Dear Zayin 1 (7th-grade) Families,
We have been having some very interesting discussions and activities during our time together.
In discussing the mitzvah of honoring our parents, students weighed in on a comment by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai who said that this is the most difficult of all mitzvot. We also discussed the difference between “honor” and “love”. I am always impressed by the thoughtfulness of my students and by the depth of their responses.
Our next mitzvah was that of “visiting the sick,” considered to be one of our most important mitzvot. I asked my students why they think this mitzvah is given such importance.
As we approached Purim we spent time discussing “happiness.” Rabbi Nachman stated: “It is a great mitzvah to be happy, always.” Why do college campuses such as Harvard and Yale offer hugely popular courses on the topic of happiness? How can being happy affect a person’s life?
Students researched whether or not the Purim story actually happened, does Shushan exist, where are Esther and Mordechai said to be buried and the true message of the Purim story. Is it possible for a story not to be factual and still share an important message? “All of Israel are responsible for one another,” was one of the messages we took from the Purim story.
We eventually got to what we are supposed to do when we see an injustice. “Stand up, speak up, and do something” were agreed on by the group. We then applied this to the tragedy of what is happening in Ukraine and what we can and should be doing.
In American Jewish History we completed our unit on the Revolutionary War, including the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. One of the hevruta activities in which the group participated was writing Teen Bill of Rights modeled after The BIll of Rights. I must admit that the student responses to this were quite interesting.
It continues to be a pleasure to work with your children.
Wishing you and your families Chag Purim Sameach.
Dear Zayin 2 (7th-grade) Families,
We dove into a lesson on the Diaspora this past month where students learned the term diaspora. We learned about the Jewish Diaspora and diasporas of a few other peoples throughout recorded history. As a class we compared and contrasted diasporas to migration and immigrants to better understand people in either scenario. A few students quickly connected this to the invasion of Ukraine which is unfortunately creating more forced travelers. Connecting this to traveling by choice, we read through to comprehend teffilat haderech (the Traveler’s Prayer) that is said before embarking on a journey. As a class, we made some changes - removed some redundancy and added more common worries - as a way to bring this prayer to our modern time.
March started with a class on anxiety; though, we began the class with a low-stakes game where everyone got a penny. Ask your student where a serving of corn is on a penny (hint: it’s on the side of Lincoln’s face). The game helped us think outside the box and prepare for a discussion about anxiety in our lives. I was extremely impressed to see the maturity of this conversation as it moved from understanding the differences between being anxious sometimes and someone who has an anxiety disorder to the stereotype of Jewish people having anxiety. This brought an opportunity to straightforwardly discuss any anxiety brought up in this class over the year and in school and our lives in general. Students are very aware of anxiety and how it impacts people around them which I think shows in how they care for each other in times of need.
In the coming weeks we will be learning about some spaces in New York and discussing who gets to decide what is taught in schools. Let me know if you have any questions.
Madricha: Madeline Thomas
Zoom teacher: Elana Warren