4th grade

Moreh David Blatt


Today in class we worked on:
3/8 –
1) Purim Sunday is always very special at Congregation Beth Am, and this year was no exception.  We started off the morning taking stock of all the great costumes everyone in class wore in celebration of the Chag.  I even overcome my inhibitions and showed up in a traditional handmade Ukrainian Vyvyshanka shirt that Rabbi Prass somehow thought was of Mexican origin!
2) At Tefilla, the Madrichigm re-inacted the Purim story and we enjoyed reciting our traditional weekday Tefillot using melodies from various Disney movies.  Rabbi Prass also chanted from the first few verses of the Megillah.
3) Afterwards it was on to our booth.  Our 4th Grade Bozo Bucket station was very popular.  Throughout the morning there were long lines of members of both the CBA and JCYS communities taking their turn tossing the tennis balls into the buckets.  I’d like to express a personal appreciation to Taylor Malin, Julia Rapaport, Mahalia Goldrich, and Norah O’Donnell who diligently worked at the booth, along with our student assistant Irina, to help us raise much needed funds for our yearlong Tzedakah project “Fill A Heart for Kids.” 
4) All in all, it was a terrific morning.  Chag Purim Sameach to all.


Today in class we worked on:
3/1 –
1) We enjoyed another awesome Sunday this week.  First at Shira we learned the lyrics to the second verse of the new song Morah Ari had shared with us last week, for the upcoming Purim holiday
2) Since Israel is voting, for the third time in national elections this week, students watched a short video on how Israeli democracy works.  We saw that Israel uses a parliamentary system of government, merged with proportional voting which is markedly different from the Presidential/First Past the Post system used here in the US. 
3) Afterwards, we had a mock Israeli election and actually experienced how citizens in the Jewish state vote.  We saw that each party has their own ballot within the polling station and citizens must vote for a straight partisan list that doesn’t permit ticket splitting.  The class was very excited about having a chance to vote for actual Israeli parties the way citizens there are doing.
4) Additionally, our 4th grade class learned about the cultural and religious traditions of Israel’s Arab minority.  Finally, we had the chance to fabricate Purim cards for the college students in the Beth Am community.
5) We rounded up our Sunday with Tefilla that was led by Morah Ari and Matt Swolsky.  Morah Ari discussed her recent university trip to Tanzania in East Africa and the takesways she had enjoyed from that experience.
6) Look forward to seeing all of you at the Purim Carnival next week!


Today in class we worked on:
2/23 –
1) We enjoyed a very busy Sunday this week.  First at Shira we learned a new song, with Morah Ari, for the upcoming Purim holiday.  Additionally, we were surprised when the Primary Grades students joined us for Shira and we all sang, in both Hebrew and English, Happy Birthday to Rabbi Bellows!
2) Upon returning to the classroom, we worked on a crossword puzzle on how Jewish holidays are celebrated in Medinat Yisrael. We saw there were differences and similarities between their observances both here and in the Land of Israel.  This prompted a very ice discussion on how religious diversity is handled in both Israeli and local Northwest suburban public schools.
3) Later we had the chance to view a short video, produced by the CTV network in Canada, on Canadian olim who were serving in the Israel Defense Force.  After seeing this film, we had the chance to discuss the commitment of these individuals towards Medinat Yisrael and the responsibility they took on in becoming a “lone soldier.”
4) Before going to Tefilla, we learned about the different wars Israel has fought since it became a sovereign nation. 
5) Finally, at Tefilla, Rabbi Prass helped us get in the spirit of Chag Purim through a play, put on by our madrichim that showed how this chag stresses the importance of sharing and community.
6) I might add that next week we are going to have a mock Israeli election by experiencing how citizens of the Jewish state vote when they get into the polling station. 


Today in class we worked on:
2/16 –
1) We enjoyed a very productive morning in the 4th grade class on Sunday.
2) Before going to Shira, we talked about what booth we’d like to operate for the upcoming CBA Purim Carnival. 
3) After Shira, we worked on a difficult assignment seeing how the famous “Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel”, first written by the Israeli Nobel Prize laureate Shai Agnon has been re-interpreted by different Jewish communities over the years.  Interestingly enough, many of the talmidim in the class liked the version that appears in the Reform Siddur Miskan Tefilla, used here at Beth Am. 
4) Additionally, we broke into groups looking at the contributions of four Israeli literary pioneers, notably Rachel Blaustein, Leah Goldberg, Shai Agnon, and Erez Bitton.  We had a wonderful discussion on how these writers were able to transcribe their love for Eretz Yisrael in the poems, novels, and short stories they wrote.  Mahalia Goldrich’s group showed how Rachel Blaustein used the Kinneret as a theme for her devotion to the entire land of Israel while Taylor Malin related that Shai Agnon’s books divulge, at length, why he felt the food in Israel was better than the Western Ukraine where he lived before going on Aliyah!  Finally, Jacob Blumenthal’s team showed how Erez Bitton’s poetry brings to life the experience of his fellow North African Jews leaving behind a life of poverty in the Maghreb to building a better one when they emigrated to Medinat Yisrael!
5) At Tefilla, Rabbi Bellows helped us tie in the prayers we recite each week with the weekly Torah portion, Parashat Yitro which presented the Aseret HaDebrot, the Ten Commandments. 
6) All in all, it was a great Sunday. 
7) If you have things you’d like to donate as prizes for the upcoming Purim Carnival, please send them with your talmid next week!


Today in class we worked on:
2/9 –
1) It turned out to be a very snowy day on Sunday which was also the 4th grade’s annual Bokor B’Yachad program where students studied with their parents!  Despite, the inclement weather just about everyone braved the weather to be in religious school.
2) We started class getting acquainted with the various parents of our students. 
3) A few minutes later both parents and our talmidim joined the 5th grade across the hall for Shira with Morah Ari and Song Leader Matt!
4) While the parents studied with Rabbi Bellows, we returned to our classroom, for a “scavenger hunt” where we searched for clues regarding cities in Israel.  We saw how while Tel Aviv was Israel’s business and cultural capital, other cities such as Beersheba or Afula were centers of education and industry.  Later we had an in class play about the importance of the city of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state. 
5) Towards the end of the morning the parents of our 4th graders rejoined our class where we had they had the opportunity to study together learning about their family’s experiences through the help of a questionnaire.  This was done in connection with one of our two curricular goals of 4th grade: American Jewish History.
6) Afterwards, we all joined the other classes for Tefilla with Rabbi Prass.  Among other things, Rabbi Prass discussed an old Midrash, just in time for Tu B’Shvat, on how real treasures can be found in working and caring for the environment! 
7) All in all, it was a terrific morning of Limud Torah for our 4th graders! I’d like to personally express my appreciation to all of the 4th grade parents who joined us this past Sunday!  It was awesome meeting you!


Today in class we worked on:
2/2 –
1) As we marched into the new Gregorian month of February, we had a very exciting morning in the 4th Grade Kitah!
2) First at Tefilla, Rabbis Prass and Bellows, along with Morah Ari & Matthew, led us in the first part of the 5th Grade’s “Faux Jewish Wedding” while we also participated in many of our favorite prayers from the Siddur.
3) Upon returning to our classroom we looked at the diversity of Jewish religious life in Israel; we saw that Jews live out their religiosity via two streams of Orthodox Judaism as well as through the auspices of the Reform and Conservative movements.  Afterwards, we had a very special activity where the talmidim composed letters to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the current leader of the Union of Reform Judaism, describing the different topics we have covered in our class so far this year.
4) Additionally, we had two very special experiences in class this week.  First Irina led us in a special mixer; at the end of class we looked at the different US slates running in the World Zionist Congress elections.  The students were very enthusiastic looking at these web pages, especially the one representing the Russian Jewish community in the United States where at least two the candidates running were named Irina! 
5) Finally, we had a real treat having Moreh Ari, safely returned from her university trip to Tanzania, and Matt Swolsky to ourselves at Shira this week.  We learned many songs pertinent to the upcoming holiday of Tu B’Shvat.  All in all, it was a great morning for everyone!


Today in class we worked on:
1/26 –
1) As the Hebrew month of Tevet drew to a close, we had a very active and enthusiastic morning in the 4th grade!
2) First at Shira, we joined the 5th grade in learning a new song that is normally sung exclusively on Shabbat!  We are looking forward next week to enjoying Shira entirely on our own as the 5th graders will be working on their annual faux wedding.  Additionally, we’re excited that Morah Ari will be returning then from her special Mitzvah Excursion to East Africa.
3) Getting back into the classroom we had a great discussion as to how our lives would be different if we lived in Medinat Yisrael as 4th graders in terms of the schools we attended, our average breakfast, and what our school year might look at as to scheduling.  Most of the talmidim were not happy with the typical Israeli breakfast of vegetables and cottage cheese!
4) Later we read a play about the different school tracks available to kids in the Jewish state.  We saw that families could select between the secular, Dati (Religious), Tali (Middle of the Road, similar to Conservative Judaism here in North America), Chinuk Atzmai (Ultra-Orthodox), and Arabic speaking school systems.  Most of the talmidim preferred, interestingly enough, the Dati system, especially because it balanced both Torah and General studies in its curriculum!
5) Afterwards we saw a video on the Carmel Wildlife Preserve in Israel and saw, up close, how the Jewish state has restored once extinct species, such as wild deer and certain birds of prey, to their previous capacity in the Holy Land.  We also enjoyed a very nice discussion on popular sports in Israel which included some distinctly North American activities such as baseball, basketball, and curling.
6) At Tefilla, the madrichim, including our own Irina, performed a very informative skit on the connection of Jewish leadership with the story of Moshe that we are now reading in the weekly Torah parshiot.
7) Finally, next Sunday we will have a hands on in class Israeli cooking demonstration where our Kitah will prepare, and hopefully enjoy, a traditional Yerushalami Kugel, first made by Jewish residents of the city of Jerusalem.  Of course, we will take into account any food allergies that might be present among our students.
Chodesh Shevat Tov!


Today in class we worked on:
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!


Today in class we worked on:
1/12 –
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!


Today in class we worked on:
12/15 –
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


Today in class we worked on:
12/8 –
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


Today in class we worked on:
11/24 –
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


Today in class we worked on:
11/17 –
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!


Today in class we worked on:
11/10 –
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.


Today in class we worked on:
11/3 –
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! 


Today in class we worked on:
10/27 –
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.


Today in class we worked on:
10/20 – It was a bright autumn morning as we assembled into class.
At Shira, Morah Ari shared with us songs that were relevant to the upcoming chag of Simchat Torah and some of the Torah portions we will soon be reading including Parashat Beresheat and Parashat Noach! 
Returning to the classroom we filled  out a work sheet describing how the Reform movement in Judaism, first launched on German soil in the early 1800’s, began to influence American Jewry as well.  Later we read an in class play and saw how Abraham Rice struggled as America’s first ordained rabbi while Isaac Mayer Wise worked hard to build Reform Judaism in the United States.  We also discovered the contributions made by Isaac Leeser in terms of translating prayer books and the Jewish Bible into English, as well as launching a newspaper covering Jewish topics and Rebecca Gratz’ role as an important female voice for Jewish charities.

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.


Today in class we worked on:
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!


Today in class we worked on:
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.


We met new personalities as well such as Uriah Philips Levy who struggled to end corporal punishment in the US Navy and Mordechai Manuel Noah who tried to set up a homeland for oppressed Jews on an island in the Niagara River.  The class felt it would not have been feasible for every oppressed Jew in the world to settle on this island since it was so small!   Students were very interested in the work of Solomon Nunes Calvalho, who helped explore the American West with the famed Pathfinder John Fremont. 


At Tefilla, Rabbi Prass talked about getting ready for Yom Kippur and discussed how the “geography” of the synagogue was often different, during the High Holiday season, than from the rest of the year.  May everyone be inscribed in the Book of Life!


Today in class we worked on:
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.


Back in class we were treated to our small Beth Am American Jewish History museum exhibit.  We were introduced to the American Jewish leader Jonas Philips, who fought for a religious freedom clause in the Bill of Rights, and saw how the Jews of New York City sponsored a float in their city’s parade to honor the adoption of the US Constitution.  We also saw how Jews in the state of Maryland had to fight for full equality as American citizens.


Students also read a play about the lives of Elijah Hart and Judah Touro and saw how Jews in the early United States were very interested in giving to tzedakah.  Some of the charities they supported included building new synagogues and Jewish hospitals, supporting orphanages, and helping poor Jews in Eretz Yisrael.  The class was extremely interested in how Jewish orphanages provided a home for Jewish children without families to support them.


Finally, at Tefilla, Rabbi Prass talked about how the season of Selichot prepared us for the upcoming High Holidays.  We discussed the things we should be thankful for as the old Jewish year was drawing to a close
L’Shana Tovah!



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.