Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Madrichim Update

The third grade class has continued to impress all of the teachers with their Hebrew reading skills and abstract thinking abilities. I am excited to be able to plan my own lesson for the students, as they are always eager to try new activities. 


Grade 5 Update

This Sunday was a really special morning - we decorated tefilin boxes.  Special thanks to the Men's Club for organizing!

We are so proud of the fifth graders! They recently reflected on Jewish values taught this year. The responses were impressively thorough and personal, showing how much students have internalized what we have learned.

On Sunday, we introduced the topic of community and the connections between community and prayer. Students worked in pairs to discuss why the words "beit knesset" (synagogue) might mean "a place where people meet." As a group, we discussed the benefits of communal prayer.

Lastly, fifth graders shared all the different types of communities to which they belong.

In Hebrew, fifth graders continue to practice reading fluency through Hebrew reading games. They have also become very skilled at singing Lekhan Adonai. Many students have volunteered to lead the class in prayer recently and their progress shines!

Grade 6/7 Update

What do you think of when you think of the word elderly? Our class started off our new unit, Connecting Generations, with this essential question. Answers ranged from stereotypes about old age, and then were connected to personal experiences with grandparents, like hard candy, baking, and playing games. It is interesting to listen to the middle school perspective of what old and ancient mean! In this upcoming unit, we will focus on Judaism’s perspective on different generations and ages. Much like our previous unit about inclusion, we will focus on how to interact respectfully with people from all generations.

Grade 4 Update

Grade 4 has been busy learning about the Avot V’imahot. Reading and reciting is the major component of our prayer learning. As 4th graders, we are also learning to understand our prayers. 

Who our ancestors? What is the purpose of our Jewish prayers? These and more questions are being answered during our studies in class. Children are encouraged to ask, “why”. Why these words? Why up to 3 times a day? What is our covenant with God? What are the 3 elements of prayer? 

These and more questions are encouraged.  One of the gifts of Temple Israel is Rabbi Lieben, he is available to assist in answering our questions. Students find him accessible and easy to interact with. 

-Marsha Cerel-Horovitz

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Second Grade Update

We did It! We are on the last chapter of our first Hebrew text, learning the letters ע and כ .  We can now read the Hebrew word for Hebrew which has been on our schedule since the beginning of the year!  On Sunday we will have a small party to celebrate this achievement.  We are all very excited to begin the new book next week.

We read Abrahams's search for God by Jacueline Jules which offers a possible explanation as to why Abraham rejected idol worship and and instead began to pray to God.  The book explains that  Abraham understood that there must be a greater power than the Sun, moon or stars in an engaging story with beautiful illustrations.  We also began learning the story of Lech Lacha, where God tells Avraham to leave his fathers home and to go to a new country.  In the coming classes we will discuss how that may have felt, and what awaits Abraham in the new land.

The class began work on the panels for our mural that illustrates the "V'Ahhavta" prayer.  It was great to see the brainstorming and cooperation between the students as they worked on their drawings.  We can't wait to see it finished and displayed on our bulletin board.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families!

Gimel Students are working hard and are very enthusiastic about their learning.

Students participate in a little bit of conversational Hebrew through our Sunday Morning Meeting and Closing Circle.
In prayer Hebrew they completed the Birkot Hashachar and began to learn to chant the Mi Kamocha, which was sung by the Israelites after they crossed the Red Sea.  In addition to that students have talked about the miracle of the parting of the sea and listened to "Miriam's Song" by Debbie Friedman as part of our station rotations yesterday.  Other stations included Hebrew Games, where students played a game called "Roll and Read."  This game contained words and phrases from the Mi Kamocha.  Our third station was our chesed station where students wrote compliments to two classmates.

Students reread the story of the Burning Bush and identified 5 areas where G-d convinced Moses that he would be a good leader for the Israelites.  They then selected one of the 5 things that they thought helped Moses the most.  Through a Midrash about Moses working as a shepherd, students worked on identifying qualities that Moses possessed that made him a good leader.  This idea will be further explored next Sunday.

Students have completed their research about Tu Bishvat and some have completed their index card projects.  This week we will do some more Tu Bishvat activities and students will have an opportunity to complete their projects.

I hope everyone has a great week!



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Grade K - Gan Class Update 1-28-18

Hello Gan Class Families!

Today we welcomed Sydney to our class.  Sydney is a Madricha who will be helping out on Sunday mornings.  She will be with us each week and is an excellent addition to our Gan Class community!

I am so impressed at how well we are preparing for Kabbalat Torah.  All of the students are proudly singing our songs and practicing the motions.  Today we made a special project for the big day and they are lovely.  I can't wait for you to see them.  Next week we will practice singing on the Bima so that we will be ready for February 10th.

In our workbooks we illustrated the story of The Tower of Babel. Next week we will meet Abraham and his wife Sarah.  We will learn about their family for the remainder of our year together. 

Today our new letter was ayin.  Ayin is like aleph, it makes no sounds all by itself.  Ayin begins the work etz, the word for tree.  Next week we will have our Aleph Bet Centers which will include workbook work, games and projects.

Wednesday is Tu B'Shevat.  This is a holiday where we give thanks for all of the things that trees provide for us.  Ann helped us to think of the things that we get from trees and shared with us her creative poem.  On Tu B'Shevat, we often plant trees or other plants and today was no different. Bina and Sydney helped us to plant parsley which will grow and can be used on Passover.

Our Mystery Reader today was Noah's mom.  She shared a PJ Library book about Tu B'Shevat.

I can't wait to see you all next week.  We will be practing for Kabbalat Torah, we will read a new Torah Story and we will have Aleph Bet Centers to practice all of our letters.

Have a wonderful week.


Kitah Aleph Update

Kitah aleph students are awesome Hebrew letter learners! Today we made aleph bet bingo cards to review the letters we have learned so far this year. First we played a game putting a letter on each child's back and having him/her guess the letter sound based on clues given by the other students. Then the children each created his/her own bingo board with Hebrew letters.  Did you know that each Hebrew letter has a mnemonic device to help the children remember the sound associated with that letter? For instance, the letter bet has "a ball in a box" and the letter mem has "two mountains."

We spent some time today learning about the holiday of Tu B'shvat which is this coming Wednesday, January 31. It is hard to believe that in Israel they are thinking about planting trees at this time of year. Together we made a list of all the gifts trees give us: wood, oxygen, all kinds of food, paper, houses and more. The children worked on a Tu B'shvat packet which included a tree with the Hebrew letters hidden inside. Kitah Aleph students were working in small groups to help each other find all 22 of the hidden letters.

Bikkur Cholim, visiting the sick, is a key Jewish midah or value. In our review of this midah, the children shared some very thoughtful insights for caring for the sick. Ideas from the children included: visiting the sick when possible, sending them cards, calling them on the phone, bringing food to help out and games to entertain them. The children also talked about calling ahead before visiting someone who is ill to make sure he/she was available for company.

In tefillah with the cantor, the children have begun practicing songs for Purim. The whole school is working on learning a song together to present for the holiday.

Have a wonderful week. Shavua Tov, Joanne


Today was a day of stories, story telling, texts and tastes.  We began with the story of a middle school boy who was arrested for selling Ritalin for recreational use. The parents at his Hebrew school wanted him expelled claiming that he was a bad influence on the other children.  The rabbi countered that perhaps the influence of good people and Torah values could change him for the better.  Our students discussed the story and came to their own thoughtful conclusions then considered rabbinic texts on the subject. 

Gesher students loved learning with Robin Kahn this morning.  She was our very special guest teacher guiding them in an exploration of Jewish education as part of the Jewish life cycle.  In their thank you note to her, they said: We are grateful to your for teaching us about education and that Jewish education should be as sweet as honey.  We are also grateful to you for coming to our class and talking with us.  We wonder why people chose honey to be the sweet thing? And we wonder who came up with the idea of having kids eat the honey from Hebrew letters? We wonder about the meaning of that problematic text (Mishnah Torah 2:1)?  We wish that a city would not be excommunicated even if it did not have Torah scholars.
We wish that you’ll come back to Gesher and do more fun activities with us.  We wish that you’ll return and share more your knowledge.

Later in the morning, the students heard and wondered about a Torah Godly Play story by Rabbi Sandy Sasso.  In her Tu B’Shevat story, having traversed a wide, hot, dry desert, a man is tired, hot and thirsty.  He finds a tree and after enjoying the comfort of her shade, her sweet fruit and the cool refreshing water flowing beside her, he wishes to express his gratitude by blessing her.  Recognizing that she is already blessed with sweet fruit, lush branches and cool water; he says, “May all the offshoots taken from you be like you.”   Many years pass, and this man, now old, is walking along with a sapling. Some children are running along his path and find him.  They wonder what an old man is doing planting a sapling after-all, it is unlikely that he will live to enjoy its fruit.  He responds, “As my ancestors planted trees for me so I would have shade and sweet fruit to enjoy, so I plant for my children, the next generation.”  Miraculously, the man does live many more years.  He returns to the place where he planted the sapling and finds a beautiful tree in its place.  He recites a special blessing, “Blessed are You, Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who has made your world lacking in nothing, but has provided goodly creatures and goodly trees for all to enjoy.”  So it has been for all time: one generation plants for the next.

We observed and tasted fruits from four categories; completely edible like a fig, having a hard pit like a date, having a hard shell like a clementine and having both a hard pit and a hard shell like an avocado.  We compared these four categories to the four species that we shake at Sukkot.  The four species are categorized for fragrance and taste which are then related to Torah learning and mitzvot.  Since we are currently thinking about a mishna from Pirkei Avot 1:14 (If I am not for myself who will be for me?  If I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?), we wondered about categorizing our fruits with respect to being for oneself and/or for others and connecting each of the fruits to a symbolic position.

Hard pit & hard shell
Not for oneself
Not for others
Hard pit
Not for oneself
For others
Hard shell
For oneself
Not for others
Completely edible
For oneself
For others

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

4th Grade

This week, Kitah Dalet, Discussed the meaning of Tu B‘Shevat. We talked about the spring in Israel. 
Reading prayers is always worth a star on our chart. We need to read for 10 minutes a day. Read out loud and have an adult sign your log or calendar. Jonatan created our new reading chart and it will help our motivation to read daily. 

5th grade

Dear grade five families,

We have been learning so much in Hebrew school! On Sunday morning, the students worked on a reflection paper where they looked back on each of the Jewish values we have studied over the year. They then selected one to write about in depth. At the end of the day, the students held a debate about which value was the most important to live by. We were so impressed by the responses the students had. It was so exciting how much the students have learned and how well they can apply it to their every day lives.

6th and 7th Grade Update

Over the past few weeks, we have been studying, examining, and discussing inclusion and accessibility. We explored Temple Israel and documented ways that TI is accessible, as well as designed suggestions to increase the building’s accessibility. Students worked in small groups to think of solutions that can be implemented in our Temple to make everyone feel welcome.

This past Sunday our classes had an amazing opportunity to present our research and ideas Temple Israel’s inclusion committee, as well as to members of Temple Beth Am’s board, with other students from the Metrowest area at Temple Beth Am. We learned a great deal about formal presentations and making sure we are prepared. Most importantly, we learned that we are all capable of implementing change and making a difference for someone!

This upcoming Sunday, our 6th graders will be designing their own Tallitot! Looking forward to continuing learning together this upcoming week. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Second Grade Update

On Sunday in Kiah Bet we began discussing Tu B'Shvat.  I was impressed at how much many of the students remembered about the holiday; that it is considered the New Year of the tress, in Israel it is a time to plant trees and that the holiday falls at the end of January or in February.  Many of the students also have great memories of planting parsley on the holiday when they were younger.  We took the conversation a step further by looking at the holiday in relation to the Jewish calendar,  learning that "Tu" represents the number 15 in Hebrew letters (ט and ו)  and that the holiday falls on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat. We learned that each Hebrew month is a lunar month, a full cycle of the moon and that many of the Jewish holidays occur in the middle of the lunar month. If it is a clear night on Tu B'Shvat next Wednesday night I encourage you to go outside and look for the full moon.

We read the book"The Perfect Prayer" by Donald Rossoff which is based on an old teaching about the sounds of the word Shema and we continued learning the V'Ahvta prayer with Canter Ken and creating hand motions to accompany the words.  After Ken left we studied the English translation of the prayer, reading about remembering God's commandments wherever we are.  The class is about to begin to illustrate our interpretation of the prayer on a mural in our room, I can't wait to see how it comes together.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Gimel Goings On

Shalom Gimel Families,

It was great to see everyone yesterday!

Yasher Koach to all the Gimel Students on completing the Birkot Hashachar!

Keep on practicing at home and calling Google Voice.  

Next, we will start to learn to chant the Mi Kamocha -
the song of praise that was sung after the Israelites crossed the red sea.  
Yesterday students were introduced to an important theme in Mi Kamocha - that of miracles.  
In their journals, they wrote about some of the amazing things they have
experienced or witnessed.  
During station time they listened to the song, “When You Believe” from the movie
The Prince of Egypt and
talked about some of the miracles that exist today and how they can be miracles for others.  
Students will receive their copies of the Mi Kamocha prayer during the weekday
sessions this week and begin learning to chant it.

Other stations this week included Hebrew Buddy Reading and
Hebrew Reading games as well as chesed where they wrote their
compliments to 2 classmates.

In Torah, we continued our discussion about leadership in the Exodus story.  
Through a short readers theatre which students did in pairs, students were able
to identify instances where Moses was reluctant to be the leader, and instances where
G-d gave Moses the confidence to be the leader.  
This will be further explored next week.

During the week we have been studying the holiday of Tu Bishvat.  
Last week they used iPads to do some research on Tu Bishvat.  
This week they will make an index card wall hanging of the information they found.

Students continue to enjoy visiting with Bar where through discussion and games,
they are learning about the Israeli scouts.

Upcoming this week
  1. Students will receive their copy of Mi Kamocha.
  2. Students will complete their Tu Bishvat Index card project.
  3. Students will further explore the concept of leadership in the Exodus story.

Please send your son/daughter with a kosher dairy or
pareve snack to eat during break time.

Wishing everyone a great week!


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Grade K - Gan Class Update 1-21-18

Hello Gan Class Families!

Our class is getting ready for Kabbalat Torah.  As part of the preparations, we practiced our songs with Cantor Ken.  The links are below so that you can practice at home.  We have started to add some hand motions to our singing and have also practiced standing like we will on the Bima on February 10th.  We are excited to start a special project next week that we will share with families the morning of Kabbalat Torah.

Al Shelosha Devarim

We joined together with the Aleph Class for our lesson with Bar.  He shared with us a game that the Israeli Scouts play as an extension of our learning about them during our last meeting.  Students linked arms in a circle.  One student was the cat and the other was the mouse.  The mouse was able to freely move into and out of the circle created by the students but the cat was not.  It was the job of the cat to catch the mouse.  This silly game was super fun for all! 

Today we had a second reading of The Tower of Babel.  After we read the story, students were asked to work together to create a tower out of block.  To make it like the experience the people in our story had, students were not allowed to use their voices to communicate.  This task was really hard and students reflected that not talking to each other made it difficult to know what everyone was doing.  A picture of what the class was able to build is below.

Our new letter today was bet.  Bet makes the sound b- and begins the word bayit which means house.  Each student was asked to share the color of their bayit.  There are lots of blue and yellow houses in our class.

Our Celebrations topic was A Jewish Meal.  All the meals we eat can be Jewish meals.  We thought about all the things that we eat and how God helped to make them available.  We practiced the HaMotzi which we say before meals with bread to show our appreciation and learned that the Birkat Hamazon which is said after a meal is to thank God.

Next week we will be working on our Special Project for Kabbalat Torah.  If you know your student will be absent, please let me know as soon as possible.

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

What's in a name: Kitah Aleph and their Hebrew names

At the beginning of the year, I asked Kitah Aleph students about their hopes and dreams, their goals for learning this school year. A number of them said that they wanted to learn to write their names in Hebrew. Today we learned the story of Jacob, who wrestled with an angel, and was given the new name of Israel. We talked a bit about the significance of names and children shared some of their nicknames. Then the children traced and decorated their Hebrew names. This is the first step in their learning to write their own Hebrew names.

In other Kitah Aleph news, the children played a fun game with Bar about a cat and a mouse. This game is popular for younger children when they are in the Israeli Scouts. During tefillah with Cantor Ken, the children began learning some Purim songs as well as working on learning tefillot.

The children learned two new Hebrew letters today, aleph and vav. As always we reviewed all of our Hebrew letters.

We have been discussing the Jewish value of derech eretz, showing kindness and respect for others. We learned about this value a few weeks ago in connection with Dr. Martin Luther King and his friend Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Today the children read a booklet about derech eretz and committed to being kind and respectful to some of their friends and family over the next few days. Parents, please do remind them of this commitment.

Shavua Tov, Joanne

Grade 7-GESHER is Amazing!

Katie Hamelburg’s Service Sunday project was amazing!  Students from both Temple Israel and Beth Am surveyed their synagogues and found accommodations in place to make their synagogues accessible to everybody.  They also discovered opportunities for greater accessibility.  Then they developed proposals for new accommodations to increase accessibility at their synagogues.  This morning, students presented their proposals to a panel of leaders representing each synagogue.  The proposals were impressive and the presentations well described.  Watching our 6th and 7th grade students hold the microphone and describe the meaning and purpose of their proposals was an honor and a blessing.  They are the leaders of the future and are building on solid foundations!

After the program, the Gesher class learned about the Talmud through a rendition of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech presented like a page of Talmud (  Then we looked at texts about parents teaching their children focusing on Kiddushin 29a:
A parent is obligated to teach his or her child three things:
Torah, a trade or profession and how to swim.

Students grappled with this text in an effort to understand what each of these things represent?  Do they represent larger categories?  And if so, what are those larger categories? Students were thoughtful deep thinkers taking on the roles of rabbis examining the text, suggesting how the text translates into actions, and wondering about how they can make personal meaning from this text and integrate it within their own value systems.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Grade 6: Trope Update

A reminder that Jr Congregation will be this Saturday, 1/20, 10:30 AM-noon in the chapel.  The 6th graders are always invited to attend, and now you can support your friends and classmates who are reading Torah. This week, thanks to Isabel Pravda, Sasha Linden, and Clara Duckworth for your hard work learning the portions.

For trope class, the students can start listening to the blessing before the Haftarah (track 14 on this page:  In addition, they can review Torah trope, and hone their Torah reading skills using their Bar or Bat Mitzvah portions and/or portions they are working on for Jr Congregation or Synaplex.  Those who haven't yet had a chance to read will have a chance soon-- upcoming dates will include March 3 and March 24, and everyone should mark their calendars for Shavuot on Sunday morning, May 20 when everyone will read in our year-end celebration.

Have a good week!

Madrichim Update

The children in the fourth-grade class have different learning styles: some really like having visual aides, some love hands-on activities, some love games and some love worksheets.  All of the children are always excited when Bar comes to the class, and they seem very interested in learning from him since he includes all of their learning styles. I have been having so much fun working with the class. They are all such great individuals and have taught me so much about helping children to both learn and to pay attention.

-Naomi Hoffman