This week students were invited to think about what they were interested in, and we chose to discuss Jews around the world in conjunction with the Jewish diaspora. We were able to delve into the different branches of Judaism, as well as the different parts of the world that Jews now live in. We discussed more contemporary Judaism and the reasons for the Jewish diaspora, as well as talking about Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
This week we covered death as a class, and delved into some of the nuances that exist within the Jewish religion with regards to death. Students were able to make connections between their lives and our discussion of death, pointing out various traditions that Judaism teaches us: sitting shiva, the year of Mourning, a Yahrzeit, an unveiling, putting rocks on graves, the Mourner’s Kaddish, wills and ethical wills, and other important Jewish customs.
This week we covered Jewish divorce as a class, and went over some of the orthodox and contemporary views of the get and agunah. Students were also interested in discussing some of the issues around marriages and the different movements in Judaism (orthodox, conservative, reform), and we contextualized this discussion around marriages and divorce.
This week we briefly learned about the next parshah, Vayishlach. However, given the nature of the political climate this weekend, the 6th and 7th grade teachers decided that it would be advantageous to discuss President Trump’s most recent executive order. As our way of introducing this topic, we utilized an article delving into the legality of the executive order, as well as connecting Jewish quotes and values to this subject. Although it was a difficult conversation for some, it was very helpful in allowing us to discuss this topic from different perspectives.
This week we celebrated Hanukkah! We had a fun morning of making all different kinds of wax candles. Students were really able to use their creativity! We took a short break before heading to the auditorium for candles, blessings, and songs, and then we went back to the classroom to play dreidel and eat sufganiyot! Some students even lit their candles – the candle-making may have been the highlight of the day J Happy Hanukkah!
This week, we read about and discussed what becoming a Bar and Bat Mitzvah means; what age you need to be (especially the differences in gender, and how that has changed in more contemporary Judaism), picking a date, what happens at the ceremony, the haftarah and the d’var Torah. We had a great discussion about upcoming B’nai Mitzvah, and the meaning that it has for each of us individually. In Hebrew, we began reviewing some of the different Hebrew words and phrases used in Hanukkah in preparation for next week’s festivities.
This week in 7th grade, we read through Parshah Toldot, the story of Jacob and Essau’s conflict over the birthright and blessings. Students were able to engage with the material even further during our FOE groups, and we answered questions based on the parshah, and tallied up points to shoot at the mini-basketball hoop in our classroom! Discussions based on these questions also brought about ideas and themes we have discussed in previous classes as well. In Hebrew we began reviewing the Sh’ma and V’ahavta
Today in the 7th grade, we read through a play version of the Chayei Sarah parshah. Students were easily able to understand the few important points in this parshah: the loss of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac.
In our FOE group, students split into two groups and were assigned different instruction sheet tasks; one group was tasked with imagining they were Abraham, and needed to find a burial place for his wife, and the other group imagined they were Abraham and needed to find a wife for his son. Each of these groups came up with a set of instructions that they could give to a servant, similar to the story, and the servant could follow the path that was followed in the parshah.
In Hebrew, we discussed several ways that we could be learning Hebrew, and decided to begin learning some conversational Hebrew, as well as reviewing some different prayers.
This was the first session of Sunday School where I’ve been in the 7th grade class, so we started out the morning playing a fun ball-toss name game, and students shared something about themselves, as well as what they were going to be for Halloween and their favorite candy.
Following our brief introductions, we covered the first two important Jewish events that happen after a baby is born: the brit milah and the simchat bat. We also reviewed what the naming ceremonies are, and what goes into naming a child. We had a lot of fun trying to form connections to our own lives and how these Jewish events relate to us—especially what our Hebrew names are and what they mean—and in learning about these events, we certainly learned more about ourselves, too!
The last part of the day was spent playing Hebrew Bingo in order to get us ready to start reading words more easily, hopefully progressing to greater fluency in the coming weeks.