Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dear Kitah Vav Parents,
      This past Sunday was a non-stop busy day for us.  The students, working alone or in pairs, had already created learning puzzles for Kitah Hey (Gr. 5). They have been learning The Torah Service, so our puzzles were based on verses from this service.  Now Kitah Vav tried out the puzzles, hiding pieces for three 5th grade groups at a time.  The Fifth Graders loved our project!
      Then we had Tefillah with Gesher and with Kitah Hey, who joined us for the first time.  We continue to explore Kedusha, the concept of holiness.  The Gesher class then led us in The Amidah through Kedusha, while Kitah Hey led us in Sh’ma and V’ahavta.  In March I plan to work on The Aleinu blessing so that Kitah Vav feels comfortable enough to lead it.
       Next Kitah Vav helped prepare for a Tu B'shvat seder that I put together for them.  There was fruit to be cut, the logistics of organizing the space to make one big community, and parts to be assigned.  The students spontaneously took over the white board and created a wonderful tree mural.  I’ll try to include it in this letter.
       On Tuesday/Wednesday we continued our work on The Kedusha, the third part of the Amidah.  Many of your students have mastered the first three parts, and should turn over the page to practice Parts 4 and 5, with the goal of smooth, confident reading.
       We are on February break now, so no Hebrew School next Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and the following Sunday, Feb. 19-26.  We meet again on Tuesday/Wednesday, Feb. 28 and March 1.  I am headed to California to play with my grandsons, but will be available by email the whole time I am away. 
       I wish all of you a safe and fun break from the school routine.
All the best,
Rav Elana

Monday, February 13, 2017

Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families!

So far February has been a busy month!  I hope everyone is staying warm and enjoying the sheleg (snow).

Students completed their study of Ein Keloheinu and are now working on the Friday evening Kiddush.  They are doing a great job mastering this and are very motivated to practice it.  During the week a new game was created - Musical Cards.  Cards with a phrase from the Friday night Kiddush were placed around the perimeter of a table.  Students circled the table to music (Friday night Kiddush).  When the music stopped each student read the phrase at the card they landed at.  So much fun had by all!
On Sundays, in addition to Morning Meeting (pegishah), Hebrew involves 3 10-12 minute rotation stations:
1.  Practice reading and singing the Friday evening Kiddush.
2.  Practice reading from reading packets from the book, Zman Likroh
3.  Hebrew Reading Games.

Students completed their study of the Tu Bishvat and the different station rotations.  Yesterday we had a Tu Bishvat celebration in class.  Students sampled grape juice, apples, clementines, bananas and grapes (accompanied by the appropriate blessings).  While students were enjoying the fruits, they listened to the story The Great Kapok Tree which is a story about saving the rain forests.  Students also did a tree flap project.

Underneath the apple flaps students wrote down important things we get from trees.  Ideas included oxygen and homes for animals.

Last week students also played an online jeopardy game to review all the holidays learned so far.

Our next story focuses on Moses at the Burning Bush and going to Pharaoh to tell him to "Let the people go."  Through these stories students will explore the value of leadership, what makes a good leader, what made Moses a good leader, and other modern day community leaders.  We began with a journal entry, "What is a leader" and ,"What makes someone a good leader?"  Some of the responses were:
A leader is someone who will help you make the right choices.
A leader is someone who sets an example.
A leader is someone who helps other people when they need it.
Someone is a good leader when they make sure everyone is included.
Someone is a good leader when they are encouraging and responsible.
Someone is a good leader when they make good decisions.
Someone is a good leader when they are brave and stand up to people.

We played a game of Indian Chief and then discussed why people wanted to be leaders in the game and why others wanted to be part of the crowd.  The Tuesday group read a short play of Moses at the Burning Bush and identified reasons why Moses was reluctant to be a leader and instances where G-d helped Moses to gain the confidence to be a leader. (Wednesday group will do it this week.)

Special Activity
Last Wednesday we were visited by Josh Satok of Camp Ramah who shared his photos and experiences of his recent trip to Israel.

Wishing everyone a great week!

Elana and Marc

Sunday, February 12, 2017

alef--Tu B'Shevat Seder 2-12-17

Dear alef families:

I’m glad the children were able to get to the Temple this morning.  For tefillah with the kindergarten, Cheryl Gelfand led the service (in the Cantor’s absence).  I sang several Tu B’Shevat songs, such as Trees are Blowing in the Wind and Tree of Life. Three students—Tahlia, Alia, and Olivia held the Israel flag for Hatikvah.

HEBREW:  Our Hebrew letter today was  ק “koof”.   Some words beginning with  קare “keshet” (rainbow, as in the Noah story) , kiddush, kehillah (gathering), and “kof” (monkey).  We then picked out letters from our review packs.

STORY:  I read The Littlest Tree.  Other trees dreamed of becoming the bima, the ark, and the walls of the new synagogue.They made fun of the littlest tree, imagining him as a chair leg or a door knob.  However, the tree was chosen to be the Etz Hayim, the rollers of the new Torah scroll! We still refer to both the Torah and the rollers as Etz Hayim.

SPECIAL EVENT: Cheryl and I read parts of a seder for the children.  After the brachot, we drank four cups of juice—white for winter, add a little “pink” for spring, add more pink for summer.  The final cup is all red for the rich colors of fall.  We tasted different kinds of food, accompanied by the bracha for fruit of the tree.  The first fruit is one which you peel—clementines.  The second fruit has a pit that you cannot eat.  Because of the season and allergies, we substituted apples.  For entirely edible fruit, we ate strawberries and seedless grapes.

Cheryl and I led discussions of sections of the Torah—do not cut down trees of your enemies in war, let the land lie fallow the seventh year, etc.

After a break for games and books, the class played Azero, my holiday bingo game.  Then with Shalom Chaverim, a handshake, sticker, and reinforcement paper, it was time to go home.

NOTE—NO CLASS THE NEXT TWO SUNDAYS.  I WILL SEE YOU IN MARCH.  March is also our month for the JF and CS contribution, arranged by Gesher.  They hope that each alef family will bring in two 4-roll packs of toilet paper.


Judy and Cheryl  (Esther and Tzipporah)

Grade K - Gan Class Update 2/12/17

Hello Gan Class Families!

I hope that you are all safe and warm at home during our latest snowstorm!

Today's class was all about Tu B'Shevat!  On Tu B'Shevat we celebrate the trees.  Without trees we would not be able to live.  They provide us food, oxygen and materials we need. To observe this holiday, we enjoyed a fun Tu B'Shevat seder together.  Below is a picture of some of the fruits that were a part of our seder.

Students made great personal connections between the Tu B'Shevat seder and the Passover seder.  A specific focus was the number four.  In each seder, we have four glasses of wine, or in our case, grape juice.  Students enjoyed watching the color of the white grape juice become darker as the red grape juice was gradually added to their cups. Together we were able to connect the four glasses of juice to the four seasons and describe the changes to the trees in those seasons. 

Another special activity was that each student planted two things.  Before we planted, we heard the story about a man named Honi who sees a farmer planting a carob tree and questions him about doing so even if he will never get to enjoy the carobs.  The farmer answers that he is planting the tree because someone else planted the trees that he enjoys and so he is doing the same for new generations.  To have the same experience, we planted apple seeds.  Apples won't grow from these seeds for many years but we enjoy apples from trees that someone else planted for us. We also planted parsley.  Parsley grows much quicker and in fact will be ready to use by Passover!  

At the end of the day the 7th graders came to share a skit with us.  They are working as a class to set good examples and increase Tikun Olam efforts.  Each month, they have encouraged the students in our Religious School to take an active role in performing a mitzvah for others.  This month, they are encouraging collections of 4 packs of toilet paper. To help remind students, they offered each Gan student a toilet paper bracelet.  If your family is able to donate toilet paper, there is a collection box in the main lobby year round for 4-packs of toilet paper.

Due to February vacation, our next class will be on Sunday, March 5th.  Enjoy the next few weeks!

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


February 11th in Kitah Bet

Kitah Bet students and teachers already have begun preparing for our Kabbalat Siddur Program on April 2nd.  The children have begun learning and practicing some songs and prayers for the program. With the guidance of Cantor Ken, the children have spent quite a bit of time examining the meaning of the words in the shema and the v'ahavta, creating movements to accompany the words. Even without the cantor's help today, the children did a great job recreating the movements and singing those difficult Hebrew words.

We all enjoyed a delicious fruit snack today provided by the synagogue in honor of Tu B'shvat.  We drank different kinds of grape juice (white, purple and mixtures of the two) in honor of the 4 seasons.  Hamorah Margie explained the tradition of eating fruits or nuts with a hard outside and an edible inside (for instance, almonds, bananas ), fruits with a pit in the center (examples include avocado, peach, mango) and fruits that are entirely edible (grapes, apples).

Also in honor of Tu B'shvat, the children each decorated a clay pot and planted parsley seeds. A number of the children remembered that we use parsley to dip in the salt water at the Passover Seder. We are hopeful that the parsley plants may grow in time for this year's seder. A friendly reminder-parsley plants like sun and moist soil.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kitah Hey- Diana's Update

Dear Kitah Hey families,

The fifth graders have been learning so much in Hebrew School over the last couple of weeks.
In values class last Tuesday and Wednesday, we began talking about gratitude through the lens of family. The students had a chance to talk about what they were grateful to their families for. One student, who just recently became a big brother to a second sibling, shared that he was grateful for the opportunity to be a role model for his little brother.

 Another student shared that he was thankful for his mother and listed all the ways she cares for him. This exercise proved to be a very positive one and allowed the students a chance to reflect on all they have. During this same class, we also discussed the parasha of that week, which revealed that Moses had a speech impediment. We discussed the idea that all of us have some sort of disability. We all have strengths and weaknesses but our weaknesses don't stop us from succeeding.

The Wednesday class had a chance to participate in a Bible play about three important characters in the Bible; Jacob, Isaac, and Moses; each of whom had some type of disability. The students discussed these disabilities and connected them to disabilities those close to them have as well as disabilities that they, themselves, have. One student shared that many significant challenges people have are genetic and that we should all be very kind to those people because "it could have been us". Another student explained that she learns in an inclusive classroom and it has been an eye-opening experience for her because she has realized that the students in her class who have physical disabilities are just like us, but just need a little extra help. We also talked, at length, about not passing judgments on those with significant disabilities. One student mentioned a book she recently read called, Out of my Mind. This book, she explained, is about a girl with cerebral palsy. Throughout the book, she is regarded as mentally challenged. In reality, however, she is smarter than most adults. This becomes evident when the girl gains access to an augmentative communication system which enables her to transmit her thoughts.

I thought this was a fantastic example of why it is important not to pass judgment.

This past Sunday, the fifth graders were able to participate in an exciting program called "World Wide Wrap", where they learned about the significance of tefillin in Judaism and then were given time to make their own pair. The students had so much fun with this and showed off their talent!


This week, during our Tuesday and Wednesday class, we talked about Tu Bishvat, a holiday also known as the birthday of the trees. We discussed the importance of this holiday and Judaism's beliefs about nature.
During Tuesday's class, we continued working on our Hebrew greetings and time was devoted toward having each student participate in an informal conversation with a peer, asking questions such as, "How are you?" and "Where are you from?" and responding to each of these. We also finished up a discussion we had about a story we had read. In this story, there is a shopkeeper and every time this shopkeeper prays for G-d's help, his prayers are answered. The shopkeeper explains that once his business was doing poorly so he went to another town to find other businesses and to look for a new business partner. Instead of taking a human as a business partner; however, the shopkeeper decided to take G-d as his partner. The shopkeeper said that since that day he puts half of his money in one cash box for himself, and half of his money in another box for G-d. This was to be used as tzedakah. 

The students had so much to say about this story. Some students shared their belief that if you trust G-d, G-d will help make your wishes come true. One student explained her thought that people can't always depend on G-d. Rather, people must work really hard in order to be successful. Something else that emerged from this discussion was the idea of G-d as a kind of "Santa Claus". Just as people must do good deeds in order to get on Santa's "good" list, people must do good deeds in order for G-d to answer their prayers.

The Wednesday class, yesterday, was able to benefit from a very engaging program led by the director of Prozdor Hebrew High School. The students had an interesting debate about whether or not certain roads in Israel should be shut down on Shabbat. The students had many thoughts on the matter and came up with a number of compromises with which they felt all Israelis would be satisfied.
The class has just recently mastered both the blessing before the Torah reading and after the Torah reading. A copy of the February calendar with the next prayer we will be studying, V'zot HaTorah, is included below. A copy of this prayer as well as a youtube link to the tune used for this prayer are also included as well as a picture of the homework assignment for February 12th, which the students will be receiving via hard copy.

Thank you for your support,

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Grade 6 Trope Update 2.8.17

Nice to see the 6th graders today and yesterday.

They should make sure to learn the Blessing Before the Haftarah really well for next time.
Here are recordings of me singing it with the words and with the trope names (they can practice both ways)
  1. BlessingBefore Haftarah (with words) 
  2. Blessing Before Haftarah (with trope names) 
In addition they (especially Daniel, Sam, and Max) should use the March 4 portions to practice their Torah reading.

Thanks, and enjoy the definite/probable snow day--
Stay safe--
Cantor Ken

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Grade 7/GESHER is Amazing!

Gesher is amazing!

Today we participated in our communal Tefillah then Gesher students and collected the siddurim (prayer books). Since this is Shabbat Shirah, the Shabbat on which Shirat haYam (the song of the sea) is chanted, we made bird feeders from pinecones, vegetable shortening and bird seed, because “Some have the custom this Shabbat, which is called Shabbat Shira, to place food, seeds, wheat kernels, and the like in front of birds as a commemoration of the Midrash which states that the children of the Jewish nation fed seeds that grew from the trees inside the Red Sea to birds and these birds joined in Israel’s song of praise to God.”

After making our bird feeders and nourishing ourselves with our own snacks, we embarked on a study of Parashat Beshallach.  First we experienced an overview of the weekly Torah portion with a parasha play from Sedra Scenes.  Then we dug deeper examining the Torah text and exploring some ancient and contemporary midrash:  This following story provides an introduction to the Nachshon midrash since it invites us to consider our own participation and responsibility in redemption.

God Will Surely Help
Morris was a G-d-fearing man.  When the warning was sounded that a flood was coming, he had complete trust; G-d would protect him.  So he remained in his home even while others fled.  The local police came to his door and offered to help him evacuate, but he assured them:  “Don’t worry, G-d will save me.”  The rains came and the waters began to rise.  The emergency rescue team came to his house in a boat and urged him to leave, but Morris refused to go with them, saying, “I’m not worried, G-d will save me.”  As the flood worsened, Morris finally moved to the roof of his house to escape the water.  A military helicopter flew over to him; but Morris turned them down, insisting, “I trust in G-d.  He will provide a miracle.”  Unfortunately, the storm continued unabated.  Morris was carried off and drowned.
When Morris arrived in heaven, he was enraged.  Morris approached the holy throne:  “G-d how could you abandon me when I put all my trust in You?” Quickly, a response came, “Morris, I tried to help you.  I sent your three miracles:  the police in a car, the rescue workers in a boat, and the army in a helicopter.  What were you waiting for?”

Having considered our own responsibility to realize and recognize our own responsibility to act we discussed the midrash of Nachshon:

(as told by Rabbi Ed Feinstein in Dancing on the Edge of the World)

In this week’s parasha, we will find the Israelites, newly freed from slavery, camped at the shores of the sea. 
Suddenly the rumbling of Pharaoh’s approaching chariots fill the air.  Realizing they are trapped, the former slaves cry bitterly to Moses.  “Were there too few graves in Egypt that you brought us to die here?”
Moses prays for deliverance.
God directs him, “Tell the Israelites to go forward.  Lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and it will split.”
Moses lifts his rod, the sea splits, and the Israelites cross in safety.  Then they behold the final act of the Exodus drama:  the sea comes crashing down upon Pharaoh and his armies.  The Egyptians drown in the Sea of Reeds just as they once drowned Israelite babies in the Nile.  The Israelites raise their voices in song.  They have been slaves, their parents were slaves, and their grandparents were slaves.  But suddenly, over night, freedom and the promised return to the land of their forefathers.
That’s how the Torah tells the story.  But the midrash adds a new dimension.  According to the midrash, the people cry out, Moses prays, God commands.  But when Moses lifts his rod, nothing happens.  Moses tries again, carefully rehearsing God’s words to himself.  And again, nothing.  Panic wells up within him, he tries again, and again.  The sea does not move.  As beads of perspiration break out on his forehead, the people renew their screams of terror, but Moses is powerless.
And then suddenly, out of the crowd comes one man, Nachshon from the tribe of Judah.  To the astonishment of the people gathered on the shores of the sea, Nachshon jumps into the water.
“Are you crazy?  What are you doing?” shouts his family.
But Nachshon knows exactly what he is doing.  He understands, as does no one else, not even Moses, why the sea would not split.  He understands that until this moment, all of the redemption had been enacted by God:  God had sent Moses to Pharaoh, God had sent the plagues that shattered Pharaoh’s arrogance, God had brought his people to the shores of the sea…everything accomplished by God.
But now God is waiting…waiting to see if any one, just one, of the Israelites is willing to take a risk for the sake of the promised freedom.  Realizing this, Nachshon jumps in.  He wades out into the water.  The water covers his feet, his lower legs, his knees, and rises to his waist. His family and friends call to him frantically, “Nachshon, come back!  Nachshon, you will drown!”  The water reaches his chest, then his neck.  His family’s screams fade, and his people stand in silence, watching in wonder.  He wades out and the water reaches still higher.  The water covers his chin, his lips, his nostrils, his eyes…  The water rises up beyond his forehead.  And when it reaches and covers the top of his head and his life is in peril, only then does the sea open creating a secure path for the Israelites to cross.
And then he is followed by the rest of the Israelites, who pass in safety.
This midrash teaches that God can only create the conditions for redemption of the world.  But if redemption is truly to come, someone must jump into the water.  Someone visionary and brave must be willing to put life on the line and jump into the waters of history to bring the rest of us out of slavery.
In every generation there are Nachshons willing to jump into the water.  Sometimes the water splits, and sometimes it doesn’t.  But those who have the faith to take the first courageous step redeem the rest of us still hovering on the shore.

We discussed historic persona who were also Nachshons (Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, W.E. Debois, Desmond Montella)  and then examined other midrashim:

The Israelites at the Red Sea were divided into four groups.

One group said, “Let us throw ourselves into the sea.” 

The group that said, “Let us throw ourselves into the sea,” was told,

“Stand by, and witness the deliverance that the Lord will work for you today.”

One said, “Let us return to Egypt.”

The one that said, “Let us return to Egypt,” was told,

“For the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.”

One said, “Let us fight against them.”

The one that said, “Let us fight them,” was told,

“The Lord will do battle for you.” 

And one said, “Let us scream out against them.” 

The one that said, “Let us scream out against them,” was told,

“And you shall hold your peace.”

  • What are the potential consequences for each group based on their response?
  • Which group would you have joined and why?
  • What does this midrash suggest about Jewish unity?
  • What does each answer mean?

The Holy One, blessed be He, would bring the horse and his driver and make them stand trial.  He would say to the horse, “Why did you run after My children?”  The horse would answer, “The Egyptian drove me against my will, as it is said: ‘And the Egyptians pursued…’” (Exodus 14:9) 

G-d would then say to the Egyptian, “Why did you pursue My children?” And he would answer, “It was the horse that ran away with me against my will, as it is said, ‘For the horses of Pharaoh went in…’” (Exodus 15:19)

What would G-d do? 

He would make the man ride upon the horse and thus judge them together.  As it is said, “The horse and driver He has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:1).
  • What contemporary situations does this midrash make you think about?
  • What might the midrash be saying about human nature?
  • Earlier in the Book of Exodus, G-d says,
“And I will stiffen the hearts of the Egyptians so that they go in after them; and I will gain glory through Pharaoh and his warriors, his chariots and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:17). 
·      With this in mind, what is your reaction to the midrash?

Our day ended by opening the Chumash and looking at chapter 15 to see the unusual spacing of the words in the Shirat haYam section of the parasha.  And also considering Miriam’s song, Exodus 15: 21-22.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Grade 1/Kitah Alef Godly Play Tu B'Shevat 2-5-17

Dear families

What a wonderful day!  Of course, I always enjoy being with the alef class.

First, we took part in the tefillah, along with the kindergarten.  Several students offered their own morning blessings.  One wished for candy. Another wished for a continuing good home.  Then three students held the Israeli flag for Hatikvah.
Back in the classroom, it was time for HEBREW: We learned the letter ו vav.  Some  ו words are Vashti (the queen before Esther), vav (hook), and vered (rose).  As usual, pairs reviewed the letters we have learned so far.  Some students then put the Hebrew alphabet in order using my magnetic letters or the wooden alef-bet puzzle Ariel brought us from Israel last year. We all enjoyed snack with blessings.

GODLY PLAY:  this was our first opportunity to engage in Godly Play for holidays.  In December, thanks to Temple Israel, I attended a two-day workshop at Hebrew College to learn the techniques of involving the children in the stories.  Today, we learned about planting trees for the next generation. Ask your children what happened   The class explored “I wonder” questions—“I wonder which part you liked best,” “I wonder what would happen if no one planted.”  We next discussed why trees are important—they give us shade, fruit, a home for animals, oxygen, etc.  The children examined our role in taking care of the earth.

REINFORCEMENT:  Students completed two papers—drawing their idea of a perfect tree. Then they rotated to the other table to write and draw how to take care of the earth.  Many wrote and illustrated their intention to clean up the earth and not litter.  Great ideas expressed by the class!

BOOKS AND LEARNING GAMES:  I brought in books on the holiday, such as A Tree is Nice.  Many students played  my games about planting trees.

We concluded with Tu B’Shevat songs such as “Tree of Life,” “Trees are Blowing in the Wind,” and “Plant a Seed.”

I can hardly wait until next Sunday!

Judy and Cheryl (Esther and Tzipporah)


Gesher students have been grappling with texts from Sefer Shemot (the Book of Exodus) in an attempt to learn more about Moses and to identify his leadership qualities.  The group was challenged to build a tower with plastic cups using a device resembling an octopus made from a rubber band with 24” strings attached.  Students were instructed that only the string could touch the cups. Following this stressful and frustrating activity, we discussed successful and not-successful leadership strategies.  Students noted maintaining calm, clear communication, kindness and encouragement, listening to each other and a willingness to understand and implement other people’s ideas.  Our study of Moses’ leadership traits touched on noticing and asking questions which detoured to Robert F. Kennedy’s famous expression, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?  I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
We continue to have fun with parasha plays during most Tuesday-sessions.

Students are having a wonderful time creating their ipad movie trailers on one Jewish value to which they could commit themselves:  celebrating Jewish holidays, reciting the bedtime Shema, making the world a better place, and connecting with other Jews.  Our exploration of Jewish values also included selecting one word to represent their chosen value and illustrating that word using Micro-graphy, an art form in which images are crafted using tiny writing.