A few weeks ago, Paul Spector, our 7th grade Hebrew teacher, mentioned that I should write a blog post about how the teachers came up with the term “Awesome Jews” and what it means in the context of our school and our community at Temple Or Rishon. So Paul, this one is for you. 🙂
One of the hardest things to teach kids is how to be a “good person.” The word “good” is extremely subjective and what is good to one person, might be bad or not so great to another person. As parents, we spend a ton of time trying to teach our children right from wrong, to be compassionate and empathetic, to celebrate differences and accept people for who they are. We teach them to pick themselves up and dust themselves off when they fall or when their feelings are hurt; to advocate for themselves and develop their strengths. We try to help them understand that sometimes we don’t have the whole story and that we have to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes before reacting in tough situations. We help them to navigate the world and we slowly let them become more and more independent along the way. Much of this is very hard to watch. It’s hard to see our kids get hurt, to see them fail, to see them make mistakes and have to apologize. We do our best and in the end, we hope that our efforts have created a “good person.”
When the teachers met at the end of August to discuss the new school year and plan for the weeks to come, I challenged them to identify what their core values were as individuals. We then looked at our core values and identified which ones were also relevant for the religious school as a whole. In my first blog post of the year, I talked about those core values: community, relating to God and Israel, service, righteousness, Jewish pride and connection, and fun. As we were crafting our guiding statement, we had a difficult time with the word Righteousness. In its pure form, it encapsulated what we wanted to say – being morally good, living a life that is pleasing to God. But it also can be a loaded word. Most people think of it in a negative light, coupled with the word ‘self’. In this form it is descriptive of someone who sees themselves as better than others, a person who lacks humility and self-reflection. The Hebrew term we were all drawn to was derekh eretz. It translates in many ways: common decency, the righteous path, being sensitive to the feelings of others, taking the high road and doing the right thing; essentially, being a good person. As we sat around the table, discussing the core values and struggling with the end of our guiding statement, someone said, “We want our kids to be awesome Jews.” Yes! That is what we want. We want our kids to be all of the things we listed as core values. We want them to embody the idea of derekh eretz and work toward the awesome goal of tikkun olam.
Many times we fail, many times things don’t work out the way we intended. One of the most important lessons we can teach our children is to both admit our mistakes and do better next time and to forgive others when they fail us and apologize. We want to always learn, always strive to walk the path of derekh eretz, to be the best person we can be.
And so, at Temple Or Rishon Religious School, we are working to create Awesome Jews. We want to educate our students and provide them with powerful experiences that help them to embrace derekh eretz. I think every single one of us is an Awesome Jew. All of us can improve, all of us can help each other, all of us can work to be “more awesome.”
The image above is the front of our religious school t-shirt. On the back, we have two hashtags. The first is in English #torawesomejews. The second is in Hebrew and says #derekh eretz. If you haven’t already heard, we are going to have a tie-dye event on December 4th and let everyone dye their shirt the way they want to. So, make sure to pre-order your shirt by November 17th!
+++++++ Announcements +++++++
Wednesday, November 9th @ 6:30pm – Hebrew School
Friday, November 11th @ 10am – Gan K’tan
Saturday, November 12th – 5pm to 9pm – Parent’s Night Out; For kids 2 to 11 years old – $25 for the first child, $20 for each additional child. RSVP by Thursday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, November 13th
- @ 9am – Religious School – PreK/Kindergarten field trip to Folsom Zoo.
- @ 10:30am – Annual School Fundraiser Meeting – please join us to finalize plans for the Pasta and Paint event scheduled for December 10th.
- @ 11:15am – 7th Grade Parent meeting – Please join us as we go over final details for the upcoming B’nai Mitzvah.
- @ 2pm – JCRC Israel Event at the Temple – See Temple calendar and Weekly email for details.
Registration for Winter Camp (December 9-11) at Camp Newman is open for all 2nd through 5th graders. Click here for registration information.
Registration for Fallinter (December 2-4)at Camp Newman is also open for our 9th through 12th graders. Click here for registration info.
+++++++ School Update ++++++
Thank you to everyone who came out to support our TASTY group with the Pancake Breakfast last Sunday!
Miss Laurie’s class learned more about Noah’s Ark this week in preparation for their field trip next week. They also created some really beautiful winter scene paintings that I know you will all love.
Next week, the PreK/Kindergarten class will leave from the Temple at 9:30 and head over to the Folsom Zoo. All students must be accompanied by a parent for this field trip. If you plan to meet the class at the Zoo, please let me know before Sunday so that we don’t wait for you at the Temple.
1st and 2nd Grade
Miss Efrat’s class learned about the letter Alef. Adonai (God), Elohim (God), Ima (Mother), Abba (Father), Evan (Rock), all begin with the letter Alef. It is a very important letter in the Hebrew Alef-bet! Then the students learned about the creation story and created a memory match game with the days.
The class also got to paint a winter scene on Sunday. The results are so beautiful. Thank you to Minerva and Heather for putting together this week’s art project!
3rd – 5th Grade
Miss Erica and Morah Sara’s classes are all learning about B’tzelem Elohim. The parents from these classes spent about 45 minutes with the Rabbi, discussing the theme. Then, they joined their students for the last 45 minutes of the day. The activities ranged from self-portraits to wall hangings with a mirror, both designed to help participants reflect on what it means to be made in the image of God.
Both classes are learning a lot in the area of Hebrew. Morah Sara’s class is able to answer questions in Hebrew and Miss Erica’s class is getting a solid handle on the letters and vowels. I’ve been so impressed with how these classes are progressing. It’s fun to see them learn each week!
Our sixth grade class is continuing to discuss the meanings behind the different prayers, this week looking specifically at Ki Mitzion. Each students has now chosen a famous Jewish individual to research for their poster presentations in the Spring.
This class has now complete four lessons in the computer lab. I’m sure they find the material a bit corny, but they are getting a good foundation for moving forward. The extra one on one time with the madrichim is also having a good impact on their Hebrew mastery.
This was the second week that our extra Hebrew tutor, Michele Silver, has been coming to provide additional instruction for our students. Each of our 7th graders receives personalized (or in groups of two) instruction for 15 minutes each Sunday. The students have also been working hard with Avi to improve their reading skills both on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings as Avi fills in while Paul is recuperating.
7th grade parents, please remember that we have a meeting this Sunday at 11:15. We will go over final details as you plan your child’s bar/bat mitzvah.