In December, we worked on the story of Chanukah. We talked about how the word “Chanukah” means dedication. It’s still a good time to think about what you are most dedicated to and how we show that. The kids made books showing the Chanukah historical story using their own comic pictures. We learned about the dreidel and the Chanukah customs. They were mostly well familiar with these!
January is about Tu B’Shivat (The 15th of the Hebrew month of Shivat). It’s like a Jewish earth day. We celebrate trees and nature on this day. It starts the evening of Jan. 30th this year and runs through the evening of Jan. 31st (holidays begin at sundown because in the creation story God made evening and then morning…) Check out the full moon that will be in the sky then (almost always a full moon on Jewish holidays).
We mixed grape juice showing the special 4 Cups from a Tu Bishvat Seder (seder means order). We also planted parsley to hopefully grow in time for Passover!? Has anybody seen a sprout?
If you want to try a Tu Bishvat Seder at home, check out: https://reformjudaism.org/practice/ask-rabbi/how-can-i-celebrate-tu-bishvat-home
Some of the children also made a mezuzah to hang on their bedroom doors.
Remind your kids that hanging the mezuzah on a slant is a sign of compromise.
We have also started an introduction to Hebrew letters. They are commenting on the shapes of the letters and what they remind the children of. We are learning a new Hebrew vocabulary word for each letter of the alphabet.
During the month of October, we worked on several different projects. Some of your kids practiced being a Torah scribe, a sofer, in honor of Simchat Torah. They saw how challenging it is to use a quill for writing! The book that I love which explains the profoundly beautiful process for writing a Torah is The Sofer by Eric Ray. It is available from amazon.
We also read the book, The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper. Like The Sofer, these are books for all ages. We spoke about what makes the rule golden and the different versions of the rule. Your children made the most amazing, GOLD, posters to remember this rule! Don’t forget to speak about it in your home and during social interactions so that the lesson at their kitchen table will be reinforced in their natural experiences of life.
Some kids also worked on Shema Pillowcases. The book I used for this lesson is: The Bedtime Sh’ma by Sarah Gershman.
Check out this video from a deaf rabbi who teaches the Shema in sign language.
Questions to think about:
- Do you pray at night?
- Have you talked with your partner about what you say or how it feels?
- Have you talked with your kids about praying or hoping or reflecting on things at night?
- Did you grow up with praying at night?
- Could you imagine singing the 6 words of the Shema with your kids at night?
In November, we got ready for Thanksgiving and even started thinking Chanukah!
We learned the word, Todah, which means Thank you! Some of your kids made Todah Placemats to use at Thanksgiving. They came up with dozens and dozens of things to be thankful for! Did people share what they are grateful for during your Thanksgiving?
To get ready for Chanukah we took out the Chanukiah or Chanukah Menorah! We have gone over the name for the helper candle is the shamash. You put the candles in right to left (like reading Hebrew) but light the newest ones first.
We read a great pop-up book on the history of Chanukah and your kids made the most creative and wonderful books telling the story in their own ways.
In September, we learned all about Rosh Hashanah. Now, I am very aware of the difference between learning about a holiday and observing the holiday. I am trying to bridge these two things. We learned that Rosh means ‘head’, ha means ‘the’ and Shana means ‘year’. We learned that Shanah Tovah means ‘Good Year’.
We blew the shofar (or tried to!) The three notes of the shofar are tekiah, shevarim and teruah and of course TEKIAH GEDOLAH (the big tekiah) when the blast is as long as they can hold it! It is supposed to be an alarm clock for our hearts and souls. The blast is meant to wake us up to our better selves.
That is why we played the aiming game. The word chet is usually translated as ‘sin’ but it really means ‘missing the mark’. Talk with your kids about what you are aiming for this new year (5778) as well! Your kids will surely remember the Rosh Hashana foods of apples and challah in honey for a sweet new year!
Our Yom Kippur lesson was centered on saying sorry. We spoke about how Yom Kippur can be thought of as the saddest or most serious day and also the happiest day because we can start over and do better. We spoke about saying sorry and asking for forgiveness from the people we have hurt. It’s hard to say, “I’m sorry” for a variety of reasons. It’s easier to make excuses or skirt around the issue.
The game Sorry was a fun way to think about what we know we can work on. Visualizing ourselves doing better is also a good step to being able to rise above behavior of the past. We have to keep working on this every day.
The book, The Hardest Word by Jacqualine Jules, is fun and meaningful for all ages.
Yom means ‘Day’ and Kippur means ‘atonement’ (or some people say at one ment). When we feel whole and at peace ourselves and when we come together as a people in unified prayer and a shared experience. Pur also relates to the word Purim meaning ‘lots’. On Yom Kippur, they cast lots to see which goat would be the scape goat on which the sins of the community would be symbolically placed. On Purim, Haman cast lots to decide on the day to kill the Jews. Although they are opposite holidays in some ways, they are connected.