Kids Continue Learning About Mitvahs and History and Preparing for Tu B'Shevat, Purim and Passover.
While the youngest kids spent most of their time preparing for the holidays, the Zahav (2/3) class continued to discuss various mitzvahs. This month featured “derech eretz” (“way of the land”) or good manners and “Bal Tashkhit” (“care for the environment”) in honor of Tu B’Shevat. The Pre-Mitvah class discussed the practice of “Tikun Olum” as a way to celebrate Tu B’Shevat. This class also examined the devastating effects of ignoring the abuse of others. The Mitvah class continued to study the Holocaust directly with a discussion of a visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. When not addressing these moral and ethical issues, all classes participated in some form of Tu B’Shevat celebration and prepared for Purim and Passover.
Shalom Sessions Feature Jewish Sports Heroes and Singing with Adam Feder at the Tu B'Shevat
Thank you to the Sunday School parents who recently led shalom sessions! They truly exemplify the spirit of a cooperative Sunday School.
In February, Larry Tillem, dad of Maya, discussed Jewish sports figures with the kids. He told them about specific Jewish sports heroes in different sports, and then the kids asked many questions about other sports. The topic is inherently interesting to kids, who were attentive throughout the 25 minute presentation.
Our second shalom session in February was a singalong with Adam Feder at the tail end of the Tu B'Shevat Seder. It was fun to reconnect with Adam and sing some of our old favorites from last year, including Adam’s own song, Free Fall Jump. We all hope to see Adam again soon!
Scroll down to read more in the teachers ‘words.
Kesef (Becca Goldblat, subbing for Taffy - K/1)
2/12 We read Sammy the Spiders First Purim. It's about a spider who lives in a Jewish home where the family is getting ready for Purim. He watches the family make costumes for a Purim parade, bake hamamtaschen, make Groggers, etc. His mom explains the significance behind each of these rituals. The excitement comes when he accidentally gets stapled shut inside a paper-plate Grogger and must find a way out. The book also has a brief story of Purim as well.
Then, we [made our own Groggers the same way they made the ones made in the book, using paper plates, buttons for noise, and streamers. I [had] an assortment of stickers for the kids to decorate their Groggers with, such as stars of David, hamamtaschen, Hebrew letters, etc. I also [had] small plastic spiders so each child [could] have his own Sammy, and staple him into their Grogger to celebrate purim with him, or just keep him to take home.
We also played Purim related games and made a list of the different Purim-themed costumes kids might decide to wear.
Zahav (Batia - 2/3)
2/5 - Today we discussed the words patriarchs and matriarchs (fathers and mothers) and looked again at the Jewish family tree sheet showing Abraham as the first patriarch and Sarah as the first matriarch. Abraham laughed when God told him he would have a son at such an old age, so their son was named Isaac, or in Hebrew, Yitzhak, meaning “he laughed”. We went back to reading the first book of the Torah which tells the story of the next patriarch and matriarch, Isaac and Rebecca, Genesis 23:1 through 24:67.
I chose this section because when Abraham’s servant (and Isaac’s matchmaker) Eliezer meets the “stranger” Rebecca at a well, she greets him kindly and offers him and all of his camels water. Rebecca practices the mitzvah of “derech eretz” (“way of the land”), what we call good manners. After the reading, the group paired up and played the game “Derech Eretz Way”—to win they had to explain how they would help several hypothetical characters on the board game. I encouraged the kids to add to their mitzvah journal in the “Good Manners” section if they can think of something genteel and polite to do this week.
During snack we read the story “Tu Bishvat in Puddlewick” by Ruth Craft (from the Kingfisher Treasury of Jewish Stories). I chose this, partially, because it is about a Jewish family that lives in England. The children who live in London during the bombing raids of WWII are forced to move in with a farming family in the countryside—who, though strangers to these children, are so kind to take them in (“derech eretz”). Although the farmers are not Jewish, they help them celebrate Tu Bishvat by planting a tree with them.
Next week we will learn more about the Tu Bishvat holiday during class and then celebrate with the congregation having music and lunch downstairs.
2/12 - We planted parsley with the other classes, K-5, and then had a Tu B'Shevat seder with just our group.
Instead of having music in the morning (it was held at the end with Adam Feder), we had a planting station set up. It is a Tu B'Shevat tradition to plant something, and parsley is often chosen because it can be used in the Passover seder. Thanks to Joan Shaw’s help and expertise, we had plenty of potting cups, seeds, and directions for each child to grow his own potted parsley plant. Hopefully, they will be ready in time for Passover.
Our Tu B'Shevat seder was based on ideas I found at the SHJ.org website. It included a general history of this holiday, nowadays considered a “new year for trees” and a day to remind us to care for the environment. We discussed what trees give us and why they are indispensable. I told a classic story from the Talmud about Honi “the wise one”, who learned from a man planting a carob tree that, though it takes 70 years for it to bear fruit and he would not enjoy the fruit himself, he planted the tree for his descendants as his own father and grandfather had done. The seder (“order”) was based upon the Sephardic Jewish mystics’ seder, wherein we drank 4 different colored cups of grape juice to represent the seasons. And we ate fruit with: an inedible protective peel (banana, orange) to symbolize winter; an inedible pit (apricot, nectarine, olives) to symbolize spring planting; and edible parts throughout (berries, grapes) to symbolize the time of creation (summer). Throughout the seder we recited the humanistic blessings for “wine” and fruit. We concluded with a discussion of what we can do to care for the environment (the mitzvah of Bal Tashkhit).
I have been collecting the family trees, and we will be doing more activities with these in upcoming class sessions.
Pre-Mitzvah (Marni - 4/5)
2/5 - Since, Tu B'Shevat is on Feb. 8th this year - we discussed the holiday. We focused on a few things:
What it is - Jewish Arbor Day/Earth Day How we celebrate the holiday, & Tikun Olum - repairing the world.
I read them Eve Buntings story Terrible Things - a story that illustrates what can happen if you don't speak up when you see bad things/bullying. Then we discussed how that story connects to both Tu B'Shevat & Tikun Olum. Finally, we ended with a quick fire quiz session that ended in a tie. As always, we wrapped up with music. Dylan led the kids singing: Wave the Flag, If I had a Hammer, Oseh Shalom, One Day, and Heaney Matov.
2/12 - It was a very full session. G, Hannah & Stevie started the day planting parsley to celebrate Tu B'Shevat We plant parsley as a way to bridge Tu B'Shevat with Passover. After Hebrew with Mrs. Snow, we continued with the Passover theme. We are going to be creating/writing a class Haggadah over the next few classes. So we started by looking at different Haggadah's. We discussed the similarities between the different versions. We also discussed what parts we want to include in our class version. We ended the day by joining the mitzvah class and the adults at the Tu B'ShevatSedar.
Mitzvah (Rachel -6/7)
2/5 - As you probably know by now, our stellar teacher Rachel Rockwell broke her leg badly in the beginning of January. On the 22nd George Rockmore stepped in and executed Rachel’s lesson plan to teach about the birth of Israel through our text The Story of the Jews and the 2008 BBC Documentary.
The following week there was no Sunday School, but about half of the class visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage (A Living Memorial to the Holocaust) in New York City. A Holocaust survivor Sami was our tour guide. Early on Sami disclaimed, “I represent myself; I do not represent all Jews.” Rachel Dreyfus noted, “Sami had a definite point of view.” This point view elicited by the compelling exhibits thoroughly engaged kids and parents alike.
Rachel and Ellen Luntz, who organized the trip, used the next session to help the kids who went on the trip share their experiences with those who couldn’t make it. Recalling Sami’s identification of “Remember; Never forget” inscribed on the museum’s wall, Scotty Luntz explained, “’Remember’ is something you do with your mind in the past; ‘never forget’ is in your heart and tells how you will act in the future.”
Explaining that the Nuremburg Laws enacted in 1935 stripped Jews of their German citizenship, Rachel asked the kids, “What if the U.S Government told you that you were no longer American?” The kids discussed discrimination throughout history, using examples of Irish, Chinese and African Americans and noting that mistreatment of groups perceived as different was not limited to Jews by Germans.
Our kids recalled that German kids were taught to hate through cultural influences such as music, games and posters. The discussion turned to the different roles people played in the Holocaust. ‘Collaborators’ were people in occupied lands who helped the Nazis find and persecute Jews. Others, including the Americans, were ‘bystanders’ who ignored Hitler’s atrocities and even turned away the MS St. Louis a ship full of 930 desperate Jewish refugees. Sami suggested that this act signaled to Hitler that the international community did not care what happened to the Jews and emboldened him to start killing them outright.
The discussion also emphasized the positive aspects of humanity. Describing ‘rescuers’, Abey Levin recalled, “They hid Jews from the Nazis and smuggled them out of Germany.” These brave individuals risked their own lives to act on a moral imperative.
2/12 – Today the Mitvah class joined the adults and participated in their Tu B'Shevat seder, which included readings about the mystical connection between the four seasons and the human spirit . There was also much discussion of the need to care for the natural world on which we depend for health and happiness. The group concluded the seder by singing with Adam Feder. Everyone enjoyed old favorites like He Nay Ma Tov and Od Yavo. Then kids then taught Adam a new song “One Day” By Matisyahu that they have been working on with Dylan Cotton for the past several months.
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.