Community You Can Believe In

Latest Curriculum Highlights

November 2, 2017 / 13 Cheshvan 5778

Shalom SULAM Parents,

It’s hard to believe that November is upon us.  We know you have been anxious to learn more about what’s been happening here, and we are grateful that you have been so patient regarding our communication.  But before we share that long-awaited information, we must first take a moment to THANK YOU for trusting us with your wonderful children.  We take this very seriously and have been working non-stop to create, recreate, tweak, bring this vision into reality.  Please know that we want what you want -- the absolute best Jewish educational experience possible for your children -- and are committed to being responsible and responsive in order to do that. While we are very proud of all that has happened in these first two months of SULAM, we are aware that this is still a work in progress. Once again, we extend a heartfelt thank you for your patience and understanding, for your partnership and for your faith in us.  

A note about our faculty:  Our educators have been tireless in their endeavors to develop and provide creative, challenging and fun learning experiences for your children.  They take great pride in their work and are here to support our learners in every way.  SULAM could not exist (or continue to grow) without these amazing, passionate individuals, and we cannot thank them enough for their dedication.  They also deserve additional recognition for their outstanding efforts in composing the detailed summaries provided in this document.

At this time, we are pleased to provide you with a substantive compilation of “Curriculum Highlights” and lesson descriptions as shared by our educators.  We hope you find it informative and inspiring to read about what has been happening in our SULAM learning community.  And, as always, we welcome your questions and comments.


Grade 1/Alef

Grade 2/Bet

Primary Grades Hebrew (Ivrit)

Primary Grades Music (Shirah)

Grades 3 & 4/Nativ (Sunday)

Grades 3 & 4/Nativ (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Grades 5 & 6/Gesher (Sunday)

Grades 5 & 6/Gesher (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Grade 7/Bogrim (Sunday)

Grade 7/Bogrim (Tuesday/Wednesday)

PreK-K/Shorashim-Gan: Diane Salm

Our learners explored the Seven Days of Creation through pictures and a story during circle time. Then, each child was given a white paper circle, stickers and crayons/markers to use to create one of the seven days of creation.  Children were asked to imagine what it might have been like for God to create the earth. The children each came up with creative ideas and thoughts about creation which are posted on note cards next to their artwork.

We learned and recited the prayer Modeh Ani.  We read a story about the prayer entitled “Modeh Ani, Thank you”.  We enjoyed listening to different versions of the prayer sung by various artists.  The class favorite was a country music video version that showed  a cowboy and 2 cow puppets singing Modeh Ani! Learners were asked What would you thank God for?  Then the class created some creative drawings based on their answers.  Their artwork is captioned and on display in our learning space.

Children are also enjoying pretend play with wooden Shabbat objects such as candlesticks, wine cup and challah (complete with challah cover!), and it’s fun to watch them acting out these rituals.  Our art table always has a selection of theme-based coloring pages as another option for learners who like bringing artwork home.  They’re so proud to show their finished product! 

"Please come and visit our beautiful art gallery walls in our classroom!"

Grade 1/Alef: Sarah Baden

When taking attendance each Sunday, Alef learners enjoy responding with the Hebrew word ”Hineini” (Here I am), and the group likes saying “Lo poh” (not here) for learners who are absent.  

Noah’s Ark lesson:  We began by discussing the story of Noah’s ark, discovering what children already knew and then adding on to that. We read the book “Nora’s Ark” and then noted similarities and differences to the real story of Noah’s Ark.  Then we talked about the rainbow God created at the end of the flood as a promise that God would never flood the world again. We decided that every rainbow after a rainstorm is a reminder of the promise that God made. Even though it has rained a lot, the world will not be flooded. As we discussed how we feel when seeing a rainbow, the word “thankful” was used by a learner which led to further conversation about other things we were thankful for.  We then wrote what we were thankful for on colorful paper handprints cutouts.  Learners created their own rainbows and put their special handprints on their rainbow to show that we were thankful for many things. These are displayed on the board in our classroom.  

Grade 2/Bet: Barbara Barshay/Samantha Gottlieb

Before Yom Kippur, we discussed the importance of saying sorry to others for the mistakes we’ve made and also asking for forgiveness.  We learned about the custom of “Tashlich”.  In the classroom, we pretended to throw away our sins by tossing beanbags with pictures of bread on them into hula hoops which represented a body of water.  

Learning about Sukkot was a fun and interactive day for Bet learners.  We discussed some of the similarities between Sukkot and Thanksgiving since both holidays celebrate the harvest.  We also learned that we are supposed to invite 7 guests into the sukkah to share a meal.  Rabbi Rosen taught us all about the Lulav and Etrog and which parts of our bodies they “look” like (Lulav=spine; etrog=heart).  We even got to take turns shaking the lulav! In our classroom, we had fun building sukkot with log builders and wrote lists of the 7 special people we would invite into our own Sukkot if we could.  

Bereshit “In the Beginning”: We made “spin art” creations using white paint on black paper (and discovered a clever new use for salad spinners!) to show how God brought light into the darkness.  We tried to imagine what it felt like when God created the world.   Our finished products are truly unique works of art, and we loved seeing the variations in our designs.

Primary Grades Hebrew (Ivrit): Limor Shefer

Each week, groups (PreK and K learners are separated) come into our special Hebrew classroom where they are introduced to various learning centers designed for small group activities facilitated by an educator or teen aide. Letter recognition and identification are taught through yoga, technology, BINGO, memory games and singing the Alef-Bet song.  We would like learners to have fun and feel comfortable learning in our Hebrew space and look forward to seeing them progress!

Primary Grades Music (Shirah): Corinna Grossman

We begin each session with a song to welcome our friends to music and a vocal exploration activity to engage the singing voice. Our vocal explorations have included echoing a slide whistle with the voice, following squiggly pathway cards with the voice, and copying a friend who demonstrates a slide whistle sound with the voice. After our welcome song and vocal exploration, we participate in two or three song activities.  We began the year with “Bim Bam/Shabbat Shalom” first as an echo song with finger tambourines, and then as a dance that we performed while singing and/or listening to music.  We listened to “I Like to Hear the Shofar Blast” while tapping the beat on different parts of the body and stopping to play the pretend Shofar. We performed two ostinatos on rhythm sticks to accompany the song L’Shana Tovah. We learned that an ostinato is a repeating pattern in music.  Our ostinatos on rhythm sticks were played to the words “Happy New Year” and “Sweet Happy New Year.”  Most recently we have been listening to Shalom Rav while performing simple gross motor movements with scarves. We will work on singing this song over the next few weeks.  We’ve also had a little fun with “David Melech Yisrael”, singing and performing motions at increasing speed. We read “This is The Challah” by Sue Hepker because of its rhyme scheme and rhythmic structure and Boker Tov Good Morning by Rabbi Joe Black as an extra welcome song.  We close each class with Shalom Chaverim--goodbye my friends, until we meet again.  

“It is a pleasure to work with your children and I look forward to making music with them throughout the year.”

Grades 3 & 4/Nativ (Sunday): Marlena DeRosa & Debbie Lieberman

Nativ learners started the fantastic new curriculum, called Etgar Yesodi, by getting to know one another, talking about “new beginnings” in our personal lives and transitioning to the beginning of the Jewish New Year. We reflected through games, discussions, crafts, text study and more.  We have learned the Prayer Shehecheyanu and when it is appropriate to say this blessing for new beginnings. We each created a personal “ladder” of ten new beginnings. We learned the blessing for blowing the Shofar and the names of the blasts. We went on to learn about Sukkot and the correct way to shake a lulav. We then built sukkot out of Legos and talked about why we invite guests into the Sukkah. Now, we have started creating our personal journals, and learners had the opportunity to gather their thoughts about our first few weeks of Sulam. We will be continuing to make entries into our journals throughout the year as a way to document our learning and progress.

“We will be starting our next unit on Rosh Chodesh (celebrating the new month), so stay tuned for all the exciting activities we will be doing in the month ahead!” - Marlena DeRosa

I’m new to SULAM, and have had the pleasure of getting to know your children for the past few weeks. I have been pleased with their knowledge and understanding of the topics we are covering. They are both creative and inquisitive. I am looking forward to a great year.” -Debbie Lieberman

Grades 3 & 4/Nativ (Tuesday/ Wednesday):
Shay Bachar, Marlena DeRosa, Odeya Blum (volunteer)

The Nativ learning experience is achieved through learning centers designed to introduce learners to Hebrew letters, decoding and blending sounds through games and interactive activities.  We are working on developing reading skills including recognizing key words to help the learner understand the meaning of the prayer or blessing.  So far, learners have been introduced to Modeh/Modah Ani, and now are working on the blessing formula and the different endings for a blessing.  Typically, learners move through 3 different learning centers, each focusing on a specific skill such as decoding, matching, and reciting prayers or blessings.  

Nativ’s “Ladder (SULAM) of Prayers”
Modeh Ani
Kiddush - Friday night
Ein Keloheinu
L’cha Dodi

Grades 5 & 6/Gesher (Tuesday/Wednesday):
Jonathan Dickens, Anita Levy, Shayna Ull

The learners are working nicely in small groups as they are honing their Hebrew skills. They have completed the blessings for before and after a Torah aliyah (honor) and studied several concepts in the prayer including: Being Chosen (how we are chosen what responsibilities and privileges we have by being chosen), God as Giver (Verb tenses Noten and Natan- giving and gave- accepting the Torah), and how we are different from other cultures and how we are the same. Now we are beginning Maariv Aravim, the first prayer in the evening service. Learners discovered the way God causes things to occur in our world, by using words to bring on the evening and causing the seasons to be in their order.

Gesher’s “Ladder (SULAM) of Prayers”
Maariv Aravim
Yotzer Or
Kiddush - Shabbat morning
Yedid Nefesh
Tzadik Katamar

“The learners have been a joy for us to work with! We are progressing nicely. We begin each learning session with an activity that we do all together prior to working in small groups. The group works together very respectfully and with enthusiasm and creativity.”

Grades 5 & 6/Gesher (Sunday): Carrie Berman, Lois Koteen

Rosh Hashanah  - Shofar Callin’
RH and YK are the most important holidays and a time for reflection, repentance and forgiveness. The shofar is blown to herald in the beginning of the High Holidays and remind Jews to wake-up and make positive changes in their lives. Fifth and sixth grade learners had a great time exploring the Akedah by watching and discussing a hip-hop version called “Shofar Calling” by Godcast (based on Bereshit 21 & 22, read on Rosh Hashanah). The children also acted out and rapped the lyrics for an enthusiastic and fun parsha experience. We may have the next Drake learning at Sulam! This fun lesson made the study of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) engaging and memorable. We were also able to connect the story of the Akedah to Jewish RH practices, including self reflection and the blowing of the shofar and learning the shofar’s origin and its symbolism at RH.

(Grade 5) Exploring Personal Teshuvah with Resolutions Sticks
To help learners relate Yom Kippur to their lives in both a conceptual and concrete way, the students first learned about teshuvah and the different ways we repent for our wrongdoings in the synagogue on Yom Kippur (i.e. the Viddui). We then learned about personal  teshuvah, asking them to reflect on specific ways they may have hurt someone during the year and then reflecting on how they can change their actions in the coming year. Bringing those thoughts to a more concrete level, each student selected one action they want to change and created a Resolution Stick using branches and a variety of decorating materials. The students also learned the Hebrew derivation for Kippur.  

(Grade 6) Vidu’i, Community & T’Shuvah (“We’re All in This Together”)
Although wrongdoings (sins) common to human nature, we still need to commit to improvement each year at Yom Kippur. The sixth graders learned that confession in Judaism is not just an individual responsibility but also a communal action. Our learners explored the Vidui prayer and began to think about the prayer’s perspective of commonalities, community, and responsibility (collective teshuvah)

We had a great discussion about misbehavior from a pre-teen perspective, which was lively and fascinating! We also read an entertaining version of the vidui called Uncle Eli’s Machzor, written in Dr. Seuss Style. In small groups learners we read an excerpt of the Vidui and identified individual wrongdoings and those that they had in common with each other. By connecting all of our “individual sins into one large paper chain” we began to see that our actions are all connected to each other.

(Grade 5) Big Box Sukkah
Our learners explored the two commemorations of Sukkot: (1) the temporary dwellings where our ancestors lived as they crossed the desert; (2) the third of the harvest holidays, learning how this harvest differs from those during Pesach and Shavuot. Our learners also talked about what makes a “kosher” sukkah. They broke into groups, and, after crafting their big box sukkot, they sat inside and enjoyed snacks. Of course, they recited the special blessing for eating in a sukkah.  

(Grade 6) Lego Sukkot
Fourteen hours after Yom Kippur was over, your children were back at SULAM for more Jewish learning. After a late evening of feasting on bagels, kugel and sweets, our learners were energized for ushering in Sukkot with the viewing of a terrific video on Sukkot, starring Jewish lego characters.

Our learners explored the two commemorations of Sukkot: (1) the temporary dwellings where our ancestors lived as they crossed the desert; (2) the third of the harvest holidays, learning how this harvest differs from those during Pesach and Shavuot. After viewing our video, we began our study of ancient Jewish texts, describing the rules for building a sukkah. Did you know that you can build a sukkah on top of a camel or on a bicycle? Your children used their texts to guide their design of sukkot out of Legos.

(Grades 5 & 6) ETGAR Lesson One: You will be Sacred  
We began our first lesson using our new ETGAR curriculum developed by the Jewish Theological Seminary. Our first unit -Kehillah Kedoshah: Developing Our Classroom Community- will guide us through the next six weeks, ending just before Chanukah. Our learning will focus on these core concepts:

-Judaism values the way people treat one another.
-Judaism recognizes that it is difficult to do the right thing all the time and therefore  encourages us to constantly reflect on our behavior and strive to do better
-When we are intentional in the way we interact with others, we can create kehillah kedoshah, sacred community.
-Our class will begin our year by exploring the way Judaism teaches us to interact with one another. We will focus on three mitzvot:

dan l’khaf z’khut - giving the benefit of the doubt
halbanat panim - not embarrassing others
lashon hara - not speaking ill of others
Through the study of these mitzvot and the values that they represent, students will consider their own behavior and reflect on where they might wish to grow in each area. Coming at the beginning of a new Jewish and academic year, the unit provides a foundation for our class’s work together this year.

Our first lesson- You will be Sacred- was very successful, incorporating a variety of activities, including viewing a movie clip, discussion, group work, text study and a surprise crafts project, all leading to a better understanding of how the Torah commands the Jewish people to be sacred: kedoshim tehiyu. Your children did a fantastic job in identifying and discussing Jewish objects, experiences, people, communities, and places in their lives that are sacred (kadosh).

We viewed a two-minute clip from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and were able to reflect on the scene where a class demonstrated disrespectful and uncaring behavior toward one another. By considering an alternate situation in which the fictional class is actually a “safe space,” students were introduced to the idea that a safe space is similar to a sacred space. They began to explore the meaning of the term “sacred,” (kadosh), as they considered the biblical ideal of kedoshim tehiyu, “You will be sacred” (Lev. 19:2).

Our learners began to consider how they can make their classroom a kehillah kedoshah, a sacred community. To support them in this process, students learned about the Torah’s commandment to be holy—kedoshim tehiyu (Lev. 19:2)

(Grades 5 & 6) ETGAR Lesson 2: Loving Your Fellow as Yourself  
In order to be sacred  (kedoshim tehiyu)—the Torah teaches us to love others as we love ourselves (vi-ahavta lire-akha kamokha), and by treating one another in intentional and thoughtful ways. Through a variety of activities and discussions of the different mitzvot, our learners explored the meaning of the concept (vi-ahavta lire-akha kamokha) and considered (mitzvot bein adam l’havero) as ways to reach this ideal.  Although we didn’t review 613 mitzvot, we did identify and discuss how through following many of the mitzvot, we can make a difference by being thoughtful and considerate to all.

In 3 groups, the 5th grade learners wrote as many questions as they could about the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself”. Questions included: what is love? What if you don’t love yourself? Do you have to love everyone? Then groups rotated and in “graffiti-style” they responded to their peers’ questions, opening into a discussion about these and other deep topics. We discussed the difference between commandments between a person and God (vertical commandments) and between a person and another person (horizontal). Playing a game where different mitzvot were called out and learners needed to freeze and mime-the-mitzvah, this concept was reinforced and understood.

Grade 7/Bogrim (Sunday): Anita Levy
Learners are working on prayers in the Torah service to prepare them to become bnai mitzvah. Jordan Shefsky, our incredible madrich, helps the learners find digraphs and word blends in Hebrew, Anita works with the learners to increase their reading proficiency and students work independently writing in journals to help facilitate their understanding of the prayer.  Learners are also working on writing their personal dvar Torah that will be suitable for them to present at their bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. The learners are beginning to record concepts they learned while reading their parsha.

“We are so proud of the progress the learners are making! Rabbi Garber is a great resource for all of us, and the learners began to share their work with her. We plan to celebrate your children's accomplishments soon!  We look forward to seeing you at our Torah Celebration on November 19th @ 11:00 a.m. Prepare to be amazed!"

Grade 7/Bogrim (Tuesday/Wednesday): Lena Bachar
The 7th graders have engaged in some very deep and thoughtful discussions this year that have brought out individual differences in opinion. The main focus has been to highlight the difference in opinion while at the same time stressing the importance of respect and civility within the class.

Below are the two big topics we have covered, thus far:

Class discussion was held on what it means to be Jewish. The responses varied greatly – some learners mentioned religious aspects, such as keeping Kosher, celebrating the holidays, eating great food, etc. I was pleasantly surprised at how many learners mentioned the sense of community that being Jewish brought them. (Responses were taped up on the wall in our learning space.)

We followed the story of the crisis at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that occurred in July of this year. Most learners did not hear about it, and we used articles from various newspaper sources to follow the story as it developed. This spurred some interesting discussions about evident biases (on both sides) in reporting of the crisis. Also, we talked about the story from both the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, highlighting the difference in the narrative, depending on what side of the issue a person falls on. Learners had a wide range of opinions about the situation and we connected it to the bigger picture of what is going on in the region and why it is so hard to have a consensus on how to end the conflict.

Most recently, we reviewed the map of Israel and also discussed the various political parties in the country.

“I have been very impressed with the learners because we have been able to create a space where everyone seems to feel comfortable expressing their opinion, regardless of how similar/different it is from others.” -Lena Bachar

Thank you for reading our newsy updates.  See you at SULAM!