Sunday, May 12, 2019

Grade 7/Kitah Zayin/ Gesher 2018-2019









11-19-19

Dear Parents,

We had another productive week to report on.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we continued with our study of the weekly Torah Portion of Va’era, and Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers.

For the Torah Portion, we learned the texts  (attached) that show how Abraham was, in his own way, an immigrant and a refugee, and started learning about asylum seekers and refugees in the U.S. and Israel. We watched two short videos – one on asylum seekers in the U.S., and one on Sudanese refugees in Israel, to learn how these issues are relevant today. You can find them here:


This week, we’ll be continuing this subject as part of our study of Parashat Chayei Sarah.

For Pirkei Avot, we discussed Chapter 1, Mishna 8, regarding the attitude of Judges towards those who stand before them for Judgment. The text and questions are attached. Our discussion included how our system is different, since Jewish Courts in the time of the Mishna did not have lawyers or juries, and Judges had extra responsibility to be impartial and investigate the truth.

On Sunday, we first began our Life Cycle study of honoring and caring for elderly in Jewish tradition, in preparation for our trip to Shillman House next Sunday. We viewed a short video on elder care in America (https://youtu.be/oLKTThGrAxw); and then reviewed the attached biblical and rabbinic texts on Jewish attitudes towards the elderly.

For the remainder of Sunday morning, the students enjoyed the family Bnei Mitzvah program with Moving Traditions, Rabbi Liben, and Cantor Ken.
This coming week, on Tuesday/Wednesday, we’ll continue learning Parashat Hashavua (Chayei Sarah) and Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1. On Sunday, after our Life Cycle lesson and Tefillah, we’ll be going to Shillman House in Framingham for a “Tech Café” Mitzvah Project, to help the residents learn how to use e-mail, skype, Office programs and mobile phone apps.

Over the coming weeks, we will be getting into our Jewish History/Holocaust unit on Sundays in earnest. I’ll be providing an outline of dates and lesson topics – the curriculum is cumulative, so it’s important that the kids try their best not to miss any of those classes.

Please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school each day with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Best wishes,

Gerry
_________________________
Gerald S. Frim

(857)234-0725

11-12-19

Dear Parents,

This past week was a busy one

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we continued with our study of the weekly Torah Portion Noach, and Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers.

For the Torah Portion, we reviewed the story of Noah and the flood, and considered the question of what it meant that Noah was a “righteous man in his generation,” with a discussion of how Noah, who walked “with God,” was different from Abraham, who walked “before God.” The material we reviewed in attached and you can see the videos we watched here:

For Pirkei Avot, we discussed Chapter 1, Mishna 6&7, regarding the meaning of friendship, and choosing friends and teachers wisely. The material we reviewed, and questions discussed, are attached.

On Sunday, we continued our Life Cycle unit on Jewish Birth Customs, and discussed Brit Milah/Circumcision and baby namings. The students were asked to speak with you about their own Birth Stories – our source material and the Birth Story worksheet are attached.

After Life Cycle, we had a moving program Veterans’ Day program with a panel of Veterans. The students asked great questions, and heard what it was like to be Jewish in the military. Picture is attached.

After music/Tefilah with Anna, we continued with our Jewish History unit on Jewish Identity, and how we relate to differences between people. We read three case studies and discussed the various elements of a Jewish identity, and how Jews relate differently to their heritage, whether through religion, culture, or community. The material we reviewed is attached.

Before dismissal, our Shinshin, Yahav, educated the kids about Israeli sports through an awesome game of Israeli Jeopardy.

This coming week, we’ll continue learning Parashat Hashavua (Lech Lecha) and Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1 On Sunday, after our Life Cycle lesson, we have a special Family Bnei Mitzvah Program with Moving Traditions, starting at 10:00 a.m. The following Sunday, on November 24, we’ll be having class until 10:30 a.m., and then leaving for a Tech Café Mitzvah Project at Shillman House on Framingham.

Over the coming weeks, we will be getting into our Jewish History/Holocaust unit on Sundays in earnest. I’ll be providing an outline of dates and lesson topics – the curriculum is cumulative, so it’s important that the kids try their best not to miss any of those classes.

Please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school each day with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Best wishes,

Gerry
_________________________
Gerald S. Frim

(857)234-0725

11-5-19

Dear Parents,

It was great seeing all your kids this past week.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we continued with our study of the weekly Torah Portion Bereisheet/Genesis, and Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers.

For the Torah Portion, we continued our study of Genesis/Bereisheet. We viewed Bim Bam videos on Bereisheet, discussing the nature of light as goodness, and how the Tower of Babel story teaches us about listening to one another with compassion. You can find them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4hEvag2MmY

For Pirkei Avot, we finished reading the attached article about how Jewish learning is different from general studies, and how it affects our Jewish lives. We then discussed designing the “perfect” Jewish Religious School.

On Sunday, we began our unit on Jewish Birth Rituals and customs. We viewed three very short videos on Jewish birth customs, and baby naming, and discussed their relationship to the covenant with God. You can find them here:

We then had a surprise, when Bar, our Shin Shin from two years ago, came in for a brief visit!

After Tefilah, we began our Jewish History unit that will lead to our study of the Holocaust. For this lesson, we began discussing what elements are part of a person’s identity, and how tolerance means accepting differences. First, the students received their Journal notebooks, and began to develop an Identity Chart for themselves. Then the students read articles in four groups, and explained to each other what characteristics and experiences shape identity.

For the last part of the morning, our Shinshin Yahav taught the kids Israeli games in the courtyard.
This coming week, we’ll continue learning Parashat Hashavua (Noach) and Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1, Mishnayot 6 & 7, about relatiohships and friendship. On Sunday, we’ll continue to learn about Jewish birth customs, and continue our discussion of Jewish identity.

Please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school each day with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Best wishes,

Gerry
_________________________
Gerald S. Frim
(857)234-0725

10-29-19

Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids after the holidays this past week.

On Wednesday, we continued with our study of the weekly Torah Portion and Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. We also conducted a brief review of the Jewish calendar, holidays and how it differs from the secular Gregorian calendar.

For the Torah Portion, we began our study of Genesis/Bereisheet. We started with viewing a Bim Bam video on Bereisheet, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps96bsOOppo

We then spent some time reviewing a brief summary of the Parasha, and answering some questions regarding its content, which are attached. This coming week, we’ll continue talking about Bereisheet, but a more serious discussion of some of the ethics involved in the creation of the world.

For Pirkei Avot, we began to read the attached article about how Jewish learning is different from general studies, and how it affects our Jewish lives. We’ll continue with the article this week, and then spend some time designing the “perfect” Jewish Religious School.

Today, we participated in the Jewish Teen Initiative’s day of service learning at Temple Beth Am in Framingham. The students did amazing work on a variety of projects, from building collection boxes and benches, to coloring welcoming murals, and sorting clothes to prepare school care packages for immigrant and indigent families. The attached photos are from the program.

This coming Sunday, as Robin has announced, we have a family program at the Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikvah in Newton. We will be learning about the place of the Mikvah in Jewish tradition, and why it is important. The program at Mayyim Hayyim is from 9:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Please meet us at Mayyim Hayyim, 1838 Washington St, Auburndale, MA 02466.

For home questions, please talk to your kids about what they learning at the service project this morning, and ask how and why the Jewish community has responsibility to help disadvantaged and immigrant families.

Please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school each day with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Best wishes,

Gerry
_________________________
Gerald S. Frim
(857)234-0725

10-20-19


Dear Parents,

It’s been good seeing your kids during the holidays. We’ve enjoyed a great Tashlich event, our Sukkot Round Robin last Wednesday, and this morning’s Hallel service and visit to Rabbi Liben’s Sukkah.

A couple of notes on upcoming events:
  1. Last Sunday, the students worked with Cantor Ken to learn their parts for the Simchat Torah service tomorrow evening. It will be a lot of fun – please try to come with your kids.
  2. On Wednesday, we will be having school as usual. There is no class on Tuesday this week due to the Simchat Torah holiday.
  3. Next Sunday, October 27, 2019, grades 6 and 7, together with you, are invited to participate in the MetroWest Day of Service at Temple Beth Shalom in Framingham, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Robin has sent information in her weekly email. If you have not already done so, please register on the website in Robin’s email.
  4. On Sunday, November 3, 2019, you and your child are invited to a special program for the seventh grade class at the Mayyim Hayyim Mikvah in Newton. Please plan on meeting us at Mayyim Hayyim at 9:45 a.m. that morning.
  5. On Sunday, November 24, 2019, the seventh grade will be going to Shillman House mid-morning to present a “Tech Café” for residents, as a Mitzvah project. More information to follow.
Best wishes for a Chag Same’ach – happy holiday,

Gerry

9-24-19


Dear Parents,
It was great having a full week of classes with your kids.
This week we dove right into our curricula for the year.
  1. On Tuesday and Wednesday:
    1. to start the afternoon, Robin introduced the kids to quiet meditation, with a minute of reflection at the beginning of our Tefillah session. We then retired to our classrooms.
    2. Our classroom studies included a half-hour introduction to the sacred books of Judaism, including how the first five books of the Torah are divided up into 54 separate weekly Torah portions. We then spent some time learning about this past week’s parasha of Ki Tavo, which includes the blessings and curses received by the Israelites upon their entry into the Land of Canaan. You can see the Bim Bam video we watched at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1_ymiQr34E
    3. We then moved on to our study of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. We first had an introduction into how it is a book in one of the six tractates of the Mishna, that provides a guide for ethical behavior, rather than laws. The kids learned how the Mishna is part of the “oral Torah” transmitted through the generations, and is a commentary on the laws in the Pentateuch, just as the Gemara is a commentary on the Mishna. As we will be doing this year, the students then read the first Mishna in Pirkei Avot, and started developing their own commentary on it. Our source sheet/worksheet is attached.
    4. Our final weekday segment was a lesson on Modern Hebrew. We learned the many ways to greet people in Hebrew, based on a podcast from “Streetwise Hebrew” (vocabulary list is attached): https://tlv1.fm/streetwise-hebrew/2019/06/25/shalom-stranger/
  2. On Sunday, we continued our Life Cycle curriculum with a lesson on Jewish life events as part of our covenant with God. We discussed the nature of a “covenant” as a deal between God and the Jewish people, and worked on finding the different covenants in the books of the Torah. Our definition sheet and worksheet are attached. We then prepared some Sukkah decorations with the Sisterhood, and had our weekly Tefilah. Unfortunately, our Shin Shin, Yahav, was under the weather this week, but we spent the last part of class on an introduction to our Jewish History curriculum. We viewed a short video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGs75M5LpPc) on what is included in Jewish history, and then worked with the attached timeline and worksheet to identify the dates of significant Jewish events:
This coming week, on Tuesday Wednesday we’ll be continuing our study of Parashat Hashavua/Weekly Torah portion, Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, and Modern Hebrew.
For home questions, please talk to your kids about what they’ve learned about the Torah, both written and oral, and asked them how to say “hello” to a stranger in Hebrew.

This Sunday, we do not have class, and we’ll be missing Tuesday next week for Rosh Hashana. The following Sunday is our annual off-site Tashlikh program (details to follow from Robin).

Please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Shana tova – best wishes for a sweet and happy New Year,


Gerry
_________________________
Gerald S. Frim

(857)234-0725


9-18-19


Dear Parents,
It was great meeting your kids this past week -  I’m looking forward to a great year.
Our programs this past week served as a great introduction to school this year.
  1. On Tuesday and Wednesday, after a brief introduction from Robin, the sixth and seventh graders prepared the booth activities for our annual kickoff Apple and Honey Olympics. The kids got to do a variety of games and crafts using their apples, earning coins they could contribute to a Tzedakah/Charity that they chose. The recipients included both local and national organizations, such as Jewish National Fund, Metrowest Jewish Family Service, Maccabi USA, and others.
  2. On Sunday, we had our first time together as a whole class. We first reviewed our Class Brit/Rules (attached), and related Rabbinic texts regarding mutual respect and good behavior. We then began our discussion of the Jewish Life Cycle by starting to review texts from Genesis on the birth of the world, and how it relates to Rosh Hashana and also the human life cycle. The texts are attached. We then had a great Tefillah session with our new songleader, Anna, and then returned to the classroom to meet our new ShinShin/Israeli emissary, Yahav.
This coming week, on Tuesday Wednesday we’ll be starting to learn about the weekly Torah portion, Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, and some modern Hebrew. As an introduction, the class will begin learning their way around the actual texts in the Torah, and how they are interpreted. We’ll also be learning about how Pirkei Avot is part of the Mishna and Talmud, and how commentary on them has developed. On Sunday, we’ll be starting our study of the Jewish Life Cycle and Jewish History in earnest.

For home questions, please talk to your kids about their Jewish birth stories, and ask them how they think that connects them to being part of the Jewish “story”.

Please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry



5-12-19


Dear parents,

This past Sunday was our last full morning together, with the Siyyum coming up this week.

On Sunday, we spent the first part of the morning preparing out Tefilah service for the Siyyum, and finishing up presentations.

After Tefilah, we had a great session with Nitzan, with an art activity on what the students would like to see when in Israel.

During the last part of the morning, we reviewed what we learned this year in a game of "Jewish Life Cycle Jeopardy."

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Best wishes,

Gerry

5-5-19


Dear Parents,

As we prepare for our end-of-year events, we had an active Sunday morning this week:
  1. We spent the first and last parts of the morning reviewing each student’s part in the Tefilah/Service at our Siyum on May 19. I’ll be sending out the assignments in a separate email.
  2. We then had a special extended Tefillah Drumming Circle with Josef Kottler. The students learned how the drum rhythms can enhance the words of the prayers, including “halleluyah,” “modeh ani,” and “v’ahavta.”
  3. After Tefillah we continued with our Life Cycle curriculum, to learn about the Kaddish prayer, and how it serves as a link for generations, and a way to elevate the memories of loved ones we have lost. The Kaddish has no reference to death or dying, but only speaks to exalting God’s name. We read a Rabbinic Midrash about Rabbi Akiva, and a letter from Henrietta Szold on why she insisted on fulfilling the obligation of Kaddish herself for her mother, instead of delegating the responsibility to a man. The readings are attached.
For next week, please encourage your kids to review their parts in the Tefillah service. We’ll be spending time preparing during the morning on Sunday.\

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Happy Yom Ha’atzma’ut!

Thanks,

Gerry



4-28-19


Dear Parents,

I hope you all had a great Passover holiday. It was great seeing your kids again after the Spring Break. On Sunday morning, we spent the first 90 minutes at the Temple:

1.    We discussed our visit to Shillman House and what to expect.
2.    We then began preparing our Tefillah Service for the Siyum Program on May 17. It should be great – I hope we’ll see you all there. For those kids who were not present this past week, we’ll finish assigning parts of the service this coming Sunday.
3.    During Tefillah, we began practicing our assigned parts of the service.
4.    At 10:30 a.m., we left for Shillman House. The kids first met with Jennifer Rich, the Resident Program Director, who gave them tips on connecting with older adults. The kids then enjoyed bagels and cream cheese, while playing board games with a number of the residents. They got some great stories – ask you kids to share some of the things they learned about the people they met!

This coming Sunday, we’ll be continuing our Jewish Life Cycle study of the Kaddish prayer, as well as continuing our preparation for the Siyum, and having a special Tefillah Drum Circle.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry





4-7-19


Dear Parents,

Sunday this week was a busy day.
  1. We first discussed our upcoming trip to Shillman House on April 28. We will have our first hour of class that morning, and then carpool to Shillman House at 10:30 a.m. We will be participating in their game cafe, and the students have discussed how to ask the residents to share their histories and stories.
  2. Robin then joined us to present the requirements for our Siyum/Closing Program on May 19. The students will be leading a special Tefillah at 10:30 a.m., followed by each student’s presentation of what they have learned at TI, and how they plan on continuing their Involvement in the Jewish community. Robin has sent the rubric for the presentations in a separate email, and we will be sharing a template with the students as a Google Doc. Please contact Robin or me if you have any questions.
  3. Before Tefillah, we had a brief discussion of the Mourner’s Kaddish as part of our Life Cycle Curriculum. We will continue this discussion after vacation.
  4. At 10:00 a.m. we had Tefillah, and discussed Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and his view of social activism as prayer. The students discussed how it is not enough to just pray for change, but we must also act to achieve it.
  5. After Tefillah, we had a very special program on Leadership and Advocacy with Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham, the Chairman of the Framingham School Committee, and a Natick Town Meeting member. It was a fascinating discussion with Mayor Spicer and the other guests regarding leadership, and how the students’ voices can be heard and how they can make a difference. Please ask your child to describe some of the things they heard from our guests.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Best wishes for a Chag Same’ach/happy Passover.

Thanks,
Gerry

3-31-19


Dear Parents,

We had a great day of special programs this past Sunday.
  1. We first discussed our upcoming trip to Shillman House, and what we’ll be doing with the senior citizens that we’ll be meeting there. I’m encouraging the kids to ask a lot of questions – they can learn a lot while they play games with residents.
  2. We then took some time to discuss Jewish cemeteries and gravestones. In addition to learning about what goes on a headstone, and when an unveiling occurs, we also talked about how Jewish cemeteries are a window into the history of our Jewish community.
  3. At 10:00 a.m. we had a special Tefillah session with Josh Warshawsky. Josh taught new melodies for Tefilot/prayers, and got the kids actively engaged in the rhythms and music of his songs. Please ask your kids to share what they did – it was a lot of fun!
  4. After Josh, we returned to class for a special program with Dan Brosgol, the Principal of Prozdor Hebrew High School. Dan gave a great lesson on the Creation story in Genesis, and how it relates to other legends and traditions in the ancient Middle East, along with maps, photos and some great stories. Dan then gave a presentation on Prozdor, and the exciting options available for the kids next year on Sunday mornings. Please contact Robin or me if you’d like more information.
UPCOMING EVENT: On Sunday, April 28, 2019 the 7th grade will be visiting Shillman House in Framingham, a campus of 2 Life Communities (formerly Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly). We’ll be getting to know some of the residents and conducting a game activity, as part of our study of Respecting Elders and Inclusion. We’ll be leaving Temple Israel at 10:30 a.m., and pick-up will be at Shillman House at 12:00 noon. Please contact Robin if you can help with a carpool at 10:30.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

3-24-19


Dear Parents,

We had another interesting day this past Sunday.
  1. We first began a lesson on Eulogies in Jewish tradition. We reviewed the background and history of eulogies, and how the first recorded eulogy was that of Abraham for Sarah, and how he came to “eulogize and cry for her.” Then we went over the requirements for a Eulogy, in the attached source sheet. As examples of eulogies, we watched two videos – one from the film “Angels in America” with Meryl Streep, and a poignant Jewish eulogy given by Archie Bunker in an episode of All in the Family. You can find the videos here:
Meryl Streep Eulogy in Angels in America:
Archie Bunker Jewish Eulogy:
  1. At 10:00 a.m. we had a fascinating program with Gary Alpert of Gateways, on inclusion and preventing bullying of disabled individuals. Gary spoke about his experiences as a deaf person, and also about how other disabled people encounter obstacles and discrimination. The students had great questions and insights – please ask them to share some of what they heard from Gary.
  2. After the Gateways program, we returned to class, and the students tried their hand at creating their own eulogies for a person of their choice (real or fictional, alive or deceased). Some of the eulogies were quite poignant (we even had one for Barney the dinosaur, which was quite interesting!). Please ask your children about their “eulogy”, and how they would like to memorialize a lost loved one.
UPCOMING EVENT: On Sunday, April 28, 2019 the 7th grade will be visiting Shillman House in Framingham, a campus of 2 Life Communities (formerly Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly). We’ll be getting to know some of the residents and conducting a game activity, as part of our study of Respecting Elders and Inclusion. More details will follow.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

3-17-19


Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids on Sunday, in our pre-Purim mode.

During our class this week we began our unit on Death and Bereavement in Judaism.

1.    We first viewed an introductory video from Bimbam.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyHvRFkqzmw) on bereavement customs in Judaism, and discussed some of the students’ experiences.
2.    We then read together and discussed the attached story, “A Synagogue for Stevie.” The kids had some really insightful comments on this story about a 13-year-old who had suffered a loss, and how, despite the difficulties of suddenly losing a parent, such experiences can lead to personal growth and strengthening a community.
3.    This week with Nitzan we learned about Purim in Israel, and how it is different from our celebration here.
4.    During the last part of the day, we had a drumming and Tefila workshop with Josef Kottler, who taught the students about Drumming Circles and helped them experience one focused on Jewish prayer.

This coming Sunday, we have our second workshop with Gary Alpert of Gateways on Standing up to Bullies for the first part of the morning. Then, during class, we’ll be discussing Jewish Funeral customs and eulogies. For home questions, please ask your kids to describe how they would publicly honor the memory of a loved one who is gone.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Happy Purim!

Thanks,

Gerry

3-10-19


Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids on Sunday, even if everyone was a bit bleary-eyed due to the time change.

During our class this week we learned about issues related to aging and respect for elders in Judaism.

1.    We first learned a bit about aging in America, and Jewish attitudes towards aging, including the Jewish focus on experience and wisdom, as opposed to modern trends that value youth and new things. We viewed a short video on Aging in America that you can find here: https://youtu.be/oLKTThGrAxw, and the attached article on The Mitzvah to Honor the Elderly: How Is America Doing?
2.    After Tefillah, we continued our study of honoring the elderly. We reviewed sources from the Torah and Rabbinic literature on honoring and caring for elderly, and completed a worksheet on the sources. The texts are attached. We then discussed how to properly honor and care for our elders. We watched a video on the important work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and how it cares for elderly Jews throughout the world. https://youtu.be/6O52Z0FIe4U
3.    We then discussed ways students could appropriately honor and care for Jewish elderly. We are exploring the possibility of a class project, to visit a senior living facility and assist residents in learning how to use computers, the internet, and email.
4.    Finally, we read and discussed the attached poem on what it feels like to be elderly, and how to relate to our elders. The text is attached.

This coming Sunday, we’ll start a unit on death and bereavement in Jewish tradition. If anyone has any specific concerns, please feel free to call or email me. We will also have the pleasure of a special Tefilla experience with Josef Kottler, who will share his drumming and music with the students.

For home questions, please ask your kids how they feel we should appropriately honor and care for elderly, and how they have benefitted from relationships with older relatives.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry



3-3-19


Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids on Sunday after a three-week hiatus. I saw the Ketubah projects that the kids did the week I was out before vacation – they came out great.

This week, after the kids enjoyed some of the chocolate that I brought back from Israel, we continued with our regular Life Cycle curriculum. During the morning, we finished up our unit on Jewish Marriage and Wedding Ceremonies.

1.    After reviewing how modern wedding ceremonies are more egalitarian than traditional ones, we had a great discussion on how the emphasis has changed from an ancient model of “acquiring” a wife to one of mutual commitment between spouses, with particular protections for wives in traditional wedding contracts. Some of our background materials are attached.
2.    We then moved on to a discussion of how Jewish dating has evolved over the millenia, from Shadchan/Matchmakers to romantic connections and mutual interests. As a trigger for the discussion, we viewed this video on the evolution of Jewish dating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjAjkHB8F1M
3.    During Tefillah, the kids were great at leading parts of the service, and picking creative tunes for Adon Olam!
4.    After our session with Nitzan on Israeli music, we continued our discussion of Jewish dating and marriage. We had a very serious discussion on intermarriage and dating, and what arguments there are for and against. The kids had some amazing insights, and came away understanding that it is a choice that can be complicated. I’ve attached one article we read from InterfaithFamily.com proffering positive arguments, and here is a link to a video we watched describing many of the issues involved from a perspective opposing intermarriage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t4r4bKbNjk

This coming Sunday, we’ll start a unit on aging and respect for elders. In the coming weeks, we’ll be moving on to units regarding death and bereavement in Jewish tradition.

As homework for this week, the kids were asked to speak with you and come next week with a story about how their parents met.

As always, please remind your kids that cell phones are not to be used in the classroom. Phones may be brought to school, but unless needed for an in-class academic project, the phone will be collected first thing, and returned at the end of the class day. Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

2-10-19


Sunday morning the 7th grade focused on Jewish weddings and specifically ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts).  You can ask your 7th grader to share with you what a traditional Jewish marriage contract is and why it was required.  We also compared the language used in a traditional ketubah with the language used in an egalitarian marriage contract.  Check out the photos of the ketubot the students designed.







2-3-19



Dear Parents,

We had a productive morning yesterday, and began our unit on Jewish Weddings and Marriage.

1.       We reviewed the elements of a Jewish wedding (see the attached sheet), and then discussed two aspects of Jewish marriage: romantic love vs. an arranged obligation. The kids viewed two scenes from Fiddler on the Roof (links here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A2MBneb7lc; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59Hj7bp38f8) and then discussed whether marriage is a personal choice, or also a reflection of God’s relationship to the Jewish people.
2.       During Tefillah, the kids took turns leading parts of the service, and we learned what tunes are used at different summer camps.
3.       Nitzan led a great program on Israeli foods, including Falafel, Bamba, Shakshuka, Shokolad, and many others. Next time, hopefully, we’ll have samples!
4.       For the last part of class, we learned about the elements of traditional and contemporary Ketubot, Jewish marriage contracts, and how they describe traditional and modern obligations in a Jewish marriage. Next week, before the special program with Dan Brosgol of Prozdor, the class will be writing and illuminating their own sample Ketubot.

Next Sunday, I will be away in Israel, but Val will be teaching the class and helping the kids with their Ketubot. After Tefillah, we’ll be having a special class with Dan Brosgol of Prozdor, with a family program at 11:30 a.m. to learn more about options for next year.

Please remind your kids that cell phones do not belong in the classroom. Because of distractions and disruptions from inappropriate cell phone use, from now on, all cell phones will be checked in to a basket at the beginning of school, and returned on the way out at 12:00 noon. If it is necessary to get a message to your child during school, please call the school office and it will be brought to the classroom.  Please share this with your kids so that there are no surprises on Sunday.

Also, please send your child to school with a dairy or pareve, nut-free snack.

Thanks,

Gerry

1-27-19



Dear Parents,

It was great seeing your kids on Sunday after the Martin Luther King, Jr. break. Yesterday consisted of two special programs:

1.      We had a great program from Gateways, about Disabilities and the Media. The kids did a great job discussing stereotyping, media portrayals, issues regarding portrayal of disabled individuals by non-disabled, and how to bring more fairness to such portrayals. Please ask your kids to share some of the insights they gained from the discussion and media materials.
2.      After a short break, we joined the upper grades of the Religious School for a Tu Bishvat Seder, including fruit, grape juice and song. The kids heard about and discussed how Judaism sees the environment, and what we can do to help fulfill our duty to act as stewards for the Earth.

When we meet again this coming Sunday, we'll be continuing our life cycle curriculum with a new unit on Jewish weddings and marriage. In particular, please ask your kids to begin thinking about what’s “Jewish” about a Jewish wedding.

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

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