We had a fun today and it was great to meet the kids!
Today we spent the morning learning a little about each other and with an overview of what we'll study together this year. During the first part of the morning, ater taking attendance, the kids walked around and met each other with a "Find Someone Who Has" sheet of paper. It was great to see that some kids got around to meeting just about everyone this way! After a brief overview of what we'll be working on in class the students personalizes a folder - using colored tape and markers. I hope you will help your student bring the folder and the SSJS backpack I gave them to and from home each week, so the students will have a place for papers they need and we will all have the same materials available. We also talked as a class about how we can work together best - something I call "rules of the road" so that, like when you learn to drive a car, you can avoid collisions and get where we all want to go. In that same morning time, I also asked the students to write about something they hope to gain from this year of SSJS, and they all turned those in to me.
After a break outside, we had a half hour of Hebrew. Today, I reviewed the aleph bet letters with the students a bit, and then gave them two worksheets to complete - one was about Hebrew in general, and the other was a bit of a "test" of their knowledge of the letters. We also shared our answers as a class. I also gave each student a copy of the aleph-bet AND a guide to writing each letter in block print, and they should keep these in their folders each week.
In the last 20 to 30 minutes (after a bathroom break!), we did a very quick but fun activity that introduced us to Torah and then took us to calendars! I explained that Torah is the "T" in "TaNaCH" - and that we name and number just about every "sentence" in the Torah, from book of the Torah (e.g. Genesis) to "parshah" to chapter to verse numbers. I also explained that we read the whole Torah in a full year - and that all over the world, Jews read the same section of the Torah on the specific week. Finally, I connected this to the Jewish calendar. For some fun, after explaining how "the rabbis" set up the Jewish calendar of holidays and readings so that it was lunar with adjustments for the solar calendar (our seasons), I gave out dozens of calendars I've collected over the last 10 or so years from all the non-profts that send them to our house! I told the students to look for Rosh Hashanah in their calendar. We then wrote all the years and dates for when Rosh Hashanah fell in each year on the board, to see how it moved around in its secular calendar date.
There are some questions or "ask me about" things I'd love for you to talk about with the students at home this week.
1. How long does it take for a congregation (anywhere in the world) to read the full Torah, with one parshah read at each Shabbat service?
2. How smart were "the rabbis" to figure out how to adjust the lunar calendar so that the holidays are still in their expected seasons? (What meaning might we make of how these two calendars work together for us as a result?)
3. Where did the teacher today say that Jews lived in the world - and what do they all have in common? (Hint: Practically everywhere is what I expect, and we could Google to find out! And we all read the Torah on the same schedule.)
On the subject of where Jews live... during class, one student suggested Korea as a possible place where Jews might live. And right after class, I found an article on that very subject by chance! I would like to include some discussion over the year, when we have time, of the many communities of Jews around the world, and what we all have in common as well as how they are different. I hope we can fit that in, too!
So, as a final reminder - please do help the students keep track of their folder for papers and knapsack. We can also begin a Tzedakah ritual for the class, if you would like to participate in that. Next week, we will start our Torah study - beginning at the beginning with Bereshith.
Have a great week and all good wishes at this holiday season!