Nov 19

Shabbat Around the World in Shalom Chaverim

In Shalom Chaverim, the children are continuing to explore the way Jewish people all around the world celebrate Shabbat.

There were  opportunities to explore authentic ritual objects.

The children moved, touched and manipulated candlesticks and a Kiddush cup as they created their own drawings of Shabbat objects. We even pretended to place candles inside the candlesticks. One child looked quizzically inside the Kiddush cup and asked, “Juice?”



Then, the children made their own Shabbat bread, called Dabo.

Dabo is a Shabbat bread common in Ethiopia. We reflected on our own experiences making challah together, and noticed that the dough felt (and tasted!) similar, but looked a little bit different.

While the Dabo baked, we created our own renditions of beautiful Shabbat candlesticks. We noticed that everyone’s candles looked different, but they all looked special and beautiful for Shabbat!   If you are interested in trying our recipe for Dabo in your home, here it is!

Nov 16

Careful listening

There are so many moments in a day when ענפים (Anafim– “branches” for 3rd-4th grade children) help each other with careful listening. For example:

Carefully listening as a peer practices reading accurately, to catch mistakes and celebrate new progress


Carefully listening, asking follow-up questions, and filming, as a peer presents his building of a scene from בראשית  (bereishit– literally “In the beginning,” the Hebrew title for the book of Genesis).


Listening to a peer’s interpretation of a complicated new text, to add supporting details.


This is one of the many skills we work on together as part of a practice of חברותא (chavruta- learning partnership) in ענפים (Anafim). Careful listening helps everyone– the speakers get great feedback, and the listeners get to practice mentorship and get an inside perspective on someone else’s thought process. What a deal!


Nov 16

How Our 5th – 7th Graders Make Their Own Projects

  1. Read the text and talk about it. Build, draw, collage, or act out the text. Read more text, argue, read it again, show all the faces that Sarah and Hagar make to each other (what is “contempt,” anyway?), and go back to the text again to make our points.

2. Notice: what’s something about the text that really troubles me or grabs my attention? Name my Big Question or Big Idea. (“It’s all Adonai’s fault that Sarah and Avraham and Hagar are in this mess.”)

3. Research! Go back to the text and focus on the parts that are related to my Big Question or Big Idea. Get excited and jump up and share our findings with friends.  (“Oh!! Yitzchak and Yishmael bury their father together! So, they don’t hate each other after everything that happened?”)

4. Draft. What ways of showing my ideas do I like to use: oil pastels? writing? Google Slides? photography? What materials will be best suited to showing my ideas? (“I’m gonna write the story from Yitzchak’s perspective.”)

5. Peer Feedback and Review: What are the main ideas you see in your friend’s work? What might make the idea more clear? (“What if you used the thick paper to make Yishmael pop out of the scene, so it looks more like he’s the center of attention?”)

6. Prepare a Public Presentation: How will we share our work with the community? We write a final statement about our interpretation. (Soon! We’ll be writing our statements in about two weeks!)

7. Reflect on Our Learning: Breathe, spend plenty of time looking at our friends’ work, talking about it, and noticing what questions we still have about the texts. (Stay tuned for an update during the week of December 17!!)


Nov 16

Welcoming Shorashim Guests

Shteelim (‘saplings’ for kindergarten) had decided that Avraham, one of the characters from Genesis 18, is welcoming and friendly because of how Avraham treats the 3 men. It was time to see what it might be like for us to welcome guests:

“Shorashim (‘roots’ for Nursery) is coming to visit us! What can we do to make them feel welcome?”

In Shteelim (‘saplings’ for kindergarten) we planned a real visit with Shorashim.

“We open the door and say Shalom!”

“We should be kind and help them.”

“We could show them around and show them how to play our ivrit (Hebrew) games.”

“We can ask them to play with us and play what they want to play.”

“I want to make a them cards!”


Making cards to welcome Shorashim:


Welcoming Shorashim:

“They’re here, they’re here!”

We Shared a picnic:

Sang Aleph-Bet together:

Worked on a Puzzle:

Acted out Genesis 18:

We tried out Aleph-Bet magnets:

It was wonderful to see Shteelim (‘saplings’ for kindergarten) participating in the practice of welcoming guests by taking care of of Shorashim (‘roots’ for Nursery).

Nov 15

A Bunch of Feelings

This is our second week exploring בראשית כא (Breishit Kaf Aleph–Genesis 21) in Beit Nitzanim. It’s a tricky text with some complicated relationships between Avraham, his wife Sarah, and Sarah’s servant, Hagar.

To sort through all of the complications, children met with a partner to share their ideas about how these three characters might have felt at different parts of our text.

First, children chose a color to represent the feeling.

Then, they discussed their choice with a partner.

Finally, we shared all of our ideas as a full-group. We made such a long list! Here’s just a handful of their ideas about the text:

  • “[Sarah might feel] scared because she might be scared to have a baby.”
  • “Hagar is feeling sad because she’s gonna have to be leaving.”
  • “[Hagar might feel] sad and weird because she thinks Avraham is sending her away but really it’s Sarah.”
  • “She’s (Sarah) sad because she’s making them leave.” “But she made that decision. I think she’s feeling happy that they get to leave but also kind of weird sort of.”
  • “I think she (Sarah) feels mad because she doesn’t want Hagar’s baby Yishmael to share all the things that Sarah’s baby should have.”
  • “He’s (Avraham) sad ’cause his son is leaving.”

Nov 14


There’s something new in Beit Shorashim! What is it?!?

“Sprinkles!” (Also known as colored rice!)

There are so many ways to play and learn in our sprinkles.

We can practice sharing: “You can use this one.”

We can count in Hebrew to figure out the number of scoops it takes to fill the cup all the way up.

And we can find Hebrew letters in our שם (shem–name).

Wow! I wonder what we’ll explore next!

Nov 12

Exploring Shabbat in Shalom Chaverim

Over the past two weeks, the children in Shalom Chaverim have been exploring the different ways we experience Shabbat with our gufim (bodies.)

We have prepared lots of Shabbat dinners to share with our special grownups! Today we used our senses to explore the ways we say “Shalom!” to Shabbat when it is time for Havdalah.


There were many different ways to smell the sweet smell of Shabbat.

We painted with spices, and even set to work creating our own bisamin (spice) boxes out of blocks.

The children even had the chance to create their own bisamin bags so they can smell the sweet smell of Shabbat in their homes.


Shavua tov!

Nov 10

Shorashim Makes Salt Dough

This week in Shorashim we’re continuing to play the story of Avraham V’Sarah!

In order to learn about how Sarah made bread for her visitors, we made some salt dough.


We added water, flour, and LOTS of salt. Morah Lizzi helped us measure all the ingredients.

When the dough got too thick to stir, we got to mix using our hands. Look how sticky!

We learned how to knead the dough, just like Sarah does in the Torah story.


Some of the salt dough got stuck to our fingers. Cooking can be really messy.

But now we have a brand new prop to help us act out the story!!

Nov 09

Wait time

Every theme here at the Jewish Enrichment Center is different.


They each have their own rhythm. Some themes start with a big story, or a big question; some move quickly and some build gently.

For ענפים (Anafim– “Branches” for 3rd-4th grade children), this autumn has been a slow adding-on of layer after layer of text. We started with Avraham encountering three mysterious visitors at the opening of his tent. We followed his argument with Adonai about the fate of the cities of S’dom and Amorah, towards the end of Genesis 18, and then watched nervously as the men of the city started to surround the dwelling where the messengers were staying with Lot, Avraham’s cousin, in the beginning of Genesis 19. We circled back to Genesis 15, 16, and 17, catching glimpses of the strange predictions and covenants that would shape Avraham and Sarah’s futures in the text.

Throughout, the children listened carefully, wondered, and reflected. Some children have sketched character designs for certain characters, over and over again. Some have carefully mapped out each character’s feelings at different points in the text. Some children have recorded audio summaries and reviews of each text as we encountered them, stringing together questions and arguments from chapter to chapter. They’ve shared ideas with the group, agreeing and disagreeing about the twists and turns of the plot.

Now, in each theme, there’s a pivot point, where the children move from retelling texts, and wondering about the texts, into claiming their own ideas about them. I thought that maybe this week would be the week when ענפים (Anafim) would turn that corner and start to voice their own interpretations of the text.


But early in the week, when I asked the children go back and review all the texts we’ve explored so far,  they sank so deep into reading or listening to audio recordings of each chapter.

Our whole schedule for those days stretched out- forty minutes, fifty minutes, an hour of listening or reading, sketching or writing notes, and listening again. 

The quiet scribbling and murmuring in the classroom told me, “Don’t be impatient. We’re not ready to create our own projects yet. We’re still taking it in!”

So we’re taking some more wait time. There’s no rush, ענפים (Anafim)! When you’re ready, you’ll let me know.


Nov 09

What A Privilege To Study Torah With You

Oh, beautiful middle schoolers! For years, you’ve dedicated yourselves to grappling with Torah text, to listening deeply to yourself and to each other, and now…this week…what a privilege to introduce you to that moment when Abraham takes the fire, and the knife, and walks off with his son.

And your reactions!

  • “Maybe the test is that Avraham is supposed to say, ‘He’s not my only son!'”
  • “He’s supposed to burn his son??!! What?!”
  • “He [Avraham] just casually lies! He says, ‘We will worship and we will come back to you.’”
  • “Maybe Adonai will briefly make Yitzchak (Isaac) immortal, like with the burning bush, like the burning bush doesn’t burn up.”
  • “Has this always been part of God’s plan?”
  • “I’m confused. Avraham just went along with it! Adonai said, basically, just go murder your son.”

What a privilege to open up this text with you, middle schoolers who love each other and Jewish text so deeply. May you always hold on to this feeling of knowing you have each other and Torah.


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