January Jewish Studies Post (2nd-6th grade)

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2nd grade has concluded their main Torah story of the year of the story of Noah – and each student came away with a greater appreciation of just how difficult it must have been for Noah and his family to be on the ark for so long – after all, it wasn’t just the “40 days and 40 nights” story you think you know! We had a chance to talk about promises and patience, along with other values. Now, we are working on a short but meaningful unit on patriotic symbols in Israel – groups are researching everything from the flag to the government, and this allows them to not just study the Israel of the Torah but also the Israel of today, especially in comparison with their General studies unit on Presidents/Patriotism! We are also continuing to study the weekly Torah portion (Parsha) and get a general overview as well as go in-depth to big questions as we enter the book of Exodus, such as “Who are the plagues really for?” and “Why would G-d purposefully harden Pharaoh’s heart?” Your children constantly amaze me with their insights!


3rd grade is currently preparing for their upcoming Chumash ceremony (Feb 9th at 8:15 am – mark your calendars if you haven’t already). We are continuing our important Torah learning for Parashat Vayeira, which is one of the “busiest” Torah portions! We began by learning more vocabulary words which we will see over and over again in this Parsha. We read about Avraham’s hospitality and got some writing practice by writing postcards after we thought about what it must have been like to be welcomed into his tent. We also got to practice the actual act of “Hachnasat Orchim” (welcoming guess) by going around the JCC campus and delivering water to people on a hot day. The students loved bringing smiles to people’s faces, and were so excited to share their favorite phrases to be kind to others. I look forward to continuing to learn Torah and more with your students!


4th grade is still buzzing with excitement from their beautiful Havdalah ceremony, and they look forward to continuing our tradition of singing Havdalah together as a class each Monday. Now, we are turning our focus to two different areas: moving on in our Torah stories and a Texas/Israel comparison project. In our Torah story (Parashat Vayetze), our patriarch Yakov (Jacob) is on the run from tricking his family and is searching for a wife. This story brings up many questions about values and character traits such as honesty, fairness and loyalty. We are also working on a project (also in Gen. Studies) to compare and contrast regions of Texas and Israel, and the students are discovering our climates have a lot in common! They are having fun researching and learning, and I look forward to seeing what they will produce in order to share this knowledge with others.


5th grade is currently finishing up a very exciting  project to put a character (or group of characters) on trial for their role in Yosef'(Joseph) being sold into slavery. Students chose the most guilty party (in their eyes) and created a piece of evidence and a testimony from a character in the Torah who can shed light on what really happened that fateful day out at “the pit.” This requires students to think deeply about both the small details and big ideas found in the Torah, and grapple with questions of morality and guilt. I’m so excited to see who the class will convict – will it be all of Yosef’s brothers? Just some of the brothers? Possibly the Midianites or Ishmaelites who purchased Yosef? Maybe an overly helpful stranger in a field, or Yakov (Jacob) the patriarch? Stay tuned for the verdict!


6th grade has now officially finished the JCAT (Jewish Court of All Time) project, as of mid-January. They were able to write beautiful “position papers” to articulate their character’s stance on our trial and were able to reflect and sum up their learning. We are currently in the middle of a “Life Cycle” unit on Jewish birth rituals (or entering the Jewish faith if you were not born into it). We first looked at rituals in general, and discovered rituals in our own lives which help us transition into something new, or help us to mark time in some way. We learned about the biblical stories associated with Jewish birth rituals and the modern ways each are celebrated. Students are in the midst of designing their own ceremonies for either a Brit Milah (bris, or circumcision ceremony), Simchat Bat (baby naming for a girl), or an adoption or conversion ceremony. I look forward to seeing what your students come up with! After this unit, we will move into our main unit of study for the rest of the year, which is mostly a study of Sefer Shemot (the book of Exodus) but will include several other stories from the rest of Torah as well.

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