Looking toward a great year!
We are looking forward to another great year of Sunday School in 2011-12! We have a terrific lineup of teachers, new Shalom Session offerings, and a new perspective on music. We are sad that Adam Feder will not be returning as our Sunday School song leader due to a new job, but we hope to sing with him periodically throughout the year.
For the School Calendar and a detailed look at what's planned for each of the grades, see the About Sunday School page.
The sun came out briefly for Sunday School graduation on May 22. Students attended class for an hour to wrap up the school year, and judging from teacher recaps, it was a highly productive hour! Students, families, and friends then all gathered in front of the stage for the official send-off of five of our seventh graders. The ceremony began with two trumpet and flute duets by the talented Joy and Max Moon. We thanked all our teachers and playgroup sitters, and then invited each graduate to the stage one by one. Before receiving their graduation certificates, each student had to be embarrassed by a brief biography. We wish Emma Finn, Jessica Gandal, Kaila Finn, Molly Hamilton, and Steven Baumann all the best and we hope to see them often at CHJ events in the future. All five graduates are planning Mitzvah ceremonies.
This month’s recaps from the classrooms begin with the teachers' farewell to the graduating class.
Mitzvah (Donna & George)
In closing, Donna and I want to share with you that it has been a great pleasure getting to know your children. They are all really smart, with interesting things to say, all with their own unique perspectives. We feel we developed a good rapport with them, and hope that they leave with a sense of where they fit into the Jewish world from our Humanistic point of view. And of course, we hope they learned a bit about our history and culture. We will miss them and wish them well.
5/1 - Last time, George covered the beginnings of worldwide Zionism and the lives of Herzl, Weizmann and Ben-Gurion -- what influenced these men and how world events set up the establishment of Israel. This week we are going to talk about the Holocaust and how it has influenced worldwide Jewry since the end of the Second World War, if time allows. In addition, our class also sat in on the photo talk given by the Shafer’s daughter.
5/22 - What follows is a summary of what we covered in the Mitzvah class during the final 2 weeks: Last week Donna discussed the ending of World War I, conditions in Germany, including inflation and reparations to the allies, and German humiliation over the loss of the war. All of which led up to the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler's election in 1933. And of course, Hitler's scapegoating of the Jews which led to the Nuremburg Laws. In addition, we discussed the anti-Jewish attitudes that had existed in Europe for hundreds of years, and that education and teaching tolerance are the most critical ways to combat prejudice of any kind. We also discussed people who helped save Jews and the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, which includes a program called "The Righteous Among Nations" to honor non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Second World War.
On the final day of class, George talked about what is currently going in Israel as it struggles with the peace process. We discussed the inherent problems of making a "two-state solution", and our students had many interesting ideas, although as George pointed out this is an extremely complicated problem, that Israel and the Palestinians have been grappling with for more than 60 years.
Kesef (Taffy- K/1)
5/1 - During the last session of Sunday school we read a Jewish folk tale entitled Terrible, Terrible and discussed the message of the story, which was to appreciate our families and homes. We also started to talk about Israel and Israeli Independence Day. For the next session (I will not be there) I think Israel will be dealt with again. As you probably know, there is an Israeli fair at the school after our session. The children may be interested in going to see it after they learn more about the Jewish Homeland.
Zahav (Rachel – 2/3)
5/1 - We discussed Life Cycles and Jewish traditions. First with Hannah as secretary, the students brainstormed a list of events that they see as being part of their life cycle. We followed this with an activity where each student received 3 index cards with the name and definition of part of the Jewish life cycle. Without my help, the students were asked to arrange the events in order from birth to death. We then discussed the meaning of each event.
5/15 - Today we read Patricia Pollaco's "Someone for Mr. Sussman." This is a present day story about a matchmaker. Following the story, we saw excerpts from "Fiddler on the Roof". Through these we reviewed some of the topics we covered during the year. We watched the opening scene/song, "Tradition" and saw the traditional work around the village, the roles of boys, girls, men and women. We watched the scene with Yenta meeting Tzeitel's mother, Golda to set up a match and compared it to the book we had just read. We also watched the scene where the Sabbath prayers are said and candles are lit.
Next week there will be time for class before the graduation, so children should be prepared to be students for one last day. Most likely we will see a couple more scenes from Fiddler, or another movie depicting a chuppa and also leaving the village for life in America/Europe.
5/1 - This past Sunday we continued our survey of Jewish history.
We moved on to a speed-dial version of the Jews of the Middle Ages. We covered lots of material in a short time -- the socio-economic structure of society, the Crusades and the life of the Jews. To make it more accessible for the kids, I assigned them all parts: nobles, the Pope, guild members, knights, serfs and Jews. Reading from a script that I had written, they took turns telling each other about their roles in society. We covered the concept of feudalism and how land meant wealth for the aristocracy, the idea of serfs "belonging" to the land, and how craftspeople belonged to guilds -- all roles that were not open to the Jews.
This, we discovered, was why Jews so often fell into the roles of merchant and money lender, and we talked about how these roles fueled the prejudice that was already part of the culture. We touched on Blood Libel, the myth that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make matzoh. And we talked about the Crusades, and how Jews and other non-Christians were victim to many crimes at the hands of the Crusaders. We ended with the expulsion of the Jews from England and France and their gravitation to Eastern Europe.
The kids seemed interested in learning about their various roles. Our nobles had fun reading their parts with British accents! (Their own interpretation of the role.).
5/15 - Because the Israel Fair was taking place practically outside our classroom door, we began our session this past Sunday with (very) quick look at how Israel came to be. It was a nice opportunity to look back at the history we have covered this year -- how Jerusalem had been the capitol of Jewish civilization until the Romans destroyed the Temple and expelled the Jews; how Babylonia and then Spain became centers of Jewish life in the years to come, how Jews in Western Europe lived under feudalism, and how in all these places, Jews lived as "guests" and faced extreme prejudice. Jumping ahead on our timelines, we discussed, again very quickly, how in the late 1800s, the Zionist movement arose, and how its members saw a need for a Jewish homeland, which was realized in 1948. I ended this part of the discussion by saying that there was much more to know about Israel and that the politics of the region are quite complicated.
We, however, had to move on. Our lesson for the day was on Eastern Europe, where many of our grandparents and great-grandparents came from. We talked about how the language of the Jews there was Yiddish. I don't speak Yiddish, but I know some vocabulary, so I taught them some words for parts of the body and for colors and promised them that we'd play Yiddish Simon Says if we finished everything we needed to cover.
(It was just serendipity that Mrs. Snow ended her Hebrew class with a session on Yiddish -- so they also learned words like nudnik, schlmazel, etc. Then we broke for our weekly nosh.)
We reviewed what we had covered last week on the Middle Ages and the role of the Jews in Medieval society. We recalled that several countries had expelled the Jews by the end of the 15th century.
That brought us to Eastern Europe. We talked about how many of the Jews expelled from countries in Western Europe went east, to less populated parts of Poland and Lithuania, where they lived in walled ghettos in the cities or shtetls in the countryside. We talked about how the Jews of Eastern Europe were not integrated into the mainstream, and how many were money lenders and property managers for the nobles. We finished with a little history of the bloody uprising led by Bogdan Chmielnicki against the nobles and talked about how the Jewish people were often the victims of this strife.
We didn't quite finish this unit, but we ended class with a quick came of "Shimon Zacht.
5/22 - I couldn't resist writing one more update because we had such great discussions in class this week. As you know, it was a shortened class because of graduation and when I walked in, someone (I honestly can't remember who it was!) asked in horror, "You mean we're actually going to have class this week?" My answer: Yes indeed -- because there was still material I wanted to cover.
Because we welcomed back a few classmates who had missed the last couple of classes, I started with a quick review of the Jews in Medieval Europe under feudalism. That led to someone (again, I can't remember who it was) mentioning this past weekend's "end of the world" silliness. Some members of the class were familiar with it, but others were not. So we reviewed what had happened -- and what had not happened -- and we had a few chuckles about it and wondered why anyone would believe such a thing....which provided a fantastic opportunity to review what we had learned at the beginning of the year, about creation myths. While they didn't quite remember that term, they understood that early cultures created myths to explain the origins of the world and codify their belief systems, before the advent of science. We noted that the Bible contains Jewish and Christian creation myths and that some people still believe every word. That, we concluded, is why some people bought in to the end-of-days-the-world hype.
We continued our review of the Jewish history we covered last week, discussing how, when the Jewish communities of France and England were expelled from those countries and life became harder in Germany, the Jews fled to Eastern Europe. Our friend Rebecca raised her hand to tell about a school project she did for a unit on immigration. She pointed out that the Jews have been despised and expelled from many countries over the centuries. Our friend Abey then asked why this was so -- which led to another discussion and an opportunity to review more of what we learned this year. We discussed how Jews in Europe were barred from many occupations and were often left with the roles of money lender or tax collector -- which did not endear them to their poor Christian neighbors. We talked again about Blood Libel -- the erroneous belief that Jews used the blood of Christian boys to make matzoh. And we went back to our comparative religion unit and remembered that the Jews were blamed for the death of Christ. We also recalled that the Jews spoke a different language than their neighbors, ate differently, dressed differently, worshipped differently and kept to themselves. All of these things, we concluded, made the Jews a convenient scapegoat for their neighbors.
After last week's class on Eastern Europe, some of the kids had asked you where their great-grandparents and grandparents came from. Several mentioned Russia -- which led us into our new material for the week: When conditions in Eastern Europe became difficult for the Jews, they moved farther east -- and when this territory was conquered by Russia, they became subjects of the czar. We noted that the leaders of Russian did not want the Jewish people mixing into Russian society or spreading out geographically, so they established a region called the Pale of Settlement and ordered all Jews to live there.
We also talked about what was going on within the Jewish community -- the rise of Chasidism, with its joyful dancing prayers, the opposition of the Mitnagdim, led by the Vilna Gaon, who supported serious study of Jewish and other worldly topics for the light they could shed on Judaism. And we talked about all the revolutions for freedom in various places in the world that were happening to popularize the notion of freedom. Within the Jewish community it took the form of the Haskalah, the Enlightenment, a time when religious Jews also read science, literature, and wanted to interact with the world.
We talked about how deteriorating conditions made Jews want to leave and find someplace safe to live. We jumped back in history and talked about the first wave of immigration, by the Sephardic Jews, then moved ahead to the second wave, the German immigrants, and finally to the third and largest wave (which most of our grandparents and great-grandparents were part of) the Jews of Eastern Europe.
We ended class with a quick lesson on Emma Lazarus, a Jew of German heritage who wrote the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty ("Give me your tired, your poor...")
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.