This week was filled with special programs and events at Schechter Manhattan that helped students to make connections to history, the community at large, and Jewish tradition.
Monday, November 9, marked 77 years since Kristallnacht. The Middle School gathered for a program to learn about the Nazi pogrom that was a turning point in the Holocaust. The students accessed first hand accounts of the events using digital resources such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They then gathered in small groups to share and process their reactions and consider together why we study about the Holocaust at Schechter Manhattan. We came together at the end of the program for a memorial moment and we sang (הליכה לקיסריה (אלי אלי, a poem written by Hannah Senesh often included in Holocaust memorial ceremonies. The Kristallnacht program served as the start of our yearly study of the Holocaust, which will continue in Middle School Humanities classes for several weeks. The students were deeply engaged in the activity and studying the Holocaust helps them to connect to Jewish history.
On Tuesday we commemorated Veterans Day. Caridad Caro, a veteran of the United Stated Marine Corps, visited Schechter Manhattan. She visited elementary school classrooms, where students expressed gratitude for her service to our country. Grades 4-8 gathered to hear Caridad share about her experiences in the US Marines and her father’s experiences the US Army. Meeting veterans helps students build connections to the larger community of the United States and understand the importance of men and women who serve.
On Thursday and Friday we celebrated Rosh Chodesh Kislev. The sounds of hallel rang through the halls those mornings and, as is Schechter Manhattan tradition, we started off the new month with Pizza Day. Why pizza on Rosh Chodesh? The luach, Jewish calendar, is based on the cycle of the moon as it waxes and wanes, and pizza is a circle that, as we eat it, slowly wanes away, just like the moon. Celebrating Rosh Chodesh helps students to connect to ancient Jewish practices as well as to understand new modern ways of incorporating Judaism into their lives.
At Schechter Manhattan the seemingly disparate holidays/commemorations of Kristallnacht, Veterans Day, and Rosh Chodesh Kislev came together this week in ways that offered our students opportunities to make connections beyond the walls of their classrooms.
THIS WEEK WE ARE FEATURING WORK BY SOME OF OUR STUDENTS IN GAN, KITAH BET, AND KITAH DALET.
In Gan the students wrote and drew about what they did over the weekend.
“I WENT-TO THE DANTIST” – I went to the dentist
“I PL BACBOL” – I played baseball
The Kitah Bet students have been experimenting with different types of writing, such as letters, lists, and instructional or how-to writing. They took their how-to writing pieces and turned them into instructional iMovies.
Kitah Dalet wrote thank you notes to Caridad Caro, a veteran, who came to speak to us on Veteran’s Day.
Thank you for your speech. I enjoyed when you said that an evil guy created an obstacle course and you have to complete 5 miles in 45 minutes. I learned that you have to eat well they put the food on the tray. One last thing I learned is you have to go to boot camp for 18 weeks for training. One question is the bed comfortable?
Thank you for talking to us on Tuesday. I found what you said very interesting. I loved hearing about Marien boot camp and your father. I especially liked hearing about the crucible. I learned that at marine boot camp is hardcore training. My question is, what kind of food do they have at boot camp?
Thank you for coming. I liked hearing about photo analysis. Why did the mariens and Army care about being a better “Army force”?
The last three torah portions – Lech Lecha, Vayera, and Hayyei Sarah — have all focused especially on the life of Abraham and his family. Now that Abraham and Sarah have died, our focus shifts to their son Isaac, the second patriarch of the Jewish people, and his wife Rebecca.
Of the three patriarchs, Isaac is usually regarded as the most passive among them, the “sandwich generation” between Abraham, the trailblazing, innovative founder of the Jewish people, and Jacob, the stormy and passionate rebel who “wrestles with God and men.” Most frequently, Isaac is in a supporting actor in the dramas that feature his father (such as the Binding of Isaac, from the Torah portion of Vayera two weeks ago) or his son (such as the Deception of Isaac from this week’s Torah portion).
The portion begins with Isaac and Rebecca praying for the blessing of having children. Rebecca becomes pregnant and seeks Divine guidance about why it feels like such an intense conflict is taking place within her womb. She is told that she is pregnant with twins who will be the ancestors of two great nations, “and the older shall serve the younger.”
The twins are born. Esau, the elder, is hairy and reddish; Jacob, the younger, is born while grasping Esau’s heel, in a foreshadowing of the struggles that will characterize their lives. We learn that Isaac favors Esau while Rebecca favors Jacob.
When the twins become older, Esau shows great talent as a hunter, while Jacob prefers to stay at home and excels in the domestic sphere. One day, when Esau is very hungry, Jacob convinces him to trade his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup. In the single longest narrative passage of this week’s Torah portion and one of the longer narrative accounts of any single scene in the Torah, Jacob masquerades as his brother Esau in order to receive the blessing that Isaac plans to give Esau. When Esau realizes that he has become the victim of identity fraud, he is furious and vows to kill Jacob. Rebecca, who had orchestrated Jacob’s masquerading as Esau, arranges for Jacob to spend an extended visit to Rebecca’s brother Lavan and his family in Aram, setting the stage for next week’s Torah portion that takes place there.
Also in our torah portion are some of the few stories in which Isaac is truly the protagonist. In one of these stories, Isaac re-digs the wells that his father had dug but that had been stopped up by his enemies the Phillistines; he then re-names the wells with the same names that his father had given them. Some regard this story as a classic demonstration that Isaac represents continuity rather than change. Even the one independent action that he undertakes is derivative of his father’s actions. But in order to survive, a tradition requires not only bold innovators but also steady and faithful guardians of continuity.
Themes that emerge:
Is it ever appropriate to deceive someone else? Some people justify Jacob’s deception of his father because his father was about to make the tragic mistake of designating Esau as the next leader of the family and guardian of the covenant with God, when Esau clearly would have been an irresponsible leader. Is this enough to justify the deception?
How were Jacob and Esau different?
How are you an innovator like Abraham?
How are you a force for continuity like Isaac?
A closer examination:
ל וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶֽל־יַֽעֲקֹב הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן־הָֽאָדֹם הָֽאָדֹם הַזֶּה כִּי עָיֵף אָנֹכִי עַל־כֵּן קָֽרָא־שְׁמוֹ אֱדֽוֹם: לא וַיֹּאמֶר יַֽעֲקֹב מִכְרָה כַיּוֹם אֶת־בְּכֹרָֽתְךָ לִֽי: לב וַיֹּאמֶר
Esau said to Jacob: “Give me a gulp of the red-stuff, that red-stuff, for I am so weary!” (Therefore they called his name Edom / Red-One.)
Jacob said: “Then sell me now your first-born right.” Esau said: “Here I am on my way to dying, so what good to me is a first-born right?” [translation adapted from Everett Fox, The Schocken Bible]
Personalities in the Bible are rarely all good or all bad. Often, they are multifaceted, as we are. However, traditional Jewish retellings of the stories in the Bible often paint some people as paragons of virtue and others as manifestations of pure evil. The story of Jacob and Esau is such an example. The retellings of this story in the Midrash and in medieval commentaries often present Esau as wicked and oppressive. Jacob is clearly the “good guy” in the story.
It is interesting, though, that when all the layers of interpretation of the story are stripped away, the unadorned story in the Torah itself presents the situation differently. Until the conclusion of the story, the worst thing you can say about Esau is that he appears short-sighted and impulsive, not wicked and oppressive. And Jacob is presented as conniving and malicious from the very beginning. For example, in the above excerpt from the story of the sale of the birthright, Jacob takes advantage of Esau’s momentary weakness.
The Biblical scholar Ora Horn Prouser has written that the conflict between Esau and Jacob can be understood not as a conflict between wickedness and faithfulness, and not even as a conflict between cleverness and dim-wittedness, but as a conflict between two different temperaments. Esau is described as a “man of the field,” a person who is talented at his navigation of the physical world, though abstract thought is more difficult for him. He is completely focused on his needs in the present moment, feeling that he is so hungry that nothing else matters. He is, in fact, so focused on his present need that he momentarily becomes inarticulate (referring to the lentil stew as ha-adom ha-adom hazeh, הָֽאָדֹם הָֽאָדֹם הַזֶּה, “the red stuff, that red stuff.”) She notes that the ability to be focused on the present moment may be a characteristic that helps to make him an excellent hunter. Conversely, Jacob’s studious, verbal temperament is closer to the historic Jewish stereotype. Maybe this story shows us the beginning of a system that values one kind of temperament – the Jacob, stay-at-home-and-study temperament – over Esau’s active, go-out-in-the-field-and-hunt temperament. Esau has gotten the message that his skills,abilities and interests are not valued as much as those of Jacob, and this is part of what makes him so miserable at the end of the story.
However, our world needs both kinds of people and both kinds of interests and skills and temperaments, and so does the Jewish people. There are plenty of people who have felt excluded from the Jewish community because of its historic bias in favor of the cerebral over the physical, who have concluded that there was no place for them in a Jewish community that valued academic achievement over all else and that would often disparage people who seemed to be closer to Esau’s style and skills. Hopefully we can imagine a scenario in which both Esau and Jacob are treated as individuals, both treasured for the skills that they have, and treasured for their differences,and taught to work together as a team rather than as each other’s competition.
How do you resemble Jacob? How do you resemble Esau?
How can the Jewish community demonstrate that it treasures all people, with all different kinds of intelligences
and temperaments and skills?
Solomon Schechter of Manhattan 7-8 Team, 2015 MSAL Soccer Champs!!!
Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan 2 (4)
Brooklyn Heights Montessori School 2 (2)
The Solomon Schechter of Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights Montessori School met at Brooklyn Bridge Park for the League Final. The game began under a bright afternoon sun. It was a highly contested affair throughout and neither team could take control early on. On one BHMS counterattack, Henry Harary made a speedy run to intercept the ball and a few moments later, Olivia Gross cleared the ball. Noah Phillips regularly cleared the ball away and defended Schechter Manhattan’s back line, along with Rafi Jacobson, Hannah Saiger, Itamar Even and Noa Libchaber.
Schechter Manhattan’s first clear chance of the game came when Ben Zimmerman got behind the BHMS back line, but their goalie made the save. Later, Amnon Scharia attempted a great shot from long distance, but it was also saved. Unfortunately, BHMS opened the scoring on a scrappy goal that snuck past Ari Dubin. As the first half closed, Ben Altman sent a bombing 35-yard free kick into the net. The score was tied 1-1 at halftime.
During the second half, the pace continued to be fast. Schechter Manhattan’s midfield did an excellent job pressing and moving the ball deep in the opponent’s half. This included impressive tackles from Lev Gilbert, Amnon and Ittai Kivetz. However, an isolated BHMS counterattack saw them score again, this time off a free kick to the far post. With a 2-1 deficit and time winding down, Schechter Manhattan committed more bodies to attack and maintained unrelenting pressure. On one BHMS counterattack, Noa L made an aggressive defensive playing drawing a questionable yellow card. Her efforts prevented a BHMS striker from a clear run to the goal. With 30 seconds left Noah P made a sharp pass through the BHMS players to Ben Zimmerman, who slotted it into the goal.
The game went to overtime, and without further scoring, proceeded to penalty kicks! BHMS missed their first kick over the crossbar. Ben Altman gave Schechter their first lead of the game with his penalty kick. Ittai seemingly missed a penalty, but the referee had not signaled the play was ready. Ittai re-kicked and did not miss. After Amnon and Noah made both their kicks, a fifth penalty wasn’t necessary and Schechter Manhattan came away with the victory and the league championship.
Coach Hector commented, “I’m so happy for the players. They did an excellent job of staying focused the entire game and displayed great sportsmanship.”