In honor of Israel’s 60th birthday, we’re going to be taking some space in the TAPBB to talk about some real Israel issues. This is the first in a series of essays about how Israel fits into the school curriculum.
by Joel Grishaver
For the past couple of years, we’ve been thinking a lot at Torah Aura about Israel curriculum. In a number of our discussions and brainstorming sessions, we’ve come up against something that we like to call The Gap.
The Gap doesn’t sell jeans. (That’s a different Gap.) Our Gap is about how American Jews think about Israel.
American Jews seem to have only one of two opinions about Israel—and the gap makes designing material on Israel and teaching Israel difficult.
by Laurie Bellet
The other day, I gave a group of early childhood teachers a wonderful way to make charoset dishes for Pesach. It involves using clay flower pots. The artist turns the pot upside down and designs the surface with tiles. Since it is upside down, the lip of the rim catches any tiles that might slip. When dry, you place a plastic drinking cup as an insert to hold the charoset so the clay mosaic, itself, never will need washing. It’s a format I have used for years, in many age ranges, and it always results in a happy ending. Nevertheless, the charoset dish was not what I was really teaching. The true lesson came before…
My puppets, so recently the residents of Shushan, were transformed into the Israelites in Egypt. As difficult it was for them, the puppets had to move bricks, one by one, to another site in the classroom while another puppet demanded that they move more quickly so that the structure they were building would get finished. Sadly, the puppets had a problem; the bricks would not stay firmly atop one another. This is where the charoset came into play.
In the classroom, following the drama and every child having a desired role (Our bricks always get moved to many construction sites!), each child receives a “building” in the form of a clay flower pot and with the tiles, or other desired mosaic materials builds a unique charoset dish.
There are so many things students can make for Pesach that it is too easy to get caught up in making the things as the goals, without a solid learning foundation for support. I am frequently asked for ideas that go beyond a Seder plate. Here are some ideas:
Are you thinking of using God: Jewish Choices for Struggling with the Ultimate in your school?
We now have resources for teachers and educators — including a free teacher’s guide — available on our website, www.torahaura.com. Keep your eyes peeled for more teacher resources that we’re adding every day. To find them simply go to the website, click on a product, and select the resource (located below the product description) that you want to download.
Also, remember that all Torah Aura products come with free teacher training. We’ll send our curriculum experts to your school to help your teachers use The Circle of Jewish Life, any part of the Torah Aura Hebrew/Prayer Program, Being Torah, or any of our other products. To get free staff development for your school, contact Josh Barkin, Director of School Services at (323) 923-6026 or email@example.com.
by Carol Oseran Starin
This column is not about art projects. It’s about understanding art as a way of expressing Jewish ideas, history, philosophy, text. Art is more than color, line, style, texture, etc. It’s a way into history, science, Torah, It’s a window into an artist’s soul. And helping students open those windows makes it possible for them to learn and to express themselves in new ways.
Last column we generated a list of great Jewish visual artists who create Jewish work. Teachers might use one or more of the following strategies to help students understand the ways in which those (and all) artists tell their stories.
We recently got this note from Rachel Margolis, a new educator at University Synagogue in Los Angeles. This year, she added Being Torah and I Have Some Questions About God to her curriculum. How’re things going? Read for yourself:
This past Friday our third and fourth grade students gave presentations to the synagogue at Shabbat services. The fourth graders also worked on a poster project that showed what “Torah stories” they have learned already this year. Students worked in groups of two to illustrate or explain the various chapters of Genesis they have studied.
Many congregants told me how impressed they were with the students’ work. I was proud to say that the kids aren’t simply learning Torah “stories” — it’s not like they’re studying from some dumbed-down version of the Torah. They are using a fantastic kid-friendly translation in Being Torah, which helps them to be “detectives” with the text and find patterns, repetition, and gaps in the story, which they then use to analyze the Torah.
Clearly they’re learning a lot — in many cases congregants were learning from the students’ work!