Weekly Summary Page

4th and 5th Grade

March 7, 2021

Shalom Parents, 
As you may know, I made a haggadah for the students this year.  I used an amazing website called haggadot.com.  Haggadot is the plural of haggadah.  Haggadah literally means “the telling,” and it tells the story of Passover.  Sort of.  It is really a compilation of the steps of the Passover seder meal (including the blessings or prayers for these steps) interwoven with 2,000-yr old rabbinic discussions about the story of Passover and the mitzvot (commandments) relating to celebrating Passover.
Haggadot come in all manner of styles, from the very traditional to environmentally-focused to a feminist approach to those made specifically for kids, and everything in between.  The haggadot.com website provides myriad approaches and commentary* for each step of the seder.  (There are 14 steps, although some people consider the “motzei matzah” step as two separate steps, making the total 15 steps.)  I culled through these pages and put together what I hope will be a haggadah that is meaningful to both the students and to you, as well.  (*Commentary on the Torah is an essential part of Judaism.  We are not meant to read the Torah literally.  So too with Jewish prayers, ceremonies, etc.)
Of note, I included a page about child labor involved in the harvesting of cocoa beans.  My daughter, who is 24, modern orthodox, and lives in NYC, went to a seder a few years ago that a friend hosted; this friend requested that no one bring any food made with chocolate, b/c in many instances, the labor involved in the process includes child labor.  This friend of hers could not see how he could host a seder, celebrating freedom from oppression, while having foods at the table that may have been made from the oppression of others, and all the more so from children.  This was the first time I heard about this issue with chocolate.  
There are countless ways to celebrate Passover; however, I was so touched by this young man’s approach to the seder, that I have adopted his practice regarding what I eat during the Passover holiday.  His seder was more traditional than many, yet he recognized the underlying theme to the holiday:  freedom.  He also interpreted the part of the haggadah that says “All who are hungry, let them come and eat,” in a way that many Jews interpret that sentence, which is that no Jewish person should be alone on the holiday.  My mother’s mother always was in touch with her rabbi before Passover to see if anyone had reached out to him looking for a place to go for the seder.  I don’t think we ever had fewer than 19 people at our seders growing up.  And everyone, stranger or distant cousin, Jew or non-Jew, felt like family at our seders.  (And my grandma made all the food herself, in complete accordance with the laws of kashrut for Passover.)
Sooooo… if you’re still with me, the haggadah I put together will, hopefully, include both old and new traditions that have meaning to you and your family.  The link to the haggadah is below, in case you’d like to print copies for your seders.  It’s 57 pages, so I’d recommend printing double-sided, if you do print it.  And if you’d like to make your own haggadah, the website asks for a donation of your choosing to do so, and if you can afford to do so, it is well worth it.  
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Passover, 

January 24, 2021

Shalom Parents, 
Today we continued to learn about the Hebrew calendar and holidays by making our tree project.  The little Torahs represent the “roots” or foundation of the tree, and contain three core Jewish values:
Chesed – Kindness
Piku’ach Nefesh – Saving a Life (emotionally and/or physically)
Tzedek – Justice (tzedakah comes from the word tzedek)
On top of the Torah foundation, the tree grows (or is glued).  And the tree has leaves containing the Hebrew months, beginning with Tishrei.  There are 12 months in the Hebrew calendar, as in the English calendar.  But, the first month, Tishrei, occurs in autumn, beginning in either September or October – usually September.  The Hebrew calendar is lunar – it follows the moon, and has about 354 days, which is shorter than the solar year.  In the Jewish calendar, aka Hebrew calendar, our holidays must fall in certain seasons, e.g., the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is in the fall; Passover is in the spring.  So adjustments are made to the Hebrew calendar to keep the holidays in the right time of year.  This is accomplished:
1) with leap years – by adding an extra month – the month of Adar – seven times every 19 years.  (My daughter was born on the 28th day of Adar 1, b/c she was born in a Jewish leap year.)
2) and by having certain months have 29 days some years, and 30 days other years.  One of these months is Elul.  My Hebrew birthday is the 29th of Elul, and I know I was born on Erev Rosh Hashanah, meaning Rosh Hashanah started the night I was born.  My family and I have always celebrated my birthday as we lit the candles for Rosh Hashanah – even though lighting the Rosh Hashanah candles begins the month of Tishrei, it was close enough.  It was only in putting this project together that I realized in some years, per the Hebrew calendar, there is an extra day between my Hebrew birthday and Rosh Hashanah.  I was born in a year when Elul had 29 days; but in the years when Elul has 30 days, my Hebrew birthday isn’t really Erev Rosh Hashanah.  After discussing this with your wonderful kids, I will continue to celebrate my birthday on Erev Rosh Hashanah.
Speaking of Hebrew birthdays, if you will send me the date AND TIME of your kids’ birthdays, I will tell you the Hebrew date of their birthday.  The time is crucial, b/c the Hebrew day begins at sundown.  (This is as opposed to the “English” day, which begins at midnight.)  I already have this from some of you, and I look forward to emailing you your child’s Hebrew birthday!  I will also include the Parsha that was read the week they were born – i.e., the portion from the Torah read that week in synagogue.  If your child would like to add this information to their Tree Project, they can write it anywhere they like on the Tree.
Speaking of trees, Judaism has a special New Year for the Trees, which we will celebrate this week.  It is called Tu B’Shvat, which means the 15th day of the month of Shvat.  We will learn more about how and why Judaism places so much importance on trees that there is a holiday devoted to them next Sunday.  
HEBREW: Attached is a sheet with the Hebrew numbers 1-10, with my own transliteration added.  The 5th graders, in particular, asked to learn how to count in Hebrew.  If you could print this for your 5th grader (and 4th graders who may be interested), I would appreciate it.
Wishing you a good week, 

December 13, 2020

Shalom Parents, and Happy Chanukah!  Today we learned some more about Chanukah, focusing on ways to celebrate the holiday that help others (chesed, or kindness), remind us to be grateful (the root word for Jewish in Hebrew is thanks – being grateful is a core element of Judaism), and help make the world a better place (tikkum olam – repairing the world).  Here is the link to the questions we discussed, as well as some other great ways to celebrate Chanukah.  I hope you will take a look!  Reflection Questions as You Light the Menorah.  You may have to scroll down a bit to get to the questions.  And there are several pages after the Reflection Questions that can provide ideas to think about with your family.
By the way, I think your kids really like playing dreidel!  If you can spare the time, maybe you can play a game or two of dreidel with your family.  You can use raisins, nuts, pennies, candy gelt, etc., for the “pot.”  If spinning the dreidel is difficult for any family member, you could have a designated spinner for that person.  (My brother used to spin the dreidel for me, as I had difficulty getting it to spin.)
REMINDER:  We do have class next Sunday, Dec. 20th.  I would be grateful if you could print the following Hebrew sheets beforehand.  (Some students may still have these sheets from the initial packages I sent earlier this year.)  This first sheet, HEBREW VOWELS, is a sheet the students will need to have out for each Hebrew lesson.  This sheet is designed to be colored with the designated colors; doing so is, of course, optional; however, I think doing so will help the students learn the Hebrew vowel sounds.  For those students unfamiliar with the Hebrew alphabet, this HEBREW ALPHABET – the ALEPH BET sheet will also be helpful to have out during lessons.  Time spent reviewing the letters between lessons will go far in ensuring your child learns to read Hebrew words.  And finally, we are going to be working on a Tree Project soon, which will include learning the names of the Hebrew months.  So this sheet with the HEBREW MONTHS OF THE YEAR will be helpful to review and have on-hand.

December 6, 2020

Shalom Parents, 
As you likely know, Chanukah starts tonight.  This past Sunday, we learned a bit about the origins of Chanukah and the blessings (brachot) we say on the candles.  Many of the kids asked about the melody used to sing the brachot (plural; one blessing is a bracha).  Here is a link to the brachot being sung with the traditional melody:  Chanukiah Blessings
I am also attaching the materials I put together for last Sunday’s lesson, as well as this coming week’s lesson.  The link to the blessings is included in the attachment – both the link above, with the melody, and a link to the sheet with the blessings in Hebrew, English and transliterated.
Wishing you an appreciation for Religious Freedom, which is at the heart of Chanukah, 

November 22, 2020

Shalom Parents, 
This past Sunday, we focused on the mitzvah of chesed, which is kindness.  There are many ways that we can perform acts of kindness in our lives; in Hebrew, acts of kindness are called gemilut chasadim.  Gemilut chasadim are a core component of Judaism.  I showed the students a video about chesed and tzedakah, which discusses the similarities and differences between the two.  The video is from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory.  Rabbi Sacks, one of the greatest Jewish leaders of our time, recently passed away; fortunately, we live in an era in which we can access many of his thoughts and views on Judaism. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was the former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealths from 1991 to 2013. The video we watched, called Love as Compassion, can be found here; it is short, and well worth watching:  https://rabbisacks.org/tenpaths/educators/chessed/
We worked on a project this week, based on the idea of chesed and the “hand turkey” – tracing one’s hand to make a turkey for Thanksgiving.  But instead of making a turkey, we used our hands to decorate and explain five acts of chesed we can perform with our hands.  Hopefully your child shared this project with you.  A list of some of the acts of chesed we might perform with our hands is attached.
Wishing you all a safe Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude and compassion, 

November 8, 2020

Shalom Parents, This week we learned about the parsha (weekly section read from the Torah) Vayera, which includes some of the most interesting stories and lessons in all of Genesis (in my opinion). We learned about the origins of the Jewish mitzvah of hospitality vis-a-vis Abraham keeping his tent open on all sides in order to welcome any and all guests. We also learn about Abraham arguing with HaShem (aka,God) about destroying the cities of Sodom and Gemorra. Jewish tradition teaches us that their greatest sins were in how they treated strangers, i.e., lack of hospitality (taken to a cruel level of behavior, which I did not discuss with your children). Learning about Abraham trying to save others tied in with our lessons about kehillah, community. It also tied in with a look at the mitzvah Do Not Stand Idly By. Jewish law teaches “When the community is in trouble, a person should not say “I will go to my house and I will eat and drink and be at peace with myself.” Rather, the Jewish obligation (mitzvah) is to help the community, in keeping with the mitzvah we learned earlier this year: Do Not Separate Yourself From The Community.” In light of the election last week, I think the idea of being obligated to our communities is particularly apt. This coming week, building on the mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) we’ve studied and the election, we will begin to look at the Jewish mitzvot (plural of mitvah) about being careful with our speech. Warmest wishes for a healthy week and a Shabbat shalom, Vicky

October 25, 2020

Shalom Parents!

We had another great week learning together! Your kids are so inspirational; thank you for sharing them with us! This week we learned about the parsha read by Jewish communities around the world – – Noah (parsha = chapter or section of the Torah; one parsha is read aloud and studied each week throughout the Jewish year). In Parshat Noah (parshat = chapter or section OF – the “t” added to the end of the word adds the English word of), we learn that HaShem (God) destroys the world with a flood, except for Noah and his family. Key highlights we focused on included:

1) Noah is righteous in his generation – most Jewish commentators agree that Noah may not have been considered a good person if he’d lived among a better group of people

2) Using COVID as an example, we learned that Noah’s response to the flood was to protect himself and his family, much as we wear masks in public to protect ourselves and our families, and others, from COVID. But, Noah did not go out and warn other people about the flood. There are two ways to be a good person: we can do the right thing, like Noah did. OR, we can do the right thing and take it a step further by being activists, when possible, safe and appropriate.

3) Some people who take the Torah, or Bible, literally claim that God will never destroy the world again, per Parshat Noah, and therefore, society does not need to worry about global warming. BUT, the story of Noah only says God will not destroy the world by flood, not some other method. And, it does not say that man cannot destroy the world. So if, as Jews, we want to use the Torah as an argument about the need to help the planet re global warming, we DO need to take seriously the science of global warming and do our part to help!

4) I also noted that many cultures have a flood story, including the Mayans, some Native American tribes, and the ancient Egyptians. So did the flood really happen? As a favorite teacher would say, “I don’t know. I wasn’t there. BUT, we can learn lessons from the story.” (I find it fascinating that this myth is found across so many ancient cultures.)

We also tied the story of Noah into continued study of the idea of kehillah, community. Speaking of which, this coming Sunday (Nov. 1), we are going to have a “treasure hunt.” The students will be tasked with finding 5 objects to represent 5 common roles in a kehillah: The Planner, the Do-er, the Leader, the Supporter and the Encourager. We will watch a video about a kehillah in action to show what some of these roles look like in person, and then we will use string or yarn (in the building bag) to tie our “roles” together. If you don’t have the building bag I dropped off, stacking the objects or putting them close together will also work.

In Hebrew, I am thrilled to tell you that all the students are doing really well! They are brave enough to read aloud, and are definitely getting the hang of putting together the vowel sounds with the letter sounds. If anyone wants some extra help, I am available most of the week. Also, if your child reviews the aleph-bet sheet in their folder, also available at this link, it will be really helpful for their reading skills. Reviewing even once a week will help.

Please note: I will be emailing you some materials this week for class. If you can print these sheets out for your kids, it will be helpful.

If you would like to reach me, my email is vicky.scolnick@gmail.com and my phone (texting is best) is 617*872*7048.


October 18, 2020

Shalom Parents, This week’s lesson focused on the Jewish value of kehillah – community. We talked about the differences between a group that comes together with intention and a random group; played a community-building game using the Hebrew word anachnu – we are …; and incorporated community themes in our Torah lesson. Speaking of Torah, last Saturday, the annual cycle of reading the Torah began. After a reminder that Judaism believes there is far more to the Torah than just the words in the Five Books of Moses, and learning the word allegory, we watched a video about Creation. The lesson drawn from the story of Adam and Eve feeling shame when they realize they are naked is an allegory designed to teach us that how something looks is not what we want to focus on; rather, focusing on active listening is a value that helps contribute to shalom – peace. B’shalom, Vicky

September 13, 2020

Thank you to all the parents for helping get your kids set up for our first e-class!  We will be learning about Jewish values, aka middot, this year.  The middah (singular of middot) we focused on this past week is “A Listening Ear,” which is the Attentive Listening value.  Paying attention can be very difficult, especially in our current era of online learning.  But as Jews, we have a wonderful opportunity to focus on using our listening skills when we hear the shofar blown this weekend during Rosh HaShana services.  To emphasize both “A Listening Ear” and Rosh HaShana, students made a collage with Rosh HaShana symbols: shofar, pomegranate, honey, round challah, apples and a fish.  Your child should be able to tell you what each symbol has to do with the Jewish New Year (they have a “cheat sheet”).  Additionally, the collage should have included the inspirational message “May the blasts of the shofar remind us to live our lives with purpose.”

Ms. Scolnick

Ms. Scolnick

Vicky Scolnick has been teaching Sunday school for over 20 years in cities throughout the United States.  Some of the cities she has lived in include Phoenix, Washington DC, NYC, Chicago and Boston.  She attended the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) for grad school, supplementing an upbringing replete with Jewish education, both at school and at home.  Outside of Sunday School, Vicky enjoys learning about all facets of Judaism, cooking, and arts and crafts.  She especially enjoys using her Cricut machine to make Jewish cutouts, baby gifts, decorations and household items.  With many relatives in Israel and Mexico, Vicky looks forward to being able to travel again sometime in the relatively near future.