First Days of School Combine Review of Fall Holidays With Exploration of Ethical Behavior and Jews Around the World.
Starting a week before Rosh Hashanah, the first days of Sunday School included discussions of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot in all classes. The youngest kids (K/1) read stories and did artwork and floor puzzles, while discussing symbols of the New Year and harvesting. The second and third graders made cards for Rosh Hashanah and grappled with the ideas of thinking before acting and fixing mistakes. The fourth and fifth graders wrote New Year’s resolutions and used videos of themselves to examine their reactions to bullying. They were responding to “Molly’s Pilgrim,” a story about a Russian Jewish immigrant whose new American classmates deride her for her unfamiliar ways. The oldest kids (6/7) “agreed to treat each other with respect [and] have fun at appropriate times.“ Given these ground rules, the kids compared their various Jewish ancestors and various customs for celebrating the Fall Holidays around the world today, including music videos for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot.
Scroll down to read more in the teachers’ own words.
Shalom Sessions: Shofar Demonstration and International Day of Peace.
On the first day of School, Joy Moon blew the shofar to summon the students to a new year, while her brother Max quizzed the kids on the meaning of the ram’s horn and its signals. In a light-hearted closing, the kids pretended to be animals with horns by holding shofars up to the sides of their heads.
CHJ’s Social Action advocate Gail Ostrow introduced the kids to the International Day of Peace by exploring the growth of of peace from our hearts, to our families, our schools, our communities, our cities and ultimately the nations of the world. According to Gail, “Our peace shalom session this past Sunday revealed a deep understanding of the nature of peace and how to cultivate it. I hope your children shared their drawings, observations, and peace promises with you. I hope your children will teach you how to sign ‘may peace prevail on earth’ and you can practice as a family.”
Kesef (Taffy - K/1)
During the last two Sunday school sessions we talked about the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur (very briefly) and Sukkot. We read stories, discussed symbols and traditional foods of the holidays. We talked about the concepts of beginning a new year and harvesting. The kids did some artwork and floor puzzles. We went over what they can expect next week at the farm, decorating of the Sukkah , the service and luncheon.
They also did Hebrew with Laura. She and I usually follow the holidays and our lessons tend to interconnect.
Zahav (Batia - 2/3)
9/9 - We are starting our classes in the classroom (music is later in the day). Our first week we began by getting to know one another, as some children were first-timers. I paired the children with partners that they did not know. They interviewed one another and then introduced and presented the other child to the class. Introduced were: Ben, Joshua, Julian, Sam, Aidan, Bradley, Zaide, and Jackson.
Next, Laura Snow, our Hebrew teacher, came in for a lesson. The students reviewed and colored the letter "resh". Mrs. Snow handed a baggie to each child containing the words "rosh hashana" (in Hebrew) and also the separate letters for "rosh hashana". They found the "resh" and matched the letters in order (left to right!). We saved the words for making cards.
At 10:00 am, we went to the "pod" area for snack and a story. We had apples and honey and talked about why this food is symbolic for Rosh Hashanah (I think it was Julian who said, "for a sweet new year!"). We also had bagels and juice. Parents will be providing snack from now on. Since it will be earlier, we will appreciate something "breakfasty". During snack, I read the book On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by C. G. Fishman/M.W. Hall.
We finished reading back in our classroom where we discussed some topics in the story: the month of Tishri (Rosh Hashanah is the first day); the lunar Jewish calendar and the months that each overlap with two from the modern calendar; the traditional Jewish idea of the "Book of Life"; Tashlich--symbolically getting rid of bad deeds and thoughts done over the past year. We discussed "taking a personal inventory" of our own behavior towards others at this time of year. Next class we will talk more about atonement, as we prepare for Yom Kippur.
We finished class time by making cards for Rosh Hashanah. These were meant to go to friends or family, but if the children would prefer they may bring them to the Sukkot Sunday school session (2 more classes) and hang them in the sukkah as decorations. Not everyone finished their cards, so please find time to finish them at home.
We then attended music in the pod led by the older kids and teens. The session ended with a shofar presentation by Joy and Max Moon, CHJ graduates.
9/23 - In Hebrew, Mrs. Snow did a worksheet on the letter "shin" and an alef-bet matching activity.
We began class by doing a maze worksheet "Find Your Way to the Shofar", which was extremely complicated and hard to do without running into a dead end and having to erase mistakes. Although frustrating, I chose this activity to symbolize how, in order to be successful in life, we need to think before we act, but when we make mistakes there are ways to "fix" them.
We finished the picture book On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (from last class) and read When the Chickens Went on Strike (adapted from Sholom Aleichem), which describes the custom of Kapores to "erase" your sins by waving a chicken over your head. The custom in this funny book is actually still practiced by a small group of Jews today. We discussed alternatives to use for "atonement": doing tzedakah, "taschlich", saying sorry, fasting (skipping desserts for kids), changing bad behavior. And the students did some improv skits while the others guessed the bad behavior they acted out (bullying, fighting, yelling at family). Hopefully, they will be inspired to think before they act in the new year.
We finished class with a calendar coloring activity for the month of Tishrei year 5773. Your child can look at this again in his school bag. It is interesting to see all of the Jewish holidays happening in this month and compare the Hebrew calendar to our modern one.
We went to the pod for music with the other classes. Gail Ostrow led the Shalom session on International Peace Day.
I am looking forward to seeing you at the Yom Kippur family service where they will tell the story of Jonah (something we did not get to today) on Wednesday. Also next time class will meet at the farm and sukkah for Sukkot (I don't have the details yet). So see you soon and Happy New Year!
Pre-Mitzvah (Marnie - 4/5)
9/9 - Here's the quick recap of what the 4-5 class did last Sunday at CHJ Sunday school. We reviewed and discussed the holidays that are coming up this month. We focused on Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. We talked about what each holiday is, and discussed some of the items they may see including; the shofar, luluv & etrog. We also spoke about the sukkah and how it's decorated with harvest themed items. As a class we combined the holidays by creating cards to decorate the CHJ Sukkah. Inside the students wrote their new years resolutions. They decorated the outside with items symbolic of sukkah.
9/23 - In today's class we read Molly's Pilgrim, a story about a Russian immigrant who learns about Thanksgiving. In the story Molly is bullied about being different, until her teacher explains how Thanksgiving comes from the Jewish holiday Sukkot. Since bullying is a big part of the story, I asked the class to think about how they would handle a situation where they saw someone being bullied. We then acted out several situations; since I had my iPad, I recorded them and then we discussed their response. They seemed to have fun and we switched roles and we started all over. They decided the best way to handle bullying is to speak up and when needed, find a grown up to stop things from getting out of hand.
Mitzvah (Rachel -6/7)
9/9 - It was great to be back with my CHJ students! Our opening activity for the first class was an ice breaker/introduction to the themes of Judaism in various times/places. Getting the students to think about countries around the globe and history of their own families, they completed a "scavenger hunt" of sorts. Walking about the room students asked each other questions including, find someone with a relative who speaks a foreign language or find three students and the countries their ancestors came from. This was a good opening for our new students to mix with the returning seventh graders.
In our second activity, we did a brief Q&A about the Ten Commandments, while I tossed a ball to those who raised their hand and answered the questions. The students broke into three groups and wrote the 10 commandments for behavior in our classroom. In these rules, the class agreed to treat each other with respect, have fun at appropriate times, and arrive to Sunday School on time, so that they could have snack.
Like last year, snack will be the first activity of the day. If students arrive after 9:40, snack will no longer be available. If it is your families turn to provide snack, a breakfast like item would be great.
If you have any questions or concerns, if your child has a special learning need or medical issue, please let me know. I look forward to another great year at CHJ!
9/23 - The mitzvah class started with apples and ended with Paula Abdul...huh?
We began comparing and contrasting Rosh Hashana music videos. What did they teach us about Rosh Hashana? How did they illustrate different practices of Judaism? What were the similarities between the Israeli videos and the American one? The differences? Students reflected on dress, traditions regarding gender and location. Videos were by the Maccabeats, the Fountainheads and Aish video.
Then with a Power Point presentation to guide us, we began by looking at a couple of lesser known traditions, feeding the animals at the zoo apples and honey for a sweet New Year and the Syrian Sephardic tradition of eating black eyed peas. The origin of eating the beans comes from a reference in the Talmud. Eating black eyed peas are said to bring good fortune for the year to come.
From Syrian black eyed peas, we began to talk about Syria. Where is it? What is happening there today? Why? What is the history of Judaism in Syria (starting in biblical times) and what it is like to be Jewish in Syria today. (Jewish population today is less than 100.)
We then discussed the presence of a large Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, the S-Y's.
Contemporary Jews of Syrian descent include Paula Abdul, whose father was born in Syria and Jerry Seinfeld, whose mother was raised in the S-Y community of Brooklyn.
We wrapped up class looking at the Fountainheads video, "Build a Booth" and brushing up on the meaning of Sukkot. I hope to see you all next week at the Sukkot celebration, it is one of my personal top two favorite family events we do at CHJ. (the other being the Tu b'Shabat seder in January)
At the Shalom session, your children learned to say May Peace Prevail on Earth in sign language.
School Year Ends with Graduation following Discussions of Israel, Immigration, Jewish Heroes and Jewish Identity.
In late April and May, all classes concluded their studies for the school year. The younger kids in the Kesef (K/1) and Zahav (2/3) classes, explored Israel both in the classroom and at the Israeli fair that happened to be in the same building on May 6. The kids especially enjoyed singing and dancing to Israeli songs. Batia (Zahav) extended the discussion of Israel to a discussion of immigration to America prior to Israel’s founding in 1948, noting that all the kids had ancestors who had made that journey. The Pre-Mitzvah kids surveyed Jewish heroes, and each chose one on which to report. The Mitzvah kids ended the year in reflection on their own Jewish identities. These kids had to make the case for their representing Jews on a fictitious space craft that saves only a representative cross-section of humanity from earth’s destruction by collision with an asteroid.
The last session of the year featured graduation. This year’s graduates were honored with public recognition of their considerable achievements, all of which included community service. All graduates have chosen to have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and many have chosen to do more community service than required because they have found it enjoyable and fulfilling. We look forward to their participation in the Teen Tzedakah Club and Social Action, truly coming of age in the Congregation.
Classes Gather to Discuss Giving Tzedakah Funds.
All year, our Sunday School children have been bringing in change and dollars for the Sunday School tzedakah box. We traditionally have a discussion and vote about which organization should receive our tzedakah money. This year, however, we focused on how to choose a charity. We talked about different types of charities, such as those that help people directly, animals, or the environment. We talked about local, national, and international organizations. We talked about different ways charities could help, such as education and awareness of an issue, or giving tangible items such as medicine and food directly to needy people. Finally, we talked about doing research to find out if a charitable organization uses its money wisely and helps the most people it can, by looking at charity rating organizations on the Internet. We did not pick a specific place for the children's tzedakah, though. We may take a kids’ vote at the Annual Meeting.
5/6 - Last Sunday the kids sang with Beth, had a Hebrew lesson, and then we went to explore the Israeli fair. They were happy to play and run around the gym a little. We went to watch a group of young people sing Israeli songs and dance.
4/29 - Today we started Sunday school with songs for Israel’s Independence Day, which was last week. We sang Zum Gali Gali (a pioneer work song), Am Yisrael Chai, Hatikva (the national anthem), David Melech Yisrael (with hand motions), a newer song in English called “My Flag”, and we sang and danced to Hava Nagila.
We continued to talk about Israel for a few minutes. We looked at a map of Israel, finding the main bodies of water. Then we located the small country on a globe. We talked about why Israel was important, as a homeland, for Jewish people around the world who may have experienced discrimination and hardship.
Since Israel attained statehood only in 1948, we discussed why the United States, a land of “liberty and justice for all,” was such an attractive place to move to for many of our great grandparents. After reviewing the family trees brought in by the students, we saw that most had at least one ancestor that immigrated to the U.S. from eastern Europe.
Since we have only a few classes for our “immigration” unit, I decided to read a non-fiction book called Journey to Ellis Island: How my father came to America, which really sums up the immigrant experience. This is a longer picture book in chapter form, and we will continue to read it next week.
We then split into 2 groups for Hebrew, one with Laura Snow and the other with me.
5/6 - At music we continued singing some traditional songs of Israel and "workers". We did an inventive dance version of Hava Nagila (the kids made up the steps). We also practiced Ayfo Oree--written by the founder of Humanistic Judaism, Sherwin Wine. We continued to read a non-fiction chapter book called Journey to Ellis Island: How my father came to America. This book explains the story of one family who immigrated from Eastern Europe to New York in the 1920's and gives some background of the hardships they left behind in Russia. Finally, we visited the Israel Fair as a group. We decorated blue and white cookies; we decorated t-shirts for an Israeli orphanage; we learned how to say a sentence in Hebrew using the various parts of speech (subject, verb, preposition, object) as explained by some 4th graders at a booth; we pretended to do basic training of the IDF; and we listened to part of a concert given by children from Afula-Gilboa (our "sister city" to Fairfield county).
4/29 - We are edging closer to graduation and the summer. So, for the last few classes I've decided to focus on big picture/everyday ideas - Tikun Olom, tzadakah, and heroism. We started today's class with heroism and a discussion of what makes a person a hero. The class agreed that heroes speak up for those who can't necessarily speak for themselves - I.e. children and animals (puppies). They also agreed that heroes inspire others. Charity (tzadakah) and giving we're also mentioned as characteristics of a hero. For each characteristic mentioned I introduced a Jewish person who was known for their character. A few of the heroes I introduced were: Baron de Rothschild -, a philanthropist who donated and supported the early Zionist movement, Hank Greenberg - one of the first Jewish professional baseball players, and Miep Gies - one of several people that helped hide Jews, most notably Anne Frank's family in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. During next weeks class they will research and write a brief report on a Jewish hero of their choice.
5/6 - Yesterday in class the students researched Jewish heroes for their report. G, decided to report on Anne Frank, Stevie picked Einstien and Hannah picked Mollie Parnis Livingston - a NY fashion designer who raised money and awareness for a variety of charities. Everyone will share their report at our last class.
4/29 - As we wrap up the year, the Mitzvah class is discussing the Diaspora, Jewish identity in Israel, outside Israel, and how their personal identity as a Jew has formed. FOR HOMEWORK! Have your student gather images and information that relates to their identity as a Jewish person. We will spend next week making a collage /artwork to display during graduation. Your student will be more invested and have more fun if they bring in items with which to work, so please encourage them to do so.
5/6 - As we finish off the year, the mitzvah class turned the ideas we discussed during the year inward; and worked on exercises in self reflection.
First, they responded to the premise that the world is going to end (due to a giant asteroid) and that only a small cross section of the world population can be saved. The students needed to write a detailed letter to the "Space Ship Committee" detailing why they should be one of the individuals picked to represent the Jews on a spacecraft designed to save humanity. Reasons included understanding holidays and customs, representing the Humanistic Jewish population and being able to bring along Jewish artifacts and family heirlooms to pass history down.
After writing their letter, the students made a poster celebrating their individual Jewish identity.
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.