“Underclassmen” Reflect on Tu B’Shevat and Prepare for Purim, While Mitzvah Class Discusses Use of Force and Goes On Field Trip to NYC.
Both the Zahav (2/3) and Pre-Mitzvah Class focused on holidays last month, reflecting on Tu B’Shevat the day after, and looking forward to Purim and the Annual Carnival on March 3. Zahav Teacher Batia Mistriel introduced the "Seven Species" of fruits and grains typically eaten on Tu B’Shevat and which are foods mentioned in the Torah. Batia also noted that holiday’s connection to the lunar calendar, falling on the full moon as so many Jewish holidays do. Pointing out that the next holiday Purim also falls on a full moon, Batia found a new way to talk about the holiday. She read the story Raisel's Riddle about a girl who wins a rabbi’s son’s admiration in a Purim play about the importance to the Jews of knowledge and learning. Taking a more analytical approach, Marnie Carron’s Pre-Mitzvah Class read, outlined and compared two version of the Megillah.
Having already spent many Sunday School classes on the holidays, the Mitvah kids used their time to discuss ethics and the use of force. They also worked on their art projects about Jewish freedom. These works will be on display at the Congregation’s Passover Seder. Finally, the Mitvah class visited The Center For Jewish History in New York and learned about Jews who fled to China during the Holocaust and the Jews of Morocco. These exhibits supported the classes theme of Jews around the world and throughout history.
Scroll down to read more in the teachers’ own words.
Shalom Sessions Feature Mitvah Day and Kabbalah.
On January 27, provided with supplies from adult members of the Congregation, The Teen Mitzvah Club led the Sunday School kids in preparing snacks, drinks and sandwiches for those in need. Afterward, the Baumanns, Hamiltons and Ulmans drove to downtown Bridgeport to personally deliver lunch bags to people on John Street. The spot under the highway overpass is a gathering place for the hungry on Sundays. Our customers were grateful for the lunches, and we were grateful for the opportunity to connect directly with those we want to help. We delivered the remaining sandwiches and supplies to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission nearby.
The following week, Pre-Mitvah Teacher Marnie Carron introduced the kids to Kabbalah, starting with her red, string bracelet, signifying the protective nature of love. Given this example, the kids dyed white strings red and discussed the difference between the natural white of the string and its new outward appearance caused by the dye. Then the kids talked about who they were on the inside as opposed to how they appeared on the outside. Finally, they made collages, expressing their identities.
Zahav (Batia - 2/3)
1/27 - A few more leaves were added to our "Chasadim Tovim" tree for acts of kindness the boys shared with the group. Laura Snow read the boys a folk tale (Chinese?) about a kindness scroll and had the boys write the Hebrew word for kindness (chesed) on a "scratch" scroll.
We started with a word search of vocabulary related to Tu Bishevat, the Jewish New Year for Trees that just passed yesterday. Then we read about the holiday and discussed the vocabulary words that included the "Seven Species" of fruits and grains typically eaten on Tu Bishvat which are foods mentioned in the Torah. We looked at a diagram of the lunar phases in a month of the Jewish calendar, and they saw that Tu Bishevat occurs around the full moon because it occurs on the 15th day of the month Shevat (tu is "gematria" for the number 15). For some fun activites, see the worksheet on Genatria games and the crossword puzzle we never got to today.
I briefly explained the practice of "tithing" (taxing of farmers' crop) in Biblical times that made dating of trees an issue in those times. The Torah says not to eat the fruit for the first 4 years from when a tree is planted, and the tree is considered a "year old" on Tu Bishevat (even if planted the day before). Then, in pairs, the boys had to write down as many things we get from trees that they could think of in five minutes. They compared lists, and then I read to them about even more things trees give us from The Greening Book: Being a Friend to Planet Earth by E. Sabin.
During snack we briefly went over the mitzvah "Bal Taschit" (do not destroy/protect the environment) that is mentioned in the Torah and is part of the focus of Tu Bishvat. This is a time of year to remember our role in protecting the environment. Planting is also a custom of this holiday. Each child was given a seed packet of winter wheat grass to plant at home (with a directions sheet), courtesy of Joan Shaw CHJ member.
Be well and see you next week!
2/3 - Today we began with a Tu B'shevat review by having each child draw a picture of themselves doing something to protect or help nature. We discussed the drawings and reviewed the Jewish value that is emphasized on Tu B'shevat, "Bal Taschit".
Then we learned about the next holiday coming up, Purim. Looking at the Jewish lunar calendar poster, they found Tu B'shevat in the middle of Shevat and Purim in the middle of Adar, each falling around the time of the full moon. The day before Purim, the 14th of Adar, we later learned, was the day the evil Haman planned to destroy the Jews.
The boys did a Purim word search, then we read about the holiday words in an accompanying text summary (http://www.ourjewishcommunity.org/wp-content/pdfs/purim_word_search.pdf). Next we watched a really cute video based on the story of Esther (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYGqOMe-DqQ).
During snack I read a book called Raisel's Riddle by E. Silverman, illus. S. Gaber. This is a Jewish variation of the Cinderella story. Raisel is a poor Jewish orphaned girl from Poland whose grandfather, a scholar, allowed her to study the ancient texts. Her knowledge of the Talmud and her riddle (What's more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold? What can never be traded, stolen, or sold? What comes with great effort and takes time, but then once yours will serve you again and again?) wins the rabbi's son's admiration at the Purim play. Eventually, when he answers the riddle, Raisel agrees to marry him. For Jews, "learning" or "knowledge", is the precious thing.
We will do more Purim activities and learn more about Purim mitzvot next week, including the mitzvah of sending gifts of food to friends (Mishloach manot). I will have the class do this for their classmates. Please send in six packaged snacks and/or juice boxes to be distributed to the boys' Purim baskets (which we will make in class next time and send home). If possible, please send a gluten free snack. Also, please remember to send Tzedakah money each week.
For those children ho were absent, you can let them watch the video and print out the word search and accompanying text to do at home, if you like.
Pre-Mitzvah (Marnie - 4/5)
1/27 - Today in class we discussed the story of Purim. I read the Megillah, the book of Esther to the class. We are also beginning our pen pal program. I gave everyone their assigned pen pal. Your child has a blue paper with the name, grade, address and email of their pen pal. HOMEWORK: please have your child write their first letter to their pen pal. They should introduce themselves and share their experiences with CHJ. You can mail their letter once it's written. Hopefully the class will be able to share the responses they get back.
2/3 - Here's what the 4/5 class did on Sunday. We continued to discuss the story of Purim. I read a different version of the Megilah (the book of Esther) to the class. This time we took the time to outline the "main events" in the story. Jake’s Mom, Randi will be working with the class to take that outline and work it into a skit will be performed at the Purim Carnival.
Finally if your child didn’t get a chance to finish last week’s assignment, please have your child write their first letter to their pen pal. They should introduce themselves and share their experiences with CHJ. You can mail their letter once it's written. Hopefully the class will be able to share the responses they get back.
Mitzvah (Rachel -6/7)
1/27 - This week we began with a philosophical discussion about the use of force and whether it was ever warranted. Considering our humanistic values and the idea of not harming others and treating others in how we would like to be treated, the conversation began by considering the events of an English soccer match. A player kicked a ball boy for an opposing team, when the ball boy purposely held up the game by not releasing the ball to the player. (You can watch the video on-line.) Questions considered and connections made included: If the ball boy broke the rules of the game (and of fair play) is it ok for the player to break the rules? The boy held up the game intentionally, he had to be aware of the potential consequences. The player is older and famous, so he has a higher moral obligation than the ball boy. The player could have called over the referee. It is never ok to kick someone else. One student made the connection to a parent interfering in a child's hockey game and hitting a child to protect his child from being punched. Is it ok to use force to protect someone else? What if that means the force is used against a child by an adult? In a recent assassination attempt, the crowd tackled and beat the gun man. Is it ok to use force to protect someone else if everybody is an adult? Following that discussion, (which went on for 40 minutes-and they could have kept going!) students broke into teams to create art projects representing Jewish freedom. We will exhibit the final projects at the Passover Seder.
2/3 - On Sunday we visited the Center for Jewish History at 15 W 16th Street in New York City. The shows currently on exhibit included Jewish Life in Shanghai from 1936-49, Looking Back: the Jews of Morocco, Jewish life in NYC from 1900-2012, and Other Zions about the other possible homelands for the Jewish people that had been considered as an alternative to Israel. These exhibits all fit in nicely with our Sunday School theme of examining Jewish life and culture in different times and places historically.
About half the class attended. The kids learned most about the lives of Jews who fled to China during World War II. The Jews suffered from discrimination at work and squalid and overcrowded living conditions, but at least most who fled to China survived the Holocaust. We also explored the exhibit on Morroccan Jews, and the kids saw ancient Jewish texts. In addition to the museum, the kids enjoyed being in New York City, especially Grand Central Station.
Shalom Sessions Test "Jew I.Q.", Thrill Students with Revelations of Jewish Heritage Shared by Prominent Figures in Modern Culture.
January's Shalom Session was a true test of our students' "Jew IQ." During our "Name That Tune" session, kids listened to short clips of music and competed to identify the artist and/or song title. Students who've been enjoying this year's dynamic music classes led by Abby and G. had no trouble recognizing some of their favorite Hebrew melodies, but the game was taken to a whole new level when songs by Jewish pop stars were thrown into the mix. Many kids were surprised and delighted to find out that pop sensations Pink, Adam Lambert, and Paula Abdul share their Jewish heritage. It was an exciting battle between the Shalom Session teams, with lots of "Oh, I know this, I can sing the whole thing, but I just can't remember who performs it" and "Oh, oh, we sang this last week in music...what is it??", as kids conferred furiously with each other and raced against the clock to be crowned musical champion.Our next session, "Guess Who?" was another opportunity for teams to prove their superior knowledge of Jewish culture. Teams chose between categories such as "Scientists", "Authors", "Actors", "Athletes", and "Politicians" and had to use clues to identify Jewish role models of past and present in each profession. Some figures came as no surprise (Albert Einstein was an easy pick), but others stumped our students, and many kids were amazed to find that their favorite author (Dan Gutman) or their favorite actor (Daniel Ratcliffe, aka, Harry Potter), have Jewish roots. It was an eye-opening experience for many, who hopefully came away from the session with an understanding that Jews are acknowledged and successful in many different fields.
We are looking forward to more fun, educational, team-building Shalom Sessions in the coming months.
Amid Discussions of Gemilut Chasadim, Tikkun Olam and Tu B’Shevat, Emissary Teaches about Israeli Geography and Music.
The Kesef (K/1) class learned about Israel from Mori, our emissary from the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI http://www.jafi.org.il), read Bible stories , and discussed Tu B'Shevat. The Zahav (2/3) class focused on Gemilut Chasadim, performing acts of loving kindness, and Tikkun Olam, repairing of the world. The Zahav kids learned about Israeli geography from Mori and finally discussed Tu B'Shevat through the story of Honi Hamegael. The Pre-Mitzvah (4/5) class also discussed Tu B'Shevat and Tikkun Olam. To explore the concept of Tikkun Olam, the Pre-Mitzvah kids researched Jewish heroes, choosing their favorites and defending their choices in a court of their peers. Finally, the class spent time with Mori, the Israeli emissary, sampling contemporary Israeli music as did the Mitzvah class. The Mitzvah class is also learning about Jewish immigration by sharing stories of their own families and preparing for a trip to the Center for Jewish History in NYC (http://www.cjh.org/p/2). Finally, the class is embarking on an ongoing art project about Jewish Freedom.
Kesef (Taffy - K/1)
We met with the Israeli visitor last session. She had the kids play games and taught them about Israeli geography. It was fun for all. We have been reading some bible stories this month. We also talked about Tu Bishvat.
1/6 -Today we started a unit on Jewish values. We started the lesson with a quick picture book, Do You Know What I'll Do? (C. Zolotow), about a girl who promises to do all kinds of nice and thoughtful things for her little brother. This was an introduction to discussing a main value of Judaism "Gemilut Chasadim", performing acts of loving kindness. We brainstormed to think of examples of "gemilut chasadim" in their own life experience (some found this difficult/humorous). I introduced a poster that I will bring to class each week, a picture of a bare tree called "Growing the world into a better place/ Our acts of Gemilut Chasadim". Each week we will add leaves for each of the acts of loving kindness the boys do, until it's full of paper leaves (today we added 3 leaves for 3 nice things the boys did for family members). We also read and did a worksheet activity on the topic of "What you can do to help people" from The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving (E. Sabin).
During snack I introduced the concept of the mitzvah. Although most consider a mitzvah a "good deed", the actual meaning of the word is "commandment". I brought a pomegranate for snack and explained that it is a symbolic food for Jews because the sages say its many seeds represent the 613 mitzvot mentioned in the Torah. I said that as Humanistic Jews, we are more concerned with making the world a better place through our "acts of loving kindness" than with following commandments (many of the 613 commandments do not really apply to our modern lives).
Finally, I read a short fable about a man who throws beached starfish into the ocean to save their lives. Asked why he does this when there are so many millions of starfish, he replies "I make a difference to this one." This led to some discussion of why small acts of kindness can help in the big scheme of things.
Next week we will talk about the goal of "Tikkun Olam", repair of the world, and we'll focus on our job protecting the environment, as Tu B'shvat, the Jewish Arbor/Earth-day, comes later in the month.
1/13 -Mori, a teenage Israeli emissary, visited our group for the first 45 minutes of class. She taught the kids about Israel's geographical areas by doing map puzzles and looking at photos. Then we played two very active games: 'yam/y'vasha' and 'dag melooach'. 'Yam/Y'vasha' is a game of listening to Hebrew words (yam=sea, y'vasha=dry land or shore) and quickly jumping onto the correct geographical feature as the leader calls out the word. 'Dag Melooach', a running/tag game similar to Red light/Green light 123, means 'salty fish' and Mori introduced it with a discussion about the Dead Sea and how no fish can actually live there.
During snack I reminded the boys of our class tree that will gain leaves as they share the 'gemilut hasadim', acts-of-loving-kindness, that they perform over the next weeks. We taped on five more leaves that morning as I read to them the emails you sent me describing their kind acts.
Next we talked about the meaning of 'Tikkun Olam' or 'world repair'. I handed out pieces of a puzzle, each piece describing ways to help repair the world to make it a better place. The topics were: caring for the environment; visiting the sick; giving money to help those in need; honoring parents; welcoming guest/stranger; feeding the hungry; taking care of animals; volunteering for a good cause; and taking care of the elderly. Each child thought of at least one example of how they could perform these acts of tikkun olam and wrote it on a post-it. As they shared their examples, we put the puzzle together and saw it formed a circle to look like Earth.
Finally, I showed the boys a video story about a Jewish character (from both the Torah and the Talmud), 'Honi Hamegael', Honi ('the Circle Maker') and the Carob Tree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRfV7XrGfBo This story is traditionally told around Tu B'shevat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, also considered the Jewish Arbor/Earth Day. In the Midrash from the Talmud, Honi sees someone planting a carob tree and asks the person why he is bothering to plant a tree that will only bear fruit in seventy years. The man responds that he plants it for his grandchildren just as his grandparents planted carob trees for him. Then Honi, like Rip Van Winkle, falls asleep and awakes seventy years later to meet the man's grandchildren who are enjoying the fruits of the tree. Tu B'shevat is coming up this week on Shabbat! I hope to see you all at the seder on Saturday evening! This is one of my and my children's favorite CHJ events.
1/6 - Happy New Year! Here's the quick recap of what the 4-5 class did this morning at CHJ Sunday school. We began with a quick introduction of the next holiday on the Jewish calendar; Tu B'shvat – Jewish Arbor/Earth day. A big part of the holiday is the concept on leaving the world a better place, tikun olam. So we then discussed people, heroes that have practiced tikun olam. The class mentioned both MLK And Rosa Parks - both great examples of African American heroes. This lead to the discussion of Jewish heroes. Each student was given 30 minutes to look up/research a Jewish hero. They needed to: explain who the person was, why they picked that hero, and who would play that hero in the movie of their life. The heroes they chose were: Judah Maccabee, Mordecai Sheftall (a revolutionary war hero) and Hank Greenburgh (Jewish home run king). Finally they presented what they learned by "defending" their hero in court. The "jury" - their classmates asked questions about the choices made. Since they happened to all pick male heroes next class we will discuss some Jewish women heroes.
1/13 - Here's the quick recap of what the 4-5 class did this morning at CHJ Sunday school. We began with a quick recap about Jewish heroes. They were tasked to "redo" last week’s class but they were instructed to pick a heroine this time. They picked Thelma "Tiby" Eisenhower, a baseball player in the all American Girls Pro Baseball League. They also picked Rebecca Gratz, an advocate for children and those less fortunate. After that they spent time with Mori, the Israeli emissary who did an interesting program on contemporary Israeli music.
1/6 - This Sunday we will be starting a unit on immigration, with a focus on Ellis Island. Can your child please come prepared to share a family story about immigration? It does not necessarily have to be about Ellis Island. It can be old, contemporary, whatever. I do understand that in some families there may not be these stories. That is ok too.
1/13 - This Sunday the mitzvah class broke into small groups to begin brainstorming about an art project related to Jewish Freedom. The students had been asking to do some art making; so we will spend a little time each week on this as we move forward. If you have any newspapers the students can bring in for paper mache, that would be very helpful.
At 10:15 we were joined by the Israeli Emissary, Mori. She did a great presentation for the students about contemporary Israeli music. The students were super engaged and got to hear a lot of music from Israeli artists of many styles. She has said she will share the list of artists with Beth, so that I can forward them on to you all, should the students want to look up the music.
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.