Thursday, May 17, 2012

Prayers and Dreams Answered

I became disabled slowly, beginning right around the start of 2000, and I entered a pain management rehab program about two years later.  In addition to things like mobility class (how to do wheelies and get the wheelchair up or down a curb) and lessons on alternating the canes just as we would swing our hands with alternate steps, there were mental health aspects to the program, including weekly meetings with a psychologist and an excellent art therapy program.

When I started in the art therapy program, most of my artwork was directly related to pain and disability, but eventually I also started to incorporate other themes, and my art became a visual representation of my dreams and prayers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I teach the smartest students on earth, part 687

Each year, no matter whether I teach for one school or three, tutor teens or elementary school children, I always end up with some of the most insightful and spiritual Torah students on the planet.  A few recent examples ....

I am currently teaching four official, set classes in three different locations, one synagogue, one synagogue classroom, and a library conference room.  I also tutor five students in their own homes and three in my home. I was recently doing a unit on Goldilocks has Shabbat dinner with the Three Bears. (Dinner and brachot come after she breaks the chairs, but before she eats everyone's challah.)  Bayit בַּיִת (house) is one of the central vocabulary words, and by the end of the story the phrase for synagogue/temple/shul is introduced -- בֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת Beit HaKnesset.  I was working with a young student from one synagogue and pointed out to him that the word Beit has the same meaning and same root as Bayit, and I told him about the symbolism of a synagogue as house, and also explained that my Monday/Shabbat synagogues actually IS half a house.  We looked at it on Google Maps, and I showed him how the cantor and his seven-year-old daughter live on one side of the two-family house, with the garden and playground on their side, and that the other side was the synagogue.  I showed him a few photos of the sanctuary and my classroom and he said that he wished he could live where the Cantor and his daughter live --- a house less than 1/3 the size of his current home.  I asked why, and he replied that he would love to visit the Torah every day and say prayers right near the Torah.   Needless to say, my heart melted.

Impressed with an eight year old?  I sure was.  But listen to what a five-year-old said today.  This little girl attends school during the day at a small school run by the local Chabad rebbetzin, but also comes to the after-school combined Hebrew School/Religious School that I run on Mondays.  Her sister attends, her friends attend, there's considerable crossover between the lessons on Monday and Shabbat morning children's services, so she decided one day that she should come.  And so she does.  Often she is the most knowledgeable in the class about upcoming holidays and the parsha, but today she surprised me with an observation that would be sophisticated coming from a child twice her age.  We were discussing Shavuot and the giving of Torah, and one of the kids talked about Moshe smashing the tablets.  Another student knew that it was because he was angry, but no one knew what he was angry about.  I explained the incident of the golden calf and then we returned to the issue of Moshe smashing the tablets.  The my youngest Monday student then piped up with the most amazing observation.  "But Hashem's name was on the tablet and Moshe did a bad thing by breaking something with Hashem's real name and throwing it on the ground."  I've never thought of it that way.  Have you? 

I learn so much from my students!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tonight's Storm

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Whose strength and might fills the world


Psalms Chapter 97 תְּהִלִּים

 א יְהוָה מָלָךְ, תָּגֵל הָאָרֶץ; יִשְׂמְחוּ, אִיִּים רַבִּים. 1 The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad.
 ב עָנָן וַעֲרָפֶל סְבִיבָיו; צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט, מְכוֹן כִּסְאוֹ. 2 Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
 ג אֵשׁ, לְפָנָיו תֵּלֵךְ; וּתְלַהֵט סָבִיב צָרָיו. 3 A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His adversaries round about.
 ד הֵאִירוּ בְרָקָיו תֵּבֵל; רָאֲתָה וַתָּחֵל הָאָרֶץ. 4 His lightnings lighted up the world; the earth saw, and trembled.

This pic from my friend @Baconater:

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tu B'Shvat Teaching Materials

How well do your students know which blessings to use for which foods?  It helps to know whether the fruit grows on a tree or in the ground.  Here are some slides I put together for use in my classes.

Here are some other things we used.

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Happy Tu B'Shvat!

Tu B'Shvat at Beth El

We had a tu b'shvat seder during religious school at Congregation Beth El and planted in our brand new synagogue herb garden.

More photos here:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Welcome New Educators!

Howdy and Shalom!

Here's a copy of my Sunday morning presentation on technology in Jewish education.  You can see most of it online, in miniature, but not the embedded videos or the audio files.  For that, follow the link and download the whole powerpoint file. (You must have Microsoft Powerpoint installed on your computer in order to see it that way.)

 Also, there's a place in the margin of this blog where you can sign up to have an email sent to you any time I post new content.

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Jewish?

Facebook has made popular the idea, or at least the explanation, of "it's complicated". My relationship with Judaism is complicated. So is my relationship with Israel. My relationship with God is even more complicated than that. This video expresses some of that complication.


What does it mean to YOU to be Jewish?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Plastic Bottle Mezuzot

The kindergarten to third grade class learned about mezuzot after learning to sing the sh'ma. They looked at a real scroll, which has the sh'ma and a few other paragraphs, including v'ahavta. Everyone copied or traced the sh'ma onto their own "scrolls" and decorated the plastic bottles.

From Mezuzot

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד
Listen, Israel. Adonai is our God. Adonai is one.

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