures I took in September—see how much they have grown, physically and intellectually.  We are so proud of how well everyone works together.


Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update 6-5-16

Hello Gan Class Families!

I cannot believe that the end of the year has come upon us.  It seems not all that long ago that I met you on our apple picking outing together!

Your students have all grown so much and have learned a ton!

Today we finished up our Torah stories by hearing how Moses and the Jewish people received the Torah from God at Mt. Sinai.  We heard about the 10 Commandments and discussed how we as Jewish people are committed to following them as well as learning from the Torah. This is wonderful timing for this story as next week we will celebrate Shavuot together during the last class of the year.

Students enjoyed one final Aleph Bet Center day where they worked on some end of year art projects, played Go Fish with Hebrew letters and made progress on completing their workbook pages.  I met with each student to go over the Hebrew letters individually and was so impressed at how well everyone can pair the sounds with the letters.

Next week we will meet in the classroom at 9:00am and will join parents in the Sanctuary at 10:00am.  Robin has sent a detailed email about the events for the day.  Please respond to her or Lois to let them know that you have received the information and are looking forward to the morning or regrettably won't be able to join us.

Have a wonderful week!