We kicked off the new Gregorian year by making music with Adam, after a hiatus of a couple of months. Warmth and energy filled the pod. When everyone dispersed to the classrooms, teachers covered the new year of trees Tu B’Shevat to satisfy the school’s no-holiday-left-behind-policy. It’s difficult to teach about trees blossoming with their fruits when we’re all buried under so many feet of snow. Classes then forged ahead with their discussions of physical evidence, Bible stories, ancient Jewish history and “living in the Diaspora.” Read more below from the teachers themselves.
Kesef (Taffy - K/1)
My class covered Tu B’Shevat yesterday. We read a story about the holiday and did some work sheets. We discussed the importance of trees and plants.
Zahav (Rachel - 2/3)
The beginning of class we discussed what physical evidence means and that we don't have anything physical that tells us that these stories happened. So I asked, "Why do we read these stories?"
Your students had great answers including, "they teach us about people long ago," "they teach us lessons," and "they are the Jewish stories."
We continued reading Bible stories, beginning with Jacob and Rachel and ending with Joseph in Egypt. We compared the story of Jacob and Rachel with our traditions today-not marrying our relatives, men don't have more than one wife. Students decided it was not nice of Laban to trick Jacob.
The story of Joseph was the big hit, the kids really loved it. They did not like the way Joseph was treated by his brothers and conversation went in both directions about whether it was OK for Joseph to trick them after the way he had been treated. In the end, Mickey suggested you treat people the way you want to be treated and everyone agreed.
Pre-Mitzvah (Karen - 4/5)
Because the Grade 4-5 teacher Karen Berman had lost her voice, the students presented her lesson on January 10. The class covered two topics: the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of Trees (with material on the holiday and a discussion of why trees are important) and a whirlwind review of Jewish history from the death of King Solomon in 922 BCE through the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 66 CE.
We had three leaders for each part of class. Rebecca Tomarkin, Zac Goodman and Jessica Berman did a wonderful job with the Tu B'Shevat section and then Jared Mirgorodsky, Indiana Goodman and Elise Sullivan did an equally wonderful job with the history. Karen wrote the lesson plan so that they could read the expository material, ask questions of their classmates -- and know the answers when necessary. Sunday School Co-Director Steve Ulman did a great job of making sure it all flowed. The students all received small maps of the region for reference and referred to the timelines that we've been using in past classes.
In between the two sections, the class had a special snack -- a mini- Tu B'Shevat seder provided by the Ulmans and the Tomarkins, with challah, grape juice, raisins and dates.
Mrs. Snow continued our Hebrew studies and introduced the kids to the Hebrew names for the various parts of the Bible. We'll be discussing what's inside the fundamental Jewish books in an upcoming class.
Mitzvah (Donna & George -6/7)
We began class by reviewing the Jewish holidays and how they coincide with seasonal cycles. We talked about the upcoming holiday of Tu B'Shevat, and how it, like many Jewish holidays, began as a pagan festival to appease the forces of nature, in this case, to insure a good planting season in the spring. In modern times, Tu B'Shevat has become associated with the planting of trees in Israel and though it is still winter here in the USA, in Israel, it is the beginning of spring. Jews in the Diaspora celebrate this holiday by eating foods from Israel and making donations to plant trees there.
This led into our new topic "Living in the Diaspora." We defined diaspora as a dispersion , or scattering, of a homogeneous people from their original homeland, and we talked about other groups that have experience a diaspora -- we mentioned briefly the African and Irish diasporas. However, the Jewish diaspora is the oldest and most extensive. This led us to ask the class, "how many Jews are there in the world today and where do the majority of them live?” It was quite interesting and actually somewhat amusing...for the number of Jews worldwide, a couple of our kids thought there were 4 BILLION!!
We also talked about why Jews and other minorities in the USA left their homelands, and how they were received in their new homes. We discussed terms such as scapegoating, racial profiling, and stereotypes. Living in the Diaspora will be our topic for a while, as exile and yearning for the homeland is such a significant part of Jewish history. Next time in Jerusalem!
Link to article and more Westport News photos of CHJ's Purim celebration.
Below, Pied Piper music teacher Dylan Cotton leads Sunday school children down to Bedford Middle School's cafeteria.
Thanks to photographer Mike Lauterborn for documenting the party.