Monday, October 31, 2016

Kitah Bet October 31

It feels so good to return to a (relatively) normal schedule now that the Jewish fall holidays are behind us!

 In Hebrew we were able to introduce two new letters and a vowel yesterday, the Alef, Mem and long "E" vowel.  We colored in the cards for them, and working with partners built words using the cards.  We learned the trick for remembering the "mem" is that it has two mountains, and for the Alef that it is silent and takes all of it's sound from the accompanying vowel.  One student asked why we are learning these "tricks" for remembering the letters when she can remember them without these prompts.  I answered that for some students these little tricks make the learning process easier and that it's fun for all of us.  In class we also have a large magnetic set (9" x 11 1/2") of the cards and we begin every Hebrew session by putting them on the whiteboard one by one  repeating the names, sounds and mnemonics for each letter.  This opening "ritual" is done with a bit of drama and a lot of humor and is most often accompanied with lots of smiles, laughter and hands held high hoping to be called on. We then create both real and nonsense words on the whiteboard, everyone loves to have a turn to show off how they can put the letters and vowels together to create words.  We will be using the personal cards during every class and it is important that every student bring them to every session.

We began our Torah studies and read about the story of creation.  We learned what was created on each day of the week and discussed what it may mean for humans to be created in G-d's image.  Some of the ideas suggested are the need to continue G-d's work of creation and taking responsibility for caring for the world that G-d created.  We also learned a rap song about the days of creation and played a game of Pictionary where the students had to guess what day of creation some of their classmates were drawing about on the whiteboard.

Margie & Joanne

Gimmel Goings On

Shalom Gimmel Families,

It has been a busy month of holidays and I hope everyone enjoyed celebrating!

This past Sunday Gimel students jumped back into the swing of things.  They wrote in their journals about the importance of community and joined the entire school for Tefillah where they had an opportunity to act out some of the Bircot Hashachar.

Students reviewed the morning greeting (Boker Tov) by picking a popsicle stick out of a jar and greeting the person whose stick they picked.  They also reviewed the schedule for the day, the days of the week, the calendar, the weather and the season.  They enjoyed our number game where they practiced counting to shesh (6) and also played a new game called Zip Around to review some of their reading.  Ask your Gimel student how to play Zip Around!

Students were introduced to our new prayer curriculum!  The first set of blessings they will be studying will be the Bircot Hashachar (morning blessings).

Each student received a binder in which to store their  Hebrew materials,  their homework calendar, a copy of the Bircot Hashachar, and a color coding sheet which they can use for reference to review their vowels.   In class students highlighted the different vowels in lines 1 and 2 in different colors.

QR code and Temple website
Their copy of Bircot Hashachar has a QR code which students were shown how to use.  If you are able, it would be great if you could download a free qr reader app.  The one I use on my iPad and iPhone is QR Reader.  Just scan your device over the code and it should come right up.  If you are not able to download the app, here are the steps to find the Bircot Hashachar on the Temple website:
  2. Click on Music of TI
  3. Click on Shabbat
  4. Click on Saturday Morning Melodies
  5. Scroll all the way down to Pesukei Dezimra
  6. Click on Bircot Hashachar and enjoy the melody!

Information Letter and Google Voice
In their binders, students have a letter with information and explanations of how the homework calendar works.   There is also a Google Voice number on the bottom of the calendar.  I encourage students to call the number each week to practice the lines they are studying.  When I hear their message, I will send an email with feedback.  Students can use a cell phone or landline to call Google Voice.  This week we are working on lines 1 and 2.  For homework I would like students to practice reading these 2 lines for 5-10 minutes each day.  

Please feel free to contact me via email with any questions about the letter,  the homework calendar, the QR code and Google Voice.   My email is

This year our Torah curriculum will focus on Jewish values in some of the stories from the Book of Exodus,  and we will explore these Jewish values in the context of being part of a community.  Yesterday,  students wrote in their journals about what community means to them and what values they think is important for their communities to have.  Students shared interesting ideas such as kindness, safety, friendship and respect as being important values for a community to have.
During the week, we will continue to explore these ideas and will also talk about why their own communities are important to them.  They will also create a poster which will be a visual representation of what their ideal community looks like.

Last Sunday we enjoyed a walk to the Greenberger's Sukkah and we thank our hosts for welcoming us.  Students enjoyed a snack, story and game and had an opportunity to shake the lulav and etrog.
Our Wednesday group used an iPad app called Explain Everything to review all of the fall holidays.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week and we are super excited to welcome both our Tuesday and Wednesday groups during the week!


Elana & Marc

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Grade 1 - Kitah Alef. Shabbat introduction October 30, 2016

Dear kitah alef families:

In tefillah, all the students came together to act out the morning blessings.  In the future, the entire school will create something based on these blessings.

Today we began our unit on Shabbat.  I brought in my own shin candelabra, challah cover, and my grandfather’s Kiddush cup.  We practiced the blessings.

STORY:  We read Shabbat.  The children helped me with rhymes of how a family prepares for and celebrates Shabbat. 

Gretchen Brandt’s Gesher class presented the story of Creation.  See the letter I sent out separately with pictures.  The class was enthralled by their wonderful presentation.  Then we all sang “I Did Very Good Work Today” about the days of Creation.

CRAFT:   Students created a Shabbat counter to count the days of the week until Shabbat, the only day to have a name, not a number (unlike Yom Rishon, Yom Sheni, etc.).  The space for Shabbat is larger than the other days, to allow for drawing what’s important on that day.

HEBREW: Our letter of the week is  ל lamed.  Some words beginning with  ל are luach and lulav.  Help your child reinforce this letter by going over the page I am sending home.

During GAMES AND BOOKS TIME, students could look at books or work on Shabbat puzzles.  The students work so well together.

By now, you should have received a “save the date,” for the grade 1 Shema parent-student program on November 20.

Shavua tov!  Have a great week

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update

This morning started with Whole School Tefilah!  It is amazing to see the Social Hall filled with the energy of more than 100 students praying together on a Sunday Morning.  To get ready for our upcoming Art Pilot Project, Robin and Cantor Ken helped us to explore the morning blessings.  We made rooster sounds, did hand motions and worked with our friends to understand the meaning of some of the blessings.

In our second Torah Story, we met Adam and Eve.  They lived in the Garden of Eden and G-d told them that they could eat anything in the garden except for the fruit from one specific tree.  A snake comes and tricks them into eating the forbidden fruit and as their punishment, they have to leave the Garden of Eden forever.  Students were asked to think about a time when they did something they weren't supposed to do and how it made them feel if they got caught.  Many students shared that Adam and Eve must have been sad to have to leave the Garden because they were sad in their experience.

Our letter today was bet.  Bet makes the sound b- and begins the word bayit.  Each student was asked to share what color their bayit is.  Then we used our bodies to make the shape of a bayit.  Because we have now learned five of our Hebrew letters, it was time to start our Aleph Bet Centers.  Each year this is a favorite activity for the Gan Class students.  Students stamped the letters of the vocabulary words, illustrated the meaning of the vocabulary words, practiced letter recognition and played Aleph Bet Adventure, a board game much like Candy Land.

Finally, the focus of our Celebrations study was a Jewish Meal.  Students discovered that G-d made all of our food so it is important to thank G-d for our meals.  Together we practiced saying HaMotzi and brainstormed other blessings that we know for when we are eating including the blessing before out snacks. 

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

See you all next week!


Grade 6/Kitah Vav: Trope Update from Cantor Ken

Nice to see the Wednesday group last week, and looking forward to seeing the Tuesday class again next week!

In class yesterday we learned trope families 8 and 9 and reviewed families 1-7.  

Students should aim to have flashcards for families 1-9 for next week and to practice singing along with the packet and CD/website for tracks 1-9 (pages 3-6 in the packet).

You can see pictures of most of the trope in a different format on my friend and colleague's website if that is helpful in recognizing the trope symbol.  (occasionally he and I use different variants of the names)

Please let me know if you have questions.

Tuesday group, do the best you can, and we'll check in next week in person...


Cantor Ken

Grade 7/Gesher Class - Gesher is Amazing!

Gesher is amazing!

It is a pleasure to see many of our Gesher students at Thursday morning minyan.  Students have been opening the ark, carrying the Torah, leading Ashrei, and joining their parents for aliyot to the Torah and Hagbah/Gelilah.

It’s all about Sukkot:  On October 16th, Shimon Blacker taught Gesher and Kitah Vav (6th grade) students the art of Lulav assembly and our group assembled 70 lulavim for the Temple Israel community.  Our study of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Sages) led to a creation of a sukkah decoration. We explored the first mishna in Pirkei Avot the gist of which is that each of us is a link in the chain of transmission of Torah from Sinai.  Then we thought about those things, ideas, people, experiences etc. that link each of us to Judaism, the Jewish people, the Torah, G-d... and wrote those things on colored foam strips.  Those strips were stapled together to form the Gesher class chain of personal connection and that chain is hanging in our synagogue sukkah.  Gesher students were inspired by the chain from last year’s class and motivated to make their chain even longer.

The Sukkot experience continued on October 23rd when Gesher students joined me in my sukkah and participated in the mitzvah of leshev (residing) in the sukkah by eating snacks and enjoying each other’s company.  Since it was a cold day, we elected to return to TI for our Godly Play Creation activity.

Godly Play is a special methodology for teaching Torah that invites participants into the story through hearing and seeing the story and then engaging in “I wonder” discussions.  Students watched the presentation of the Godly Play Creation narrative in which Creation is told through a series of abstract cards portraying each day of Creation.  Students were then invited to create their own Creation cards, to learn to tell the story and to engage others in wondering.  On October 30, students used this methodology and their own Creation cards to share the story with our first grade students.  They were amazing!

Extending our project based learning, we are repurposing etrogim used for worship during Sukkot and transforming them into B’samim (spice sachets used for Havdalah) by inserting cloves into the fruit and then allowing it to dry around the cloves locking the spice into place. Our classroom is fragrant with both etrogim and cloves.

We look forward to learning about Noah, a righteous man in his generation and to beginning the Birkot haShachar arts project in mid-November (details to follow.)

HaMorah Margalit (aka Gretchen Marks Brandt)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Grade 1/Kitah Alef - Simhat Torah October 23, 2016

שלום Kitah Alef students and families:
Today we celebrated the end of Sukkot.  Tomorrow night, Simhat Torah starts—rejoicing in the Torah. With the rest of the school, we joined the minyan for prayers in the sukkah.  We shook our virtual lulavs and etrogs in all directions.  For hoshana rabbah, we beat the willows.  As we listened, we realized that they sound like rain, something we pray for in Israel for the next crop.

Back in the classroom, we learned about Simhat Torah, the “rejoicing in the Torah.”  We finish Deuteronomy and begin reading Genesis again.  There is a parade of the Torahs (the Hakafot), with the congregation carrying flags, sometimes with apples on the top.
STORY:  To show the relationship between the fall holidays, I read a story written by a friend of mine called King of the Apples.  This large apple was picked and ended up in a refrigerator.  He hears the family talking about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, then Sukkot, and finally Simhat Torah.  But he is not chosen for the first three holidays.  He wonders what will happen to him.  Will he become apple sauce?  Ask your child what happens.
CRAFT:  Each child made an original flag to bring to the Simhat Torah Hakkafot service.  The Hebrew says Simhat Torah. As you know, we march seven times around with the Torah; then we read the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis.  We realize that learning never ends.
We did a review paper on the fall holidays.  Everyone did a fantastic job.  I had planned on having snack in the sukkah, but it was too windy.  When we were in the sukkah earlier, I did say the blessing for being in the sukkah.
HEBREW:  Our lesson today was about the letter מ “mem,” the first letter in mezuzah, matzah, melech (king), and magen David.  Cheryl and I each have our own groups.  Ariel assists the students.  Each week we review the previous letters and work with partners with our Hebrew packs of letters.  Please review the reinforcement paper I send home each week.
BOOKS AND GAMES:  Ariel read Bible stories to some students; others played matching games, a sukkah decorating game, or completed a puzzle.  Students also could do a paper on the differences between two boys holding the lulav and Etrog.
NEXT WEEK, we start learning about Shabbat.  I will be leading a workshop on Creation during the Synaplex on October 29.  I hope that you will be with me then.
Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update 10-23-16

Today was a lovely fall day to be out in the sukkah.  Though it was a little cold, we enjoyed our morning Tefilot outside in the sukkah with the Sunday morning minyan.  As today is the last day of Sukkot, we participated in the tradition of "beating the willows".  The willow is one of the branches that makes up the lulav.  On this day we hit the willow against the ground which makes a sound like rain which is appropriate as the end of Sukkot is also the beginning of the rainy season in Israel.

We have been exploring the story of Creation from the Torah for the last several weeks.  Creation is the first story in the Torah and is when we learn about all the things God made and how Shabbat was set apart as special because that was the day God rested.  Student illustrated something that reminded them of this story.  The illustration will be included in their student workbook.  I encourage families to further explore the story of Creation at Synaplex this upcoming Shabbat.  There are several activities for Kindergarten students and families to enjoy that will help individuals make a personal connection this this parsha.  Please be on the look out for more information about Synaplex this week.

Our new letter was dalet.  Dalet makes the sound d- and beings the work degel which means flag.  Students constructed their own Israeli flags and many learned how to make the Star of David today.

Tomorrow evening begins Simchat Torah.  This is the day when we ready the last part of the Torah and then begin it all over again.  At Temple Israel we celebrate with singing, dancing and ice cream.  The festivities begin at 7pm and we would love for you to attend.  In preparation, our class went to the Chapel.  Students made observations that helped them to gain an understanding that this space of the building is used for prayer.  We then practiced standing when the Ark is opened and finally, each student got to see what is written inside the Torah.  We learned that the Torah is special, it is written on parchment that is very fragile so we can not touch it with our hands.  Everyone was very respectful of the Torah and there were so many great comments and questions about the Torah was dressed, what the printing looked like inside and how the Torah was treated by adults in the room.  We are looking forward to making more observations about the Torah and our prayer spaces soon.

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

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grade 2 - Kitah Bet: Sukkot

We hope that everyone is having a wonderful Sukkot.  It was so much fun on Sunday to hear everyone share their memories of past holidays, there are so many wonderful family traditions to pass on to our children while creating new memories.  The students all looked so serious while they were assembling their Lulav and Etrog sets, trying to make sure that everything was intact and in the right place.  Hopefully everyone has had the chance to "shake" their Lulav in a Sukkah.

We are looking forward walking together to Margie's Sukkah this coming Sunday, where we will have the opportunity to have a snack hear a story or two, and play some games.

Wishing you all a Chag Semach (Happy Holiday)!

Margie & Joanne

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Grade 1 - Kitah Alef -- Sukkot October 16, 2016

How wonderful to be with the class again.  I hope that you and your family had a sweet new year.  We began on a serious note, signed a card for refuah shelamah to Rabbi and Mrs. Kushner after their auto accident.  Then we quickly reviewed Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  We joined Cantor Ken, and the kindergarten and grade 2 for our tefillah.

Back in class, I introduced Sukkot.  We looked at pictures of Sukkot.  We Jews build a sukkah to remind us of the time in the wilderness after leaving Egypt and of harvest time. It must have at least three sides and a roof, through which you can see the sky.  We saw pictures of a sukkah, etrog and lulav.  We also saw mobile sukkot on bikes, to bring the mitzvah to others.  We shake the lulav in all directions to show that G-d is everywhere.  The etrog is oval, citrus, and bumpy like a lemon, but has a sweeter smell and taste. 

STORY:  We laughed at the antics in Bubbe Isabella and the Sukkot Cake.  Bubbe has built and decorated her sukkah and has baked a lemon cake.  Every night animals like a caterpillar, moth, deer, and bear join her to tell jokes, sing songs, and sit gazing through the roof at the sky.  But they prefer to nibble on the fruits, leaves, and wood of the sukkah, so no one eats the cake. What becomes of it?

HEBREW: Our Hebrew letter today is ש, the first letter in shalom, shofar, and Shabbat.  We also learned our first vowel ah as in aqua, represented two ways under a letter.  We looked at the word “Shabbat,” which has both versions. The children are bringing home reinforcement papers.  In pairs, we reviewed the letters we have learned so far.

MUSIC:  We sang We’ll Be Going to the Sukkah and a few other songs like Yom Rishon Avodah.

Then to the sukkah to make decorations—three kinds!  Look for designs on tin foil.  Then they made wooden magen Davids decorated with glitter and sequins.  Last are the paper chains.  Such fun.  We watched them being hung in the sukkah. 

See you next week.
Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update 10-16-16

Hello Gan Class Families!

After three weeks apart it was so great to get back into our Religious School routines!  Students enjoyed singing songs about Sukkot with Cantor Ken to start the morning and ended the day decorating the Temple Sukkah.

In between our Sukkot activities, we read a different version of the story of Creation and realized that both of the stories were the same even though they were from different books!

After so much time off for the High Holidays and Columbus Day I was so impressed at how well everyone remembered our first two letters, shin and tet.  We spent some time reviewing together and sharing ways to remember the vocabulary words before learning our new letter.  Today's letter was lamed.  Lamed makes the sound l- and begins the word lulav.  Cantor Ken taught us about the Lulav during Tefillot this morning and we are looking forward to exploring them next week as we continue to learn about Sukkot.

Before heading outside to make decorations for the Temple sukkah, we participated in a mitzvah together.  Students in the Gan Class made pictures of things that made them happy to share with Rabbi and Mrs. Kushner who are currently recovering from a recent car accident. Students drew things that they thought would make the Kushner's laugh, like funny minions, or things that might make them feel better such as hearts and rainbows.  I know that Rabbi and Mrs. Kushner will appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Gan Class students.

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

See you next week!


Monday, October 10, 2016

Grade 6/Kitah Vav Update 10.11.16

Dear Kitah Vav/ ֿכיתה וו Parents,

I hope that your Rosh HaShanah and these days of self-reflection have been meaningful.  I wish all G’mar Hatima Tova ~ may we all be sealed for a good new year.  A few upcoming things to keep in mind:

 1.    Sunday, Oct. 16
a.    The students will help assemble the lulavim for Temple Israel.  You are welcome to join us if you want.
b.    We will also be helping to decorate the TI sukkah.  If you received Rosh HaShanah cards that you can part with, please send them to Temple Israel with your student on Sunday. We will hang them in the sukkah.

 2.    Sunday, Oct. 23, Kitah Vav will walk to a nearby sukkah, and do some activities there.   Once the location is finalized we will email a permission slip.  Please watch for that.
3.    Last week I was able to access and listen to every student that called my dedicated Google Voice number (617-410-8145).  Starting this week, I’ll give each student that calls a note in class with feedback.  Please remind your student to say his/her name clearly in their message.  The goal is fluent and accurate reading.  
 4.    Upcoming in Hebrew:  We will soon begin working on the Morning Blessings.  If your student wants to read these to me, that is most welcome.  Some might already know these blessings from camp. When our students enter the Gesher class next year, they will be joining the morning minyan at TI, and will want to feel comfortable with the morning, Shacharit, service.  Kitah Vav has a prayer/learning service with the Gesher class most Sunday mornings.
 Please do send questions and feedback to me.  I really appreciate it!
Kol tuv, all the best,

Rav Elana
Rabbi Elaine Pollack

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Grade 6/Kitah Vav Trop Update from Cantor Ken

Wishing everyone shana tova-- a sweet new year-- good to celebrate with you! And wishing you a meaningful Yom Kippur next week.
A reminder that the Tuesday students can do their best to follow the assignments, but don't panic if you get stuck, and feel free to email me questions. (Wednesday students too)

The next Tuesday trope class is Nov. 1 at 5:30 and the next Wednesday class is Oct. 19 at 5:30, so you can work on this assignment over two weeks.
The general goals are to recognize the trope symbols we've learned, know each symbol's name, tune, and which trope it goes along with.
The first 5 trope families, which we're working on now, are enough to indicate the melodies for 85% or so of most Torah portions.
The first 3 trope families are review, and families 4 and 5 are new.

1) Learn/Review trope families 1-5: sing along daily with tracks 1-5 on the CD/website and follow along on pages 3-5 in the packet.  Please make flashcards for these five trope families; the flashcard should have ONLY the symbol on one side of the card, and the name (in Hebrew and/or English letters) on the other side.  The goal is to be able to see the symbol, know the name, and sing the melody, and be able to apply these melodies to the words of Torah readings.  You should now have 13 flashcards (10 from before and 3 new ones): mercha, tipcha, munach, etnachta from the 1st family, sof pasuk from the 2nd family (the others are repeats), kadma, mapach, pashta, katon, and yetiv from the 3rd family, v'azla from the 4th family (kadma is a repeat), revi'i and munach with the line after it (sometimes called munach l'garmei) from the 5th family. (in the picture below, the alternative name Revi'a is used, but I prefer Revi'i. The munach with the line after it is not shown in the picture, but you can see it in your packet)  Picture of the new families are immediately below, and pictures of the first 3 trope families are near the bottom of this email.

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2) Please bring your binder or folder with the packet every Tuesday or Wednesday, and also bring your highlighters (blue, green, yellow, pink, orange, and purple) each time.

3) Next time we'll review trope families 1-5, and go on to families 6-7 (feel free to listen ahead to these tracks).  

If you get stuck or have questions, please call 508-650-3521, ext. 107, or email  Email is generally the quickest way to reach me.

Here is the initial letter with info on the class and some important dates to save.

Here are trope images of the first two trope families: 
Inline image 2
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Here is a picture of the trope from family 3 (note that this image calls the two dots above the word "Zakef Katon", while I call this trope "Katon.". 
     To distinguish between Kadma and Pashta, which look the same, draw a box on your flashcards, so that you can put Kadma above the middle of the box, and pashta above the left of the box.  Same thing for Mapach and Yetiv; draw a box so that you can put Mapach under the middle, and Yetiv below and to the right. This indicates the placement of each trope over or under a Hebrew word.
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