The third-grade students and their teacher were sitting in a circle on the floor, with their Torah curricular materials out in front of them. They were sharing their own interpretations of a nuance in the text of Breshit 18, about Avraham and Sarah welcoming guests to their home- a section of the Torah that coincidentally was also in last week’s parshat hashavua. In verse 3, when offering hospitality to the guests, Avraham twice uses the word נא, please. One student focused on Avraham’s desire to help, sharing that Avraham said “please” twice because “he really really wanted the men to stay.” Another student pointed to Avraham trying to make a good impression on strangers who might not know his intentions, stating that “he wants to seem nice so that they come into the tent.” And another student saw this use of language as a reflection of Avraham’s character, saying that Avraham repeats the word “because he is really kind.” The students’ careful reading of the text and explanations afforded them the opportunity to develop their own understandings of what the Jewish text means and means to them. And they touched on big questions that apply to all of us- What inspires us to help others? How does our choice of language impact how others perceive us? What can we learn about people from their words and actions?
This type of thoughtful engagement with Jewish texts takes place in Schechter Manhattan classrooms every day. Our aspiration is for students to think about the essential questions and enduring understandings within our sacred texts so that the study of Jewish texts can have a transformative impact on them as learners, people, and Jews. And, we hope that the students will see how Jewish learning is a worthwhile and meaningful part of a Jewish life. These powerful classroom experiences are enhanced when students see authentic models of Jewish learning outside of the school walls. When students see adults in their lives choosing to study Torah, or when they discuss Jewish learning with family and friends, then continued Jewish study becomes a real and plausible meaning-making activity.
A great opportunity for Schechter Manhattan students to experience Jewish learning outside of the school curriculum is the annual Global Day of Jewish Learning program, which will take place this Sunday, November 12, at Schechter Manhattan. The Global Day of Jewish Learning is an international organization whose mission is to “bring the Jewish people together once a year to celebrate our shared texts through community-based learning.” Hundreds of communities all over the world are planning Global Day of Jewish Learning events on November 12. We are partnering with Mechon Hadar, Congregation Shaare Zedek, and LimmudNY to organize a day of Jewish study for adults and children. Together we have gathered an impressive array of Jewish teachers for adults and children from throughout NYC, including some of our own terrific faculty.
The theme of the Global Day of Jewish Learning this year is Beauty and Ugliness, and Schechter Manhattan teachers have planned sessions for students in grade K-5 that touch on beauty in nature, special blessings, and ways that human beings can preserve the beauty of God’s creations. There will also be a family art project, designed by our art teacher, Ellen Alt, and facilitated by Schechter Manhattan alumni. Click here for more details about the Global Day of Jewish Learning program at Schechter Manhattan, including the sessions for younger children and classes for adults. I encourage all Schechter Manhattan families and friends to join us for what is sure to be a terrific and inspiring day of Jewish learning. I hope to see you there.
Participation in this community-wide event reinforces the positive Jewish learning that Schechter Manhattan students do in school and helps us to further our mission for our students to cultivate their Jewish identities through exploration of the Torah’s wisdom.
Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.
Kitah Aleph has been working hard on putting their finishing touches on one selected writing piece from the first writing unit of the year. Each student was asked to write a short story describing a past experience and add an illustration. All of their short stories will be bound together into a book, our students will now get to experience the excitement of becoming a published author! The bound book will be added to the first-grade library!
Stories by Junie, Alex and Katarina.
“I went to the library and I picked books”.
Click here to see work by Junie
“I went to Saint Martin, it was so fun, I’m swimming.’
Click here to see work by Alex
“Over the summer I went to the beach and I felt the warm sand on my feet and it was fun there.”
Click here to see work by Katarina
The 4th grade students have been studying Parshat Toldot in Torah class.
What Makes a Good Citizen?
In this humanities assignment, students were asked to ponder what makes a good citizen. This connects to their learning about ancient Greece and democracy. It also serves as a free write for them to draw upon later in the year when we assemble our middle school anthology.
“A good and respectful citizen should be a leader and a follower. They should be able to fight for something that they think is right or fight against something that they feel is wrong. Not only should a good citizen be honest with others, but they should always be true to themselves. A citizen shouldn’t vote for someone to be in a political position just because they are a family friend or neighbor. You should vote for someone because you truly believe that they will be good in the position that they are campaigning for. Being true to yourself is important because you might make a mistake that will affect the whole country.”
“I think that being a good citizen means getting involved in your community. You can make a donation to a local animal shelter. You can volunteer somewhere that helps homeless people.
I think that being a good citizen means doing the right thing. Maybe it’s not for you but it’s for the bigger cause. You should protest for what you think is right.”
“One thing I think makes a good citizen is to stand up for what’s right or for what you think is right. For example, if you think that people should do something differently you should stand up for what you think. Or if you think someone is doing something wrong stand up for what’s right. Another value of good citizenship is doing good things for others. For example, if it’s snowing you can help people shovel their driveway, you can help the elderly with something that they are struggling with.”
“Being a citizen requires maturity, intelligence, respect, and much more. Maturity is one of the very important factors. It requires paying bills, taking care of your family, and staying humble. Being smart is also a very important role when it comes to being a citizen. One reason why, is because you have to make decisions. You will also have to put together your bills and do the math (for some reason they don’t tell you when they can easily add it all together.) One common household item everyone should have is respect. You should respect your family, the government, even your enemies (you never know when they’ll drop a bomb on you.) It’s also important to read what you say before you say it, because in the world we live in, everything’s offensive.”