Keeping Connected with Dale, our Education Director
When is a Box Not a Box? This was the question posed to educators recently at a workshop titled: The Power of Play, sponsored by the Experiential Jewish Educational Network in Boston. Educators were presented with one or two empty boxes and offered artistic materials (tape, pipe cleaners, tinfoil, and colored paper) to turn different sized box(es) into something else. We had ten minutes in which to complete the task.
Long story short, my particular group created a cruise liner, complete with smoke stacks, a climbing wall, portholes, a pipe-cleaner captain, ship’s prow, and a ship’s wheel. My self-imposed job was to secure the smoke stacks, choose supplies I thought the group might need to accomplish our agreed upon project, and I even came up with the idea of a figure head on the prow of the ship. At the end, I have to admit feeling inordinately proud of our accomplishments! More
December 2018 Newsletter Article
Our collective heart is broken. The attack on The Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh is an assault on Jews throughout this country and the world. Three synagogues share the space at the Squirrel Hill synagogue, and on that particular Shabbat, October 27th, there was a Bris taking place in the building; an event always celebrating life, instead foreshadowed death. By now, the details are well known and this crime has gone down in history as the deadliest attack against a Jewish community on American soil.
As part of their core curriculum on the Holocaust and Human Behavior, our 9th and 10th grade high school students are presently exploring the origins of anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism prior to and during WWII. As our students learn about a history we hoped was long past, we are tragically confronted with an attack on one of our synagogues and our religion. The reason given by the alleged perpetrator is that we are Jewish. The 46-year-old shooter also spearheaded his attack against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), an American Jewish nonprofit organization which provides humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees. More
November 2018 Newsletter Article
In preparation for this article, I googled ‘What is a Brit Kavod/Honor Covenant?’ I received about 15,600 results in 0.21 seconds. “WOW! We must truly need support in this area,” I thought.
A cornerstone of our religious school experience at Congregation Shalom is Kavod/Respect/Honor. Ours is a community built upon the tenets of kindness and helping those in need, all of which complete the circle of Kavod. One has to only peruse our website to see a thriving Sisterhood, Brotherhood, and Shalomite Youth Group, each dedicated to Mitzvot and acts of Tikkun Olam/Repairing the World.
In my short time at Congregation Shalom, I have been captivated by the kindness and compassion members of this temple extend toward one another and the broader community. During the summer I met with a Madrichah (her suggestion) to discuss the student she works with and how best to meet his needs, a web master and calendar expert both so involved in communal life they give way beyond the description of their volunteer positions, and an Office Manager who wears so many institutional hats that she is a walking encyclopedia of communal knowledge. The warm welcome I received personally as an outsider demonstrated the concept of Ushpizin/Welcoming the Stranger, and circling this all, is a love and reverence of Torah, recently revealed as the congregation literally wrapped itself in the embrace of an unfurled Torah Scroll on Simchat Torah. More
October 2018 Newsletter Article
מַזָּל טוֹב/congratulations! We have 17 Madrichim signed up to work in our Hebrew and Religious School programs this year. WOW!! Definitions of a ‘Madrich/Madrichah’ include “guide, trainer, educator, youth counselor, or supervisor”.
When I think about Madrichim, the expression which comes to mind is ‘role-model’. Madrichim offer students a bridge between more formal instruction and fun, hands-on Jewish learning. Madrichim help students explore their future goals and how they can participate actively in the Jewish community. Madrichim present students with someone to talk to, look up to, and simply enjoy learning with, and from. In their best incarnation, a Madrich or Madrichah is a peer and mentor, rolled into one.
Caitlyn Curry, an 11thgrader, is entering her fourth year as a Madrichah in our program. She is enthusiastic about the work she does. “I decided to be a Madrichah, because when I was younger, the people who made Hebrew school fun and interesting for me were not only the teachers, but especially the Madrichim assigned to my classes.” Caitlyn says when she initially considered becoming a Madrichah she was inspired by “the thought of these people [Madrichim] who always were fun to hang out with and [were] easy to connect with and learn from.” Caitlyn says when she was a younger student, “Madrichim made Hebrew School way better! I wanted to have that same impact on other people.” More
September 2018 Newsletter Article
As the Congregation Shalom Hebrew School readies itself for the upcoming academic year, 5779, I am struck by the concepts of permanence and impermanence in Jewish religious, spiritual, and ritual life.
The first day of Religious School is Sunday, September 23rd, which coincides with the beginning of the Holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is one of our three pilgrimage festivals and is associated with impermanent dwellings termed “sukkot” in Hebrew and “tabernacles” in English. This is a time to celebrate nature, welcome the stranger, and shake the Lulav and Etrog, which we will examine in our teachings. Sukkot is a time for families and Jewish congregations to gather and celebrate in structures which will stand for only a week. It is a time of wonder and a salutation to nature, it is a time to look up into the night sky and watch the stars. Sukkot is indeed a magical holiday. More
August 2018 Newsletter Article
For weeks we joined the world in holding our collective breath as we prayed for a group of soccer players and their coach waiting to be saved from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, far from the comforts of the Merrimack Valley Region.
The drama was intense and we, the crowd were riveted as nature once again bumped up against nurture. First, the team, called ‘The Wild Boars’, were lost while exploring a cave complex on June 23rd. They vanished into a labrynth, half a mile below the earth’s surface, seemingly swallowed whole. Then, just as hope evaporated, they were found by two British divers. I remember their gaunt faces seemingly floating out of shadows and projected into our world.
“A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.” – Jewish proverb
They were scrawny, with huge eyes and wide smiles, having survived on nothing but hope, teamwork, and droplets of water licked from the walls of a cave. Their 25-year-old soccer coach, a spiritual person schooled in Buddhist philosophy, sustained his team all that time in darkness, with rising waters, and no outside contact. He taught them about meditation and faith and how to dispel their doubts and tap into their inner strength. More