Mar 05

Pesach (Passover) is coming!

After wrapping up our שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) theme and celebrating Purim together, we have shifted into getting ready for Pesach (Passover) at the Enrichment Center!

As we often do with holidays, we began our opening of Pesach by asking children what they remember. We might show them some pictures that have to do with Pesach and have them share what associations they have.

Nitzanim (“Buds” for 1st grade children) getting ready for Pesach by playing through the 14 parts of the Seder together.

This year, children have already been reflecting on how Pesach might look and feel different than past years, once again, as I’m sure many grown-ups have been thinking about as well. I have been struck, though, by the children’s ability to continue to be excited and joyful about the upcoming holiday, as well as the ideas they have shared about how Pesach 2021 can be awesome in completely new ways than past years:

  • Child 1: Usually when it isn’t coronavirus we go for Passover to my cousins house but this year we won’t do that but it’s okay because it means we won’t get sick.
  • Child 2: It’s good to stay home. And more matzah brickle (sweet treat made with matzah) for me and my sister.
  • Child 3: If you stay at home you can stay more comfy like in your pajamas.

On Pesach, Jewish people might relax and recline more than usual, so I thought that last comment was particularly appropriate. What a great way of reframing what it will be like to stay home instead of travel like we might usually do! We also had fun in Nitzanim (“Buds” for 1st grade children) thinking of ways to hide and search for the afikomen with family and friends over Zoom! I am so grateful for the reminder from these children that Pesach can still be special, even this year.

Feb 25

Happy Purim

Chag Purim Sameach! Happy Purim!

As we closed up our eight week Shehecheyanu theme, children in Anafim (“Branches” for 2nd-3rd) got to play Purim!

We went on a Purim treasure hunt in the snow.

Built (or rather, tried to build) Purim character snow people.

Drew pictures of scenes from Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther)

And acted out Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther).

Whew! What a week!

Feb 25

Wrapping up Shehecheyanu

Over the past week and a half, the Nursery and Kindergarten aged children have been wrapping up our theme, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu).

When you have certain kinds of special experiences and you notice that that the experience is special, you could choose to say the שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) blessing.

We explored three categories of times you could say שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu): When you get something new and useful, when you see someone you have not seen in a long time and special Jewish times (associated with Jewish holidays).

In order to help us remember our theme, we made special reminder cubes. We started this process with the children picking symbols to remind us of the three category we explored. Everyone was sent a cube to paint and we made cards with the symbols (and the words of Shehecheyanu), that we would color and glue onto the cube.

We got to work on our cubes in person!

Then we got ready for Sunday’s Family Exploration and Celebration by practicing our “Roll and Talk” protocol. We took turns rolling our cube to land on the three different categories of times you could say שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu). Then we shared answers to questions like, “Talk about a time you got something new and useful. How did you feel? Did you say the שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) blessing?”

I am looking forward to sharing our שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) reminders with our families!

Feb 23

“Epic” Special Days

No school? No problem! When the children in the School-Day Program have a day or two off from remote learning, we gather for a fun day of Jewish enrichment.

In addition to art, building, cooking, and running around indoors and outdoors, our usual plan includes movie-making based on a book with Jewish content.

First we read the story. Then we make a list of characters, props, and backdrops. After that we determine who will play each character, create each prop, and decorate each backdrop or scene. Then we get to work designing elaborate costumes and backgrounds. Finally we shoot our movie, then we put our space back the way it was (which is often a project in itself!).

If there is conflict over who plays which character, children will take turns. For example, two children alternated being the title character in The Sabbath Lion by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush.

However, twice now we had the opposite issue: no one wanted to play a certain character. So we improvised: Dubi the giant teddy bear became a movie actor!

Dubi graciously played the ill princess in The Magic Pomegranate by Peninnah Schram. A child crawled under the bed to provide her voice. Following this critically-acclaimed production, she luminously portrayed Queen Esther in Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther), which we jokingly referred to as Megillat Dubi.

Filming was delayed due to uncontrollable laughter! One child described a Special Day as “epic.”

Feb 17

Expert storytellers!

The children in Nitzanim (“Buds” for 1st graders) are expert storytellers. They come to our sessions ready to tell all sorts of stories about what they played that day, something crazy that happened at school, or a silly story about grandma.

We have been channeling all this amazing storytelling energy into our final project for our theme, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu), where we have been working together to tell שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) stories. Of course, we couldn’t do this without the help of our stuffies, who act as the characters in the story. I (Morah Maisie), with the help of my stuffies Leo the Lion and Lenny the Bear, narrate a שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) story. Nitzanim’s job has been to work as a team to fill in the blanks of the story.

Here are some lovely excerpts from our story about Pesach (Passover), a special Jewish time when a Jewish person might say שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu):

Morah Maisie: Nitzanim’s stuffies felt ________ to be having a Pesach seder that was a little different this year.

  • Child 1: They felt happy but also a little sad because they couldn’t really see their friends but also happy that they wouldn’t get sick because of COVID.

Morah Maisie: At Nitzanim’s stuffies’ seder table, they said שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu)…

  • Child 2: They said it out loud together. And they are hugging because they are happy that they can have Passover together.
  • Child 3: They said it calmly.
  • Child 4: Because they were happy because it was a time to celebrate. And they were happy that they could be together.

For Nitzanim, storytelling has been a wonderful way to dive deeper into when a person might choose to say שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu), why they might say it, and what it looks like when they say it. I can’t wait to hear where they take our stories next!

Feb 12

Purim with the Family Program

 פּוּרִים (Purim) is coming! פּוּרִים (Purim) is a joyful and merry sort of holiday. In the Family Program for 3 – 5 year old children that meets on Tuesday mornings, we began to learn some פּוּרִים (Purim) vocabulary through story, game and songs.

We sang the song Chag Purim and put on our מַסֵּכָוֹת (masechot– masks) and shook our רַעֲשָׁנִים (ra’ashanim – noise makers) when we heard those words in the song.

The מַסֵּכָוֹת (masechot– masks) that the children are using were made with materials sent in our פּוּרִים (Purim) box!

While we were singing, one of the children requested that we sing more פּוּרִים (Purim) songs!

We played a game where we used our hands to show the purim object when someone called it out, like אוזני המן (oznei haman–hamantaschen).

Next time, we’ll be making puppets for the main characters from Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther) and we’ll put on a puppet show of Megillat Esther!

Feb 11

Final project time

It’s final project time for our Shehecheyanu theme in Anafim (“Branches” for 2nd-3rd).

This week I had the absolute pleasure of meeting 1:1 with every single Anafimer just to chat about their big ideas. What a gift! (Didn’t make for great photos, though.)

I can’t wait for the children to share their projects with you! In the meantime, get a look at some of the kernels of ideas children are sharing. Just, wow.

Child 1: “You’re grateful for being alive and you’re grateful because you do this thing every year. You say Shehecheyanu every year so you’re grateful to be alive that year.”

Child 2: “I’m really interested in why you say Shehecheyanu when you have certain feelings.”

Child 3: “It’s cool that Jews have been saying Shehecheyanu for hundreds of years. It’s kind of like a family tradition but not for the family, kind of for the world. And I like family traditions… it feels comfortable and comforting.”

Child 4: “If you weren’t grateful for anything you wouldn’t have the blessing.”

Child 6: “It’s worth more than just saying thank you. Something’s so good that thank you won’t make you feel like you paid it off enough.”  

Feb 08

This Too Shall Pass

Have you heard this expression? In Hebrew it’s גַּם זֶה יַעֲבֹר (gam ze ya’avor). It’s a reminder that everything is transient. I am thinking a lot about these profound words nowadays as our School-Day Program comes to a close.

The children, along with their families and teachers, are preparing to return to school in person by the end of this month. We are in the bittersweet transition period in which we say good-bye to where we’ve been and look forward toward where we are going.

To that end, we have started going through the mountains of pictures depicting our time together. These remind us of the various activities, games, private references, challenges, and celebrations we’ve experienced. Our color printer is getting a good workout! So is the paper cutter, recycling bin, hole punch, and laminator, while we cull the pictures into some kind of order and put them together into a scrapbook.

The children’s latest obsession is the online quiz game Blooket. They decided to create a Blooket based on our time together. We enjoyed brainstorming silly answers to questions like “What will we miss?” and “What will we NOT miss?”

I wish these precious children and their families all the best as they return to their physical classrooms and are able to be with their classmates in person again. Despite how difficult the past year was, I am grateful to have been able to help them get through it. And vice versa. 🙂

Let’s celebrate our unique time together, that we took the lemons of the past year and made delicious lemonade!

Feb 05

Expressing our feelings in new ways

To help us in our exploration of שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu), Nitzanim (“Buds” for 1st graders) have been experimenting with different modalities for expressing our שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) makes us feel.

We tried out drawing, using different shapes, lines and colors to show our  שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) feelings.

“I just made what I would feel like in the inside. Like if I felt all swirly in my tummy I would do these little windy things cus my stomach felt all weird. And also I felt crazy and happy except I was calm. And i drew the shapes to show the feelings I had.”

Some children found that they didn’t even have words to describe the feelings that their drawings showed – their markers and crayons did all the talking for them!

We also got some help from our stuffed animal friends, who agreed to be our puppets as we acted out a שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) story.

Our stuffed animals told us what it felt like for them to see their friend after not seeing them for a while. One child shared that her stuffed animals would choose to say שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) “because if they hadn’t seen each other for that long and they are really happy about it and they are really thankful and grateful…then they should probably say שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) because שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ (Shehecheyanu) is all those things combined into one word.”

Wow, Nitzanim! We have discovered so much through our different ways of creating and playing! I can’t wait to see what we uncover together next.

Jan 29

Shehecheyanu Feelings

This week, Shorashim (‘roots’ for nursery) and Shteelim (‘saplings’ for kindergarten) started thinking about Shehecheyanu feelings. First we heard one idea to help us figure out when a person might say Shehecheyanu.

 “When I’m having a special experience, like getting something new and useful, or seeing someone I have not seen in a long time and notice I’m having that special experience, there are words we can say, those words are Shehecheyanu.”

We also heard that when those special experiences happen, “The feeling you are feeling inside your body is your Shehecheyanu feeling.”


On Sunday, we did some imagining about how it might feel inside our bodies when we have two kinds of special experiences, “getting something new and useful”, and, “when I see someone I have not seen in a long time”. We listened to music and made makes to show what it feels like inside our bodies for those two kinds of special experiences.

I asked,”Do you have any words you want to say about the marks you made, showing the Shehecheyanu feeling you are feeling inside your body?”

The children did not have to answer, but the answers we got we really awesome because they were so specific and detailed!

It feels like the color of the waves, it feels like I’m floating and like I’m at the top of a high rise building. 

I need to run to run so fast, I feel like I need to run around. I feel happy and the happy turns to into happy energy and it turns into energy to run.

On Wednesday, we complicated our ideas about Shehecheyanu feelings and choosing to say Shehecheyanu, by thinking about different scenarios that were not so clear:

Let’s say you needed a new sweater and thought the one you were going to get was plain navy blue, but grandma gave you one with lots of colors you don’t like, would you say Shehechayanu? 

Child 1: You can still say Shehecheyanu even if it was the wrong one.

Child 2: I think he was a little happy and a little sad, he could still say it [Shehecheyanu].

Let’s say you needed new shoes and your cousin was going to give them to you, but you were mad at them, would you say Shehechayanu?

Child 3: You could take a deep breath and he won’t be mad at him anymore. [So you can say Shehecheyanu].

Child 2: I think he was sad, but could still say Shehecheyanu.

Let’s say you saw someone for the first time it a whole year, would you say Shehechayanu?

They both said Shehecheyanu because they didn’t see each other for a whole year.

Let’s say we get to see each other on zoom every week, but now we get to see each other in person again, would you say Shehecheyanu?

 Yes! [we should say Shehecheyanu].

I am really looking forward to learning how our ideas about Shehechayanu will continue to develop!

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