Today, as we process the shock of the events at our nation’s capital, we struggle to find a message to share with our community. ShalomLearning’s Jewish values curriculum makes Judaism relevant to the lives of our students. It gives them texts and sources to draw from when making real-life decisions. But which of our seven values speaks the loudest at this moment? Which one will best guide us to move forward?
Teshuvah (Repentance), can we reflect on what occurred and turn it around? B’tzelem Elohim (Created in the Image of God), aren’t we all deserving of respect? Achrayut (Responsibility), it’s our responsibility to respect government law and civil authority. The values of Hakarat Hatov (Recognizing the Good), Koach Haddibur (Power of Words), and Shalom (Peace) can each guide our behavior in peaceful and challenging situations. However, it was the Gevurah (Strength) unit that resonated with us today as it teaches us how to use our inner strength.
Our fifth grade Gevurah unit teaches students about the role of courage in processing an argument, the art of compromise, practical ways for standing up for rights and points of view, and the skill of consensus building. All skills needed at this moment of history.
Therefore, we are sharing two activities from this unit that help students practice conflict resolution wrapped in our Jewish teaching. May these teachings guide us as we teach our children that we have the power to express our will within a democratic process with Jewish values to guide us.
Activity 1: Arguing the Right Way/Conflict Resolution
15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual
Tell students: Today, we will explore how to compromise, argue, and stand up for your ideas. We will look at some scenarios and find the piece of truth that each side possesses.
- When you argue with someone, do you usually feel that you are right and they are wrong? Do you ever feel like they could have a legitimate point of view too?
- The Hebrew word for argument is machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת. But the root of the Hebrew word is chelek חֵלֶק, or part. Why do you think the root of the word machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת is chelek חֵלֶק, part?
- Do you think that in an argument each person may have part of the truth?
- When you disagree with someone else, but you acknowledge that they have a chelek חֵלֶק of the truth as well, how does that change things?
- Sometimes when you acknowledge other people’s chelek חֵלֶק of the truth, the result is compromise, pesharah פְּשָׁרָה. Do you view compromise as a good result?
Activity 2: What Would You do? Machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת Scenario
15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual
Role Play Fishbowl: You may use the following scenario or choose a scenario that you know the students are confronting or that is in the news. If you have never led a fishbowl before, see this site for a helpful description. https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/fishbowl (5.3.4 Fishbowl Strategy)
It is the first day of school. Elaina has been away the whole summer and is looking forward to seeing her best friend Jessica. When Elaina gets to school, she looks all over for Jessica and finally finds her talking to a new kid. Instead of running over to greet Elaina, Jessica keeps talking to the new kid for ten minutes before she finally goes over to greet Elaina. Elaina is mad. How could Jessica keep her waiting for so long when they haven’t seen each other for two whole months? She tells her friend Andrea that Jessica has really changed and Andrea should not be friends with her. Jessica finds out and gets angry with Elaina.
Have two students play the roles of Elaina and Jessica. First, have them role play an argument where they are not interested in seeing the other person’s chelek חֵלֶק of truth and care only about the truth of their position.
Choose two other students to role-play the same argument. This time, they must acknowledge the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s position.
- Who made choices in this story?
- How could you defend Elaina’s choices?
- How could you defend Jessica’s choices?
- What other choices could they have made that may have avoided a fight?
- Was there a chelek חֵלֶק of truth for each side of this story?
- What would happen if Elaina and Jessica took the time and effort to understand the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s argument? What would be the consequences of the argument?
- What would have happened to the friendship if they talked out why they were each upset?
- How can respecting another person’s point of view and trying to see their chelek חֵלֶק of truth help you in other arguments and situations?
Behind the candles, dreidels, the latkes, the doughnuts, my rising triglycerides (from all the oil), I find that the most inspiring tradition of Chanukah is our search for the light and the way that we are instructed to share the light (don’t forget to “publicize the miracle” by putting your menorahs in a window if you can). Our people overcame great odds more than 2,000 years ago, and unlike other Jewish holidays, there is indisputable, historical evidence that this military victory of the Maccabean army did indeed happen.
Today, Jewish education is in a battle right now as well. This time, however, the victory isn’t only marked by a re- “dedication” (that is what Hanukkah means) of a physical holy temple in Jerusalem. This time, the victory is our collective view of the future, when our children can see themselves as successful Jewish learners and feel a strong sense of community and agency. They pass the torch yet again to another generation. The light we share as a people must shine on to the world.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the world’s students and teachers into online classrooms, many Hebrew schools were left unprepared to make the transition. This meant that the demand for ShalomLearning’s work more than doubled! In addition to our regular teacher training and innovative curricula designs, we provide scholarship funds to our synagogue partners that enable their families to participate.
With your continued support we will continue to provide these tools to students, teachers, and families across North America at no additional cost to them.
In recognition of the demand, a generous donor has pledged to match every gift made before December 31, 2020 up to $50,000. Please help us meet this match and provide uninterrupted Jewish education throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond by clicking here.
Thank you so much for making this miracle of Jewish education possible.
Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy and joyous Chanukah!
“There is nothing more whole than a broken heart,” said Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787–1859), also known as the Kotzker Rebbe. Tonight the Jewish people welcome a lesser known, somewhat mystical, Jewish holiday, Lag B’Omer. MyJewishLearning summarizes it’s key elements in this great article.
As a child, I remember this fun holiday featuring BBQs, bonfires, and whiffle ball games with friends and family. Most of that is not possible right now.
It is fascinating that tonight we are instructed to take a break from this “period of semi-mourning,” as we arrive at the 33rd day of our count off from Passover to Shavuot (Sferat Ha’Omer). A popular notion is that on this day the mysterious plague which killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students suddenly ended. This very well might have been Akiva’s students’ death count in the Bar Kochba rebellion (132 C.E.) against the Romans, and the rabbis needed to choose their language carefully for the political ramifications. But I find it a little strange that of all things, it is a plague that is the chosen description for this massive loss.
Most of us have never experienced a pandemic. It is hard reading the daily news, let alone juggling all of the challenges that this intense disruption of our normal lives has created. But I would like to remind us all that spiritual highs in life are almost always preceded by lows. Perhaps you can think of bending an elastic band back to give it the maximum thrust forward. That might be where we are at right now. If you feel that you are experiencing a low point in your life, this might be a perfect time for you to recognize that you are generating spiritual energy that will bring you to a higher consciousness. Whenever we are going through hard times, there is an opening to your heart. You become more compassionate, more thoughtful, more soft and loving. These spiritual qualities will lead you to a better destiny.
I hope that this newsletter finds you and your loved ones healthy. And I pray that our own mysterious plague will end soon. But in the meantime, happy Lag B’Omer, and I hope that you can recognize when your spiritual energy is building despite any low points you encounter.
Hebrew schools across North America made a dramatic and rapid shift into virtual classrooms in the wake of COVID-19. Now, with the potential for a second wave of contagion this fall, educational directors are making plans to keep classes online at the start of the next school year.
The impact of COVID-19 on the Jewish education landscape was severe, with many synagogues scrambling to adapt their curricula to online platforms, some more successfully than others. Online curriculum providers were suddenly flooded with inquiries, many from educational directors who had little to no experience with virtual classrooms or blended (online and in-person) teaching models.
One such nonprofit organization, ShalomLearning, which specializes in online and blended curricula for Hebrew schools, saw demand jump sharply. Since mid-March, an additional 210 teachers began using the platform, while the number of students enrolled in their virtual classrooms grew by 2,000 to 7,800, bringing ShalomLearning’s partnership total to 163 congregations across North America.
“We weren’t surprised that interest rose so quickly as our numbers have been growing every year and teachers, students and families are really enjoying our lessons. And there was an enormous increase in demand for teacher training on how to run a virtual classroom since we had the technology in place since 2011 to address this need ,” said Joshua Troderman, ShalomLearning’s CEO. “What was surprising, however, are the reports that we are receiving that student attendance in the virtual classrooms are rising tremendously. Many Jewish educators who were once reluctant to embrace new technologies were caught off-guard, but they now realize the necessity and are getting on-board, especially considering all the summer camp closures that have been announced this month and what’s expected this Fall.”
Public health officials have begun to warn of a potential second wave of COVID infections later this year, which could be further exacerbated by the return of flu season. With this in mind, several synagogues have already declared their intention to operate virtually at the start of the school year, including Kehilat Shalom in Montgomery Village, MD and Temple Sinai in Brookline, MA.
“We look forward to keeping our virtual learning going in the fall,” said Temple Sinai Director of Education Heidi Smith Hyde. “I’ve heard from a few parents that offering an online option will make their lives easier by eliminating the need for transportation to and from religious school, especially during a busy work week.”
One benefit to online platforms that use a blended model is the ability to seamlessly switch from in-person to online as needed. The curriculums are designed to be flexible and adaptable, which is increasingly important to educators given the current uncertainty over COVID.
“Kids were so bored sitting at home, so having something like ShalomLearning that was programmed and familiar made it more enjoyable for them,” Rabbi Charles Arian of Kehilat Shalom added. “No one knows what’s going to happen by September and this uncertainty is what’s making people antsy. Continuing our online classes will help give people a degree of certainty.”
Bikkur cholim בִּיקוּר חִוֹלים (visiting the sick) is a tangible and easy mitzvah מצְוָה for your students to learn about and practice. It is more relevant than ever as we continue to struggle with the effects of Covid-19. Everyone has been sick at one time or another and appreciated the extra attention and love of someone close to them during that time.
We, at ShalomLearning, created a free lesson for teachers to use in a virtual classroom with students ages 5-8 and their parents to explore this Jewish value. Together, the class will learn and share ways to help others feel better even when we are not able to visit in person.
The lesson begins with a social and emotional check in. It is important to connect with families and provide an opportunity for everyone to share feelings. Through observations and personalization, this lesson helps students explore their thoughts and emotions about visiting and helping those who are not feeling well and encourages empathy. We conclude that the ways we help will lead toward healing. Healing does not always mean that there is a cure; it can also be a healing of the spirit.
Throughout the lesson, students actively share things that help them feel better and create a Get Well Card Video to share with others to support their healing. The post lesson extensions are full of great ideas that families can do together to perform the mitzvah of bikkur cholim, even when we can’t visit in person.
ShalomLearning has created a version of this stand alone lesson for our Jewish families in the military. Distributed through our partnership with the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, families on military bases throughout the world will receive this lesson to do together at home.
Refuah Shleima. May we all be blessed with healing and kind helpers.
Access this free lesson here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19xG-IlRNQNZlh4uaMDc_gi-dpj274WCMODEchwDcUFk/edit?usp=sharing