Archive: January 2018

Hakarat Hatov

Our students in grades 3-7 are starting their fifth unit, Hakarat Hatov which is translated as gratitude; recognition of the good; appreciation.

Having an attitude of gratitude may not be a natural state for all of us. Developing a sense of appreciation is a learned behavior – a habit of noticing everything from the gift of life to physical things. We can begin to develop this practice through direct instruction, storytelling, modeled behavior, and experiences that reinforce the habit of Hakarat Hatov.

Judaism refers to the Biblical creation story as a confirmation that the entire world really belongs to God. We are but caretakers of all we possess, including our bodies and souls. That understanding should free us from jealousy and avarice and should empower us to share what we have with those in need and encourage us to use our resources to continue the creation.

Conversation Starters:

How do blessings show gratitude? Make up your own blessing for something in your family.

Gratitude is a good stress reliever. Next time you or your child feel stressed, recall three things you are thankful for.

Sweet Responsibility

Sweet Responsibility

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! It’s here! Yes, the chai secular year of the century: 2018! We love the numerical equivalent of life and how sweet it is that this month’s unit is Achrayut, which literally means responsibility.

In between your dozens of appointments and zipping your children around from one frenzy of activity to another, you might be wondering, “What’s so sweet about responsibility?  It’s important to keep commitments, yes, but sweet?”

Well, at ShalomLearning we strive for our children to become mensches IN ACTION; thus, we define our values with a bit of a drash (interpretation) for their central role in the ongoing Jewish tradition of living a purpose driven life. Achrayut charges us to be responsible and to “leave the world a better place.” It is no accident that this value times in alignment with the upcoming (January 30th)  Tu B’shvat holiday.

Tu B’shvat, also called Rosh Hashanah La’ilanot, is the new year (birthday) of trees. This holiday  grows more important every year. These days, we are subjected to the highest levels of corporate greed and grossly funded agendas to convince people that they are part of a system that they can not change.

That is not the Jewish way. We are the original activists. We strive to make the world better, our relationships stronger, and our spirits unbreakable in our connection to the sacred. We have a holiness code, and love is at the center of it. (That is another article, but check it out in Leviticus 19:18). Love is the ultimate value, and yes, we take one day a year to officially hug some trees, and if you have a sedar, it  always opens deep conversations.

James Cameron is releasing a new film this week:, “The Game Changers.” It exposes the horrendous exploitation of the agribusiness and environmental impact of meat production, but more importantly it offers a profound solution for both our bodies and the environment by switching to a plant based protein diet.

It’s a great example of the social consciousness of the next generation and reminds us all to keep a lookout for things that this wonderful generation will be leading the charge, as we break away from the grip of the dark side of the status quo.

Many are taking action to improve the way we grow and consume food recognizing that we are the caregivers for the planet and stewards of the environment. I hope you have a chance to host or attend a Tu Bishvat seder with your family and friends. Look for links and resources in this issue. Chag Sa’ma’ach!


Gratefully Yours,


Joshua Troderman

ShalomLearning CEO

Using Ed-Tech to Teach Tefillah

Using Ed-Tech to Teach Tefillah

Participants in ShalomLearning’s No Teacher Left Behind (an 8 week course in partnership with JETS) are learning about different online tools, and how they can used for Jewish education. Alissa Okrent, Religious School Principal at Temple Shalom, Succasunna, NJ used her new skills and her creativity to engage her students right away!  Using Padlet, an online, collaborative, bulletin board, she created an activity where the seventh graders gained a deeper understanding and connection with tefillah.

She shared with us the following (and we’re including a picture so you feel like you know her):
One of my personal joys is helping my students feel our prayers are relevant today. My two foundations for this lesson were:  Achrayut and nature.   How can I integrate these two concepts into an activity that would engage my students, and help me to interact with each other and the learning?

I began with nature, choosing pictures that gave me a sense of “prayer meaning.” Seeing the “rock” could be an image of Gevurot; the sky aligned with God/Shema and the path felt like a connection to being in the present moment.

I asked, “What words describe this image?”, they typed in their words, and things started to appear on the screen. The lines, and arrows, and “web” effect was a total surprise to me!

Once each picture had words associations, I asked them, based on their understanding of the meaning of the prayers we had discussed, which prayer correlates to which image?  There are no wrong answers.  As I watched the words appear on the screen, I asked the group to create a poem which could be their prayer.

One of the students composed the poem and we all experienced our own moment of Achrayut; becoming a better version of ourselves.

Simple Ways to Celebrate Tu B’Shvat

Simple Ways to Celebrate Tu B’Shvat

Happy New Year! Did you know that there were actually four different New Year’s days in the Jewish Calendar? One of them, Tu B’Shvat, sometimes called the Birthday of the Trees, begins on Tue. Jan 30st.   You can find out about the other 3 at MyJewishLearning.

In many parts of the country it is still too cold to be outside enjoying trees, but you can always plant a tree in Israel.   Or, PJ Library has 9 other ways you can celebrate Tu B’Shevat.

It is also a custom in many communities to hold a Tu B’Shvat Seder. Each of the four cups of wine represents a different season, and the seder plate represents different types of foods.   You can read more about that and even download some examples from, or if you prefer, here is one from Hazon.

If a whole Seder is too much for you, the Joy of Kosher has some recipes that incorporate the seven species of foods that are represented in a Tu B’Shvat Seder.