Sunday, January 6, 2019

Grade 7/Kitah Zayin/ Gesher 2018-2019

1-6-19

Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids again after our winter break. We got right back into the swing of things with our study of Bar/Bat Mitzvah customs, with a review of Tefillin.
  1. During the first part of the morning we viewed two short videos on how Tefillin are made, and how to wrap tefillin, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJD6cD0zG3E
Videos on how to lay tefillin:
We then reviewed the attached sheet on the background and traditions related to Tefillin, and how it is our way of connecting with God and committing to love God, as set forth in the Shema.
2.    During Tefillah, we talked about the Shema, and how it is a central prayer and principle in Judaism. We also read the attached story about how the Shema was used to find lost Jewish orphans in post-World War II Europe.
3.    After Tefillah, Nitzan had a great lesson with us on Shabbat in Israel.
4.    For the last part of class, we had a team competition on “Name that Mitzvah”, to help the students understand that becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah means that they are now responsible for the extent and consequences of their own individual religious observance of Mitzvot, whether they see Mitzvot as commandments, good deed, or both.
Next week, we’ll continue our discussion of Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Mitzvot, along with a special art project on life, hardships and renewal. For discussion, please ask your kids to describe the difference between customs that are good deeds, and Mitzvot that are observances or behavior required by the text of the Torah.
As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

12-16-18


Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids again this morning. We had an interesting day as we started our unit on Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
1.    During the first part of the morning we discussed why one becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at age 13/12. We reviewed and discussed the attached sources, and then viewed a video on a very special program run by the Conservative Movement in Israel to provide Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations for children with special needs. You can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSc-or7Qqss
2.    During Tefillah, we talked about “Tzitzit,” the fringes on a Tallit, and how they can be attached to any garment with four corners (even a sports jersey!), and how the traditional blue “techelet” color mentioned in the Shema and included as one thread of the Tzitzit comes from a snail.
3.    After Tefillah, since Nitzan was out sick, we had a brief video and discussion about the origin of modern Hebrew, and how it was made possible by the work of Eliezer Ben Yehuda.
4.    We then reviewed the attached sources on the question of “What is a Mitzvah”, and discussed the different types of Mitzvot, between people and God, and between one person and another. The kids asked great questions about the timing of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and how they become responsible for their own observance of Mitzvot, whether as commandments or good deeds, when they reach Bar/Bat Mitzvah age.
When we meet again after vacation, we'll be continuing our discussion of Bar/Bat Mitzvah issues. Please ask your kids to describe their favorite three Mitzvot, which we’ll be discussing at our next class.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

12-9-18


Dear Parents,

Happy Chanukah! I hope you and your kids have enjoyed a great week. At the Religious School, we had a great morning, both in class, and in our school Chanukah celebration:
  1. During the first part of the morning we concluded our Life Cycle unit on birth customs, with study and discussion of adoption in Jewish tradition. We viewed the following video: https://www.bimbam.com/jewish-questions-on-adoption-surrogacy/, and read together the attached article on adoption in Judaism. The students had an amazing discussion about the issues involved with raising adopted children as Jews, especially those children that came from non-Jewish birth parents and required conversion to Judaism. 
  2. After Tefillah, Nitzan gave a fun lesson on how Shabbat in Israel is different from Shabbat observance in the U.S.
  3. We then had a great Chanukah celebration, including candle-lighting, singing with Cantor Ken, Latkes, and Dreidel games.
  4. At the end of the morning, we began our discussion of what is a "bar/bat mitzvah" and "what is a Mitzvah".

When we meet again on Sunday, we'll be continuing our discussion of Bar/Bat Mitzvah issues. Please ask your kids to discuss the definition of "what is a Mitzvah?" (It isn't just a good deed.)

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

12-2-18



Dear Parents,
It was great to see your kids again after the Thanksgiving break. This week we had a couple of special programs.
  1. During the first part of the morning we had a special program with Dr. Jennifer Novick, who is a practicing Mohelet. Jennifer shared with the class texts and explanations about brit milah/circumcision, and the ceremonies associated with birth and Brit Milah. The kids had a lot of great questions and the discussion was great.
  2. Nitzan gave a fun lesson on Hebrew words through a "Super Heroes" game.
  3. During the last part of class, we switched our focus to customs and ceremonies surrounding death and mourning. In part, this was to help the kids understand what happens at funerals and shiva/condolence visits, since many of the students were then going to attend the funeral for Karen Berk. I was very proud of the students - Robin came to discuss the situation with them, and then we shared some BimBam videos on Jewish mourning customs, which you can find here:
---Intro to Jewish Mourning Rituals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyHvRFkqzmw&t=7s

The kids had really good questions, and were very sensitive about the subject, and how to visit with Sarah. We then wrote condolence cards to Sarah, which Robin brought to her during Shiva. All of your kids were wonderful, and handled the discussion really well. I don't have the words to tell you how moving it was.

If you would like to share additional information with your children, or further discuss the topic with them, I've attached a summary of Jewish mourning customs for reference by you and the kids.


When we meet again on Sunday, we'll be having some special activities for Chanukah, as well as continuing our Life Cycle curriculum. This week, we'll be concluding our lessons on topics related to birth, and moving on to Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks - Chag Urim Same'ach,

Gerry

11-4-18



Dear Parents,

This past Sunday we continued with our usual routine: 
1.    As part of our Life Cycle curriculum, we continued our discussion of our birth stories, and the origins and meanings of our names. We then began our discussion of the next milestone after birth, which is the beginning of a child’s Jewish education. We learned the material in the attached source sheet and answered the questions on the attached worksheet.
2.    At Tefillah, we focused on the Amidah, as the part of our prayers in which we ask God to provide for us and answer our requests.
3.    When we returned to class, we had a lesson with Nitzan about Israeli gestures, and how Israelis “talk” with their hands.
4.    We then continued our discussion of Jewish education, and our project was to design the perfect Hebrew School. The kids had some great suggestions!

This coming Sunday, we’ll be taking our field trip to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI, after joining the Temple’s minyan for a Veterans Day memorial service. Please remember to pack a substantial lunch for your child.

Thanks,

Gerry

10-28-18


Dear Parents,


After last Sunday's program at the Brophy School, we got back to our regular routine today.


  1. As part of our Life Cycle curriculum, we reviewed Jewish rituals and traditions connected with birth. We then talked about each student's birth story, and what happened in each of your families. I've attached the materials and worksheet that we worked on today - please talk with your child about the events and rituals surrounding their birth, so they can complete the questions on the sheet.
  1. We then had Tefila, in which we focused on the Shema, and how we are commanded to acknowledge God. As an activity, each student wrote a "Six-Word Story" in response to the prompt: Meeting God for the first time. The responses were wonderful - I'll try to post some of them this week.
  1. When we returned to class, we had a lesson with Nitzan about Hebrew slang, and learned the words Sababa (great!), Achla (good!), and Horais (cool looking).
  1. We then learned about sources of Jewish names, and discussed the meaning and origin of the student's names. Please talk with your child to help him/her complete the attached worksheet on their names, which we started in class today.
When we meet again this Sunday, we’ll continue our study of Jewish birth traditions, including our discussion of choosing a name. We'll also start learning about other rituals, including Zeved Bat/Welcoming a Daughter, Pidyon Haben/Redemption of the First Born, and more contemporary responses to Jewish birth rituals.   As I requested above, to prepare for Sunday, please help your kids complete the worksheets on their Birth Stories, and on the source and meaning of their names.




As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

10-21-18



Dear Parents,

Many of your kids were with Hilary at the Brophy School on Sunday, but for those kids who chose to attend classes at Temple Israel on Sunday, we had an interesting morning. Instead of our regular Life Cycle curriculum, we focused on refugees and strangers in Jewish tradition.

1.    We first reviewed several biblical texts about Abraham and his wanderings, and how they make us sensitive to refugees and asylum seekers. You can see the texts and questions that the kids answered in the attached worksheet.
2.    We then had Tefila, in which we focused on the Ahava Rabba blessing immediately before the Shema, and how it shows God’s love for the Jewish people, and our response through learning and doing Mitzvot.
3.    When we returned to class, we reviewed Jewish Rabbinic texts on treatment of strangers and those seeking protection, as well as several videos and sources regarding asylum seekers both in the U.S. and Israel. We watched the first segment of each of these videos:



[Refugees and Passover: African Aylum seekers comemmorate Passover in
detention]

This led to a formal debate on Sudanese asylum-seekers in Israel, and whether they should be accepted or sent home. As the attached sheets, videos, and debate showed, this is a complicated issue!

When we meet again this Sunday, we’ll begin our study of Jewish birth traditions. In particular, we will be engaging in the following activities:
1.    Jewish Names – a lesson on their origins, meanings, and how newborns get them.
2.    Nitzan, our Shinshin, will be back from Israel, and we’ll have an activity with her.

To prepare for Sunday, please discuss the following question with our kids:
Where did your Jewish name come from, and what does it mean?

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,


Gerry

10-14-18

Dear Parents,

It was good seeing your kids after the Columbus Day break.

This past Sunday, we continued with our Life Cycle curriculum:


  1. We continued our discussion of covenants and biblical sources for them. In particular, after reviewing the structure of the Tanakh, we spent much of the morning learning how to find the relevant chapters and verses in the Torah, and read about the different covenants between God and Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. I’ve attached a copy of the worksheet we used.
  1. During Tefila, we focused on our morning blessings, and in particular the first regarding the rooster’s ability to discern between night and day. We explained this through the attached Rabbinic story, of how people can similarly discern between good and evil, and how we should live our lives with a true understanding heart.
  1. After Tefila, we continued our work on covenants, and then reviewed the Rabbinic “map” of the Jewish life cycle in the Mishna-Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers chapter 5, Mishna 23. A copy is attached. The class discussed why the Rabbis chose these milestones, and how they are different from life cycle norms today (for example, the kids decided that 18 was a bit too young to get married!).
  1. We joined the Temple's morning minyan for holiday services for the Hoshana Raba holiday, including a festive Hallel service. The Religious School students then remained in the Sukkah to take Willow branches and perform the Hoshanot ceremony of striking them on the ground, to welcome the rainy season in Israel.
  1. After Hoshanot, we returned to the classroom to review the students' parts in the Simchat Torah service on Monday evening with Cantor Ken. The kids learned their verses from the Ata Horeita with the holiday tune.
  1. The remainder of the morning we had a brief program with our Shinshinit, Nitzan, and then we discussed the idea of the Covenant between God and the Jewish people, and how it relates to all of our life cycle ceremonies, starting with Abraham and the birth and Brit Milah of his son Isaac.
  1. We'll continue our study of covenants between God the Jewish people, and the biblical sources of these covenants.
  1. What significant events are included in our Jewish life cycle.
  1. Class Rules – we learned about respect for each other and for adults, as well as proper behavior, based on Jewish sources. A copy of our class rules is attached.
  1. Introduction to the Jewish Life Cycle – we discussed sources relating to the birth of the world, and how it relates to the beginning of the Jewish life cycle. A copy of the sources is attached
  1. The remainder of the morning, before Tefillah/Prayers, we learned about Ushpizin/Ushpizot – the traditional guests we invite into our Sukkah. Later in the morning, after meeting our new ‘Shinshinit’, Nitzan, we also prepared decorations for the synagogue’s Sukkah. Information about our study of Ushpizin/Ushpizot is also attached. At the end of class, we reviewed Sukkot with a viewing of the “Sukkot Lego Movie,” athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRHkgWGyn4Y
  1. Hoshana Raba – for the first part of the morning, we will be joining the Temple’s morning minyan for the Hoshanot parade, with Lulav and Etrog.
  1. After our time with Nitzan on Sunday, we will be learning about the beginning of the Jewish life cycle, and how it is the beginning of God’s covenant with the Jewish people.



When we meet again this Sunday, students will either be attending the service project at the Brophy School, or at the Religious School learning about refugees and asylum seekers in Jewish tradition, and how that relates to those in the U.S. and Israel. For those spending the morning at school, we’ll be learning Jewish texts, and preparing a debate on asylum seekers in Israel.

To prepare for Sunday, please ask your kids the following question for discussion:
What is our obligation, as Jews, to help strangers in need?

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

9-30-18

Dear Parents,

I hope you all enjoyed the Sukkot/Simchat Torah holiday.

This past Sunday, we had a number of special programs, and continued with our Life Cycle curriculum:
When we meet again a week from Sunday, we'll be focusing on the following:


To prepare for Sunday, please aske your kids the following question for discussion:

What Jewish events are part of our life cycle?




Finally, some housekeeping matters. Please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.



Thanks,

Gerry



9-23-18

Dear Parents,

It was a pleasure meeting all of your children on Sunday. We’re looking forward to a great year.

This past week, after introductions and sharing our wishes for the New Year, we covered the following:

This coming Sunday, we’ll be focusing on the following:

To prepare for Sunday, please aske your kids the following question for discussion:
Where did your Jewish name come from, and why?

Finally, some housekeeping matters. Please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. If a phone comes to school, unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be checked into a pocket on the classroom wall until the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks, and Shabbat Shalom,
Gerry

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