Apr 08

Exploring the Mezuzzah in Shalom Chaverim

This week in Shalom Chaverim, the 0-3 year old children (and their grown ups!) set off to explore an important Jewish object– the mezuzzah!

Together, we answered such questions as– what’s a mezuzzah?

And… what’s inside there?

We noticed the Hebrew letter shin– and we learned that inside is a special Jewish prayer, the Shema! We set to work building our own mezuzzot with prayer scrolls inside.

Where can we find a mezuzzah? Let’s look together!


Do you see one?

Here it is!


We created our own drawings of a mezuzzah we saw, and then we started creating our very own mezuzzah.

We’ll finish our beautiful mezuzzot next week!

Apr 05

Pesach (Passover) Celebrations!

Chag Sameach! Happy Passover! This week we held a Center-wide Pesach Chol Ha’Moed (חול המועד) celebration at the end of each day. During these days of Chol Ha’Moed – the interim days of Passover – all age children joined together to work on art pieces for our Omer Calendar, improvised and built scenes from Exodus 1-15, read Pesach stories, and, of course, no celebration is complete without food!

We celebrated together by….

working together to build scenes from Exodus

Painting tiles for our Omer Calendar (to count the days between the second day of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot)

Fifth and sixth graders using great improvisational skills to act out Exodus 1-15!!

Enjoying some excellent Pesach stories from our library

AND sharing the delicious Matzah Pizza made by with family and friends to celebrate Pesach!


Mar 30

Sell Your Bread? Say What?!

It came up casually, as part of a different conversation about Pesach, and immediately, it grabbed our 5th – 7th grade children’s attention: some Jews sell their חמץ chametz (leavened foods) for Pesach. What?! How? Why?


So we did what we usually do when children have questions: we started researching. We turned to the Torah, to find out what the Torah instructs about חמץ chametz. We discovered that Israelites were supposed to remove it from their homes, not eat it, or even own it, lest they be cut off from the Israelite people. (That brought up a ton more questions!)


We read the Conservative Movement’s instructions about חמץ chametz today. And we started to make connections: now we could see why some people clean every nook and cranny of their homes. Now we understood why some people don’t eat חמץ chametz for 8 days, not just at the seder. I mean, we still had a lot of questions:


Finally, we asked Rabbi Minkus to come tell us how the selling works for people in this building. He clarified a lot. But we also had a MUCH greater appreciation for what חמץ chametz is, and the relationship Jews could have with it during Pesach. Children offered many, many reasons that Jews might want to sell their חמץ chametz, or not eat it during Pesach.


And, typical for us, we still had a lot of questions. What is it’s someone’s birthday at school and they offer you a cupcake? Is it unkind to say no? Should you explain Passover, or just say, “I don’t want to eat that right now?”

How wonderful to grow up knowing that we get to keep asking questions and making decisions about how we want to be Jewish.

Mar 30

Activating Pesach (Passover) knowledge and questions

After several years at the Jewish Enrichment Center, ענפים (Anafim, “Branches” for 3rd-4th grade children) know a lot about פסח (Pesach, Passover). They’re familiar with the major parts of the סדר (Seder, the “Order” of the Passover meal), the items traditionally on the seder plate, connection between the holiday and the text in Exodus 1-15 which describes the Israelites leaving Egypt, and they can join in a rousing rendition of אחד מי יודע (Echad Mi Yodea, “Who knows one”), a favorite traditional song from the seder. But, after a year, some things grow rusty, and brains that another year older are ready to think about the holiday in a little more complexity. So, how do we “activate” פסח (Pesach) in the one or two short weeks before the holiday begins?

Well, this year, we worked together to illustrate a brief guide to the seder,

Explored הגדות (Haggaddot, the books that guide the Seder) to find new details and answer questions we wondered about,

Practiced chanting texts from the Seder,

And heard and discussed some thought-provoking stories about פסח (Pesach).

One story that really caught the attention of ענפים (Anafim) this year was “The Yankee at the Seder,” which tells the true story of a Confederate-sympathizing Jewish family in Virginia who invited a Jewish Union soldier to their Seder just as the Civil War had ended. ענפים (Anafim) wondered how any family could celebrate פסח (Pesach) while supporting the institution of slavery in the United States. And was it really true, as one of the characters claimed in the book, that the suffering of the Egyptians deserved acknowledgement during the seder? Didn’t they deserve the punishments they got? Even if not everyone had personally inflicted pain and suffering on the Israelites, wasn’t everyone in Egyptian society kind of responsible for what their society did as a whole? No, argued some children; a younger generation shouldn’t be punished because of what their parents were doing…

Yup, it seems like we’re ready: ready to sing, eat, celebrate, debate, and question. חג פסח שמח – Chag Pesach sameach! Happy Passover!



Mar 29

Shorashim Makes a Seder Plate

This week Shorashim (“Roots,” for nursery children) used the knowledge we’ve learned about the Pesach seder plate to make our very own! We used a variety of different materials to create one giant “plate” for us to hang in our space that would mimic not only the look of the items on the seder plate, but the feel of the items as well.

We glued some bits of soft, smooth, squishy, white foam for the ביצה (beitzah – egg).

We glued hard, bumpy stones for the זרוֹע (z’roah – shank bone).

We sponged on some white-ish paint for the מָרוֹר (maror – bitter herb).

We glued on some “leafy,” green tissue paper for the כַּרְפַּס (karpas – parsley).

We glued on some different bits of paper in brown, tan, yellow, and red paper for the חֲרֽוֹסֶת (charoset – paste of apples and nuts).

We can’t wait until our seder plate is all dry so we can hang it in our space!  Look for it next time you are in Beit Shorashim!

Mar 29

Connecting Symbolic Foods of Passover to Exodus 1-15

In Shteelim (‘Saplings’ for Kindergarten) we have been learning Exodus 1-15, the story in the Torah of the Israelites being slaves in Egypt and then being freed. Even the first time that we listened to Exodus 1-15, we started to think about parts of the story that we associate with the symbolic foods of פסח (Pesach– Passover).

Here are some ideas that children shared including times when children were in dialogue with each other!

Child 1: “I think all the things on the Seder plate are about things in the story.”

Child 2: “That’s why there is מָרוֹר  (maror – horseradish root) they (Egyptians) made their (Israelites) lives’ bitter with the hard work.”

“כַּרְפַּס (karpas) goes with the baby boy being put in the water, it made me think about dipping the כַּרְפַּס (karpas).”

“מַצָּה (matzah) goes with Pharoh’s daughter getting Moshe from the Basket. It’s crunchy and to me it’s happy.”


Child 3:”מָרוֹר  (maror – horseradish root) is for the hard work and the plagues that were bitter.”

Child 4: “But the plagues are against the king and the Egyptians.”

Child 3: “It’s still bitter…..Also when Moshe saw them (the Egyptian and Israelite) fighting, it goes withמָרוֹר  (maror – horseradish root).”


“I think (זְרוֹעַ (zehroah – bone shank) is about leaving and the things they had in their hands.”

Child 5: “Matzah is for being quick, because the Israelites did not have enough time to make bread.”

Child 6: “I also think its for being quick, It (the bread) didn’t have time to rise so they had Matzah.”

Child 3: “One idea is that they didn’t have enough time to make bread.”


“כַּרְפַּס (karpas) makes me think of Moshe stretching out his יד (yad- hand) before the Israelites cross the sea.”

“חֲרוֹסֶת (charoset) for leaving because they are free and that is sweet like Charoset.”

“בֵּיצָה (beytzah – egg) for when they (the Israelites) are leaving it taste good, and it feels good to be free.”

After we put the line drawings of Exodus 1-15 in order and added our symbolic foods.

We have so many ideas for how parts of Exodus 1-15 are connected to symbolic foods of פסח (Pesach– Passover)!

Mar 26

Getting ready for Pesach (Passover)

Nitzanim are preparing for פסח  (Pesach–Passover) this week by…

practicing singing מה נשתנה (Mah Nishtanah–The Four Questions),

These two started by listening to Mah Nishtanah. Then, in the next round, they sang part of Mah Nishtanah before listening to check if they were right. By the end, they could sing almost the whole thing independently.

playing “14 Parts of the Seder” card games,

Children sang through the whole 14 Parts of the Seder song every time they got a match!

or completing the קדש ורחץ (Kadesh Urchatz) team challenge,

How quickly can both teams put all 14 parts of the Seder in order? And when one team finished first, they hurried over to help out the other team. What sportsmanship!

What’s the best part of Pesach prep? Doing it together! Just look at those gorgeous moments of support, sharing, and partnership.

Mar 08

What Do You See/Touch/Feel/Smell on the Seder Plate?

Explorations of Pesach are underway in Shalom Chaverim! There were lots of new things to explore, to touch, and to play with.

We are examining the Seder plate through play, through song, and through art.

We are forming the objects we see using play dough, and counting how many spaces we see.

We are examining the objects with all of our senses. We touched the karpas, we smelled the karpas, and then we explore what happens when we dip, dip, dip the karpas (into paint.)

There are stories to read, of course, and songs to sing together.


We set to work creating our own colorful, beautiful Seder plates. As we work we are beginning to recognize some of the familiar objects.


We will use these Seder plates in our home, and bridge the learning we are doing together with our celebrations at home.

Mar 07

All Smiles for Final Projects

These are the super happy faces of a bunch of children who’ve FINISHED their Shabbat final projects! And boy are they proud of their teamwork. They can hardly wait to share their incredible ideas and gorgeous projects with you. We hope you’ll join us this Sunday at 9:00am for Family Exploration and Celebration!

Mar 02

Peer interviews

As our שבת (Shabbat) projects take shape in ענפים (Anafim, “branches” for 3rd-4th grade children), the children are starting to interview each other to develop their artist’s statements.

Sometimes the questions are spontaneous: “Whoa! How did you do that?”

Sometimes, great follow-up questions grow out of answers to our set interview protocol: “Wait, that’s really different than what you did at first. How did you change your mind?”

In addition to giving everyone a chance to really think through and articulate their own ideas, the peer interview process gives each child the opportunity to listen extra carefully to someone else’s ideas.

Of course, sometimes it helps to have a prop. Speak into the mic, please, sir!

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