To all who have a Passover Seder:
I recently read an article by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn in his monthly magazine -"Sapphires". This particular piece caused me great despair in my spirit, as it shined a light on a certain kind of 'role reversal' which has taken place in our cultures and society's both here in the U.S. and of course, world wide.
A Word from Dori Stern, Education Director
At the Sunday School for Jewish Studies we teach our students that people should be more concerned with how we treat our fellow human beings than with strict ritual observances. Educating our students about the rituals and observances of Judaism is critical, but we also emphasize the importance of kindness, respect and compassion, concepts that are a significant portion of the essence of Torah and Judaism.
We all know the meaning of tzedakah, the giving of charity, but there also exists a wider scope of charitable activity called gemilut chasadim - acts of caring and responsibility. The differences between tzedakah and gemilut chasadim lie in a couple of areas. Tzedakah is carried out by giving money, whereas gemilut chasadim involves giving of one's person, for example by a kindly word or a pat on the shoulder or by generally offering words of comfort and consolation. Tzedakah is usually directed towards the poor, whereas gemilut chasadim involves the expression of goodwill to all, rich or poor, healthy or sick, successful or to those who fall short of success. Tzedakah is a part of gemilut chasadim and gemilut chasadim is a part of the Jewish effort to "repair the world" (tikun olam).
Each of our classes is responsible for a gemilut chasadim activity. Projects vary from class to class. The following are a few samples of activities that your children might be engaged with in his or her class:
In Ms. Gerber's class, students are bringing in new/gently used books for a book drive helping out Read Boston. Closer to Passover they will be doing a matzah collection for Family Table.
In Ms. Lapuck's class students will be creating Passover decorations and sending them to Hebrew Senior Life.
Ms. Smith's class is the "go to" class in raising funds to plant trees in Israel. Ms. Smith's students have collected money from all classes and have been responsible for planting 11 trees in honor of The Sunday School.
Ms. Scolnick's class made tzedakah boxes at the beginning of the year and have collected a lot of tzedakah. They will be having an in depth discussion (third grade style) about where to send their tzedakah.
Mr. Heller's class has been responsible for the two "Healthy Snack" sales we have had this year. Sixth graders chose the Make A Wish Foundation to be the recipients of their tzedakah efforts.
Ms. Yanofsky's class have agreed to do extra chores around their homes for a quarter. They then bring their quarters to class and purchase cereal that they will donate to the Boston Food Bank.
Along with the efforts above go the frequent classroom discussions about kindness, and the need for us all to lend a hand in repairing the world.
The doing of gemilut chasidim, is supposed to come from within, from the compassionate heart. It is not supposed to be imposed from without, nor does it come from a sense of duty. Gemilut chasidim is what must be done to "repair the world." As the old Jewish saying has it: "Charity awaits the cry of distress. Benevolence anticipates the cry of distress." Learning to have a compassionate heart, comes from parents, teachers, schools and community. We believe this to be such a fundamental Jewish value that we have incorporated it into our Sunday School curriculum.
Sunday January 12, 2014
Congregation Beit Chaverim religious school students and parents will visit the Washington Hebrew Congregation to see the 'Voices of the VIgil' photographic exhibit of the Vigil and struggle for Soviet Jewry. There is a history of the vigil and it includes a photo of me conducting a choir across from the Soviet Embassy. The photo was originally in the Washington Post and is now part of the Jewish Historical Society collection. The poster for the vigil includes one of the photos I took during those years to document what we were doing. A collection of my photos and description of those years was given to the Historical Society for their archives.
Our students will read through the exhibit and and think about the importance of these events: How many years did they go on? Who participated? What was the role of our government in opening up emigration?
About the Washington Hebrew Congregation - Its history; tour the building; Sanctuary and Chapel; What is the Reform Moevement? What did you like most? Would you join a congregation like this if you lived in the city?
Coming from communities where there no synagogue buildings, we have taken the view of a school without walls, by visiting a number of congregations and learning from other communities.
These visits are a follow up to our visit to 6th and Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC
Part II: Visit Adas Israel - Review the history; Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke here; What is synagogue architecture? How is this different from Washington Hebrew? What is Conservative Judaism? Would you join Adas if you lived in the city? What should a synagogue accomplish during a year?
Submitted by Dori Stern, Education Director
When my children were little they liked Passover, but didn't love Passover. The seder was lengthy and though we didn't chant it all in Hebrew, as was my childhood experience, the Seder simply did not thrill them. Of course there was the Four Questions, the Afikomen and the dipping of a finger into the wine to remember the Four Plagues, but the requirement to sit reasonably still for a couple of hours in order to participate in the eating of the matzah, bitter herbs, parsley and charoset, well - it was not a wopping good time.
One might say that the Passover Seder is not supposed to be a wopping good time but I now believe that it can, and should be a fun, and educational experience. The goal of this yearly ritual is to tell the story of the Exodus to our children, so that they will speak of it to their children and their children to their children and the lessons of freedom, perseverance and hope will be treasured and repeated.
The Passover celebration is such an essential ritual that it is something many of us remember from our childhood - either negatively or positively - but we do remember it. We want our children to remember this important holiday and we want them to look forward to this moment in the Jewish calendar.
With this goal in mind, every year at the Sunday School we have model seders, each different, creative and fun. Our teachers create them and our parents bring the necessary items. So how do we make this important holiday fun, yet meaningful at our home seders? You can't have our talented teachers in your homes but you can have the next best thing!
On March 10th, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston is bring a Parenting Workshop, called Creating a Child and Family Friendly Passover Seder, to the Sunday School. It is open to the public and there is no charge- all you have to do is show up in the cafeteria from 11- 12pm. Family educators will be sharing activities, songs and tips which will have children of all ages engaged at your Seder table. They will explore what kind of Seder will work best for your family and family members or guests who may be unfamiliar with the Seder.
The only thing that is asked of you is to pre-register, so that they know how much of everything to bring - which includes Passover-themed refreshments! Please contact: welcomingfamiliesjccgb.org or 617 558 6440.
Teaching the lesson of faith(s)
While some Jewish institutions are still struggling to figure out how to attract interfaith families, the Sunday School for Jewish Studies gets them in droves.
By Dori Stern, Education Director, Sunday School for Jewish Studies
About once a month I am asked a version of the following questions:
So, tell me why do you do what you do?
How did you end up directing a school that is becoming increasingly a school not only for traditional Jewish families but also for interfaith, inter-everything and definitely populated by some who are ardent non-joiners?
These are valid questions, especially since my graduate work was at Brandeis in the Hornstein Program for Jewish Communal Service. I thought that I might be a fundraiser for Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston, or some other well-established, mainstream organization. Those of you who know me well are undoubtedly laughing uproariously right now, because you realize that I have totally no aptitude for financial issues.
Also, the above questions become particularly interesting when it is known that both my parents were holocaust survivors. But their version of Judaism was all about us vs. them; being different and feeling like outsiders. It was rarely about celebrating the joys of Judaism.
And I suppose therein lies the answer. I never want Judaism to be about us vs. them. I never want someone to feel like an outsider because they don't have the proper ancestors. And I never want children to feel excluded for whoever and whatever their family is or does.
One of our parents recently pointed out to me that I draw no line in the sand when considering who is Jewish nor how to be Jewish. That is accurate. It is indeed who I am. I also believe that this unguarded view of Judaism is a necessity. It is imperative to consider that if Judaism is to exist generations from today, we will all need to redefine whom and what is a Jew.
Judaism has always risen to the challenge of redefining itself. I am hopeful that it will continue to find ways to share its wealth of moral, social and ethical beliefs. I am hopeful that it will continue to find ways to share the beauty of it's liturgy and it's wonderfully nourishing life cycle events.
So here is the answer:
I do what I do, obviously because of, or in spite of, my background. I started this effort wanting to work within the Jewish community. I now work inside and outside of the Jewish community, eager to make the best of Judaism accessible to all who want to learn about Judaism. My goal is to convey Judaism to all the remarkable, non-joining, sometimes ambivalent, searching people and their children who are probing for meaning and community in their lives. I am pleased to be able to accomplish this purpose at the Sunday School for Jewish Studies.