Moreh David Blatt
1. It was awesome to see that despite the adverse weather most of the 4th grade talmidim braved the bad conditions outside and happily arrived at religious school.
2. We had an unusual Sunday in that our normal schedule was altered a bit. Before going to a delayed session of Shira we looked at how different Jewish immigrant groups brought their distinct culinary traditions to Israel when they settled there. Students saw how a traditional North African Jewish dish, Shakshuka, soon became a popular Israeli breakfast or how poor Jews in Jerusalem developed a distinct kugel made from simple and inexpensive ingredients.
3. At Shira, we were led in song by 3rth grade Madricha Lilly Malitz, who was subbing for our junior song leader Matt Swolsky who was away this weekend at a city-wide NFTY event.
4. We had a very busy day once we returned to class. First, we enjoyed a Kahoot game learning about Israel’s diverse geography. Thanks to this game we saw that Israel, although a very small country, is blessed with mountains, deserts, fresh water and salted lakes, and large cities.
5. After the game every student wrote a short paragraph describing new concepts, they learned about Israel’s geography from today’s game which of course featured many unusual names students selected for the competition.
6. We finished off our morning learning about Israeli archeology and how ancient civilizations built over their predecessors at various sites throughout the country. We saw how life was very hard for the first inhabitants of what was once known as the Land of Canaan.
7. At Tefilla Rabbi Prass tied in the themes of the upcoming Martin Luther King Day holiday with the daily Talmud study many Jews are taking on worldwide known as Daf Yomi. All in all, it was a terrific morning at class!
1) Notwithstanding the first wintry weather of the new school term, we were all happy to be back in class after winter break!
2) Before looking into the early years of the Jewish state we went to Shira.
3) Since the sixth graders are now in Torah Trope class each week, our 4th graders are now enjoying Shira with the fifth grade class alone; we all benefitted from the smaller class size and the new songs our high school song leader Matt Swolsky, filling in for Morah Ari who is away in East Africa on a school mitzvah project, had in store for us. Our own Ryan Glicksman helped out as a student song leader this morning!
4) Returning to class we watched an excellent video that described how Eliezer Ben-Yehuda revived Hebrew as a modern language. The talmidim were especially interested in seeing how his second wife Hemda was able to help him develop the first modern Hebrew language dictionary.
5) Later we saw how the young Jewish state had to fight for its freedom in its first years of independence. Breaking up into groups we learned about the contributions of kibbutzim to Medinat Yisrael and about new Jewish immigrant groups that arrived there, often from Arab countries such as Iraq and Yemen. We also saw how food was rationed in the early years of the Jewish state and that most Israelis got by on a more vegetarian diet.
6) In closing, I’d like to thank everyone in our class for their excellent contributions. Next week we’ll be having a Kahoot game to help us understand Israel’s geography so please send your yeladim to school with some kind of electronic device!
1) We had a very busy day in class this week. First, in the short time before the annual Consecration Service, our 4th grade class looked at the section in the Talmud that describes the holiday of Chanukah. We saw how many of the ideas our ancient rabbinic sages expressed there were identical to the points Rabbi Prass made about the holiday last week at Tefilla!
2) At the Consecration Service two of our students, Nikko Marchenko and Taylor Mallin, received Torah Scrolls and certificates as CBA Religious School consecrants! Mazal Tov to both of them.
3) Returning to class, to round out our preview of the upcoming chag we saw the 1983 Israeli video “Lights” which helped us visualize what life in ancient Israel, particularly in the Temple in Jerusalem, must have been like at the time of Chanukah!
4) Afterwards there was much enthusiasm as we worked on building a timeline on the long walk of the Jewish people towards creating their own country in Eretz Yisrael. We saw how Jews had endured two exiles, after the First and Second Temples were destroyed, and had even come close, in the 16th century, towards re-building a Jewish homeland before the State of Israel came into being seven decades ago. We also had an in-class play on how Theodore Herzl put together the Zionist movement and later read excerpts from Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
5) Before we knew it was time to go to Shira, where Morah Ari announced she would be in Africa when we returned from winter back and our own graduate from CBA’s Religious School Matt Swolsky would be holding down the “Music Fort” for the month of January. We then sang a number of songs germane to the Chanukah season.
6) Finally, we finished off our wondrous Sunday with special holiday cookies that everyone found most delicious.
7) I would like to thank the entire 4th grade class for their hard work this semester. Have a great and safe winter break!
8) B’Shalom-Moreh David
1) Since we are closing in on the festive chag of Chanukah many of our activities focused in on that upcoming holiday. First at Shira, we sang a number of songs relevant to the holiday including the traditional “Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah”.
2) Back in class we broke into groups and, working off a timeline, tried to come up with three important events in the life of American Jewry since the Shoah. Many students selected events surrounding Medinat Yisrael, others looked towards new developments such as when the Reform and Conservative movements started to ordain women as rabbis. There was also a discussion on the significance on how the tragedy of 9-11 impacted the American Jewish community.
3) We rounded out our first semester unit on the American Jewish experience by looking at the seemingly different visions of Jewish life, outlined by two of the 20th century’s greatest Jewish thinkers Rabbis A.J. Heschel and J.B. Soloveitchik. Students were asked to break up into groups and discuss which of these two philosophies, Rabbi Heschel emphasized community service and social action while Rabbi Soloveitchik believed in a more personal Judaism that was centered on individual mitzvot, made the most sense to them. The class was evenly divided between these two philosophies of modern Jewish life.
4) Before going to Tefilla, as an introduction to next semester’s Israel Unit, we saw a video on life in Eretz Yisrael a century ago.
5) Finally, at Tefilla, Rabbi Prass talked about the real meaning of Chanukah and how we can all maximize our religious observance of this holiday.
6) Chodesh Tov-Moreh David
1) As the Thanksgiving holiday drew closer, we enjoyed a busy morning in 4th grade this past Sunday.
2) First, we attended Shirah with Morah Ari where, among other things, we reviewed the new song, related to the “V’Ahavta” prayer that we were introduced to last week.
3) Upon returning to class we saw how American Jewry was badly divided as to how best to advocate for Jews stricken by the Shoah. Some favored the moderate approach taken by Rabbi Stephen Wise; others supported more aggressive activism such as what the Jewish businessmen Irving Bunim endorsed in trying to save Jewish lives endangered by the Nazi genocide in Europe. Our 4th grade class, almost uniformly, thought Rabbi Wise’s position was the best way for American Jewry to respond to the Shoah.
4) Later we looked at the accomplishments of American Jews in the arts, sports, academia, and public service through the lens of a “Jewish Jeopardy” game. We discovered how American Jews such as Albert Einstein, Sid Luckman, Bernard Baruch, or Fanny Brice all proudly contributed to the American scene in the last century. There was also a very interesting discussion after we learned of how Rabbi Goode, as one of the “four immortal chaplains” on the USS Dorchester in 1943 gave up his place on a life boat so an American soldier could be rescued, and thus drowned when the ship sunk after being torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Many of the students wondered if that was the appropriate decision given that Rabbi Goode also had a family back home who would then have to contend with his being lost in action. We saw that Jewish tradition would validate both his heroism and a decision not to give up his seat on the lifeboat.
5) Additionally, we saw how the creation of the State of Israel, right after the terrible events of the Holocaust had a profound impact on American Jews.
6) Finally, at Tefilla, Rabbi Prass discussed the importance of both the set prayers we see in our siddur and individual prayers we ourselves might offer. The highlight of this morning’s religious service was a special play given by our madrichim and members of the 6th grade class that combined the themes of an upcoming Torah portion with the importance of Tefilla and Jewish unity in our lives.
7) My best wishes for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Chag Sameach – Moreh David
1) This week’s class was probably the most jam packed in terms of diverse activities for the 4th Grade Class!
2) We started with our first mixer led by our Student Assistant Irina.
3) Afterwards, we filed down to Shira where Morah Ari and Madrich Matt Swolsky introduced a new song, based on the V’Avahata prayer, to the entire group.
4) Returning to class we first looked at cards displaying important 20th Jewish religious leaders such as Solomon Schechter, Mordechai Kaplan, and Bernard Revel and the rabbinic institutions they worked in that helped shape modern American Judaism. This triggered a great discussion about their accomplishments and the things rabbis needed to take away from their training to serve the communities, like Beth Am, that would ultimately employ them.
5) Afterwards Irina, who often serves as a Torah reader at Beth Am, read to the students the famous account of how the daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, Judith Kaplan Eisenstein, became the first Jewish girl to have a Bat Mitzvah almost a century ago. I made a point of mentioning to the class that I had the honor of meeting Gveret Eisenstein when she was close to eighty years old at a Chicago area Bait Knesset!
6) We finished up our morning with a Kahoot game reviewing everything we had learned so far this semester. There was intense competition as well as unusual game names, taken by the students!
7) At Tefilla Rabbi Prass discussed how stories from Tanakh often were incorporated into the liturgy we see in our siddurim. We saw how events such as Abraham accepting the call to relocate to Eretz Yisrael and the exodus of the Jewish nation from Egypt inspired the editors of our prayer book and have much to teach us today.
8) All in all, it was an amazing day for the 4th graders. I’d like to offer a hearty Yasher Koach to the entire class!
1) We had a very active Sunday in class.
2) First, before going to Shira I shared with the class an 18th century volume of the Talmud, published in Vienna, Austria, dealing with the laws and customs of Tefilla that was recently gifted to me. The talmidim were amazed by the excellent condition of a book that was printed when George Washington was America’s President and by the fact that there was a forward to the volume in German, which we tried to translate. We saw that throughout Jewish History our rabbinic teachers have tried to make prayer relevant to all Jews, something we endeavor to do each week at Beth Am as well.
3) Over at Shira, Student Assistant Song Leader Matthew Swolsky led us in many numbers from our school songster owing to Morah Ari’s loss of her voice.
4) Once we were back in class, we worked on trying to write a script for a play that might have appeared in New York’s fabled Yiddish theatre a century ago. We broke into teams, working on lines that were electronically translated, via Google, into Yiddish. Students did a great job trying to pronounce the Yiddish sentences which were written with Hebrew characters. Afterwards, we worked on a Word Search which showed how Jewish leaders such as labor activist Rose Schneiderman worked to improve the lives of the immigrant Jewish community. We also discussed the impact of the Triangle Shirt factory fire and how it helped launch the career of a future American president Franklin Roosevelt!
5) At Tefilla, Rabbi Prass stressed the things we can, as Jews, do to help repair the brokenness of our world today.
6) All in all, it was a terrific day of learning in our class.L’Shalom-Moreh David
Homework to be completed by next class:
11/10 – Please note that next week, for the last half hour of a class, we will have a Kahoot Review of everything we’ve covered in class until now. Please send your scholars to class with some kind of electronic device so they can participate in this activity.
1) As we enter the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, we enjoyed a very productive day of learning in the 4th grade.
2) First at Shira, Morah Ari taught us several new songs and I’m most happy to report that all of the students in our class participated when called upon to join in with these shirim!
3) Back in class we saw a ten-minute video on the experience of Eastern European Jewish immigration to the US, that was actually prepared by high school students in the New York area. This generated a lively discussion afterwards. In particular, many members of our class were dismayed to learn that new Jewish arrivals in America lived in very poor conditions, without basic heating in the winter or air conditioning during the hot summers. Additionally, we talked about how many “New Jewish Americans” found jobs, which didn’t always pay well, in the garment industry.
4) We then met up with the “forgotten” Jewish immigrants of the early 1900’s, Sephardic Jews from the old Ottoman Turkish Empire. After Moreh David sang a popular Judeo-Espanol (Ladino) song about our patriarch Avraham, we read a play about Moshe Gadol, a Turkish immigrant who launched a newspaper, on New York’s Lower East Side, called “La America” that tried to help Sephardim with their special needs as a “minority within a minority.
5) Before Tefilla we had the pleasure of hearing from Beth Am congregant Mr. Sy Morris on his experiences growing up in Chicago as a young Jewish-American during the Second World War. Mr. Morris described his old neighborhood in Chicago’s Humboldt Park section and how his family lived as American Jews in a time when our people didn’t enjoy the same level of freedoms they do today.
6) At Tefilla, Rabbi Prass gave an interesting Dvar Torah which stressed how we must all do our best to contribute towards making our world better even when current events, such as a wintry Halloween snowstorm, seem out of place and upside down.
7) Next week we will work on our Yiddish theater project and get to know some important Jewish leaders such as Rose Schneiderman. Please note we will be enjoying a Kahoot game, as a review in class, on Sunday November 17th! More information will follow shortly!
1) We had a very unique day in class that combined an examination of how American Jews fared in the US Civil War with a wonderful presentation by Solly Kane about Jewish camping opportunities in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
2) In class we first looked over our articles from our mock 1850’s American Jewish newspaper. The students did a great job showing how Jewish communities helped raise funds for charity and carved a place for Jewish-Americans in the antebellum American Republic. Additionally, we looked at cards depicting the positions of four early American rabbis, including one of the founders of the US Reform movement Isaac Mayer Wise, on the terrible issue of slavery in our country. We saw that some rabbis opposed slavery, some thought it was permitted by Jewish traditions, others tried to steer clear of the issue, and some, like Rabbi Wise, felt each state or territory needed to decide this question for themselves.
3) Later in class we discussed how the American Civil War affected Jews on both sides of the conflict. We saw how American Jews rushed to serve both the Union and Confederate armies in the war and Moreh David even got us in the historical mood by singing to the class two songs “The Bonnie Blue Flag” and “We Are Coming Father Abraham” from the Civil War Era.
4) Towards the end of class, we saw how American Jews were profoundly saddened by the death of President Lincoln and how many synagogues held memorial services for him.
5) We also joined with Gan – 6th grade for a whole school summer camp sing along (think Puff the magic dragon, MTA song) and Havdalah.
6) We capped off our learning with an awesome presentation from the Reform Movement’s summer camp. https://osrui.org/summer/ which included learning about opportunities there, seeing a video and camp souvenirs being given out.
10/20 – It was a bright autumn morning as we assembled into class.
Afterwards students broke up into groups where we developed articles for our class version of Isaac Leeser’s publication “The Occident.” I might add some of them were very creative including an obituary, authored by the team of Jillian Baumstein, Lexi Josephson, and Zoe Urban, for a mythical accomplished 19th century American Jewish woman given the name of “Petunia Lawrence.” These will be formulated into a newspaper, appearing much like Leeser’s monthly bulletin, to be enjoyed in class next week.
At Tefilla, Rabbi Prass discussed the important lessons we can glean from this week’s chag of Sukkot. We saw that one important takeaway is that as Jews we are all responsible to play the best part in the Jewish story we can! All in all , it was a great Sunday. As a side bar, as Rebecca Gratz would have surely put it, let’s not forget about the mitzva of tzedaka and remember to help support the class’ appointed charity for this year.
10/13 – It was a special morning in that, in advance of the Sukkot holiday we had a special program at the main Beth Am Bait Knesset. Our class, joined the other grades in our Religious School, for a series of rotations related to the holiday. At each station we learned new things including possible themes and images we might want to assemble in our own sukkah and discussing broken items in our world today. Many of the 4th Grade students were very disturbed by the tragic shooting at a synagogue in Germany last week on Yom Kippur and we talked about the theme of Sukkot might apply to ending tragedies such as that. Additionally, we had the chance, with Rabbi Bellows to visit the Beth Am sukkah outside and sign our name on the 5780 panel.
With Rabbi Prass we talked about the situation of interning children at the US border with Mexico. This was a lead in to our special Tzedaka project where our class, in conjunction with other Chicagoland synagogues, made packets of sanitary items for those yeladim. We concluded with a very spirited song session of ballads geared towards Chag HaSukkot with Morah Ari!
Chag Sameach to all!
10/6 – The weather has turned very seasonable but cooler temperatures didn’t stop the 4th grade from enjoying an intense morning of Jewish learning.
At Shira, Morah Ari shared with us some new melodies from our song book.
Back in the classroom we looked at the opportunities the antebellum United States presented for aspiring Jewish immigrants who came here, often from Germany. To get us into the mood of the times, we listened, via Spotify, to the German folk singing duo Zupgangeinhansel, that’s a mouthful, and their wonderful song describing the trials that immigrants from Germany, many of them Jewish, faced when coming to America in the mid-19th century among these leaving loved ones behind in the “old country” and having to work hard once they arrived safely in the United States. Many of these “New Jewish Americans” worked as peddlers before settling down to open businesses in new cities, such as right here in Chicago. Usually, this meant that new synagogues would be created to serve these communities. The class was very interested in the fact that “letters home” in this era could take months, if not years to reach their destination and often the news they carried wasn’t even relevant by the time they were read by family members in Europe.
9/22 – This past Sunday was a very busy day for our 4th grade talmidim. First, we went to Shira, where Morah Ari posted on a message board all of the new songs, from our song books, that we would be learning this morning. Some of these songs were related to the upcoming High Holiday season.
Today in class we worked on:
9/15 – It was a very busy day of learning for fourth graders. First at Shira we were introduced to our songbooks for the first time. This will help everyone to follow the various songs that Morah Ari will be sharing with us each week!
In class we first looked at different Jewish source texts, such as the Siddur and the Tanakh and saw how these books might help Early American Jews build their first faith-based communities in our country. Additionally, we discussed where early American Jews lived in the original thirteen colonies and the types of jobs, they landed to support themselves.
Our class was surprised to learn that were no ordained rabbis in the early American colonies but special teachers from the land of Israel, known as “Shadarim”, often visited these communities and helped them learn how to read Torah or prepare their children for Bnai Mitzvot. American Jews, in turn, would give them money to take home with them to assist their families in Israel.
We also saw how most American Jews supported the War for Independence; one Jewish person Haym Solomon gave away all of his money to support the patriot cause. With a few minutes left we worked on making Jewish New Year cards for college students in the CBA congregational family. Next week we’re going to make posters that New York Jews might have used to celebrate the adoption of the US Constitution in the famous parade in 1787.
Today in class we worked on:
9/8 – It was great to back in religious school and meet both the new fourth grade class and their parents as well! Later in class we started off by voting on our tzedaka for this year. Fourth graders will be supporting the Fill A Heart for Kids organization, which assists homeless children in the Chicago area with the money collected for tzedaka each week.
Afterwards we started our journey of discovery retracing the American Jewish experience. First, we talked about how the end of Jewish life in Spain, in the wake of the great expulsion of 1492, set the stage for Jews to come to America. We read a play in class looking at the different countries Jews lived in at the time they first came to what became the United States. We saw how life could be both enriching and challenging depending on where Jewish people lived.
Before the morning was out we broke into small groups and determined what things and services the first Jewish settlers in America would need to create a connection with Judaism in their new surroundings.
Our first day of school ended with Shira with our new song leader. We enjoyed meeting the 5th and 6th graders who came to Shira as well.