Sunday, May 12, 2019

Grade 1/Kitah Alef 2018-2019

Hello Gan Class Families!

Thank you all for such an amazing year!  Below is our final Gan Class Update but you will be hearing from me again in the next few weeks with some specific information about your student.

Another busy day had us completing so many of our long term projects.  We read our final Torah story, about Jacob's family and illustrated the one daughter and twelve sons that Jacob had.  We then made a cover for all of our stories and but them together in one book.  We also made a Torah Cover out of felt to cover out personal stories from the year.  I know that there will be lots of things to look back on when you unroll them.  We were excited to see our families at Tefillah and watch the "big" kids show all that they have learned at Temple Israel. 

It was so nice to catch up with many of you at brunch and to see the heartfelt goodbyes many of our students had with Nitzan.  Thanks for being an amazing Gan Class!

Bina, Jo and I would like to thank you for your support and encouragement throughout the year as well as the generous gifts and heartfelt sentiments we received today.  It was our pleasure to spend the year with your students.

I wish you all a relaxing summer vacation and I can't wait to see you in the fall.


It is hard to believe that we have only one Sunday of Hebrew school left. Today Kitah Aleph students learned the final Hebrew letter, the letter zayin, which makes a sound comparable to the English letter z. The children completed the pages in their Aleph-Bet workbooks and took them home today. They also made aleph-bet flashcards with the hope that they might take them out and review some letters over the summer. It is a long time from now until September!

This morning we counted the Omer with Cantor Ken during tefillot. Ask your child which day of the omer we counted today. Back in class, we watched a short video about the omer period and what it signifies. Here is a link to the video if you would like to watch it with your children:

The children learned that the omer was a measure of grain that was brought by farmers in ancient Israel to the Temple. We count 49 days from the second night of Passover until the next major holiday of Shavuout. The children also learned that the period of the omer is considered a somewhat sad period because of a plague that occurred among the students of Rabbi Akiva. Traditionally there are no Jewish weddings during this period and some people do not buy new clothes or cut their hair. However, Lag B’Omer, the thirty-third day of the counting of the omer, is a day when the mood lightens. This is a day when the plague stopped. It is a scholars’ holiday when Jews around the world go on picnics and build bonfires. Kitah Aleph students especially enjoyed hearing the Lag B’Omer story from K’tonton by Sadie Rose Weilerstein. This is a book from my childhood and it follows the adventures of a thumb-sized Jewish boy who celebrates all the Jewish holidays.

We were fortunate to have some time with Nitzan this morning. Nitzan gave the children the opportunity to ask her any questions they have been wondering about her or the State of Israel. Questions ranged from those focusing on Nitzan’s family, her siblings and their names to questions about what she will do once she returns to Israel and goes into the army. We have been very lucky to have Nitzan as our shinshin this year.

At the end of class today, we did a little catching up or “ketchup” time as we sometimes call it. The children worked on completing their maps of Israel, their Hebrew name posters and then worked on a packet of fun pages about Israel. We also learned a bit about the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.

I want to take this opportunity to say again how much I have enjoyed getting to know your children this year. I truly have enjoyed teaching every one of these bright, sweet and engaging youngsters. I will not be in school next Sunday. Although I will be sad to miss the final day with your children, I will be happily attending my daughter’s college graduation weekend. I will be busy celebrating with her and of course, helping her pack up to come home.  Your children will be in excellent hands with Cheryl as their teacher next Sunday.

Best wishes for a wonderful and relaxing summer! Joanne


Hi All,

This morning we had a wonderfully fun drumming workshop! The children used shakers and small drums to try out various beats to different tefillot including Modeh Ani, Halleluyah (Psalm 150) and V’ahavta. The children also had the chance to try playing the large drum, also called the “mother drum.” Starting our morning with drumming to tefillah was pretty awesome!

In Hebrew today we learned the letter gimel. Gimel “is going for a goal” and makes a sound similar to a hard G in English. We also learned two vowels that make an “oo” sound. We have only one letter left to learn (the letter zayin) which we will do next week. Next Sunday the children will complete the final pages in their Aleph-Bet workbooks.

We spend a good part of our morning focused on Israel since Israel’s birthday, Yom Ha’atzmaut is coming later this week. Sadly Nitzan was out sick today so we missed our time with her but we look forward to seeing her back next Sunday. In class, we watched a video about Israel titled: Israel Small but Outstanding. It can be found here if you would like to watch it with your child:

The video includes some beautiful pictures of Israel and really showcases its diverse landscapes, people and animals. The children also saw pictures from a book called A Day in the Life of Israel.  This book includes photographs from 50 of the world’s top photojournalists who were given one day to take photographs of Israel and submit them to be included in this book. We learned part of a song that children in Israel sing, called Eretz Yisrael Sheli, about building the land. You can find it here: if you would like to hear it. We will practice it again next week.

Toward the end of the morning, we examined the map of Israel. After spending some time together finding key areas and cities, the children went off to work individually on labeling their own maps of Israel. We will finish these up next Sunday.

Best wishes for a wonderful week ahead.



Hi All,

I hope you had a wonderful Passover and a great school vacation week. It is hard to believe but we are fast approaching the end of the Sunday school year. There are only a few more Sunday classes remaining. Today in class,  the children learned a new Hebrew letter, the letter “sin.” Sin makes a soft S sound, the same sound made by another Hebrew letter, the letter Samech. Sin looks almost exactly like the letter Shin but has a dot above it and to the left while the Shin has a dot above it and to the right.

During tefillah with Cantor Ken, the children learned about the process of counting the omer, the measure of grain that the Jews have used for centuries on to keep track of the seven weeks between Passover and the next major Jewish holiday, the holiday of Shavuot. Now-a-days we use a calendar but we still “count the omer” on a daily basis. We discussed the fact that these weeks between Pesach and Shavuot are generally considered a serious period during the Jewish year when some Jews do not get married or hold large parties. Many people do not shave or cut their hair during this period, at least until the holiday of Lag B’omer.  The children will learn more about both Lag B’omer and Shavuot over the next few Sundays.

Nitzan spent time with the class as usual today. She played a game with the children to teach them about the many innovations that Israelis have contributed to the world. The children were surprised by the fact that some of these well-known and well used items were first invented by Israelis. The items invented in Israel are quite diverse and used all over the world. These items include: drip-irrigation, the iron-dome system, USB drives and the game Rummikub.

Today’s class focused on the Jewish value of Tzedakah. We learned that the word tzedakah actually means righteousness and generally refers to what people give to others in an effort to make the world a better place. The children watched a short video about tzedakah entitled “Get with the Giving”  ( They also listened to the story Benny and The Bagels about a little boy who tries to give bagels to God as thanks but ends up giving tzedakah to a man in need instead. The story teaches that helping others is a perfect way to show God our appreciation for the blessings that we have in our lives. At the end of the morning, the children decorated their own tzedakah boxes. These are sitting in their cubbies in the classroom to dry and should be ready to be taken home next Sunday.

Best wishes for a wonderful week ahead. Joanne


Hi All,

This morning Kitah Aleph students enjoyed tefillah with Cantor Ken. In addition, to our usual tefillot, the children practiced singing the four questions. Cantor Ken also taught them the song for the order of the seder, complete with hand motions. We ended this morning’s tefillah with the singing of Dayenu and the English version of Echad Mi Yodeiya or Who Knows One. Ask your children if they remember what the numbers up to five represent (One is HaShem or God, two are the tablets that Moshe brought, three are the fathers, four are the mothers and five are the books of the Torah). In class, toward the end of the morning, we went over the four questions again this time singing them while following along in the haggadah. The children were able to identify a number of words that they can now read since they have learned so many of the Hebrew letters.

Back in class, we also reviewed many of the symbols of the seder. These symbols include:  the parsley which represents spring; the salt water which reminds us of the tears of the Jewish slaves; the bitter herbs which represents the bitterness of slavery; the charoset which reminds us of the bricks that the slaves had to make; the egg which represents spring and the cycle of the year and the matzah which we eat to remind us that the Jews left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread dough rise. Kitah Aleph students finished up their beautiful Passover placemats and worked on a fun Passover packet. We read the book, The Matzah that Papa Brought Home, by Fran Manushkin with gorgeous illustrations by Ned Bittinger.

During Nitzan’s time with the children, she described Passover in Israel. Nitzan told the children that in Israel, schools are closed for three weeks-the week of Passover and the week before Passover and the week after Passover. She explained that there is no February vacation for the children in Israel so this is their first break since December. It is a time when lots of families take vacation together. Nitzan also said that it is nearly impossible to buy chametz (anything not Kosher for Passover) anywhere in Israel during the holiday and that most of the restaurants switch over to being Kosher for Passover; even Ben and Jerry’s becomes Kosher for Passover. Nitzan played a fun charades game with the children, having them act out various symbols of the holiday.

In Hebrew today, the children learned another new letter, the letter Phey which sounds like the English letter F, and a new vowel tzayreh which is said either as the sound ay or the sound eh, depending on your accent and whether you are Israeli or American. They are getting close to completing their Aleph-Bet workbooks. We have only three more letters to learn and one vowel.

Our next Sunday class is in three weeks, Sunday April 28th.

Best wishes for an enjoyable spring break and a wonderful, fulfilling Passover.
Chag Sameach,



This morning Kitah Aleph students learned two new Hebrew letters: Pay and Samech. Pay makes a sound like the letter P and Samech has a sound similar to a soft S. The children completed the pages in their Aleph-Bet workbooks for these two letters. They then played a tic-tac-toe game with a partner. In the game, the children had to correctly read a Hebrew letter and vowel before they were able to claim a particular space for their X or O.

We had a wonderful visit, as always with Nitzan. She shared a beautiful video of Israel made by a drone with views of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Acre, Massada, the Dead Sea, Be’ersheva and more. Then Nitzan split the children into two teams and gave each team a cut up version of the map of Israel. Each team had to try to put together the map. The first group to finish the map was the winning team. The children seemed to enjoy the challenge and this activity gave them a better sense of the geography of the land of Israel.

Kitah Aleph students practiced singing the four questions using the Haggadah. We then read the questions in English and reviewed the answers.  We also went over the symbols on the Seder plate including the bitter herbs, the salt water, the parsley, the egg and the charoset and why we eat them. Ask your child if they can identify the reasons that we eat those things at the Seder as well as why we eat matzah.  The children worked on some Passover placemats with the symbols on the seder plate written in English and Hebrew. We then read the book: The Ten Plagues of Egypt by Shoshana Lepon which tells the story of the plagues and the exodus from Egypt in verse with some very silly illustrations.

We finished our morning with a wonderful session with Josh Warshawsky, an amazing song leader and rabbinical student from the West Coast. Josh led the children in singing some tunes and prayers that they have learned with Cantor Ken as well as some lovely new tunes in both Hebrew and English, complete with hand motions and even some dance moves.

Best wishes for a wonderful first week in April! Joanne


Hi All,

Wow! Kitah Aleph students have now learned six Hebrew vowels and twenty Hebrew letters. We have only six more letters to learn and a couple of vowels. Today the children learned the Hebrew letter Tet which makes a T sound and the vowel segol which makes an “eh” sound. The children spent time on our usual Hebrew activities: singing the aleph bet song, reviewing letters previously learned, reading some Hebrew letters combined with vowel sounds and working in the aleph bet workbook. In addition, we played an aleph bet bingo game which the children seemed to very much enjoy.

Since Cantor Ken was busy helping second grade practice for Kabbat Siddur, Kitah Aleph combined with the kindergarten class for our own tefillah service. The children did a great job singing Mah Tovu in a round and just generally singing the tefillot. It is hard to believe but Passover is about a month away. We ended tefillah with some Passover songs including the four questions. Our songs included a version of the song “Who Knows One.” If you are not familiar with this song, feel free to check out this video: The version on the video is very close to what we did except that we say: One is HaShem rather than One is God and the chorus is a bit different.

Kitah Aleph students had fun acting out some stories from the beginning of the book of Exodus. We had Baby Moses, Miriam, Yocheved (Moses’ mother) and Pharoah’s daughter right in our classroom. We also learned why Moses had to flee from Egypt and how he ended up meeting his wife Tzipporah. Ask your children to tell you why he had to run away.

We went over some Passover traditions and the reasons for them. For instance we talked about why we eat Matzah and open the door for Elijah at our seders. The children heard the book, Only Nine Chairs, one of my favorite Passover picture books.

Lastly today we did some “catch-up” (or ketchup as I like to call it) work. The children finished up some Purim puppets that we began last week in class and worked on some fun packets around the Joseph story. Make sure to look for those in your child’s backpacks. Next week we will continue to practice the four questions and will learn more about Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush and his return to Egypt.

Have a wonderful week. Best, Joanne


The Kitah Aleph students had a wonderful time this morning at our drumming workshop with Josef Kottler. They had the opportunity to practice drumming and to learn about incorporating rhythm into some of our favorite songs. The children used small drums and shakers and tried out different beats while saying or singing words; for instance, singing the “bim bam” song for Shabbat. They did a great job listening and following Josef’s directions!

In Hebrew today, the children learned the letter yod (which “yells” and makes a Y sound). We also learned two new vowels today: cholam maley and cholam chaser. Cholam maley looks like the letter vav but has a dot over it and makes an “oh” sound. Cholam chaser is just a dot that appear over and a bit to the left of a letter and also makes the “oh” sound. The children read different letters combined with the new vowels for practice and also worked in their aleph-bet workbooks. The children were excited to realize that they can now read the Hebrew for the word "Torah".

Nitzan spent time with the class this morning as well. She shared pictures and descriptions of how Purim is celebrated in Israel. Kitah Aleph children were surprised to learn that there are big Purim parades in Israel. Nitzan also explained  that starting a full week before Purim, the Israeli school children have a special daily fun theme that they follow. So for instance, one day is pajama day and all the children come to school in their pajamas; another day might be crazy hat day and everyone wears crazy hats to school, etc. We also talked about the practice of mishloach manot, giving gifts of food to your neighbors and friends and the importance of matanot l’evyonim or gifts to the poor  as well.

Kitah Aleph students had fun acting out the Purim story together. Children took turns playing the parts of Haman, Mordecai, Esther, Vashti and a score of other minor characters. Each child played multiple roles as we acted out the story in a series of scenes from the megillah. We also watched a brief video re-telling the Purim story. You can find that video here if you would like to watch it with your child:
Please note that we watched the first video on the page entitled: The Purim Story.

At the end of the morning, the children began making some small puppets of the Purim characters which they will finish next Sunday. They also heard the story Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale by Barbara Diamond Goldin.

Have a marvelous week and a joyous Purim! Joanne


Hi All,

It was great to see so many of the children this morning despite the snow and some illnesses that seem to be making the rounds. Our Hebrew letter of the day is the letter Chet. Chet and Chaf make the same guttural back of the throat sound that we do not have in the English language. Chet begins a word that we are familiar with, the word Challah. Today Kitah Aleph students helped me count the letters that we have not yet learned and realized that there are only 7 letters (and some vowels) remaining. As always, we reviewed the letters that we have learned previously.

This morning, we continued to prepare a bit more for the upcoming holiday of Purim. The children sang Purim songs with the Cantor and in class we reviewed the story of Purim. The children decided that Esther and Mordecai were indeed brave upstanders who risked their lives to speak up for the Jewish people. The children are starting to get excited about Purim; a number of them already have begun planning their costumes for next Sunday. Please do remember that the Purim carnival will be next week immediately after Hebrew School.

We played a game with the names of the colors in Hebrew today. Ask your child if he/she can tell you the Hebrew for any of the colors including red (adom), yellow (tza’hov), green (yarok), pink (va’rod), blue (ka’chol) or purple (segol). Kitah aleph students played against me as a group and although the game was close, they won by one point. Kol Hakavod students!

In our torah lesson today, we completed the story of Joseph. The children acted out the part of the story when Joseph’s brothers come down to Egypt because of the famine. He recognizes them but they do not recognize him. Joseph tests his brothers by first insisting that bring Benjamin to him, framing him for theft and threatening to keep him as a slave in punishment. Judah offers to take Benjamin’s place and Joseph sees that the brothers have repented for their treatment of him. He becomes emotional and reveals his true identity to them. The brothers return back to Canaan and bring Jacob and the rest of their families to Egypt. This sets the stage for the story of the Exodus which we will focus on after Purim.

Have a wonderful week! Best, Joanne


Hi All,

It was great to see the children this week back after February vacation. Almost everyone was present which was a treat. As always, we began our morning with each child rolling a ball to another child, greeting him/her with the Hebrew greeting of Boker Tov or Shavua Tov and sharing something about his/her time away from Sunday school. Some children shared activities that they did over vacation and others shared plans for an upcoming event or birthday. In our tefillah time with Cantor Ken, the children have begun using the Halleli Nafshi siddurim designed by faculty and students at Solomon Schechter Day School specifically for children. Now that they know more Hebrew letters, it is becoming a bit easier for the kitah aleph students to follow along with the Hebrew in the siddur. Cantor Ken also began teaching some Purim songs in preparation for the holiday which is now a little more than two weeks away.

Back in our classroom, the children acted out a couple of different stories from the end of the book of Genesis about Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams. Ask your children to tell you about the dreams of the butler, the baker and  Pharoah and what Joseph said that the dreams meant. The children also began a packet with some fun pages about Joseph.

Nitzan spent time with us today. She shared some pictures of her home and her family from her recent visit in Israel. We looked at a map of Israel to see where Nitzan’s home city of Haifa is located in relation to other parts of Israel and the surrounding countries.  Nitzan also showed the children a video about Israel’s first launch of a spacecraft to the moon. She emphasized how exciting this is as Israel is only the fourth country to send a spacecraft to the moon and the other three countries who have done so (the USA, Russia and China) are so much bigger, wealthier and more powerful than Israel.  

In Hebrew today, the children learned the letter nun which makes the same sound as the English letter N. The children completed pages in their aleph-bet workbooks and worked with a partner to review and read the  letters and vowels we have learned so far this year.

We played a fun game of Shimon Omer in Hebrew. The children have become Shimon Omer experts, so much so that I find it hard to trick them into doing the wrong thing. They now know the Hebrew words for hands, head, legs, knees, shoulders, stomach, nose, mouth, eyes and ears. They also know the commands for walking, running, jumping, standing up and sitting down.

Best wishes for a safe, warm and wonderful week ahead. Joanne


Hi All,

In Kitah Aleph this morning, we reviewed the Jewish values we have focused on so far this year. These include: hachnassat orchim (welcoming guests), bikkur cholim (visiting and supporting the sick), sh’mirat ha’lashon(guarding one’s tongue/thinking before we speak and using kind words) and shalom bayit (making and maintaining peace in the our families and with our friends). We talked a little about each of these mitzvot and then watched a video about shalom bayit. Here is a link to the video in case you would like to watch it again with your child:

The children learned another Hebrew letter this morning, the letter ayin. Like the letter aleph, ayin has no sound; it is heard only through the accompanying vowel. The children are doing a wonderful job overall of remembering the names of the Hebrew letters and the sounds that they make. Ask your child to sing Debbie Friedman’s aleph bet song and identify the letters that he/she has learned so far this year.

Kitah aleph students have been decorating construction paper sheets with their Hebrew names. On these sheets, each child has his/her Hebrew name along with pictures of things that he/she finds important in his/her life. Examples include family, pets, sports activities, school, Temple Israel, vacations and more. Come into our classroom the next time we meet to take a peek at these lovely pictures as they go up on our bulletin board. We have talked about the importance and significance of our names and related this to the story of God changing Jacob’s name to Yisrael in the torah. Today during our torah study, we reviewed the story of Joseph’s dreams from last week. Then the children acted out the part of the torah when Joseph’s brothers throw him in a pit and sell him to the passing Ishmaelites.

We had a quick practice lockdown drill this morning as well. The children did a great job of following directions as they did last week during our evacuation drill.

In tefilah this morning, the children spent time examining the Halleli Nafshi siddur at some length. We looked at the pictures and related them to the meaning of the prayers that we say every week. The children recognized many of the Hebrew letters we know within the tefillot we say each Sunday. Even though Purim is not for a while, we sang our first Purim song today.

Best wishes for a wonderful, health and enjoyable February break. Joanne


Hi All,

This morning we continued learning torah and went over the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. We talked together about what it must have been like for Joseph to grow up in a household with 12 siblings. Kitah Aleph students thought it was probably quite noisy, busy and messy in that household. The children also agreed that it was not fair or right of Jacob to pick out favorite children and the children understood that Joseph’s brothers felt angry and jealous of his status as the favorite son. We acted out parts of the story together and left off (to be continued) when the brothers threw Joseph in the pit and then sold him to the passing Ishmaelite traders.  We also talked about the importance of names in relation to Jacob’s earlier name change to the name Israel. Kitah Aleph students each shared a bit about their names both English and Hebrew. Each child then began a picture with his/her Hebrew name and the people and things that are most important to him/her. We will continue working on these next week.

We learned another Hebrew letter, the letter tzadee which makes a sound similar to the letter combination of “ts” in English. The children were excited to finally learn a new Hebrew vowel, a chirik, which is one single dot and makes a long “e” sound. We then practiced putting the chirik vowel together with the letters that we have learned previously.

In tefilah this morning, Cantor Ken talked about and showed the children his tallit and tefillin. We were able to see the framed copy of the parchment pieces inside the tefillin as well which was very “cool.” The cantor showed the children how to put on and take off tefillin and I think they are excited about learning to do that themselves when they are older.

Nitzan visited today as well and talked to the children about the Dead Sea. She explained that it is called the Dead Sea because the water is so salty that no fish can live in it. The children had many questions including some technical ones about how much saltier it is than other bodies of water and what items might float verses sink when placed in the Dead Sea.

Best wishes for a warmer and wonderful week ahead! Joanne


Hi All,

This morning the children learned the Hebrew letter koof which makes the same sound as the Hebrew letter kaf and the English letter K. The children have now learned fourteen Hebrew letters which means that they know more than half of the aleph bet! Ask your child to read to you from the reading practice sheet that they took home today.

We took the opportunity to extend our celebration of Tu B’shvat to this morning. We sang some Tu B’shvat songs with Cantor Ken at the end of our tefillah time. Then we came together with the preK and K class and  Nitzan told the children a Tu B’shvat story. Both classes together made a paper tree complete with leaves filled with Jewish values.

Kitah Aleph students had fun playing a game with Hebrew colors and also playing Shimon Omer. Our Shimon Omer game got a little silly when I asked the children to put their noses on their knees and their ears on their shoulders (all done in Hebrew of course).

We concluded our morning with torah study. We continued the story of Jacob and learned about his return trip from Haran to his homeland and his meeting with his brother Eisav. The children heard the story of Jacob wrestling with a man and we discussed different ideas about the identity of that “man.”  Some children thought the man was definitely a messenger from God. We learned about some alternate interpretations of that story, for instance, that the man was really Eisav who came to wrestle with Jacob or that the man who wrestled with Jacob wasn’t really a man at all but Jacob wrestling with his own conscience about what he had done in tricking his brother out of his inheritance. In the end, we noted that the two brothers made peace with each other. I read the children a book called Sharing a Sunshine Umbrella which is about two friends who argue and then make up. We talked about the importance of making peace with friends and siblings after a quarrel and the Jewish saying that you should love peace and chase after it. It isn’t enough to just want peace but you have to actively facilitate peaceful solutions to conflict. On that note, I wish you all a peaceful and fulfilling week. Best, Joanne


Hi All,

We began this morning with our usual morning meeting which includes a greeting in Hebrew, attendance and reviewing the daily schedule in Hebrew and English. I reminded the children that there is no Hebrew school next Sunday but we will meet again in two weeks.  Tefillah with Cantor Ken was spirited as usual and included some songs for the upcoming holiday of Tu B’shvat. An extra special piece of our time with Cantor Ken was an opportunity to look at the inside of a haftorah scroll and compare it to the inside of a torah. For me personally, this was especially exciting as I have never seen a haftorah scroll before. Many of you probably already know this but this haftorah scroll was at Temple Israel in honor of Men’s Club Shabbat yesterday. The children noticed that unlike the torah scroll, the haftorah scroll included vowels. Both kinds of scrolls have trop or musical notations. The letters in the haftorah scroll do not have the beautiful crowns that adorn some of the letters in the torah scroll, however.

Back in our classroom, we played some games in Hebrew and had a visit from Nitzan. She played a game with the children to teach them about Tu B’shvat. Nitzan also taught the children some new Hebrew words including P’ree (fruit) and Eytz (tree). As always, we reviewed the Hebrew letters we have learned and learned a new one, the letter vav which makes the sound “v” just like the letter vet.  Today we counted the letters in the Hebrew alphabet and came up with the number 26 including the letters that look similar but are pronounced differently, for instance vet and bet. Ask your child to read to you from the Hebrew reading sheet that he/she brought home today.

We read the book As Good As Anybody by Richard Michelson which is a boy that tells parallel stories of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. The book describes how they both faced discrimination as children because of who they were and how they came together to march in support of civil rights. The children were fascinated by this true story of friendship and standing up against injustice.

We completed our morning with an activity packet for Tu B’shvat while listening to some Tu B’shvat songs. Here is a link to a site on Spodify with some children’s songs for the holiday

In two weeks, we will have a Tu B’shvat seder led by Nitzan in honor of the holiday! We will be tasting lots of different fresh fruits.

Enjoy the long weekend next weekend and I look forward to seeing your children again in two weeks.


Hi All,

We had a very busy morning today in Kitah Aleph. We began our morning with our usual morning meeting. We reviewed today’s schedule in English and Hebrew, greeted each other with Boker Tov and shared highlights of our vacations. We played a quick game of Simon Says in Hebrew. Then we went off to join the pre-K/K class and second grade in the sanctuary for tefilah with Cantor Ken. In addition to our usual tefilot, we sang a few songs in preparation for the upcoming holiday of Tu B’shvat which this year will fall on the same day as Martin Luther King Day. Back in our classroom, we talked about why trees and important and why we have a holiday for trees. The children helped make a list of reasons we need trees. This included: trees give us fruit, nuts, maple syrup, paper, wood for houses and furniture, oxygen to breathe, homes for animals and they help prevent soil erosion. We talked about the importance of trees to the early chalutzim or pioneers who first built the state of Israel. Then we watched a video about Honi Ha’Ma’agal, Honi the circle marker, who learned about the importance of paying it forward, planting trees for future generations. Here is a link to the video online in case you want to watch it with your child:

In Hebrew, we sang the aleph bet song and reviewed the letters we have learned so far. We also learned the letter aleph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet which is silent. The children worked on some pages in their Hebrew books and read to a partner. I met with them each individually as well to go over the letters and their sounds.  When Nitzan came in today, she played a matching game with the children. The game was made up of Hebrew words that Nitzan has been teaching them. Ask your child to share one or two Hebrew words that he/she has learned from Nitzan. These include: har/mountain, yam/sea, sheket/quiet, mishpacha/family, yabasha/dry land, rikud/dance, yad/hand and others.

We reviewed some of the mitzvot or good deeds that we have been learning about this year. We have learned about welcoming guests/hachnassat orchim, visiting the sick/bikkur cholim and our most recent mitzvah, shmirat halev/guarding the tongue. The children read and answered a booklet about guarding one’s tongue; please ask them to show it to you.

Lastly today, Kitah Aleph students enjoyed acting out some torah stories. Everyone had a chance to act in at least one story. We covered the story of Jacob fleeing from his home and dreaming of a ladder with angels going up and down, the story of Jacob meeting Rachel at the well and lastly Jacob being tricked by Lavan into marrying Leah first before getting to marry Rachel.

Have a wonderful week.


Hi all,

This morning we had tefilah with Cantor Ken as usual. After tefilah, we stayed in the sanctuary with the second grade and talked about how a torah is made. The children learned the word parchment and got to touch and see a torah up close. The children had many thoughtful questions about the torah including who writes it, why some of the letters had crowns and many more. Ask your child why we use the silver yad or pointer when reading the torah rather than touching it with our fingers.

In Hebrew, the children learned the new letter dalet. Dalet has a dent (which distinguishes it from the letter resh) and makes a sound similar to the English letter D. As always, we reviewed the letters that we have already learned. We also played the color game and Shimon Omer. We began working on the Hebrew for jump, sit and run in addition to the parts of the body we have been working on for a while.

Unfortunately, Nitzan was not feeling well today so we missed our time with her. We reviewed earlier parts of the story of Jacob and Eisav and the birthright and continued the story including Rebecca and Jacob tricking Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing meant for Eisav. We watched a short video from Godcast re-telling this story. You can find the video at (it is the second one on the site; the one by Nechama Tamler).

We began some discussion of the Jewish value of sh’mirat ha’lashon or guarding one’s tongue. Each child wrote something kind on a slip of paper, folded it up and put the paper in a container. The children then took turns picking out one kind thing that someone had said and reading it out loud. We read the book: The Shema in the Mezzuzah; Listening to Each Other.

Many thanks to you all for the generous amazon gift card! Have a wonderful vacation and I look forward to being back with the children in the new year.



Happy Chanukkah to you all on this the last night of the holiday. Today in first grade we learned the Hebrew letter vet. Vet looks exactly like the letter bet except it is missing a dot and consequently has the sound of the English letter v rather than the sound of the English letter b. The children are doing a fabulous job overall remembering the letters that we have learned so far this year.

We had tefilah this morning with kindergarten and second grade as usual. However we were missing Cantor Ken, as he was busy at minyan. We discovered together that many of the children have been lighting their very own Chanukkiot this holiday and a number of them use Chanukkiot that they themselves made. We also discovered that most of the children have the shema hidden in their houses somewhere. Ask your child if he/she remembers where the shema is tucked away in your house.

The children finished up work on their Chanukkah fun packets and decorated dreidels with Chanukkah stickers. Please ask your child to show you the lovely tissue paper, “stained glass” dreidels that we made last week. We watched a somewhat silly but also informative video on the history of Chanukkah. You can catch it here if you want to watch it with your child: Please note that the video we watched is entitled: God Cast Spins Chanukah and can be found partway down this link.

We had great fun at the Chanukah party with the rest of the school this morning. We sang the Chanukkah blessings and many Chanukkah songs with Cantor Ken and the rest of the school. The children played with the dreidels at our table and pretty much everyone had their fill of yummy latkes, apple sauce and apple cider. Many, many thanks to the brotherhood for preparing and serving this delicious feast.

Back in the classroom, we finished our morning with two wonderful Chanukakh books: Nathan Blows out the Hanukkah Candles and The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes.

Next week we will resume our torah stories with more about Jacob and Esau and will learn the Hebrew letter Dalet.  Have a great week! 



Hi All and Happy Chanukkah!

First grade students reviewed the Chanukkah blessings and sang Chanukkah songs today with the cantor. From Nitzan, we  learned a bit about how Chanukkah is celebrated in Israel.  The children especially enjoyed playing a charades game with Nitzan acting out some of the symbols of Chanukkah. They learned that in Israel, Chanukkah is a time when we think about heroes. Each child shared a personal hero like a parent, sibling or grandparent and what makes that person heroic. We made “stained glass” dreidel pictures which are currently drying in the classroom and worked on Chanukkah fun packets. The children listened to one of my favorite Chanukkah stories, the Chanukkah Guest. Ask your children if they can tell you the Chanukkah trivia question they learned today during tefillah. We all are looking forward to continuing to celebrate Chanukkah next Sunday with latkes and other treats.

In Hebrew today, the children learned a new Hebrew letter, chaf. Chaf is tricky because it looks exactly like kaf but is missing a dot. The mnemonic for chaf is that it has a cough (in contrast to kaf which has a cough drop). Another challenging thing about chaf is that it makes a sound that we do not have in English. Overall, the children are remembering the letters we have learned beautifully. Since we meet only once a week, I do not really expect them to learn to read this year but I do hope that they will become familiar with most if not all of the letters and be able to name at least many of them.

In our torah lesson this week, we acted out the story of Eliezer meeting Rebecca at the well. The children also learned of the birth of Jacob and Eisav and how Eisav traded his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew. To be continued…

Best wishes for a delightful Chanukkah!



Hi All,

Our new Hebrew today was the letter resh which has a round back and makes the sound “r.” The letter resh begins the Hebrew expression “Refuah she’laymah” which one says when wishing someone a speedy recovery from illness. In class today we began to learn a bit about the mitzvah of bikkur cholim, visiting the sick. The rabbis tell the story that God demonstrated this mitzvah by visiting Abraham when he was not well. Today the children made get well cards to be kept at TI. These will be sent out to students and faculty at the school who are sick during the year. In our study of Torah today, we reviewed the story of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, who goes to find a wife for Isaac. He determines that Rebecca is the right person to marry Isaac after she not only offers to give him water but offers to give water to all 10 of his camels. The children concluded that Rebecca’s offer to draw water for all of Eliezer’s camels showed that she was a kind person who was good at sharing. KItah aleph students enjoyed our weekly game of Simon Says in Hebrew. We have now learned the Hebrew words for eyes, ears, nose, mouth, head, shoulders, stomach, knees and feet. Ask your child which ones he/she can tell you. We also played a game with the Hebrew names of the colors. The children practiced the blessings on the Chanukkah candles during tefillah with Cantor Ken and then again at the end of our class. It is hard to believe but the next time we meet will be on Sunday December 2nd. Chanukkah will begin that evening. We finished our morning with the book: Potato Pancakes All Around by Marilyn Hirsh.  Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. 



Hi All,

Happy Veteran’s Day weekend. We began our morning we the story of Abraham “arguing” with God about God’s plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The children listened to the story and we discussed how brave Abraham was to question God’s plan. Abraham challenged God not to destroy two whole cities given the possibility that there were some good/innocent people living in those cities as well as the “wicked” people. We talked about Abraham as an upstander like other upstanders the children know about (Dr. Martin Luther King and Ruby Bridges were two upstanders mentioned today). We will talk about more upstanders, both within and outside of the torah, as we continue our studies this year.

Kitah Aleph students had the opportunity to meet and hear from three members of Temple Israel who are veterans. One of these veterans is the grandfather of one of our own Kitah Aleph students. We ended our Veteran’s Day assembly with the singing of Oseh Shalom and our wish for peace.

In Hebrew, the children reviewed the letters we have done so far and learned a new letter, the letter Hey. At this point, even knowing only 6 letters and a couple vowels, the children were able to read a few very short Hebrew words.

Nitzan spent time with us as usual today. Nitzan’s lesson focused on different places in Israel. The children played a matching game with pictures of some different places. Ask your child how to say mountain in Hebrew and to tell you the name of the mountain near where Nitzan lives in Israel. Hint: it sounds a bit like something you put on a hot fudge sundae and starts with the letter c.

Believe it or not, we have only one more Sunday of Kitah Aleph before we start Chanukkah. We did a very quick review of the story of Chanukkah by watching a video:

We talked about the fact that the Chanukkah miracle was not only partly related to the fact that the small jar of oil that was meant to be enough for only one day actually lasted for eight days. The other miraculous part of the Chanukkah story was that the small army of Jews was able to defeat the mighty Assyrian forces. As part of our preparation for Chanukkah, we practiced the candle blessings and heard The Magic Dreidels by Eric Kimmel. Next week, we will continue to practice the candle blessings and learn more about Chanukkah.

Have a wonderful week.
Best, Joanne


Hi All,

This morning in Kitah Aleph, the children learned a new Hebrew letter, the letter kaf which makes a sound like the English letter K. As we do every week, we reviewed the other letters we have learned so far this year and the children practiced sounding out individual letters and the two vowels we know. We also have been working on singing the Debbie Friedman Aleph Bet song to help facilitate the children’s recognition of all of the Hebrew letters. Ask your child to sing the song for you.

For a little reminder here is a link to Debbie Friedman singing the song:
Please note that I do not do the English parts of the song with the children but rather we sing only the part that pertains directly to the Aleph Bet itself.

We reviewed the story of Abraham and Sarah welcoming the strangers to their tent and the mitzvah of hachnassat orchim today as well. We watched a fun video about this mitzvah and the children read a booklet and did some fun pages as well. Here is a link to the video on the site called Bimbam which has many videos about torah stories and mitzvot:

In other news from Kitah Aleph, we played Shimon Omer, Simons Says in Hebrew, as we continue to learn the parts of the body in Hebrew. The children also played a game with Nitzan similar to Duck, Duck Goose but using the word Arnevet (bunny) and the Hebrew colors. The children played a second game to work on learning the colors in Hebrew as well. We will be continuing to play both Shimon Omer and the color game in the coming weeks to reinforce and expand the children’s knowledge of these Hebrew words.

It is hard to believe but later this week, we will begin the new Hebrew month of Kislev which is the month in which Chanukkah falls. In tefillot this morning, Cantor Ken started reviewing the blessings for the Chanukkah candles. We will be going over these blessings as we go forward and get closer to the holiday.

Best wishes for a peaceful week ahead,



Hi All,

Today in Kitah Aleph we reviewed the Hebrew letters bet, tav, mem and shin and learned a new letter, lamed. The children all took turns reading and did a wonderful job pairing the letters with the two vowels we have learned (the kamatz and the patach which both make the sound “ah”). Each letter has a mnemonic device to help the children remember the letter and the sound it makes. The mnemonic for lamed is that lamed has a lap. We had a fun visit from Nitzan who taught the children three slang expressions in Hebrew: yalla (which means “let’s go”); sabbaba (which roughly translates as “cool” or “it’s good”) and achla (which means “good”). In tefillah, we practiced the sign language for the shema. Ask your child to show you how to sign the words of the shema. We also sang a fun song about Noah and his ark. Back in our classroom, the children acted out Lech Lecha, the parsha in which  God tells Abraham and Sarah to leave their home and go to the land of Israel. The children talked about moves that they have made and what it felt like to have to move to a new house or town. The children also acted out the story of the visit by the three angels to Abraham and Sarah. We talked about the mitzvah of Hachnassat Orchim, or welcoming guests, that the rabbis say we learned from how Abraham and Sarah welcomed these three strangers to their tent. The children shared what they do to make guests feel welcome at home. We learned the Hebrew term for welcome: bruchim ha’baim and made signs with those words. We also reviewed what we learned about Shabbat last week and finished reading the book: Mrs. Moskowitz and the Shabbat Candles, one of my personal favorite books about Shabbat. Next week we will go on to learn the letter kaf and continue the story of Abraham and Sarah.

Have a wonderful week! 



This week in Kitah Aleph we learned a new Hebrew letter, מ  (Mem), and our first vowels. Ask your student where the vowels go! We also discovered that using our new vowels we can now read the word שבת (Shabbat) in Hebrew. We decided that was great timing since we started learning about Shabbat this week. We talked about when Shabbat starts and ends and what special things we do for Shabbat, like lighting candles and eating challah. We talked about how some people won’t ride in cars or spend money on Shabbat. For our Torah study, we reviewed creation then went on to learn about Noah and how he saved two of every animal and even saved seeds to plant when the Earth dried out after the flood. We even read a silly story about Noah’s Bark! Cantor Ken wasn’t there to lead us in Tefillah, but we sang our prayers without him and did a great job. We missed getting to visit with our Shinshin, Nitzan, as she was travelling back from Israel, but are looking forward to getting to spend time with her next week.


Hi All,

It was wonderful to be back with the children today at Temple Israel. We reviewed the Hebrew letter bet and learned two new letters: tav and shin. Ask your children to tell the sounds that the two letters make. Today we also reviewed the story of creation from the book of Bereshit. We read a beautifully illustrated book titled Genesis which uses word directly from the Torah and illustrations by Ed Young. We sang  a Hebrew song about creation and also did a creation chant/rap (see the words below). The children then each chose a day of creation to illustrate. When you have a moment, please come into our classroom to check out our days of creation wall. As usual, the children had tefillah in the sanctuary with Cantor Ken. We took a few extra minutes with the Cantor to look at the beautiful torahs in their covers and to learn about more about a number of items in and around the ark including the eternal light, the torah pointers and crowns. The children had some great questions for Cantor Ken. Finally we played Simon Says in Hebrew and read Once Upon A Shabbos as an introduction to next week’s lesson about Shabbat. Our shinshin, Nitzan was away this week but will be back with us next Sunday.  Have a wonderful week! Joanne

Here is the creation chant/rap we learned:

Once upon a time it was right in the start
God said I’m gonna make light and dark

God said, (do two quick claps here) it’s the ____________ (fill in with first, second, third etc) day
And I did very good work today

Once upon a time
It was day number 2
The waters they parted, the heavens came through

Once upon a time
It was day number 3
The land appeared all covered with trees

Once upon a time
It was day number 4
The sun and the moon and the stars galore
Once upon a time
It was day number 5
The fish in the seas and the birds in the skies

Once upon a time
It was day number 6
The people and the animals were here to mix
Once upon a time
It was day number 7
God said:  I finished the earth and the heavens
God said: sh…sh…it’s the 7th day and I’m gonna rest all day today (2Xs)


Hi All,

We had a very busy morning today in Kitah Aleph. We joined the rest of the religious school and other members of the TI community in the sukkah this morning for hallel. Then after learning a bit about the holiday of hoshana rabba, each child was given a willow branch and allowed to beat it on the ground. We listened to the sound of the beating of the willows, which sounds a bit like the rain we begin to pray for starting tomorrow on Shemini Atzeret.  Back in class, we met our shinshin, Nitzan, who played a number of “getting to know you” games with the children. The children learned three new Hebrew words (mishpacha-family; rikud-dance and machzor-cycle/the siddur we use on the high holidays).  The children had snack and heard the book, The Sukkah on the Roof. We began our study of the Hebrew alphabet today with the letter Bet and the children did the first pages in their Hebrew workbooks. Finally, we had a chance to sing with Cantor Ken in preparation for Simchat Torah. The cantor taught the children how to sing the beginning of the first hoshana for erev Simchat Torah (Monday evening services).

A couple of reminders: There is no school next Sunday October 7th as it is Columbus Day weekend. I look forward to seeing your children on the 14th when we will learn another letter of the aleph-bet and begin to review Torah stories from the beginning of the book of Genesis. We do have a couple of children with food allergies in our class so please be extra careful that whatever your child brings for snack is free of nuts and nut residue!

Chag Sameah,

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