Reflection on the “performance” aspects at our School of Jewish Studies

Students rise to the occasion during adrenaline filled “performances.” We have seen this time and again this year at AYSJS. During the month of February we honored our 18th Torah reader this year between the ages of four and eleven at our SMFP services. The Library/Resource Room in our school building had one hundred people watching seven children chant from the Torah scroll at our SMFP during Synaplex Shabbat. There was hardly a dry eye in the room as these confident children took the “yad” from my hand and sang the words so flawlessly. I truly believe that B’nai Mitzvah for these children will be very different from those children who have not had these synagogue experiences.

Rabbi Newman Kamin addresses the children and their families each month at these services. One of the joys of our Torah readings is that we get to celebrate with the children’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends of the family and the list goes on. Preparing the MP3’s for the participants using my Garageband program and emailing them is so much easier than the days of putting them on cassettes or even CD’s.

Our Vav students and other 6th graders from the congregation had the opportunity to lead services this past month. In the past, the 6th graders leading services in conjunction with the B’nai Mitzvah Workshop was a once a year event. This year, our students help lead services monthly as a part of SMFP. The Shabbat “regulars” often tell me that our students’ comfort level clearly shows. Another special aspect of the morning was getting to see one of our 9th graders chant Haftarah on the second anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. One of the themes of our school year is that Jewish learning is a life-long proc- ess. It is not something that is meant to end at the age of thirteen.

A new service we featured this past month was the Prozdor and Pardes Kabbalat Shabbat. The students had an opportunity to learn or refresh their learning of prayers that they studied in earlier years. The Rabbi and the parents blessed the 8th and 9th graders, and it was a special moment to cherish.

Finally, I want to highlight the Bet Class Havdalah. I have been sitting in a Tefillah (prayer) circle with the 2nd graders for most of the year. Along with their teacher, madricha and the art teachers, the students created Havdalah sets to use at the program and take home. For the Havdalah service we gathered together at the synagogue and the students recited Tefillot. We used the beautiful new prayer books that were donated by Randy Horton’s parents, Jason and Janis Horton, in honor of Randy’s Presidency at the synagogue. After the Rabbi’s inspiring words, we lit our candles and recited the blessings. The bimah was filled with light and a memory that none of us or our children will soon forget.

“Performers” rise to the challenge, just as students often do their best work when they need to produce something, whether it is a science fair project, a swim meet competition, a homecoming football game, or a ten minute session in a recording studio. Human nature and adrenaline dictate that when we have our “eyes on the prize” and a goal we are trying to reach, oftentimes it makes us better. I want to take this time to thank all of the students and all those who have been educating and inspiring them to “reach for the stars” at Am Yisrael in these specific programs as well as others throughout the year.

Purim Carnival Details

Am Yisrael’s Purim Carnival will be March 4th from 10:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.  Advanced ticket sales are 5 for $1.00 and go through Wed. Feb. 29th.  Envelopes must be sent to Am Yisrael c/o Mr. Sherman, brought in to the office or handed directly to me.  Advanced ticket purchases will be given to participants in an envelope with their name on them at the ticket booth the day of the Carnival.  Tickets are 4 for $1.00 at the door.  Games are geared for 2-12 year olds and our Teachers, Hebrew Tutors, Madrichim, Adult Volunteers, USY Board, Prozdor, Pardes and Confirmation students and other teens will assist with running the activities.  Full lunch at the “Shushan Cafe, Am Yisrael Style” will cost 16 tickets.  All participants who come dressed in costume will win a prize.  Most activities will be three tickets.  Parents or guardians of 2nd Grade and under participants must accompany them.  Special thanks to Carnival Chair Judy Grossbard for the countless hours she has put into this event.

 

My article this month is going to focus on our latest accomplishment at the Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies (AYSJS)–our first Chugim (special electives) Presentation. You can watch a seven minute summary of the pro- gram with video interviews of the students who participated in each of the six elective activities, one of our Madrichim (teaching assistants) and myself on our synagogue’s You-Tube channel (found on the home- page of our website).


When I was hired to become the School Director at Am Yisrael Congregation it was with the under- standing that I would reformat the school day, the amount of time dur- ing which students learn and the focus of the curriculum. I took this responsibility very seriously and in the process have added completely new components to the learning process. The addition of the Chu- gim to our repertoire, along with our once-a-month mandatory Shabbat Morning Family Programming (SMFP) and the technological inno- vations are now the three changes that I am most excited about at AYSJS.

On the Sunday before Winter Break, we gathered the Gimel (3rd Grade) through Zayin (7th Grade) classes and their family members in the Sanctuary for a performance showcasing the learn- ing that took place the first twelve weeks of the year during these Chugim sessions. Huge kudos go to the teachers who prepared their students and gave the audience a great sense of just how well- rounded their Jewish education is at Am Yisrael. How many congre- gational schools offer a substantial Band, Choir, Israeli Culture, Newspaper, Photography and Specialized Art program? Our teach- ing team is attempting to make Jewish learning come to life for our students. This is our goal and I believe we are reaching it. A pic- ture says a thousand words and a video probably says more. In addition to our YouTube videos, I encourage you to check out the hundreds of pictures on our web- site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ am_yisrael_school_of_jewish_stud ies/sets/.

With the positive feedback we have received on the first Chugim Presentation, we plan on making this a new tradition at AYSJS. We learned that twelve weeks was a sufficient amount of time to produce some- thing of real substance. We will continue to learn as we make our new traditions at AYSJS.

Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner has discussed at length the fact that students learn using multiple intelligences. We are proving his theory correct and plan on continuing to give our students the opportunity to enjoy the learning process and take away something incredibly substantive.

The excitement continues: Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Shabbat Morning Family Programming (SMFP), Parent Orientation and Media Release Forms

Dear Am Yisrael Community,

I hope this note finds you all doing well as we have completed a wonderful High Holiday season and now move to the joyous holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Every student in our school will be spending time in a sukkah. The Gan Class will be going to the Rabbi’s sukkah and the other classes will be in the sukkah in our courtyard. I encourage you to check out a great website that will get you in the spirit for the holiday! Check out: http://www.g-dcast.com/ to see a brief four minute video about Sukkot.  This is a great website in general, as it contains a nice synopsis of the holiday or Torah portion of the week.  You can also check out this website for on a weekly basis to jumpstart conversations with your children about the weekly Torah portion.  There is a Teacher’s Guide that goes along with it, so if you want to have Family Shabbat Table Talk you can preview the videos and get some good “food for thought” questions to discuss with your family members at the table.

Our first Shabbat morning Family Programming date is coming up on Saturday morning, October 22nd.  All students in Gan (Kindergarten) through Vav (6th Grade) are required to attend.  More details will come early next week.  For a summary of this exciting new program, check out this link: http://amyisrael.org/content/shabbat-morning-family-programming.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking out the Class Home Pages.  The teachers update them each and every week.  On the Art page, you can even see the projects that the students are working on in progress: http://amyisrael.org/content/chugim-specialized-art.  You will also be able to see what homework assignments will enhance the student’s experiences, such as which lessons from the Behrman House website the Gimel class should practice reading: http://amyisrael.org/content/gimel-third-grade-messages.

Sunday, October 23rd is a crucial day for our newly named Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies.  We will be having Parent Orientation and you should block off the entire 9:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. time slot.  We will be sharing with all of you what is going on in our school, brand new programming, you will get to meet all of the teachers and Josh Troderman from JChoice.org is flying in from Boston to discuss his organization with all of us.

Finally, please be sure to turn in your Media Release forms.  With a curriculum that is over 50% technology based, and in a time when we can show you directly what is happening in the classrooms, we want to be able to showcase the excitement taking place in our school.  For those who have not turned in the forms, they should be turned in to our office ASAP.  Please contact Nan Naranjo nnaranjo@amyisrael.org if you have any questions.

I want to wish you and your families a Chag Sameach as we rejoice in the gifts that we have received from God and celebrate this holiday which is discussed in great detail in our Torah.

Warm regards,

Mr. Charlie Sherman

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