Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Grade 6 - Ken's Trope Update

It's been great learning to read Torah with the 6th graders this semester.  Here's a quick update and what to review over break and through our next classes on January 9 and 10. (I won't be here on January 2 and 3, and they will stay with our Teen Educator Katie Hamelburg until 6)

The kids should all be able to recognize every trope, know its name, and know its tune.  We're starting to move a little faster now as we apply the trope and melodies to Torah portions.  Please check with your kids to make sure they can recognize and sing through all the trope; many of them can do so easily and some are having more trouble at the moment.  They should first memorize the names of the trope (using their flash cards), then make sure they've memorized the melodies, and then practice applying the melodies to Torah portions (as described below)

Thanks to our brave volunteers who are doing the first readings on January 6 & 20 at junior congregation.  I wanted to invite all the 6th graders (and siblings) to attend junior congregation when you can to support each other and to improve your synagogue skills and comfort level-- dates are on this page.  The January readers should focus on their readings, and everyone else can turn to your Torah portion in your own bar/bat mitzvah folder for practice (let me know if you have questions or have trouble finding the portion).  A reminder to please reserve Sunday, May 19, Shavuot, a day when all the kids will read in our end-of-year celebration, and I'll be in touch with other families about your dates to read at Jr Congregation or Synaplex (upcoming dates are February 10 at Synaplex, and March 3 & 24 at Jr Congregation)  

A reminder that recordings of all the trope and blessing as well as virtual copies of the packet can be found here:

Once we return in January, we'll start working on the Haftarah blessings as well as using the Torah portions that the kids are working on for practice.

Thank you, and wishing you a good school vacation and happy secular new year!

Grade 5 - Kitah Hey Update

Dear Kitah Hey families,

We had a great week at Hebrew School! In class on Sunday, we discussed the history behind the holiday of Hanukkah and read a story that taught us more about the holiday. We then talked about how holidays are a time for spending time with family, friends, and community and less about giving and receiving gifts. This led to a conversation about what we are grateful for. We completed an in-class project that expresses our gratitude. In Hebrew class, we finished learning the prayer recited when we take the Torah out of the ark on Saturday mornings. Many of the students came up to lead this prayer on their own, opening the ark and carrying a stuffed Torah to participate in the choreography of the service. The fifth graders really enjoyed being able to lead! We also played a game of “Around The World”, practicing our Hebrew reading fluency. We also had a Hanukkah party and lit the candles as a community in the social hall each night of the holiday!

We wish you and your family a wonderful winter break and look forward to seeing our fifth graders back in January!

6th and 7th Grade Update

Happy Hanukkah from the 6th and 7th grade class! We hope that your Hanukkah was filled with light, laughter, and wonderful time with your family. 

This past week at Temple Israel was extremely busy for the 6th/7th grade classes. 

On Sunday, the 6th grade participated in Temple Israel's first Boston-Haifa Expo. For the past couple of months, we've been working on researching a topic related to Haifa, Boston's sister-city in Israel. In groups, we prepared the topic, developed a project, and rehearsed our presentations. Topics ranged from Sports to Arts to Climate Change in Haifa, and included ways in which the topic can be found in Boston, 3 relevant words in Hebrew, and much more. 

We were grateful to be joined by many parents, parts of the Temple Israel community, Bar (Temple Israel's Shinshin)'s mom, a representative from the CJP, and many more community members, to honor our students' work and learn from their projects. Our students worked extremely hard, and I'm so proud of their work! Thank you to everyone that came to support us on Sunday--we hope you enjoyed the expo! 

On Tuesday and Wednesdaythe 6th and 7th grade had busy classes as well. On Tuesday, we began by welcoming the last night of Hanukkah, through song and the lighting of the Hannukiah in our classroom. We then continued our B'nai Telem Inclusion unit, by discussing ways that a physical space can be "inclusive" or "exclusive." 

To start, we began by watching a short clip from a movie called "Arranged," during which a Jewish grade-school teacher leads her students in a "unity circle." She challenges students to come up with one word that describes them, and hold up this word on a paper. Through various exercises, the class is taught that they can choose whether or not to include people in their "circle," representing the way that they can interact and include all peoples in their class. We then discussed how this clip was relevant to the topic we've been discussing in our classroom, and explored how we too can be inclusive for all peoples.  

We then brainstormed a list of examples from ways that space can be inclusive, for people of all physical abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational needs, and more. These included: ramps in a central location, elevators, allowance for service pets, automatic doors, braille on books and signs, multiple gendered bathrooms, as well as accessible bathrooms, monitors, food drives and fundraisers, and many, many more. We then took a field trip around the Temple Israel building, recording ways that the building both succeeds and struggles in achieving this inclusive space.  

Finally, for the last half hour, the 6th graders continued to practice troupe with Cantor Ken, and the 7th graders chose to practice modern Hebrew by learning words relevant to food and eating. 

We're really excited to continue this curriculum after Winter Break, and to continue learning together!

4th Grade Update

The fourth grade welcomed Rabbi Lebin to our class.

We discussed Joseph and his brothers from the Torah and
played a game that Bar had taught us.

The beautiful olive oil menorah was lit in the lobby with all eight lights.

We received delicious chocolate gelt as we said Shalom.

Second Grade Update

The "Betnikim" (Second Graders) have been busy celebrating Hanukkah in school.  We have all enjoyed lighting the candles together with the entire school and singing lots of songs.  The Men's club party was terrific, complete with latkes, cider, gelt and some very competitive games of dreidel.  We decorated the room with hanging dreidels and drawings helping to bring the light into the darkest time of the year.  We played a Hanukkah themed game of Pictionary (the kids LOVE writing on the whiteboard) and heard lots of Hanukkah stories by my favorite children's author, Eric Kimmel.

We begin each Hebrew class reviewing the letters and vowels we have learned and putting our 9x11 size cards on the whiteboard.  We have learned so many that we are beginning to run our of space! The class as a whole is working so hard reading with partners, reading to self and reading with a teacher or teen helper.  We are learning to look at the syllables in a word by clapping or scooping out the sounds like many of them do in school while learning English phonics.  Sometimes two letters will combine to make one sound, especially at the end of a word.  In a hope that everyone will spend a few minutes with Hebrew over vacation in order to keep their skills sharp, the students have the opportunity to earn three stickers over vacation.

I hope that all of the Bet Families have exciting adventures over vacation, the opportunity for some quallity family time and lots of down time.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Madrichim Update

Happy Hannukah! The second-grade classroom is, as always, full of fun and energy! We have been learning a whole lot of Hebrew letters, reading stories, and learning about holidays, particularly Hannukah in the last few weeks. I am impressed with how good their Hebrew reading is getting in just the past few months. I have had a lot of fun, and look forward to coming every week!  -Ari Klawans

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gan Class Update 12-17-17

Hello Gan Class Families!

Happy Hanukkah to you all!  I hope the holiday has been filled with family and friends.  I heard about a lot of the excellent activities you have enjoyed so far and of course some of the gifts that your children are super excited about.

Today was a busy day!  We started with Tefillah in the Sanctuary where Cantor Ken shared with us the new Torah covers which were presented to the congregation on Friday evening.  If you haven't had the opportunity to see them yet, I have included a picture from this morning.  Students thought that they looked like the sky and the ocean.

Because today was Hanukkah, Cantor Ken led a part of the service that we haven't experienced before.  It is called Hallel and it is another way to express how thankful we are. 

There was a special guest at Temple Israel this morning.  Bar's mother is here all the way from Israel and she joined us in class this morning.  This was a real treat.  We practiced welcoming her to our classroom in Hebrew.  Bar taught us about Hanukkah in Israel and helped us learn to play dreidel.  He explained that the letters on a dreidel are different in Israel than they are in the United States which we also learned about last week.   Another thing that we learned was that children in Israel do not get presents for Hanukkah.  The holiday is a time to be with friends and family...don't worry, they do get gelt! Bar also shared with us this super cool video, check it out!

In our Torah Stories, students illustrated a picture to help them remember the main idea of the story of Noah's Ark.  When we return to class in January, we will learn about the Tower of Babel before meeting Abraham and his family.

A big focus of today's class was Hanukkah!  Students heard about many rituals of the holiday and shared things that they do at home to celebrate.  Each student took a picture in our Hanukkah photo booth which was sent home with them to share with families.  The day concluded in the Social Hall for our whole school Hanukkah celebration.  A special THANK YOU goes out to the members of the Men's Club for serving delicious latkes and apple cider.  We played dreidel, got gelt and Hanukkah tattoos and enjoyed being together as a class to celebrate the holiday.  We finished the morning with Hanukkah songs and lighting the candles with Cantor Ken.

Our next class will take place on January 7th.  Enjoy the winter break and Happy New Year!


Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families!

What a great week of Hannukah it has been!  On Tuesday and Wednesday we wrapped up the elective unit.  Each elective group wrote a summary of their elective and then spent time independently doing a Hannukah reflection.  This was followed by 3 rotation stations where students made window decorations to hang at home, decorated solar stakes to put in the ground, and went to the Hannukah photo booth.  At 5:30 we met with the other grades to light the Hannukiyah and sing Hannukah songs with our cantorial intern, Dara Rosenblatt.

Today was a very busy day in the Gimel class.  We began our day watching the movies made by the students in the technology and lego elective.  Back in the classroom students were introduced to the iPad app, Padlet.  Students used this app to answer questions about the elective unit.  Please click on the link below and enjoy reading what students had to say about miracles and courage.

Stations today included Hebrew Buddy Reading, writing compliments to 2 classmates and completing the padlet.  We ended our day with an all school Hannukah celebration sponsored by the Mens Club.  Todah Rabah to the Mens Club for the delicious latkes!

Upcoming this week:
We will get together as a school on Tuesday to light the final candle.
In Hebrew students will learn 2 new lines from Birkot Hashachar.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and restful winter break!




We reviewed the mishna, “Do not look at the jug, rather look at what’s inside” (Pirkei Avot 4:20) and learned about the mishna, “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2: 4).  We connected the later mishna to an incident 24 years ago in Billings, Montana in which the a brick was thrown through the bedroom window of a six year old Jewish child because there was a menorah in that window.  The citizens of Billings responded by placing images of menorahs their windows uniting in a collective declaration of ‘not in our town!’ We watched a portion of a PBS documentary, “Not in Our Town” about the incident in Billings,   Gesher students raised many similar recent incidents in Metro-west including swastikas, the egging of the home of a gay couple and a community demonstration that included many clergy members who also expressed a common commitment to ‘not in our town.’

Our learning session ended with a discussion of Antiochus’s decrees. The story of Hanukkah is about the Hassidim fighting the Syrian Greeks for the right to remain Jewish.  It is also about the Hassidim convincing the Hellenists (assimilated Jews) that totally assimilating is not a good thing.  After a discussion of the decrees, students thought about which decrees supported the establishment of a common culture among all citizens of a society and also which decrees would lead to the destruction of the Jewish community.


·       No Jewish sacrifices may be offered in the Temple of G-d. Instead mandatory sacrifices of pigs and impure animals were dedicated to Zeus on the Temple’s altar.
·       Pagan temples were to be built throughout Judea.
·       No circumcisions were allowed on pain of death to child, parent and mohel (the one who does the ritual circumcision.)
·       The Torah was to be forgotten and its legal system replaced with Greek law.
·       Shabbat and holidays were to be desecrated.
·       The celebration of the Emperor’s birthday was enforced including the eating of sacrifices made in his honor.
·       Participation in Dionysian processions crowned with ivy wreaths was required.
·       It was prohibited to identify oneself as a Jew (including perhaps, the prohibition of the use of Jewish names.)

At the end of the morning, we enjoyed a wonderful, delicious and spirit-filled all-school Hanukkah celebration with latkes and cider (with gratitude to the Men’s Club), dreidel games and Hanukkah songs (with gratitude to Cantor Ken). 

Chanukah in Kitah Aleph

Kitah Aleph students learned the Hebrew letter vet today. The children learned that vet makes a sound like the English letter V and looks like the Hebrew letter bet but without the dot. We have now learned almost half of the Hebrew letters!

The children were excited to see the torahs in their new covers in the sanctuary. The children are becoming more and more proficient in the words of many tefillot. In honor of Chanukah, Cantor Ken lead the students in singing some selections from Hallel as well as a number of usual morning prayers.

In class, we reviewed the story of Chanukah and the children made stained glass dreidel pictures, which are still drying in our classroom.

We concluded our day with latkes and a Chanukah sing-a-long with the rest of the school in the social hall. The children also played dreidel for some Chanukah gelt.  Many thanks to the members of the men's club who prepared the delicious snack!

Chag U'rim Sameach! Enjoy the rest of Chanukah! Joanne

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Grade 5 Update

Fifth graders have been busy!  They finished reading and singing the Vayehi Binsoa without a teacher and sound beautiful! To celebrate, students played a game of Around the World to practice Hebrew reading fluency.

We also continued our discussion about personal satisfaction and thinking about what is important and meaningful that makes our lives great. What are we truly grateful for? Please see an attached photo of what students brainstormed for what they are thankful. Fifth graders went deeper during this week's conversation. They also made an art project that reflects what they are really thankful for in their lives.

Midweek, students had a grand finale to the elective unit! They reflected on what they learned, partook in fun activity stations, and sang Hanukkah songs together. They had a blast!

Grade 6 and 7 Update December 13, 2017

Happy Hanukkah from the 6th and 7th grade class! 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we brought in the holiday of Hanukkah with festive singing with the Rabbi and Cantor, as well as with lighting the Hanukkah candles. We also participated in a school-wide project to create Hanukkah centerpieces. learning about the meaning of the letters on the Hanukkah dreidel, and decorating centerpieces with these letters. 

We also continued our social justice B'nai Telem curriculum, further exploring our current unit: inclusion. 

To begin, we discussed the framework that we're approaching each unit. For each unit, we start by exploring the topic itself, then exploring what the topic means to each of us, leading to exploring Judaism's perspective on the topic. Once we have an understanding of the unit, we then participate in a hands-on service project to physically do something to further this cause, and then reflect on the unit and the project as a whole. 

Throughout this week's lesson, we discussed how this lesson fits in to the greater theme and framework of our class. Particularly, we moved into further discussing this topic of inclusion in Judaism. We studied a prayer called "Asher Yatzar", which discusses being thankful for bodies functioning the way they need in order for us to live. We discussed times that we might not have been able to function the way we may have hoped, such as when we break a bone, and talked about ways we may have adapted to not let this inhibit us. Though this prayer is typically said after using the restroom, we studied the meaning behind this prayer, understanding how it is applicable to our daily lives. 

In future classes, this will lead into a greater conversation about the ways that Judaism allows for similar types of inclusion. 

Finally, we divided the class in half as the 6th grades continued their Trope lessons with Cantor Ken, and the 7th graders discussed their own Hanukkah practices and played trivia about Hanukkah. 

Wishing you a wonderful Hanukkah and holiday season, and looking forward to continuing the celebration as a class next week. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Grade 4 Update

This week we worked hard to solve our first ever Hebrew crossword puzzle! All the clues and answers are from the Amida. We also played some Hebrew hangman, and the students had fun guessing the phrases. 

In anticipation of Hanukkah, everyone grabbed a name from a hat and made a nice card for that person. We can’t wait for Hanukkah to start and light the candles!!

Madrichim Update

These past few weeks the third graders have been practicing their beerkot hashachar in class and tefillah. We have also been having conversations about courage and miracles. As a class, we have started our new bucket filler activity where the kids write compliments about each other and get to take them home at the end of the day.-Rachael Greenberg

Monday, December 11, 2017

Grade 2 Update

On Sunday mornings we often begin class with a little spoken Hebrew before T'filah at 9:20.  We have been asking each other "How are you?" in Hebrew, and have learned that the question is slightly different for a girl or a boy. ("Mah slomech?" or Mah Shlomcha?")  We have learned some of the replies such as "Bseder" (OK), "Tov" (Good) and "Mitzuyan" (excellent). 

This week in Hebrew the students played some new reading games.  We played "Four in a Row" (which is in their text on page 43) and a game with words written on Popsicle sticks where you don't want to pick a bumble bee by accident.  The students were all excited about reading and many of them were paired with students they do not normally work with-a winning situation all around!

 I hope that you are all looking forward celebrating Hannukah because your children are all VERY excited!  We've talked about the story and the miracles of the holiday,  and on Sunday we practiced the correct way to put the candles in the Hannukiya and in which direction to light the candles.  Everyone came up to the whiteboard to fill in the candles for different nights and "light"them in the correct direction. Ask your children if they remember how to do it. (The candles are put in starting from the right side and the newest candle is lit first.)  Some of the students began sharing the different way their families give Tzedekah during the holiday, I am looking forward to hearing more.

Grade 3 - Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families,

Happy Hannukah!

Students continue to make progress with their prayer reading.  

We have studied up to line 11 of the Birkot Hashachar.  

You can be very proud of your student’s enthusiasm and hard work.

Through our Sunday morning meeting and closing circle on Sundays
students are also getting some exposure to modern Hebrew and Hebrew counting.

We continue to explore the value of chesed (kindness) and
this week students listened to another story about being bucket fillers before writing compliments to 2 classmates.

This week students completed a journal entry where they wrote down 3 things they are looking forward to about Hannukah.  
Many students are excited to light the Menorah, eat latkes and sufganiyot, play Dreidle and spend time with family.  
At the end of the day, students made centerpieces for the community dinner this Shabbat.

During the week students have been having fun in their electives.  
The discussion last week focused on the theme of publicizing the miracle of Hannukah.  
Students have enjoyed reconnecting as a class at the end of the day sharing something about their elective.

Upcoming this week
  • The final week of electives.
  • First and second night of Hannukah.  Students will participate in a school-wide Menorah lighting.
  • On Sunday there will be an all-school Hannukah celebration sponsored by the Men's Club.
  • In Hebrew, students will learn 2 new lines of Birkot Hashachar.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week and Chag Sameach!



Sunday, December 10, 2017

Grade K - Gan Class Update 12-10-17

Hello Gan Class Families!

In just a few short days Hanukkah will be here!  I am sure your home is full of excitement.  We have spent the last several weeks preparing.  During Tefillah, we have practiced the blessings and songs.  I heard many students singing them throughout the day.  Today, Ann shared with us her personal menorah and some dreidels she has collected over the years....she even had one in Braille!  She taught us how the candles are placed into the menorah and the way we are supposed to light the candles (the newest candle first).  We discovered how many candles we will need for to have to light the candles all eight nights by putting out eight menorahs with the candles for each night.  When we counted together we reached 44!

Bar has started to teach us about the different geographical areas of Israel.  Today we learned about southern Israel which is made up of mostly desert.  We acted out several things you might do in southern Israel during a fun game.  Below is a picture of the drawings students created to show the different things you might see in the desert areas of Israel.  Can you guess what they are?  

Our new letter today was het.  Het makes a ch- sound and begins the word challah.  Students are continuing to practice letter recognition skills in class together.  

Today we read another story about Noah's Ark.  This one had more details about why Noah needed to build an ark, how many animals were on it and how long they had to stay on the ark.  We learned that Noah brought at least two of every animal.  He actually brought SEVEN of each Kosher animal. And even though it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, the animals and Noah and his family had to stay on the ark much longer than that as they waited for the water to go down and the land to become visible.  Another new detail was that Noah sent two different birds to see if it was safe to leave the ark.  One came back with nothing and Noah knew that they could not get off yet.  The second, a dove, came back with an olive branch which showed Noah that there was land available. Next week we will make illustrations in our workbooks to help us remind us of the details of this story.

Next week we will be focusing on Hanukkah!  We will join the whole school for a Hanukkah celebration and participate in lots of holiday activities.

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



Gesher students were amazing this morning!  We discussed two short stories, “The Cat who Thought She was a Dog and the Dog who Thought He was a Cat” by Isaac Bashevis Singer and “Look Not Upon the Flask” by Hanoch Teller.  While the story lines are quite different, there is a similar message; what’s inside is far more important than what’s on the outside or ‘you can’t tell a book by its cover.’  These stories and this maxim illustrate Pirkei Avot 4: 22, “Look not upon the flask, rather look at what’s in it.”

Bar Argaman introduced Gesher students to “the old man,” David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel and they learned many interesting things about this hero including the fact that he enjoyed standing on his head!

Hanukkah learning was based in multiple modalities: first students saw, heard and wondered about the miracle of the oil through a Torah Godly Play story telling experience.  Then they attempted a challenging matching activity, which was supported by a comic book style presentation of several aspects of Hanukkah including an incident involving an elephant and a beheading.  Curious? Ask a Gesher student!