January Jewish Studies (5-8)

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FIFTH

Fifth Graders have been busy studying the story of Yosef (Joseph), and examining the “roller coaster” of his life. Students have been introduced to the idea of a character arc, and are excited to continue plotting Yosef’s life when some characters from an earlier chapter throw a plot twist (or is it…???) into our story. We’ve discussed food scarcity and what a famine is, and we’re helping Yosef to devise a plan to collect and store extra food for when the famine comes. This ties in nicely to our next Jewish holiday – Tu B’Shevat, which is about nature (birthday of the trees) and how best to take care of our planet. We’re excited to plant seeds in the greenhouse to see just how hard it can be to grow food – even before a famine hits.

Fifth grade students have also been preparing for their upcoming Tikkun ceremony, which is on January 25th, 2018. We hope you’re all able to make it to celebrate the amazing learning the students have been doing!!

SIXTH

Sixth graders have, sadly, concluded JCAT for the 2017-2018 school year. They each wrote a position paper to demonstrate their overall learning of our position, and had the chance to step into their characters’ voices one last time. Overall, it was a wonderful program and I am so glad we were able to be more empathetic and aware while exploring history.

Coming up, we will be doing a short unit on TaNaKh navigation and reviewing names and contents of Tanakh. I know that students don’t typically have Jewish Studies homework or tests to prepare for, but we will be doing weekly quizzes on this information, beginning next week. I will post each week’s topic on Google classroom and review it with students well in advance of the quiz, but please help remind them to study.

After/concurrent with the TaNaKh navigation unit, we will begin our study of Sefer Shemot, or the Book of Exodus. Most of the learning is done in English (with Hebrew also available, and there will be certain vocabulary words and patterns we will be looking at in Hebrew and build our translation skills). The overarching theme for the rest of the year is “creating community” as we see how the early Israelites built their nation. We will also be examining the leadership qualities of Moshe (Moses) and tracking his progress as he becomes the leader of B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel). I’m excited to be learning this story with them, while also increasing their TaNaKh skills.

SEVENTH

Seventh grade just finished a unique project which incorporated Jewish Studies, Art, and Social-Emotional learning. We are learning the story of the first king of Israel, Saul. First, we reviewed different leadership types throughout the TaNaKh and recognized the failure in them, thus the desire for a king. Once it is established that Saul is chosen as the future king, students began to track the story based on the characters’ emotions. They also learned about Mark Rothko, a Jewish artist whose paintings are blocks of color representing emotions. We combined all of this and students have created artwork depicting the emotions in the story of Saul in the style of Mark Rothko.

In our next project, we will be learning about the Jewish life-cycle event of marriage. Students will re-enact a wedding scene from a movie and add specific Jewish content to the scene, in order to transform it into a ceremony with Jewish customs. I’m really excited to see what these kids come up with – they are so creative, and I know it will be informative and entertaining.

EIGHTH

Eighth grade students just finished editing the newspapers they created, which were each from different time periods and stories of the Kingdom of Israel. Beginning with the rise of Saul, followed by the rise of David and downfall of Saul, to the downfall of David and the birth of Solomon. They covered topics such as breaking news, interviews, comics, crosswords, advertisements, advice columns, births & obituaries, sports, and more. This encouraged them to think about what life was like 2,500 years ago and imagine these characters coming to life through the articles. Overall, I was incredibly impressed.

Our current project, about different denominations of Judaism, revolves around the following statements and questions:

  • There are many ways to be Jewish.
  • Our shared history binds us all together as Jews.
  • How and why do Jews and Judaism evolve over time?
  • What factors led to the development of new denominations?
  • How do people and institutions engender change?

Students can choose from a variety of projects, all centered around the development of Judaism over time, as well as the “denominations” of many Jews, especially in America. Some students are choosing to research their home temple/congregation and create a video advertisement, others are researching an entire denomination and how it developped. Some are creating a podcast, brochure or infomercial about one or two issues (examples: women’s roles, Israel, who wrote the Torah, God, marriage) by surveying several denominations about the topic(s). One student is creating a Buzzfeed-style quiz to help you determine what denomination you identify as, using a variety of stances on issues. I’m looking forward to students making connections in the community and creating a product to educate and inform others about their heritage.

 

Thank y’all so much for allowing me to teach your children and create meaningful Jewish connections with them. I truly look forward to learning with – and from – your children!!