Second Grade – Repairing Together

MJDS is lucky enough to partner with Repairing Together, a nationally-recognized organization, developed by MJDS alumni parent Elsien Crawford, which is focused on kindness, respect, community and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Repairing Together offers students from diverse backgrounds opportunities to engage with the outside world, to connect meaningfully with each other and to work together to repair and give back to their local community.

For the past year, seventh and eighth graders at MJDS have been participating in regular programming with two local Milwaukee schools: Bruce Guadalupe Community School and Milwaukee College Prep. Today, our second grade class took part in their first Repairing Together program.

They traveled to Arts@Large where they met one of the five second grade classes from Bruce Guadalupe Community School. Although students from both schools initially clung to friends in their respective classes, they quickly let their guard down and found themselves sharing information about themselves and their own schools. They played theater games and created a beautiful art project together. Upon returning to MJDS, our students gathered together and shared their meaningful reflections of their morning all of which were centered on our three core values at MJDS: wonder, empathy and tikkun olam.

Yesterday’s Reflections…Today’s Reality

Today, instead of writing about a current happening at MJDS, I am featuring a letter written to MJDS Friends by MJDS alum, Graham Hoffman, Class of 1993.  Although he graduated over 25 years ago, the experiences he reflects upon, the lessons he learned, the core values that he describes, are still who we are today.  We are pioneers. We are risk takers. We are MJDS.

My MJDS Story: Graham Hoffman

Dear MJDS Friends,

This year will mark 34 years since my first day in Geveret Sandy Morgan’s K-4 class at MJDS. It’s funny that when I reflect back on my first two years at MJDS, (we were housed in the old Temple Emanuel building), my earliest memories of MJDS are of a place that very few others knew or, for those who did, still remember.

The entire school could be assembled in a classroom-sized multi-purpose room where we would sing ‘Avadim Hayinu’ and imagine ourselves as Hebrew slaves building pyramids out of cardboard bricks while Geveret Morgan accompanied us on the piano.

The ‘office’ consisted of a single tiny room staffed by receptionist, Geveret Barb Friedman, and our beloved Dr. Doris Shneidman, both of whom knew each of us by name. My K-4 classroom was a few steps away from the office door, the entrance to the ‘school’ and the door to Geveret Merzy Eisenberg’s classroom where we each sat on donated carpet sample rectangles arranged in a circle on the floor and sang songs like ‘Hashafan Hakatan’ and pretended to catch colds from leaving the door open in the cold and sneezed our brains out. We paid very close attention to Geveret Eisenberg’s wardrobe choices – as it was only on a ‘slacks day’ that we could motivate her through our good behavior and learning to treat us to a headstand.

On reflection, in those early years I think we sang a lot. Baby Beluga in K-4 was accompanied by goldfish crackers, which the girls in our class would savor for hours while the boys ate every morsel before the first verse was through.

(Read the rest of Graham’s story here)

Upper School Tackles Tough Questions

This year we have adopted blogging as our main way of updating the world about MJDS. Teachers use their classroom blogs to share with parents classroom happenings, and students use their blogs as a way to express wonder and share what they have been learning.  This week, I want to highlight one of our blogs called The Gift of T’filah. The majority of the content in this blog is student-written. Here are just two of the posts written today by our upper school students: The Great Debate of Hillel and Shamai and What Am I Thankful For.

Wonder – Through the Lens of an MJDS Eighth Grader

This year marks the 36th anniversary of MJDS, our double chai. To celebrate this joyous milestone, one of the many things we are doing at MJDS is presenting an e-series of narratives told in the first person by different voices of our MJDS community. Parents, teachers, alumni, alumni-parents, students and friends share how MJDS has made an impact on their lives and their Jewish identities. This week’s featured story is especially exciting as it is told by a current MJDS eighth grader, Sophia Edelstein. Her eloquence, confidence and self awareness of who she is both as an individual and as a Jew is the wonder we aspire to all our students.  Read her story here.

Mishpacha – Family

The great thing about being a K-8 school is the opportunity for children in all grades to interact with each other. For example, the eighth graders are book buddies with the junior kindergarteners and the seventh graders collaborate on projects with the second graders.

Once a month, MJDS students come together for a special program organized and run by the eighth graders, called mishpachot, or families. Students form mishpachot spanning various grade levels and participate in activities together to welcome Shabbat.  The eighth graders are put into the driver’s seat. They plan and execute lessons, with the goal of engaging all the students in a positive, meaningful experience.

Last week MJDS had its second mishpachot of the year. As we begin to feel fall in the air, and Thanksgiving slowly approaches, the question we ask ourselves and our children is, “What are we thankful for?” Our eighth grade leaders posed this question to our students. While some responses included specific thanks such as “I am thankful for professional sports in Wisconsin” or “I am thankful for cupcakes,” the majority of the responses were, “I am thankful for my family, my friends and my school.”

This week the eighth graders took the opportunity to reflect upon their experiences during mishpachot; you can read a few of their blog posts here and here and a post by their ELA teacher here. This is our MJDS Mishpachot Tree of Thanks; come to MJDS and see how we are truly one mishpacha.

A Physical and Mental Challenge

Last week the MJDS eighth grade class embarked on their annual bike trip. As a former MJDS student myself, I remember practicing with my class and then getting on our bikes as a group and riding in a two-day challenge to Madison.

Now, over 25 years later, the eighth graders are still taking part in this bike trip, practicing with each other weekly to build up their endurance, for the ultimate 90 miles ride. Last week all their hard work had finally paid off and they climbed on their bikes on an early Sunday morning and set out for Rainbow Day Camp in Fredonia. The students spent the night at Rainbow together and then got up early the next day to get back on their bikes and bike back to MJDS where all the students, staff and eighth grade families would be eagerly waiting their return, welcoming them with cheers and applause.

This bike trip tests their endurance and physical and mental toughness. Ariana, one of the eighth graders said, “It was a mental and physical challenge, but at the same time, so much fun!”

Sophie echoed a similar sentiment, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  When else will we be able to say we biked 90 miles? It was truly a learning experience; we learned how to really talk to each other and rely on each other.”

While this trip definitely strengthened the bond between the students, many of whom have been together since kindergarten, the parents also came together to support each other and each other’s children. Many of these parents rode either one or both ways alongside the eighth graders and were their biggest cheerleaders at the finish line. The trust and community that the eighth students and parents have for one another other is MJDS, in every class, every year.

Second Grade Old Fashioned School Days

Yesterday, the Second Grade class at MJDS continued its annual tradition of Old Fashioned School Days.  Students chose new names and personas, and dressed in an “old fashioned costume” to complete their character. Instead of a 21st century car line drop-off, the students walked to school from Klode Park carrying their old fashioned knapsacks over their shoulders.

To get a feel for the day and the culture and community of MJDS, read Geveret Dowling’s blog post: Old Fashioned School Day Thoughts From Gev. Bertha

Building Confidence and Empathy

Last week the seventh grade class at MJDS came together and showed that their bond goes beyond just being classmates. The week started with auditions for the upcoming school musical, High School Musical, and the seventh graders gathered as a group to try out. Despite competing for the same roles, the students supported and cheered on their peers.  The vulnerability these students displayed inspired their peers to express themselves with confidence and develop a mutual feeling of empathy within the group.

At the end of the week, these students traveled to Devil’s Lake State Park to hike and rock climb as a group. For some, the activity was accomplished with ease, but for others, it was both a physical and mental challenge. The seventh graders applauded each other on as they climbed and lent hands to one another.

These two activities are part of the weekly life of an MJDS student, and exemplify the empathy, community and confidence building that is MJDS.

Kindergarten Community

A little more than two weeks into the school year, the Senior Kindergarten class is already coming together into a family and forming the bond of community. We gathered with our families at the park, tie-dyed our MJDS shirts, ate, laughed and played.  We welcomed new families into our class and reignited the bonds already developed from last year.



MJDS Learning Partner, Dr.Dale Truding, captures the Senior Kindergarteners’ reflections on this experience here.