Oct 19

Art and Exploration in Anafim v’Alonim!

We have been SO busy in Beit Anafim v’Alonim (“branches” for 4th grade and “oak trees” for 5th and 6th grades)! Between launching our Sukkat Shlomecha community project, exploring a new perek in our Ya’akov v’Esav theme, and developing our skills as learning partners for studying ivrit and biblical text, the children in Anafim v’Alonim have been doing serious learning.

This week in ivrit, children supported one another in reading words with silent letters, chirik and chirik yud vowel sounds, script writing, and mastering final letters. Children take responsibility for their partner’s ivrit learning as well as their own, and are practicing cooperative skills such as kindly disagreeing.

During yetzirat torah we’ve experimented with mixed media charcoal and collage. It is important to our community of artists that our kevutzah is creative, and children are excited to play with these modalities and fine art materials. Already they are engaged in significant exploration! Here, a child is imagining the stone altar Ya’akov builds in Genesis 28.

A child’s experimentation with lifting (a charcoal technique), watercolor markers, fine tip markers, and layering paper collage.

Our big question around Sukkat Shlomecha this week was: what is shalom? Anafim v’Alonim created metaphors around peace using postcards of artwork and generated language that we associate with feeling shalom. Next week we will explore how we as individuals and as a community can recognize when we are activated and take steps to find peace and calm again.

Oct 17

Welcoming New Ivrit Challenges

In Anafim, we’ve been discussing what it means to enact our community values of respecting others, respecting ourselves, respecting the room and materials, and being kind. As we started a new way of learning to read Ivrit (Hebrew) this week, Anafimers put these values into action.

After they heard about our new way of practicing Hebrew, Anafim could not wait to get started! Children found the materials they needed and chose a spot in the room where they could do their best, most focused work with their partner.

Even amidst all the excitement of starting something new, Anafimers slowed down and took their time. They made sure that they knew all of the sounds of the otiot (“letters”) and vowels and carefully drew each Hebrew letter. I heard children say things like “Wait, what sound does this one make again?” and “Ok, now that we’re sure of all the letters, let’s try to read this whole line again.”

Children also took care of their learning by asking their partner for help when they had questions and waiting for their partners to finish an activity so that they could move onto the next one together.

I can’t wait to see what other challenges we will meet with this excitement and determination!

Oct 16

Movie Stills From Ya’akov v’Esav

In Shorashim (‘roots’ for nursery) and Shteelim (‘saplings’ for kindergarten), we have started listening to and playing our Torah theme text, Ya’akov v’Esav (Genesis 25:20-28), which you can find here. For many young children, the first time they hear a text like this, they might only be able to really hear a few words.

In our case, the children could hear the following words:




“Reddish and Hairy.”





The children in Shteelim (‘saplings’ for kindergarten), started to absorb many more details and partially put the parts of the text in sequential order, by their second or third day of hearing or playing the text (note: we heard the text a few times per day over the course of those 2 or 3 days!).

We decided to make a movie about the text. The first step, was making a list of all the parts of the text that we could remember and try to add them in the order that they took place. Then we built each part of the text and stopped to take a photo of each new part. We didn’t include every part of the text.

All of the Captions are the words of the children:

  “…Yitzchak married Rivkah when he was 40 years old…”

“He (Yitzchak) prayed for his wife to have a baby.”

“She (Rivkah) became pregnant with twins.”

“They (the babies) were crushing each other!”

“Rivkah said, why is this happening to me?”

“The first one came out reddish and hairy, that’s Esav. His brother was grabbing onto his heel, Ya’akov.”

This is where we stopped filming for the day… perhaps next time, we will add more scenes!


Oct 16

Genesis 25:20 – 28

Genesis 25:20 – 28 for nursery and kindergarten children

20 … Yitzchak was 40 years old, when he married Rivkah…
21 For many years they had no children. Yitzchak prayed to God for his wife. She became pregnant with twins.
22 Then, the babies were crushing each other inside of her. She said, “Why is this happening to me?” And she went to ask Adonai.
23 Adonai said to her,
Two nations are in your belly!
One will be stronger than the other, but the older one will serve the smaller one.
25 When Rivkah had the babies, the first one came out reddish, and all hairy, like he was wearing a fur cape. And they called his shem Esav.  26 And after that, his brother came out, and his hand was grabbing onto Esav’s akev (his heel), so they called his shem, Ya’akov, which comes from the word for heel. 27 The boys grew up. Esav became a hunter. Ya’akov was a quiet man who stayed in the tents 28 Yitzchak liked meat and so he loved Esav. But Rivkah loved Ya’akov.
כ  וַיְהִי יִצְחָק בֶּן-אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בְּקַחְתּוֹ אֶת-רִבְקָה…
כא  וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַיהוָה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ כִּי עֲקָרָה הִוא וַיֵּעָתֶר לוֹ יְהוָה וַתַּהַר רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ
כב  וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ וַתֹּאמֶר אִם-כֵּן לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-יְהוָה
כג  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לָהּ
שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵךְ וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ
וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר

כד  וַיִּמְלְאוּ יָמֶיהָ לָלֶדֶת וְהִנֵּה תוֹמִם בְּבִטְנָהּ כה  וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי כֻּלּוֹ כְּאַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר וַיִּקְרְאוּ שְׁמוֹ עֵשָׂו כו  וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן יָצָא אָחִיו וְיָדוֹ אֹחֶזֶת בַּעֲקֵב עֵשָׂו וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ יַעֲקֹב
כז  וַיִּגְדְּלוּ הַנְּעָרִים
וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד אִישׁ שָׂדֶה וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים כח  וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת-עֵשָׂו כִּי-צַיִד בְּפִיו וְרִבְקָה אֹהֶבֶת אֶת-יַעֲקֹב


Oct 15

Playing with sounds

In Beit Nitzanim, we’ve been playing with the sounds of Hebrew letters and words, listening closely to see what we can hear: “Can you hear the ahh sound in your שם (shem–name)?” “Who has a luh luh ל lamed in their שם (shem–name)?” Children are so ready to show off the Hebrew skills they worked so hard to grow in Shteelim (“Saplings” for kindergarten).

We’re playing running around games in the social hall focused specifically on hearing Hebrew sounds. One of our recent favorites involves taping שם (shem–name) signs around the room. Someone chooses a Hebrew letter, and children have to find all of the שמות (shemot–names) that have that letter in them. Or, children might have to find a vowel sound in their שם (shem–name) by saying their shem aloud and listening. Do they hear the ahh of the kamatz vowel? Or the ee of the chirik vowel? (If only I had a photo of children smiling and laughing together!)

Another new favorite asks children to work in the reverse. When given a letter sound, can they identify which letter makes that sound? One person chooses a Hebrew letter tile and keeps their tile a secret. They give their group a clue by saying the sound that the letter makes. Then, children have to write that letter on their dry erase boards. After everyone has written their guess, the letter is revealed!

All of this listening work is consolidating children’s letter-sound knowledge so that we can begin to experiment with Hebrew vowels. Children are so excited for their big first grade Hebrew challenge–mastering Hebrew vowel sounds! Stay tuned as a year of fabulous Hebrew vowel exploration unfolds with these curious, capable, and joyful children!

Oct 11

Feeling at Home

In Shorashim (‘roots’ for nursery) and Shteelim (‘saplings’ kindergarten), we are starting to feel like a community. When someone is absent, other children ask, “when are they coming back?”, and say, “I wanted to play with them today”.  We introduced the various jobs that children might have, so they have started to work on caring for each other and our classroom, by… making sure we stay together in the hallways and working together to clean our classroom.  The children are starting to feel at home with each other and our classroom!

One thing that we are doing to help Beit Shorashim V’Shteelim (our classroom) feel like it really belongs to all of us, is making a banner that will hang in our classroom for the whole year, that will remind us of our classroom community every time we see it!

Before we painted on our really nice fabric, we practiced carefully applying paint to our special paint brushes, etrogim (citrons) that we saved from Sukkot.


We tested out painting on butcher paper to see how much paint we would need to use and what it looks like if you press down hard or lightly.


Then we started painting on the fabric:


Some children chose to try using a different part of the etrog (citron) as a paint brush:


Other children used all of their strength to press down with their “brushes”.

There are so many different strategies for painting that we can try!

Tune in next week to learn about our first encounter with our Ya’akov v’Esav (Jacob and Esau) theme and Genesis Chapter 25!


Oct 11

Anafim Steps into Ya’akov and Esav’s Shoes

This week in Anafim (“Branches” for second and third graders), we visited the Yetzirah (“Art/Creativity”) studio to express our ideas about our Ya’akov v’Esav text.

Children picked a scene from the text and made interpretations of how they thought Ya’akov and Esav were feeling in that moment.

Modalities like watercolor and collage allowed us to think and feel with these characters in ways that are different from how we share our ideas through writing and group conversations. We found that when we stepped into these characters shoes, big ideas and questions emerged about sibling relationships, parenting, and justice.

Esav after he sold his birthright (Genesis 25): “He’s feeling a bit worried and a bit good. Worried because he doesn’t know if his birthright might later on be important. He realizes he just sold his priceless birthright . . . The dark blue is that he’s kind of mad at himself. The blue is the weirdness, the green is the happiness and the pink is the so-so because he might just be feeling ok.”



Genesis 25: Esav is feeling kind of annoyed because [Ya’akov] is grabbing him and he wants to have personal space when he is born. Ya’akov is feeling nice because he gets to grab. He’s grabbing because he’s scared of being alive, maybe because he might be scared to go into the world and be a person.



This is the part where Esav got mad because his brother got the blessing [Genesis 27]. He’s mad and sad because someone stole his blessing and he wanted to get blessed so he could have a good life. Yitzchak is worried because he gave the blessing to the wrong person. He’s worried that Esav will throw a temper tantrum, and it said in the text that he was going to kill his brother. I’ve read a lot of myth stories and I know that great men try to kill everyone when they get mad.

Oct 05

Anafim v’Alonim Digs Deeper With Questions in Text

This week in Anafim v’ Alonim (“Branches” and “Oak Trees” for 4th and 5th grade children) we listened, read, and developed NEW questions around more text!  We have an ever-growing list of questions in  Beit Anafim v’Alonim.

During our reading of Genesis 27 we complied a bunch of questions that later, each child would pick a question to do some kind of יצירה (Yetzirah- Art/Creativity), off of. Many chose to draw or build.

“Who brought Ya’akov (Jacob) to Rivkah (Rebecca), it never said they had slaves or anything.”


“What does it mean and look like to bless someone’s soul?”


So many interpretations beginning to bubble as we come back to some of these questions!


Oct 04

Ideas emerge in the studio

This week, the יצירה (Yetzirah–Art/Creativity) studio was abuzz with energy as Nitzanim children shared interpretations from our Ya’akov v’Esav (Jacob and Esau) theme.
Creative expression offers many children a way to reflect on their ideas and questions, test out interpretations, or show an idea that couldn’t be explained with words alone. When children do יצירה (yetzirah–art/creativity) in the company of their peers, they often spontaneously strengthen each others’ interpretations by adding a new point or asking a clarifying question.
Children are beginning to explore ideas of fairness, sibling rivalry, and parental favoritism in our texts from Genesis 25 and 27. It’s so exciting to see children’s ideas emerge in their drawings and paintings. Check them out!
Age 6: “This is Rivkah, and she’s happy when the babies are crushing each other. She’s happy when she’s gonna have the babies because that means she’s gonna have kids. The text told us she has a favorite. I think no parents [should] have favorites. It’s kind of okay and it’s kind of not okay. That’s being mean to the other kid. The dad also has a favorite.” (Genesis 25) 
Age 6: “(Right) He’s [Esav] starting getting angry here… because he wants his birthright back. (Left) Now I’m gonna do that he’s so mad that he’s furious. He turns into a green face. Yelling. And his eyes pop out.” (Genesis 25)
Age 6: “(Left) Actually the mom (Rivkah) is in charge. The mom started it. She wanted to get her son that she liked the blessing. He [Ya’akov] feels kind of happy and kind of sad because his mom is forcing him to do it [steal Esav’s blessing].” (Genesis 27)

Sep 30

Sukkot in Shalom Chaverim!

This week in Shalom Chaverim was a joyous celebration of Sukkot all together.


Before we could celebrate, though, the zero-three year olds in Shalom Chaverim had a big question to answer: what is a sukkah, exactly? We set to work exploring sukkot through songs, through building, and through sensory play.

Look at some of the amazing sukkot we constructed using play dough and blocks! The children carefully balanced branches on top for schach.


We explored the sights and sounds of Sukkot as we dug in the sensory table, and as we read and sang together.  There were authentic ritual objects to explore also: children took turns smelling the etrog’s sweet lemony zest, and shaking the lulav as vigorously as they could.


Then, of course, there was a real sukkah to explore! And no celebration of Sukkot is complete without sharing a special meal in the sukkah together. Yum!

Chag sameach!

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