Younger Kids Explore Different Ways of Thinking about Passover and Shabbat; Older Kids Learn about Progroms.
The kids welcomed spring with the annual Model Seder the day before the official start of Passover. This year Marnie’s 4-5 class read from Haggadah’s the students wrote themselves with themes like freedom from war and hunger. Of course there was singing, led by Abby Ulman and G Rockwell on guitar, and plenty of food, including the ceremonial items on the Seder plate.
During the next Sunday School session, Batia’s Zahav class continued to discuss Passover with a guest story-teller, her husband Avi. Avi introduced scientific explanations for the more fantastic events in the story of Passover, like "the striking of the rock with Moses' staff for water [as] the digging for underground springs in the desert”. Marnie’s pre-mitzvah class turned to the subject of the most frequent Jewish holiday, Shabbat. The kids compared how Jews celebrate around the world in places like, France, Jerusalem, Argentina, and Australia. Finally, they shared their own families’ traditions, like spending time together and not doing laundry! Rachel’s Mitzvah class explored the sobering subject of progroms in Russia and watched Fiddler on the Roof, after learning the disturbing historical context.
Scroll down to read more in the teachers’ own words.
Shalom Sessions Features Jewish Math.
The last Shalom session catered to kids who like Math. Our Shalom Session maven Becca Goldblat, Sam and Davis’s mom, designed a game that required kids to take numbers from Jewish history, culture and tradition and solve problems. The kids were divided into their assigned teams, each with a Mitvah kid as a leader. Then the teams competed with each other for points by answering questions such as, “What is the number of Shabbat candles times the number of days in Hanukkah.”
Kesef (Taffy - K/1)
This year has flown by! We have been reading some bible stories in class and talking about Israel to prepare for discussion of Israeli Independence Day. We have also been talking about helping others and which charity they like for our Sunday school donation. I want them to feel part of the process, even though they are very young. We will continue with our look at Israel and more stories.
Zahav (Batia - 2/3)
We started with a crossword puzzle based on the Passover story, Moses, and the Egyptian plagues. This was a good review to begin talking about the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt and the years of wandering in the desert wilderness. I invited my husband Avi to tell Torah stories on this topic and introduced him to the boys as someone who HAD to spend several hours every week, growing up in Israel, on Bible studies in regular public school. As a boy, Avi questioned the believability of many of the stories he had heard in Torah class, so he told these stories from both the "literal" and the scientific perspectives: the splitting of the Red Sea vs. the crossing of a "reed-y sea"; the striking of the rock with Moses' staff for water vs. the digging for underground springs in the desert; God's daily provision of manna vs. the actual sticky sweet stuff spewed by bugs on Tamarisk trees and found on the ground in the Sinai. We talked briefly about why the Israelites complained (kvetched) so much to Moses about the difficulties of being in the desert (they missed having plentiful food and water). I asked the boys if they would prefer to be enslaved and have the necessities of life provided or be free but have to suffer a bit in the wilderness--and they all chose freedom. We finished the lesson by reading from the picture book Exodus by B. Wildsmith over snack.
Pre-Mitzvah (Marnie - 4/5)
We discussed Shabbat traditions here and around the world. I started by asking if they had any Shabbat traditions. They shared a few thoughts about what Shabbat traditions are. Then the class read "Around the World in One Shabbat - Jewish People Celebrate the Sabbath Together" by Durga Yael Bernhard. The book tells about Shabbat traditions from places including: France, Jerusalem, Argentina, Australia and more. I asked them to pay attention to what is done traditionally and universally. That noticed that everyone in the stories shared a nice meal with family, that they had wine and sometimes lit candles, and that they rested. I then shared a video from YouTube from the Jewish Federation of people talking about their favorite Shabbat memory.
Finally, I asked them to share a memory or tell me about their family traditions for Shabbat. I videotaped them, here's what they shared: Jeremy shared that his family often has a Shabbat happy hour with food and drink on Friday's. Zoe shared a memory of Shabbat when visiting Israel where they ate pomegranate & beets. Jake said Sat he gets time to play video games and relax. Georgia mentioned that she sleeps in and her parents don't do laundry, they spend time together. I'm hoping to replay this video next year and see if new memories are created between now and then..
Mitzvah (Rachel -6/7)
Last Sunday we discussed life in The Pale of Settlement, Russia from 1880-1905 and the history of the pogroms. We then began to watch Fiddler on the Roof, which most students had not seen.
Amid Celebrations of Purim and Passover, Student Explore Noah’s Ethics, Yiddish, Reasons for Shabbat and Jewish Freedom.
Could Noah have done more to save his fellow man? What is the scientific evidence of The Great Flood? What is the meaning of ‘seiver panim yafot’ or putting on a happy face in a difficult situation? Batia’s Zahav (2/3) pondered these questions while reading Bible Stories and exploring Jewish values. Marnie’s Pre-Mitvahs learned a little Yiddish before beginning a study of famous rabbis. Then the kids wrote their own Haggadah’s for the Model Seder. The Mitzvah students applied the principles and practices of Shabbat to modern lifestyles, including eating dinner with family on a regular basis and sitting on the couch and watching TV on Saturdays. The kids also produced art about freedom for the Congregation’s adult Seder. Of course Taffy’s little ones (Zahav) spent most of their time absorbing information about the holidays.
Shalom Sessions Feature Tzedakah and Afikomen Madness!
With the help of our teens from the Teen Mitzvah Club, we discussed our favorite charities. This was a starting point for the kids to think about where they want to donate their tzedakah money this year. The kids are divided into 6 different, mixed-age groups, each with their own tzedakah box. Before the end of the year, the group will decide what to do with its own tzedakah money.
Julian Garrison kindly got out of bed early to tell the kids about Nothing But Nets, a charity that gives mosquito nets to families in Africa to prevent the spread of malaria. Although she couldn’t attend, Emma Finn sent information about the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Next month, Emma will sponsor a shalom session in which the kids will make friendship bracelets for kids who attend the camp. Abby Ulman spoke about Bridgeport Rescue Mission, a local organization which provides food to the hungry. Our Mitzvah Day sandwiches usually go there. Abby also spoke about Pennies for Peace/Central Asia Institute, an organization founded by Greg Mortenson, dedicated to building schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pennies from children are used to buy school supplies.
In addition to the teens, some Sunday School students spoke about their favorite charities. Hannah Ulman likes Heifer International, which provides animals to families in developing countries. The animals provide recipients with various benefits, such as milk, which is drunk for nutrition and also sold for cash. Julian Zeppetello mentioned the Monroe Food Pantry, and we talked about the fact that most towns have their own food pantries to support residents. Gaia Mistriel thinks the work the World Wildlife Federation does is important, especially since it tries to save endangered species.
All of these are worthy charities. If you have a favorite you’d like the children to consider, please send Beth Ulman an email!
Becca Goldblat planned this very fun shalom session involving games with matzah. With their groups, the kids played Afikomen Relay, which involved a relay race with a piece of matzah balanced on the head. Next they played Pass the Afikomen to music played and stopped by Abby. Whoever was holding the wrapped matzah when the music stopped was out. The last game was a word game. In their groups, the kids tried to make as many words as possible using the letters in AFIKOMEN in a short time. The kids had a lot of fun playing all the games and would have kept playing past dismissal. That is a Sunday School miracle.
We celebrated Purim by making our own groggers and shaking them at the party as the story of Purim was read by Beth. The children then ate, played and had a wonderful time.
The following Sunday we began our discussion of Passover. We discussed the story, symbols and foods associated with the holiday. We will continue to discuss the holiday so the kids will be really prepared to enjoy and understand the holiday when it is time to celebrate. We will be making matzoh covers during Sunday school.
3/3 - Today we talked about the 4 Purim mitzvot: hearing the reading of the megillah; eating a festive meal; sending gifts of food to friends (shalach manot); and giving tzedakah. By the end of the Sunday school party we did the first three (unfortunately, no one collected tzedakah today). The boys decorated shalach manot (Purim gift bags) and handed out their treats to one another. We watched a video about how Purim is celebrated in Israel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHs_nMQg7-U. Then I read a story called "Good Purim, Good Purim!" adapted from a story by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach about a man who learns about the middah (Jewish value) of "putting on a happy face" (seiver panim yafot). When a mensch chooses to "grin and bear it" and cope with a difficult situation, showing kindness to others, he follows the middah of seiver panim yafot . We finished class with a Purim vocabulary crossword puzzle game--the boys split into teams and earned points for their team according to the number of letters in words guessed correctly.
3/10 - Last Sunday we went back to Torah study. We read the story of "Noah and the Great Flood" from Learning Bible Today: from Creation to the Conquest of Canaan (M.J. Prival, a publication of the Int'l Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism).
We discussed why the ancient Israelites told a story of a great flood. One possible reason is that Archaeologists have found evidence of a flood that occurred in Sumer in ancient times; and many of our Jewish legends and stories come from that region. The Sumerian story of Gilgamesh has similarities to the Jewish story of Noah (some remembered this as we read a bit of Gilgamesh last year). We looked at a map that included ancient Mesopotamia and Canaan along with the modern countries in the region. According to the Torah, Abraham the first "Israelite" traveled from Ur, near Sumer, to ancient Israel. We also discussed how scientists know today that a flood did not cover the entire earth and kill most animals--because paleontologists would be able to see the fossils in a single layer if it did. We talked about how some people believe the stories in the Bible, like the Great Flood, are completely true, while others believe that they are myths and not actual events that occurred in history. Another discussion was about the real reason for rainbows' occurrence--in the story God tells Noah they are a sign of his covenant to never bring a great flood again. But we discussed the scientific reasoning of light being refracted through water vapor, something people did not know in ancient times.
Finally we watched a video version of the Noah story at http://www.g-dcast.com/noah. The narrator of this animated story asks an interesting question: "was Noah really that 'righteous' as the Bible says?" And, "what could a really righteous person do when he knows a flood is coming?" He answers the question by explaining that the Dove in the story brings back an olive leaf to tell those back on the ark that dry land has appeared (instead of just going straight out to the land by himself), and that if Noah were more righteous he would have been more like the Dove. When we know there is something bad going to happen, we should try to help others and spread the word, not just build an ark and save our own.
In the next weeks we will be learning about the first biblical patriarchs and matriarchs and tie that into the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the celebration of Passover.
3/17 - Last week we started class by looking at the "Jewish Family Tree of Genesis". This shows the family relationship of the people discussed in the Bible's first book, from Adam and Eve down to all of Jacob's children, including Joseph. Since we did not have time to read about all of the patriarchs and matriarchs, Laura Snow and I led an oral review of these stories. We did a word-search based on vocabulary from the stories of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. And some of the boys remembered the story of Joseph who "led" his Israelite family down to Egypt. Laura taught the boys to write several names in Hebrew, including some of the patriarchs' and their own names, plus the words for matzoh, egg, and wine. We then read about the story of the Passover summarized from the second book of the Torah, Exodus. After reviewing the plagues that befell the Egyptians and the symbolic foods of the seder plate, the boys were given a cloth to decorate with fabric markers; this can be used as a matzoh cover for your family seder. Also, if you are going to attend the CHJ seder on March 26th, please bring the matzoh cover to display (student artwork was requested). Thanks!!
I finished class by reading most of the book A Yankee at the Seder, by E. Weber & illus. by A. Gustavson. This is a non-fiction story about a Jewish Union soldier that attended a Virginia family's Passover seder at the very end of the American Civil War. Told from the perspective of the young Jewish Southern boy whose family is hosting the soldier, it is a poignant story of his realization of the similarity between the Passover and the end to slavery in the South. (It also fit in nicely with our Jewish-American immigration curriculum). I will try to finish reading it with them this weekend.
All the boys will be participating in the model seder at Sunday school this week, March 24th. They all have lines to read. Since not all were at class last week, I did not give out the lines for the "4 Questions", but they will be reading this part of the Haggadah as well. Please email me and let me know if your son would like to read one of these extra lines (in English) in addition to the lines that describe the symbols of the seder plate foods--I gave those out already:
Aiden: What is the meaning of the bone?
Bradley: the matzo?
Josh: The egg?
Sam: the karpas?
Let me know if they would like to practice their line before Sunday and need it printed up--I'll email it to you. Thanks! See you Sunday.
3/3 - Here's what's happened yesterday at Sunday school..... I read Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater. The story is about a chicken who manages to escape from the butcher's shop. But now she is lost in Brooklyn—a strange place where she saves a parrot from a fahrshtunkehneh kahtz, stinky cat. The book traslates dialogue into Yiddish (for Yetta) and Spanish (for the Parrots). The goal was to teach the class a few Yiddish words & phrases. After reading the story we played a game. There were two teams - team JJ (Jake & Julia) and JZ (Jeremy & Zoe). I read a phrase and the team needed to: identify the language (Yiddish/Spanish) - just to challenge them a little I picked phrases from both languages, and translate the phrase. After a close battle, Team JJ ended up with the win.
After class it was time for us to join everyone for our Purim Shalom Session/Carnival. The 4/5 class did an amazing job assisting Beth by pantomiming the book of Esther. Special thanks to Jeremy's dad for his amusing portrayal of Haman.
3/10 - Here's what's happened today at Sunday school....
We read a tale (Teacher in the Cave) from Wise and not so Wise - Ten Tales from the Rabbis. The story tells us about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, a student of Rabbi Akiba who was a famous Rabbi himself. He taught in secret during a time when the Romans and Emporer Hadrian ruled. This was a nice introduction to a few famous Rabbis. We will learn more about these scholars after we celebrate Passover.
We also read Sammy Spider's first Haggadah and discussed Passover traditions. We started drafting ideas for our own Haggadah's. Over the next few classes your child will be writing/creating their own Passover Haggadah.
3/17 - We finished our personal Haggadah's which includes; your child's version of the 10 plagues - "modern plagues", and their personal 4 questions (based on their plagues) and a cover decorated with symbols from the holiday. The class will share their Haggadah's with the school at the Model Seder next week. So if your child missed class today, please see if you can have them work on what they started for homework. This way everyone has something the share next week. Also, if your child hasn't already written their pen pal; please have them email their pen pal.
3/10 - We began class by brainstorming about things that are part of Shabbat. Candles, yarmulke, wine, challah and rest were on the answers that the group developed.
We also discussed why we celebrate Shabbot. Most answers related back to the book of Genesis and the 10 commandments.
Following this, we watched a video from Chabad.org on describing the orthodox traditions around the Sabbath. Joseph Lieberman is one of the speakers in the video and the students were surprised to hear that we had a Jewish politician in CT. After the video, the students were prompted to answers questions about why we need a day of rest and other ideas that Shabbot celebrates-beyond an individual's belief in God.
We rest because we human and not slaves.
It is an opportunity to share time with family.
The parents bless their children.
The father's appreciate their wives.
To carry on tradition.
We took a poll of the room and found that out of the nine students present:
2 ate dinner at a table with their family 7 days a week
5 ate dinner with family between 3 and 5 days a week
2 students ate dinner with their family only once or twice a week
Only one student took a day of rest. He makes it a weekly practice to sit on the sofa and watch TV every Saturday. The modern teenage approach to rest. :)
Following the classroom work, students continued to work on their art projects, symbolizing Jewish freedom.
3/17 - Last Sunday we began by adding the finishing touches to the Jewish Freedom art projects. The students have really put a lot of effort into them and they have come together nicely.
As a recap to that lesson, students then created origami fortune tellers. They brainstormed in small groups about the content of the fortune tellers, which would relate to the big idea of their projects. The outside needed four symbols of their idea, the inside needed eight questions related to the topic and the very inside contained four possible outcomes to the journey for Jewish freedom that their project represents.
My favorite moment was when one student looked at me and said, "you know this (fortune teller) is a really good way to review." -I think they're figuring me out!
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.