Monday, April 6, 2009

A "Sunday Ha-Gadol" at TBE

This past weekend was Shabbat Hagadol (the Great Shabbat), but in truth it was also a Sunday Ha-Gadol for TBE children of all ages, and their families. Things were humming in the building, with an array of pre-Pesach activities, described in an e-mail below written today by TBE parent Dan Young to myself and to our Director of Jewish Life Education, Al Treidel. My thanks to Dan for permission to share it with all of us. In addition, our new pre-K program on selected Sundays is having a remarkable run of success (see photo above - click to enlarge) led by teacher Dayna Patashnik.

Finally, I had the chance to be with our teens at the regional USY Spring Convention in North Haven, where we received the "Chapter on the Rise" award, being held in this photo by USY board member Jonathan Arons.

Here is Dan's e-mail:


I just wanted to share a few observations from today.

First, I couldn't agree more with the statement you made to me and the other parents before the day began about how important it is to utilize successfully every moment of education time we have with the kids. We have relatively few hours of time with these kids before their Bar and Bat Miztvahs and, unfortunately, for many adults, their Hebrew school education represents the vast majority of their Jewish education. As a result, I think careful planning and good ideas are essential, and I know all of the kids really appreciated everything you did to make today so fun.

As a parent and member of the shul, I'm thrilled with how educational it was. In law school, we were often told that we were being taught how to think like lawyers, as opposed to just being taught the law. I feel like today we both taught the holiday and continued the kids' learning of how to think like curious Jews.

The 7th grade lesson of having the kids update the 10 plagues was great.The kids really put a ton of thought into their brainstorming of new plagues, and the competition of trying to come up with new plagues as the papers were passed around made it very exciting. I was particularly pleased to see how the kids really got into the project. I had a few boys who I anticipated were going to be "too cool" for this project, and they loved it. They had great ideas, and they did a lot of thinking.The preparation you put into categorizing the plagues into "personal tragedy," "weather," "economic," and "health" made the activity so successful, because it provided the framework that really had the kids thinking.

The 6th grade lesson on coming up with the 5th child and his or her question was also very successful. Sydney in my group I think came up with a fantastic thought that I intend to share with our guests at our seder. We talked about how the 5th child would be confused about why there is so much to do for Passover - dipping, eating different foods,reclining, re-enacting, tasting tears, etc. Sydney suggested that in order to celebrate, you have to "do," not just read or pray. She said that to celebrate spring and to celebrate freedom, you have to get into it. She likened it to New Year's eve or some other celebration where you party, eat, drink, dance, etc. instead of just talking about why you're happy, appreciative, and the like. Perhaps I'm not the swiftest,but that was a thought that had never previously occurred to me before and one that I think is very smart. I think it is also why Passover issuch a favorite holiday, especially for the kids. We all really celebrate.

The 5th grade lesson updating the symbols on the seder plate was also great. Again, the kids loved passing around the papers, reviewing everyone else's ideas and coming up with their own. Andrew told me how much he enjoyed it, and it again had the kids really thinking about all of the symbols on the seder plate, what they mean, etc. The group of girls I had really were excited by the project, and reviewing the ideas at the end and voting with stickers kept them interested from your first word until the activity was over.

Most of my legal practice recently focuses on employment law, and I've spent the last several months most days dealing with people who have lost or are about to lose their jobs. Helping today at Hebrew school helped me get out of that funk and remember how much we have to be hopeful of. The kids that I interacted with in all three grades were mature, thoughtful, smart, and caring. To the extent they are the future of our synagogue, we have a lot to be proud of and many reasons to believe that our temple will be even better in the future. Thank you for sharing today with me.

I also wanted to let you know what a great day Marissa had. I don't think she knew Chad Gadya or Echad Me Yodaya before, and I assume it was Nurit that taught her both songs in English. We literally spent more than an hour this afternoon and evening singing both songs, and I was very surprised that Marissa remember all of the lyrics to Echad MeYodaya and lot of them from Chad Gadya. She couldn't stop singing during lunch, and after dinner, while we were cleaning for Passover, she again broke into the tunes and sang them from beginning to end again.

Finally, I'm not sure what kind of vantage point you had for the "fire drill," but the exit from the building was very orderly, and I was particularly impressed with how Dayna dealt with Jeremy's class. I was nervous that he was going to be upset by the alarm, and I watched the mall holding hands and walking outside, quiet and orderly. When they got out, Dayna immediately counted and just seemed in perfect control. Of course, it also appeared that the rest of the teachers and students were in control.

To me, Passover is an extraordinary learning occasion and one of the few opportunities we have to sit around positively reinforce our children's Hebrew school education by letting them show off at the seders in front of family and friends how much they have grown and how much they have learned. Today's activities exceeded my expectations. Thank you. We are very lucky to have you.-


Daniel M. Young, Esq.

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