Apr 18

Pesach Creation

As Anafim (“Branches” for 2nd and 3rd grade) slides into week three of our Pesach (Passover) preparation, the creative frenzy has not faltered. After years of learning about Pesach, these Anafimers know their stuff and are excited to share their ideas and explore new ones about Pesach.

Anafimers are hard at work in the studio, where they’re finishing up matzah bags that show the ideas that two rabbis from the Talmud — Rav and Shmuel — had about how to tell the story of Pesach in a seder. We learned last week that the Mishnah says to start the seder by telling about the “hard stuff” and end with the “awesome stuff.” Shmuel says that the “hard stuff” was that the Israelites were slaves and that the “awesome stuff” was that Adonai freed them. Rav thought that the “hard stuff” was that the Israelites worshipped idols and the “awesome stuff” was that they started worshipping Adonai.

Children are cutting and gluing felt on their matzah bags to show each rabbi’s idea. For the Shmuel side, they’re showing the passage from slavery to freedom. For the Rav side, they’re showing a time in their own lives that they changed their mind about something big.

Back in Beit Anafim, children are hard at work on self-directed choices exploring Exodus 1-15. Some children are writing stories that tell Exodus 1-15 from the perspective of Pharaoh or other Egyptians, some are working together to make a poster about the 10 plagues, and some are building to show their ideas about Exodus 1-15.

What a thought-provoking and deeply reflective exploration of Pesach we’ve had together!

Apr 16

Seder Ready!

Pesach (Passover) will be here on Friday night! In שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) and שְׁתִּילִים (Shteelim– ‘saplings’ for kindergarten) we have been getting ready in a number of ways.

We have been hearing Exodus 1-15, the text in the torah that primarily focuses on the Israelites becoming slaves and then being freed.

Children have been collaborating on building to show their interpretations of the text.

“This is the place where the grain is kept, the Israelites are building it, there are guards all around to make sure the Israelites don’t escape.”

Some children have started to make associations between the items that might be on a Seder plate and parts of the text. Children have started to build based on their ideas about how the items on the seder plate are connected to the text.

This child said that זְרוֹעַ ( Z’roah- the shank bone) is on the Seder plate because, “their (Pharaoh and the Egyptians) brains were not flexible, they wouldn’t let the Israelites go.”

It’s Pharaoh (the Egyptian king) not thinking flexibly…. he can’t see.

We have be working on remembering how to say the names of five main items that might be found on the Seder plate. These children are carrying our really big Seder plate so we can use it to practice the names!

We continued to taste the items that might be found on the Seder plate.

We are tasting כַּרפַּס ( karpas– parsley dipped in salt water ) at a Seder!

The שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) children each made their own Seder plate that they could use at a Seder!

Apr 16

Different Perspectives

For the last few weeks, children in Anafim v’Alonim (“branches” and “oak trees” for 4th and 5th grades)  have dug into a  line from the Mishnah about how the Passover story should be told.  The Mishnah says the story should be told: “beginning with disgrace and ending in praise.”

Following that, children looked at an argument between two Rabbis, Rav and Shmuel.  They had diverging ideas of what the story of the disgrace should be. Rav believed the disgrace was that once the Israelites  were idol worshippers, and Shmuel believed that the disgrace was because of enslavement. Well, with only five sessions between Spring Break and Passover, the kids jumped right in.  Check out the blog from last week all about children making the mesubin pillows!

During the time before and during Passover we completely turn over our Hebrew curriculum to focus on Passover.  One of the favorite activities is memorizing the order of plagues, the order of the seder, and echad mi yodea (who knows one?).  Children are focused and determined to get the cards in the exact right order.  

Later this week, children in Anafim v’Alonim (“branches” and “oak trees” for 4th and 5th grades) will read letters that their parents wrote them about a Passover memory of their own.  Many of these letters talk about childhood memories or college experiences. All of them offer a unique perspective which helps children to hear different narratives and observances of Passover and being at a Seder. Children will be able to look at all the different letters to really get inside the experience of others.  

Apr 15

Tough stuff

Over the last two weeks Nitzanim (“Buds” for 1st grade) children have been wrestling with some really tough stuff. They had to keep straight the Mishnah, which says to tell the story at the seder from the “hard stuff” to the “awesome stuff” (Mishnah Pesachim 10:4). Then they had to keep track of two different rabbinic opinions from the Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Pesachim 116a). Shmuel says that the “hard stuff” was that the Israelites were slaves and the “awesome stuff” was that Adonai freed them with strength and might. On the other hand, Rav (Abba Arika) said that the “hard stuff” was that the Israelites were idol worshippers and that the “awesome stuff” was that the Israelites made Adonai their God.

Woah… that’s a lot to remember.

Today, as if remembering the Mishnah and Gemara wasn’t enough, I asked the children to consider both perspectives from the Talmud at the same time. It’s a difficult ask. Is there something the same or different about Rav and Shmuel’s stories? Which would you tell at your seder?

I was completely amazed by the depth of children’s responses. Check out just a few of their ideas:

Child 1: I would tell the Rav story at my seder because my family doesn’t usually change their minds so I want them to (know) they don’t only have to do that thing. They can change their mind.

Child 2: Both stories (Rav and Shmuel) are connected by the God part. God helped the Israelites leave (to become free). [And Rav’s whole interpretation is about God.]

Child 3: They (the Israelites) weren’t praying to God, so God let them be slaves. Then, they (the Israelites) started praying to God and God made them not slaves.

Child 4: God helped them (the Israelites) because God liked them praying to him.

Wow, Nitzanim! I can’t wait to hear how your ideas deepen and shift as you continue to consider these Talmudic ideas.

Apr 10

Running with the Rabbis

To prepare for Pesach (Passover) this year, Anafim (“Branches” for 2nd and 3rd grade) are diving deep into conversation with some of the ancient rabbis to consider different ways to interpret Pesach.

We started with the Mishnah, a set of books from the early rabbis compiled around 210 C.E. The Mishnah says that a seder should begin by telling about the hard stuff about Pesach and end with the telling about the awesome stuff about Pesach.

Hmmm, no one was quite sure what to make of that. Anafimers jumped right into discussion with a partner about what they thought that might mean. Together, children came up with a lot of ideas — maybe the hard stuff was that the Israelites were slaves, or that they had to kill all of their boy babies, or that there were 10 really terrible plagues.

Over the course of the week, we then learned about how two later rabbis, Rav and Shmuel, interpreted this passage from the Mishnah. We also learned that their disagreement is recorded in the Talmud, a set of books written by rabbis who lived after the Mishnah was finished.

For their Pesach final projects, Anafimers are using paint and felt to show Rav and Shmuel’s ideas about Pesach as well as their own interpretations.

And of course, in the meantime, we’ve found lots of fun ways to practice and expand upon our Pesach vocabulary and Ivrit (Hebrew) reading, like with giant games of Old Maid and a scavenger hunt with lots of Ivrit challenges!

Apr 10

Examining Pesach with Early Rabbis

It’s been a busy week for Anafim v’Alonim (“branches” and “oak trees” for 4th and 5th grades)! We launched our Pesach unit with a review of שְׁמוׄת א-טו (Exodus 1-15) and had a ton of fun building the story during a Special Saturday Session.

Collaborative drawing of a scene from Shmot (Exodus)

Then, we read a line in the Mishnah that says we should tell the Pesach story “beginning with disgrace and ending in praise.” We looked at a portion of Talmud where two early rabbis disagree about what exactly that disgrace is. For Rav, the disgrace is that the Israelites worshiped idols. For Shmuel, the disgrace is that the Israelites were slaves. Such different perspectives! How might telling the story in different ways affect the way we understand this chag (holiday)?

Understanding the Mishnah in chavrutah

Through this process, children learned some of the history of the early rabbinic texts and the shared language Jews use to talk about these texts. They dove right in to more advanced text study and readily applied the chavrutah skills they’ve been practicing.

From there, they were off to projects! With only 5 sessions in our Pesach unit, we have no time to waste. This year, children are sewing pillows and adding patches to represent their ideas about Rav and Shmuel.

But of course, this is Anafim v’Alonim! We don’t just do one thing. We pride ourselves on the many different ways we think and express ourselves. Children who didn’t feel like the pillow project was the right fit for them instead chose to create short films or trailers using the iMovie app. This has added a unique challenge though, as they must independently find a way to juxtapose their ideas about Rav and Shmuel with this modality.

Apr 09

The Sensory Side of Passover

One of the very cool ways we are getting ready for Pesach (Passover) in שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) and שְׁתִּילִים (Shteelim– ‘saplings’ for kindergarten), is by having a sensory experience with the items that might be on a seder plate.

Last week, we made and ate חֲרוֹסֶת (Charoset, made with, shredded/chopped apples, banana, cinnamon, and grape juice).

This week, a number of children have already experienced מָרוֹר (Maror- horseradish). First, we checked out a whole piece מָרוֹר (Maror- horseradish) root, essentially how it looks when harvested.

Part of our process was smelling the מָרוֹר (Maror- horseradish) and children guessed that it might taste yucky or spicy.

There was a mixture of apprehension and excitement about tasting the מָרוֹר (Maror- horseradish). This might have something to do with the song that we sing about the foods on the seder plate, where we sometimes call מָרוֹר (Maror- horseradish) bitter or spicy. But every child tasted it, in fact they all asked to taste it multiple times!

After tasting the children had a few new words to describe the taste of מָרוֹר (Maror- horseradish) after experiencing it for themselves.

“Its sour!”

“I think its so spicy!”

“It tasted hot.”

“It didn’t taste as bad as I thought, I kind of like it.”

As we continue to taste more of the items that might be found on a seder plate, we will start to think about why they might be associated with Passover.

Apr 09

Nitzanim’s Got It in the Bag

With Pesach (Passover) just around the corner, Nitzanim has started designing their very own matzah bags! This week’s work involved creating and tracing a picture of what we thought was the ‘hard stuff’ and the ‘awesome stuff’ of Exodus 1-15, a story some Jewish people might choose to read during seder.

Nitzanim worked diligently to get the lines on their draft just how they wanted them. Most focused on the ‘awesome stuff’ at the end of Exodus 1-15. What was so awesome?


“Being free”

And, Niztanim was ready to lend a hand when peers needed!

Child one: I don’t know how to draw people!

Child two: Here, I can show you how I do it

After a session full of deep focus, exploring new ways to use line, and seeing how our friends make artistic choices, we are ready to start etching our stamps!

Apr 08

Preparing for Pesach

The children in Shalom Chaverim (“Welcome, Friends!”) spent time getting to know the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Pesach this week.


Together, we explored the question– “What do we see on the Seder plate?” The children examined real Seder plates, and incorporated them into their play. They also explored the symbols on the plate in sensory play, in stories, and in song.

The children’s careful exploration of the items on the plate continued over at the art table, where they set to work painting their own Seder plates.

The children observed some items they were familiar (such as an egg!) and other objects that were less familiar.

Then, we set out to examine some of the real items from the Seder plate. The children worked together to make their own charoset– which they immediately devoured!

Apr 05

Pesach Is On Its Way!

There is a lot of excitement about getting ready for Pesach (Passover) in שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) and שְׁתִּילִים (Shteelim– ‘saplings’ for kindergarten).

These children are preparing for our sensory experience with foods that might be on a seder plate, starting with charoset (made with, shredded/chopped apples, banana, cinnamon, and grape juice).

Tasting our charoset!

“This is my yum, I want more face!”

Making a seder plate!

Getting ready for a seder!

One of the Kindergarteners working on Ma Nishtana (the four questions) and picking which of the four parts we should sing next!

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