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7th-Grade (Kitah Zayin) Class Update

Zayin 1

Dear Kitah Zayin 1 (7th-grade) Parents,

I can’t believe that I am sending you my last update of the year. As much as I would have liked to see your children in person, that was not possible. Thank you for your assistance, support and perseverance as we transitioned to ZOOM, our new learning platform. I could not have done it without you.

This past month we have been focusing a lot on one of our most basic and important Jewish values, the value of Hakarat Hatov, gratitude. I thought it important to consistently reinforce the gifts that came to us with COVID-19, to focus on the positives as opposed to the negatives. We also had the opportunity to speak about personal responsibility and caring both in reference to Righteous Gentiles during the Shoah as well as now during these unprecedented times.

Ahavat Yisrael, the mitzvah of Love of Israel was discussed as we reached Yom Ha’atzmaut. We watched a number of video clips which I hoped would build their pride with regard to Israel. Our final mitzvah unit dealt with prayer. Is it important? Why pray? Does one have to pray in a minyan? Is it better to pray in a minyan?

In American Jewish History we saw how Jews integrated themselves wherever they were, even during the move West. Businesses that were needed were started, products were invented (ex.Levis) and Jews even carried guns! As we moved on to the Civil War and the Jews, we found Jews on both sides. This was a good opportunity to discuss the Jewish view of slavery. The students had a debate pro- or anti-slavery and I was impressed with the way they represented their side of the issue.

I have enjoyed working with your children this year. Thank you for entrusting them to us! I look forward to seeing them at TT in the fall.

Have a wonderful summer. Please stay safe and healthy.


Zayin 2 Mary’s Update:

Dear Zayin 2 (7th-grade) Families,

It is hard to believe that we are sending you our final updates for the year. Although we were not able to see your children in person, we made every effort to keep them learning and engaged via ZOOM. We appreciate your assistance, support and perseverance as we transitioned to this new learning platform. We could not have done it without you.

During the final weeks of our year we spoke quite a bit about Israel. We read articles, watched videos and discussed Israel’s many contributions to the world. We always came back to the reference that we, the Jews, and Israel our country, are meant to be a “light unto the nations.” Israel’s response to COVID-19 was an interesting topic for us. They were indeed role models for everyone in their strategic approach and success in dealing with this crisis.

Earlier in the year we discussed Anti-Semitism. We added the phenomenon of “Zoom-bombing” during COVID-19 to our discussion, as this has been an unfortunate aspect of Anti- Semitism during these times.

As Jews, chesed (kindness) is one of our overarching values. We had the opportunity to look at many acts of gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness) that have taken place and continue to take place as a response to COVID-19 and its impact on people. I encouraged my students to think of acts of chesed that they could perform. These don’t need to be earth-shattering...they can be everyday acts of kindness that help someone even in a small way.

It has been a pleasure working with your children this year. I wish all of you a wonderful summer. I look forward to seeing your children at Talmud Torah in the fall.

Stay safe and healthy.


Zayin 2 Rabbi Jeff’s Update:

When we live our lives fully as Jews, Americans, and Minnesotans we sometimes have to scramble. Such was the case this past Wednesday during our Talmud Torah class. Our class began the exact same time as Governor Walz's announcement about the continuation, modification, or end of the "stay at home" order. It was obviously important as it would affect all of us. On the other hand we already had a very full plate of activities to continue moving towards properly ending our study of Judaism and Technology, in this case, the opportunity for each Zayin student to develop his/her own Ten Commandments of being a Good Jewish Global Digital Citizen modeled after the very Ten Commandments we will celebrate having received on Thursday, May 28th for Shavuot.

In the end we did manage to do it all. We continued with the crafting of their Ten Commandments, but we were able to begin class with a Zoom poll asking each of us to guess what Governor Walz might do, and what each of them would do if they were in the Governor's position. "The Survey Says" that students were expecting the orders to stay basically in place so we were somewhat surprised. We were able to have a brief discussion about our surprise. In the end we were able then to balance our commitment to Jewish learning with our desires to be good Minnesota citizens.

We are also near the end of a year-long process of gathering money for tzedaka. Each week we would at the beginning of class have a hazara, a creative review of last week's learning. Hazzan Lipton, Mary and I have pledged contributions to tzedaka when students’ review shows that learning was achieved. We are nearing the century mark of $118 that the three of us owe collectively b'simcha rabba (with great joy) in our students learning! The students had suggested four tzedakot related to the Coronavirus. We had our primaries last week, and this week’s poll will show whether the money heads towards a first-responders’ fund or to a group that tries to more-directly aid those who have been hurt by the virus.

Well, it has been a year full of surprises. I hope it won't be too much of a surprise to hear that I have very-much enjoyed teaching your students. There have been ups and downs of various sorts (the biggest, of course, was the suspension of in-person learning), but on the whole I hope we can call it a shana tova umetuka, a year with some significant and sweet Jewish learning!

Rabbi Jeff

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