Community You Can Believe In

Latest Note from Leadership

E-mail from Caryl, Thursday, 12/21/17

3 Tevet 5778

December 21, 2017

Dear SULAM Parents,

I cannot believe that we are almost halfway through our first year of SULAM. Every week brings enriching experiences as we explore the holidays, our new Etgar curriculum for grade 3 through 6 learners, Rabbi Garber's interactive Parshanut study and our engaging Bar/Bat Mitzvah family programs. Your children are bright, energetic and creative, and the educators are really getting to know their unique personalities and learning styles. Our goal of creating a joyful community, where children develop meaningful connections and feel comfortable learning and sharing about all things Jewish, is beginning to happen!

Once again, I am privileged to share our educators’ descriptions of favorite lessons and some thoughts about teaching moments.  We hope you will enjoy reading about what your children are experiencing within our special SULAM community.  

PreK-K/Shorashim-Gan: Diane Salm
We learned about the mitzvah of tzedakah by reading the story, “The Very Best Place for a Penny”.  Then, we decorated our own tzedakah boxes to use at home.  We continue to provide experiences that stimulate young learners’ language, motor, creative and imaginative development while exploring Jewish life.  We are a busy, happy group!

Grade 1/Alef - Sarah Baden  
First grade explored Shabbat by using wooden ritual objects to learn and practice the blessings to celebrate Shabbat at home. It was also fun trying to identify some of these objects (kiddush cup, candle holder, challah) by touch when placed in a cloth bag.  We even learned how to braid challot using playdough!   

We read the story “Hanna’s Sabbath Dress” and discussed how helping people is more important than keeping a dress clean. Then we were able to share personal stories about times when we helped a friend or family member and how it made us feel.   

Grade 2/Bet - Barbara Barshay
We had a wonderful time learning about Chanukah.  We know the Chanukah story and how to light a Chanukiah. We also enjoyed some fun challenges including word searches and scrambles, answering trivia questions, drawing/creating our own Chanukah menorahs and, of course, playing the dreidel game.  I hope that your child’s decorated Chanukiah mat was used to catch candle drips during your family celebrations and will be a special keepsake for years to come!

Special Note: Our Primary Grades got a jump-start on Chanukah learning by participating in an interactive Chanukah “round robin” where learners in all 3 classes rotated through different learning spaces.  Each group had the opportunity to explore Chanukah through sensory play, creative arts and group games.  It was fun for learners to spend time with different educators for particular activities, and we really got into the Chanukah spirit!  We’re pretty sure that the favorites were motor games -- carrying and tossing [beanbag] “latkes” with spatulas and flipping [beanbag] “latkes” on the parachute!

Music/Shirah -  Corinna Grossman
The learners are now singing our welcome song independently to start our morning in music class. In November we sang Who Did Swallow Jonah, a call and response song, first in a group and later with solo responses.  Most of our learners sang a solo at least once in class!  We continued to work on Shalom Rav, learning the words to the chorus and moving with scarves.  At Thanksgiving time we sang Thank You God by Shira Kline (as seen on YouTube).  The learners were given the opportunity to respond with what they were thankful for during the Thanksgiving season. For Chanukah, we performed two new ostinatos on rhythm sticks to the song Light One Candle by Peter Yarrow (as sung by Benny Friedman on YouTube) and we learned a new call and response song, The Eight Days of Chanukah (look it up on YouTube so your learner(s) can sing along.)  The learners sang the response as a group and were provided the opportunity to sing a solo too! We did a simple circle dance while singing Chanukah O’ Chanukah, and some classes played tambourines to the Dreidel Song.  

Hebrew/Ivit: Limor Shefer, Hebrew Learning Coordinator
                     Shay Bachar, Marlena DeRosa (Nativ)
                     Jonathan Dickens, Anita Levy, Shayna Ull (Gesher)

Primary Grades:
The primary grades are continuing to work in small group activities and learning centers with a focus on letter recognition and identification.  Various experiences such as yoga, BINGO games, use of technology and singing are used to reinforce skill development.  It has been a pleasure to see our learners coming into our Hebrew room with enthusiasm and motivation. They look forward to each weekly session and are eager to show what they have learned.

Grades 3 through 6:
Nativ (3rd & 4th grades) learners created blessing booklets as they were introduced to blessings for bread, wine, fruit, vegetables and other foods.  Searching for corresponding pictures reinforced their learning and provided a useful finished product to take home.

This past month, all learners in grades 3 through 6 worked on the Havdalah blessings. They learned to recognize Havdalah ritual objects (braided candle, spice box, kiddush cup) and connect each item to the corresponding blessing.  We practiced the tune in various ways including group chanting, individual chanting and following along with youtube videos.  In addition, we continued to emphasize decoding skills within the blessings.

We have started assessing our 5th and 6th grade learners and many are ready to lead Ashrei! When we feel that your child is ready, you will receive an email to let you know.  

Gesher (5th & 6th grade) learners also used the siddur to understand that the Havdalah blessings can be found there.  In addition to improved reading and fluency, they have now developed a solid comprehension of the prayer meanings. Our learning culminated this week with the making of our own spice bags and decorated “wine cups” to use at home.  We look forward to showcasing our learning at the upcoming family Havdalah program on January 6th!

It would be helpful to have your child practice the blessings at home during the break, if possible. Please click here to access the tune.

Grades 3 & 4/Nativ - Marlena DeRosa & Debbie Lieberman
We are so proud of our 3rd graders who decorated and then received siddurim this month! Mazal tov to all.

The Etgar Yesodi curriculum continues to be very successful for our learners. After finishing learning about the Fall Holidays, we moved on to discover Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the new Hebrew month. We watched the moon move into different phases and remembered how Moses used the moon to count the months of the year. We all had the opportunity to find our “Hebrew Birthdays” using (you can do it also!) and we were excited to learn that we actually have two birthdays!

We now know why the Hebrew calendar uses a different year (5778) and we have reviewed the names of the months on the Hebrew calendar. We studied text about Rosh Chodesh and learned a midrash (we know what a midrash is) as to why Rosh Chodesh is special to women.

We just finished learning about Chanukah and explored why it is important to keep Judaism alive using the Chanukah story as an example. We now know the difference between a menorah and a chanukiah and learned the blessing, Hanerot Halalu that is recited after lighting the chanukiah. We also wrote Haikus about something learners appreciate about being Jewish, thanks to the story of Chanukah.

Nativ learners have also been writing in and designing journal pages that connect to the holidays and lessons from our Etgar curriculum. It has been rewarding to see them take pride in their work and use what they've learned to "show off" and really shine!  These journals are great tools to document learning while also providing an opportunity for creativity and self-expression.  

Grades 5 & 6/Gesher - Lois Koteen & Carrie Berman (Sundays)
Our 5th graders have been learning what it means to be a Holy/Sacred Community (Kehillah kedosha). Working in study groups, they explored three Mitzvot, creating posters and skits to portray each. They even took their skits “on-the-road”, performing for SULAM’s 1st and 2nd graders. I was so pleased with the hard work they put into creating the skits, and audience reaction spoke for itself!

To further understand the importance of Holy/Sacred (Kadosh) in Judaism, the 5th graders also went on a Kadosh Scavenger Hunt, looking in the Siddur for different places and different forms where Kadosh appears: Kiddush over wine, the Kedusha in the Amidah, the Kaddish prayer, and appearing in prayers they know such as Aleinu.

The Sunday before Chanukah (December 11th), the 5th and 6th grades joined our classmates from The Emanuel for a special combined program exploring the "miracles" of Chanukah through the lens of olive oil as the connection between the two miracles. The children learned more about the importance of olive oil in ancient times through taste testing, experimentation with oil and water, discussion, and the creation of their own ancient-like clay oil lamps. It was the perfect morning of Jewish experiential learning which also included socializing, eating and the exploration of ancient Jewish texts on Chanukah!

SULAM is incorporating more technology to Sunday mornings.  Working in small groups with laptops, we continued with our Chanukah learning on December 17th by viewing an excellent BimBam video, What is Chanukah? What is Chanukah helped us to think about questions such as: How is Chanukah about rising to the occasion?  What can we "re-dedicate" ourselves to? Why is the act of lighting the chanukiah a heroic act? What does lighting the chanukiah tell the world about you?

We also did a mini-STEM project by making “bristle-bots," small battery-operated devices illustrating the importance of our SULAM Kehillah (community). We discussed communities and how we belong to a variety of them, but we also choose to be part of the Beth El community.  Our "bots" illustrate the pieces of our SULAM community: the students, teachers, clergy, parents and of course, God!  Many were brought home and given as Chanukah gifts!

Our community discussion was then followed by an engaging session on Parshanut Vayeshev, including a short clip from Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond) which the children enjoyed (Consider showing them the entire movie!) They were surprised that a broadway show/movie could be based on the Bible, and our madrich, Jordan, described it as the "Hamilton of the 1970s." Your children also read from the Etz Hayim Chumash (Genesis 37-40) about Joseph's multiple dreams and created an artistic reflection on the dreams.

Learner Support - Ruth Tulin Cion, Resource Educator; Samantha Gottlieb (Sundays)
We are pleased to report that many SULAM learners have been able to work individually or within small groups to receive dedicated support toward improving their progress within the curriculum.  Whether to reinforce Hebrew learning (letter identification, decoding) or prayer practice, learners are offered supplemental visual materials, strategies and games to support their skill development.  Similarly, enrichment activities may also be provided to those learners who demonstrate advanced progress or curiosity about exploring related topics or materials.  Educators work cooperatively to ensure that learner needs are met as effectively as possible.  Home practice materials are available by request to families who wish to reinforce their child’s learning.

7th Grade/Bogrim - Lena Bachar (weekdays) & Anita Levy (Sundays)
On weekdays, the last few weeks have been spent learning about the Israeli army. We talked about the required service, what makes the Israeli army different from others around the world, who is and is not eligible to serve, and some of the army’s notable past and present day accomplishments. We also discussed “Tzav Rishon” which is when individuals are tested physically, intellectually, and psychologically to determine what unit they are eligible to serve in and what they are interested in doing. One of the highlights in class was a mock Tzav Rishon where learners participated in some physical and mental challenges.

As part of the Israeli army unit, we learned about the 6 Day War and why it was such an impressive accomplishment and victory. Learners watched a short informational video about it and were presented with a fact sheet so they could see how the deck was stacked against Israel. We talked about the territory that was won then subsequently relinquished to attain peace.

On Sundays, Bogrim Learners have spent the last few weeks studying about the connection between the early civil rights movement and the Jewish People. Each week the learners studied Jewish texts related to the subject. After text study, we watched historical film clips of Martin Luther King, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rabbi Joachim Prinz and many other heroes Jewish and non-Jewish. We read case studies that were archived in the Connecticut Historical Society and the Connecticut Jewish Historical Society. We related each civil rights leaders’ actions to the Jewish activists we studied. One very big highlight for all of us was having Rabbi Stanley Kessler come and shared his incredible stories about his friendship with Dr. King and other prominent leaders. He vividly described his involvement in the famous Montgomery March and the March On Washington. We all chanted “We Shall Overcome” and the learners added their own wishes into the lyrics of the song.

In addition to working on our very exciting Civil Rights Unit, the learners continue to progress nicely in their Hebrew Studies. Their level of commitment is impressive. We are working on the Torah Service. Learners work in several dynamics-- small group with the educator, small group with the madrich and/or paired with peers.

Thank you for reading our SULAM updates. Our team is so proud of your children’s many accomplishments!

As we approach the final days of 2017,  I want to personally extend my gratitude to parents, staff (including our marvelous teen aides), office personnel, custodians and, of course, Beth El clergy and leadership (Yes, it really does take a village!) for the many demonstrations of support, kindness and hard work throughout these past 6 months.  We could not have made the progress that we have without such active, engaged partners.  This has truly been a labor of love, and we are committed to the continued development of SULAM with optimism and high expectations for its success.  

On behalf of everyone at Team SULAM, we wish you all good health, much happiness and many special moments in 2018!  Enjoy your holiday celebrations!  

See you at SULAM….Next year!




E-mail from Caryl, Thursday, 11/9/17

We have so many important dates coming up, and we don’t want you to miss a thing. So, get ready to mark your calendars; The next 6 weeks are going to be busy!

Here’s the rundown:
Every Sunday during November: PAG Chanukah wrapping sale in Sanctuary Lobby - at drop off & pick up - $5/roll.  Supplies are limited, so buy early!


Turkey Drive for the JFS Kosher Food Pantry

Help us help our neighbors! Last year we collected 93 turkeys - can you help us reach 100 families this year? Drop off a frozen (kosher or non-kosher) turkey or cash donation at the SULAM/main Beth El entrance... or volunteer to take them in! Help is needed throughout the morning!

9:30am - Parent Yoga (please click here to RSVP to PAG)

11:00am - Bogrim (7th grade) - Torah Celebration - all are invited (please click here RSVP

11/22 (Wednesday) and 11/26 (Sunday)

Reminder: No SULAM - Happy Thanksgiving!


10:00am-12:00pm - 6th grade Bar/Bat Mitzvah Workshop - One parent should plan to attend!


10:30am - 3rd grade Siddur Presentation - Parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends - Join us for this special milestone in your child's Jewish Journey!


6:00pm -  Family Shabbat Chanukah Service & Dinner
Cost: $12/adult; $8/child (ages 3-12)
RSVP required for dinner (click here to register online)


12:00pm - PAG Chanukah party Chanukah crafts, games and snacks! Open to all Beth El families.  Cost: No charge, but please click here to RSVP to PAG for planning purposes.

Shabbat Shalom.  See you at SULAM!