Class updates

Thank you all for your well-wishes and understanding during the time I was out before break.  I am healing and very happy to be back at school and on two legs!


During that week before break, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades all learned about the concept of God (a nice light topic for the sub!).  Students explored several ideas about God (beauty in nature, love, caring for others, the “uh-oh” feeling), and at the end of the week, they reflected on which ideas were most meaningful to them.

Ask them which story was most meaningful to them, and if they have any other “signs” of God’s presence.


3rd Grade is delving into Tanakh, learning about each of its three parts.  Ask them what Tanakh stands for (it’s an acronym!), and what is unique about each of those parts.  We are still working through this idea, so don’t be alarmed if they can’t explain it…yet!


4th grade is exploring Genesis all year, and we have begun the story of Abraham at Sodom and Gomorrah, where he argues with God.  We read the story in several different types of books.  Ask them to summarize the story for you, and ask them about the different books they read to learn the story.  For Hebrew, ask them to show you how quizlet works.  (They can find the most recent set linked from our google classroom page.)


5th grade is beginning to learn about different leaders in the Torah, in addition to Moses, with whom we have spent lots of time already this year.  Ask them which leaders we are learning about, and which one is their favorite, so far.  5th grade is also talking about different ways they can be leaders themselves during Shabbat Sing.  Talk with your student about what leadership task(s) make them the most excited.


It’s good to be back!

Moses as a Leader

Fifth grade has been exploring what the Torah teaches us about leadership.  We have spent time looking at different episodes of Moses’s life, and examining his leadership qualities in different stories.  Students have asked amazing questions, wondering about every aspect of Moses’s life and leadership–or lack thereof (see below).  They wrote, trying to persuade me that Moses either is or is not a model for Jewish leaders.  They reflected on their learning, and it seems that skits are their favorite way to learn stories, and that even in reflection, they continue to wonder about Moses and his standard of leadership.

Next, we will be looking at other leaders in the Torah, positive and less positive, well-known and lesser-known, and students will become experts on different leaders and have the chance to debate one another and find out, definitively (at least according to 5th grade) who is the best leader and role model of all.

Jewish Learning in Action

I went to watch the Upper School girls basketball game after school, and there were so many amazing things going on the entire time.  Parents were cheering for and encouraging every student on the court.  The students on the bench were focused on the game, cheering on their teammates.  Students who subbed out came off the court with smiles on their faces, greeted by a bench full of high fives.  Players passed the ball, played cooperatively, and communicated clearly with one another.  But all of these things are part of good youth basketball anywhere.

After the game, the team huddled together to celebrate.  This was quite a win.  The scoreboard told that MJDS won by about 20 points.  The players’ smiles told that this was their very first win as a team–not just this school year, but at all.  They huddled up, jumping, smiling, celebrating, and then from the bleachers, we heard their voices rising in song.  We listened more closely, and we heard it: all together, the entire basketball team was singing Shehechiyanu, thanking God for bringing them to this time.  That moment isn’t just good youth basketball.  That moment, when the most logical thing to do after a big win was to say a blessing, that was why we love MJDS.  That moment was everything.  Watch part of it here:

What makes Torah so important?

Third grade has been exploring Torah and what makes it so special to the Jews.  We have been looking at facts about Torah: how it’s dressed, how it’s divided, when it’s read, and much more.  (If you’re feeling brave, ask your third grader whether a Torah wears sandals!)  We brainstormed reasons Torah is special and important and what’s in the Torah.  We have created posters to organize our brains and thoughts and to teach about all of it.


Learning from Creation

In fourth grade Jewish Studies, since the end of the fall holidays, we have been studying creation.  We we exploring what we can learn from each day of creation, rather than focusing on memorizing what was created each day.  In pairs or on their own, the students “owned” a day of creation.  They got to know their day, considered what was special about their day, and studied the Torah text of their day.  They investigated what God said about their day (ask them about Tuesday, the third day!).  They imagined their day, and then they brought their day to life.  We worked on creation art, and as a class, we painted, colored, cut, glued, used sequins, origami, a cardboard box, and more.  Those who finished their days more quickly (there’s less for students to create on day 1 or 2 than, say, day 3 or 6) joined with another group to provide extra hands to cut, glue, fold, or color.  And once we had the days of creation looking beautiful, each group presented to the rest of the class, teaching their classmates what stands out about their day.

We missed you, ES, who was sick on presentation day!


WHAT’s in the Tanakh?!

The goal was to make sure fifth graders could navigate Tanakh.  I wanted to make sure I could give them a book, chapter, and verse, and that they would know how to find it in English and in Hebrew.  They did guided practice, finding some different things in Torah and in Tanakh, and they got more and more confident with their skills navigating in some very big books.  They read some verses.  And, being fifth graders, some words caught their eyes.

They noticed words like “naked,” “breast,” “womb,” and “ass.”  (To be clear, that last one refers to a donkey.)  All of a sudden, Tanakh got WAY more interesting.  I gave them as much context for these words as I could, between their giggles, and we moved on.  Except that we haven’t moved on.  These words have awakened in them a wonder and curiosity about Tanakh unique to pre-teens with access to language they don’t usually use, in a book they have been encouraged to learn about for years.

I have found myself saying things I never thought I would say as a rabbi or a teacher: “Put away the Tanakh.”  “No, you may not read Tanakh right now.”  “Seriously, close the Tanakh.”

We are working on using that wonder in the direction of our curriculum, and in the meantime, when students finish their work early or need something quiet to do in between activities, reading Tanakh is the most popular activity in the room.  Accompanied by giggles.