Dear Zayin 1 Families,
This has been a busy and productive year for our Zayin students.
It has been a pleasure working with them and watching their excitement and pride as they celebrated their B’nai Mitzvah during the year.
We concluded our study of American Jewish History with the growth and spreading out of the Jewish community as Jews moved West during the California Gold Rush. The common thread throughout our course of study of the immigrant experience was how our ancestors became ingrained in American life while, at the same time, retaining their Judaism.
Our final mitzvah of the year was “Ahavat Yisrael”, love of Israel. We discussed whether we are obligated to love Israel and how we as Jews, as well as the State of Israel, are/can be a “light unto the nations”.
Volunteering at Perspectives’ Community Garden was the perfect culmination of the year for our Zayin students.
Thank you for partnering with us.
Wishing you and your families a wonderful summer.
Culminating in the New York trip, we’ve had an incredible year filled with fun games, meaningful conversations, and various activities. We started this year framing Judaism in a Venn diagram of Morality, Faith, and Peoplehood which set up the lens through which many future lessons were viewed. We tackled big topics: God, Immigration, Feminism, Climate Change, Abortion, Privacy, Anxiety, Gun Violence, and more. With each lesson, we learned how Judaism helps us comprehend the topic and how we understand it today.
In these last remaining weeks of class, we discussed Pirkei Avot (Teachings of the Sages) from three perspectives: serious, silly, and reflective. Making our modern versions of Talmud with each version, a teaching or quote initiated written commentary by students that became verbal discussion.
In response to Rabbi Tarfon’s teaching, “You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it”, a student responded, “I agree because you should fully commit to something once you start.” To which another replied, “If you come upon a mess, at least start to help and don’t leave it there.” A great literal and metaphorical understanding of the famous teaching.
With the somewhat silly teachings (from movies revealed after the activity), a student wrote “People are taking action with global warming because they are scared”, in response to the quote, “Human beings are fearful and in need of protection. But then, that fear can inspire them to do great things” said by the character Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. And to a Lion King quote “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.” someone replied, “Sometimes having regrets is nothing more than being stuck in that regret. There isn’t always a learning opportunity.”
Finally, in reviewing our lessons from the year, I tasked students to find teachings in Pirkei Avot that related to a lesson plan they found particularly impactful. A student found Rabbi Hillel’s famous teaching related to our lesson on anxiety. “Hillel said: if I am not for me, who will be? If I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?” She used Hillel’s teaching to highlight the loneliness of anxiety and the importance of helping others.
I hope, by showing just a small slice of the discussions in class, I’ve been able to display the way this Zayin class has become a group of Jewish philosophers. In this, their B’nai Mitzvah year, they have learned, bonded, and grown together. They’re able to handle serious conversations, have fun when given the chance, and reflect on what they know.
I’ve cherished the time in class with your students and look forward to seeing them continue their journey as Jewish adults in our community and beyond. Feel free to reach out with questions, recommendations, or just to chat.
Madricha: Leah Spencer