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9th Grade Blog                                                         April 3, 2019

Hi All,

This week the 9th and 10th-11th grade students paired up for our Holocaust lesson. For ourYom Hashoah class, the students read and analyzed five poems written by poets who lived through the Shoa. All but one poet survived. The last poem was written by an Indian poet, but allows for a deep analysis of many Holocaust themes. These poems were presented in as close to the "order of events as possible." We first read "First they came for the Jews" by Martin Niemöller, who looked at events as they unfolded. We then read "The Cheerful Pessimists" by Avraham Cytryn (a teenagers who lived in the Lodz ghetto), and "Butterfly" by Pavel Friedman. These poems both examined life in the ghettos. The students found that these poems both conveyed a sense of dying hope, but not yet a sense of despair. "The Roll Call" by Dan Pegis (one of Israel's premiere poets), and "Shema" by Primo Levi (author ofSurvival in Auschwitz) both examined life in the camps, the sense of a loss of humanity, and in "Shema" the importance of remembering such horrors. The final poem "Holocaust" by Sudeep Pagedar examines the difficulty in talking about and understanding the event. The students all talked about how the poem played with there sense of time, and also how they might bring up the subject to their children in the future. 

All of these poems allowed the students to connect to the Shoa in their own way. They were presented an opportunity to digest the information in a new way, that allowed the poem to speak to them at their understanding, and then grow that understanding as they shared what the poem meant to the class, and some of the authors' original intent. It also allowed students to connect to some of the more basic human emotions present during the Holocaust through the words of those who lived through it, and the concerns of dealing with the aftermath in the present.


9th Grade Blog                                                      February 13, 2019

Tonight in 9th grade we discussed a controversial topic in Judaism that is also a well-known taboo, tattoos! I began class with a quick discussion about tattoos in Judaism. I asked the students if they know where this Jewish taboo comes from. Is it still an issue today? Why or why not? How do they feel about tattoos? Do you feel like tattoos are taboo? Prior to class in preparation, I took an article about "Tattoos in Judaism" and split it into 3 parts. I took each part and turned it into a "Mad Lib" activity for the students. This was definitely the highlight of class as we came up with some hilarious ideas. We talked about if tattoos should be forbidden for Jews or if they think that tattoos shouldn’t be forbidden for Jews. To wrap up the night, we did another fun activity where students got to think of a tattoo they would get if getting a tattoo wasn't a Jewish taboo.

Thanks for all of the exciting energy and participation tonight (even if it was only 3 students)!

Cooking with 9th Grade
When Becca doesn’t spray the pan...


9th Grade Blog                                                            February 6, 2019

I want to start off by saying how truly impressed I was with the upper school students during the Ruth Weiner Holocaust program. The students' questions were ones that truly delved deeply into the life of Ruth and the lives of others during the Holocaust. They spoke with such poise and confidence (especially in front of a crowd of mostly adults) and showed utmost respect to Ruth, each other, and the rest of those in the audience. I think it is important to note how lucky we were to have had Ruth speak to us, to hear first-hand stories of such tragic and unbearable events. Ruth's responsiveness and willingness to hear everything we had to say was truly incredible. We must remember that our children will not get such opportunities to hear survivors speak and so we have to value that. Two points from Ruth's stories that I will always remember are when she went to the park and saw a sign that said "No dogs, No littering, and No Jews." The other is when she was hiding with her family in a room with no food or bathroom for 7 hours while the Gestapo banged on her door. Finally a Nazi lawyer came to her rescue armed with a swastika pin for Ruth's mother, a mini-swastika pin for Ruth, and a request for Ruth to bring a doll. When Ruth's mother asked "why," he stated that with his arm linked to her mother's and her mother's linked to Ruth's and Ruth's arm clutching a doll no one would ever have to salute a Nazi except himself. 


9th Grade Blog                                                      January 16, 2019

7th-12th grade students experienced the Tu B'Shevat Extravaganza tonight! The focus was the 7 food species that are traditionally eaten on Tu B'Shevat. The students rotated to each of the 7 stations (see below!) and got to try all of the foods that are traditionally eaten. 

Pomegranates (Majesty, glory) - The students learned how to dress and lift the Torah with Rabbi and Mr. Z. This was an amazing skill for them to learn! After they lifted and dressed the Torah, they were allowed to eat pomegranate seeds and drink Pom Wonderful, pomegranate juice.

Olives (Health) - The students ate olives (black and green) and brainstormed ways on stick figures that they can take care of themselves (physically, emotionally, mentally) with Becca and Mr. W. 

Wheat (Kindness) - The students ate rolls and brainstormed different ways that they can show kindness to others with Becca and Rabbi. Check out their ideas on the kindness tree outside of the Sanctuary - and add your own!

Figs (Respecting elders) - The students ate figs (and Fig Newtons!) and brainstormed letters to their present selves from their future selves with Mr. Z and Mr. W. Their discussions about what they wanted their future and present selves to be were thought provoking.

Grapes (Beauty, resilience) - The students ate grapes and did challenges with Addison and Mr. W to build their team strength. These challenges made them work together and push each other to succeed.

Dates (Being responsible for own being) - The students ate dates and answered "What Would You Do?" type of questions with Rabbi and Mr. Z. They also brainstormed their own "What Would You Do?" questions!

Barley (Controlled strength) - The students did yoga with Addison and learned how to quiet their minds and bodies and harness their inner strength. They even did tree pose! 


9th Grade Blog                                                  January 9, 2019

Today in ninth grade, we explored improv and its relationship to life lessons. When I was in Israel, I took a class all about improv and how it can be related to Judaism. I began the class by asking students if anyone knew the major role of improv. Very quickly, someone mentioned that you have to always continue speaking and never deny the last speaker's words. I explained that in real life, this rule also applies. Although we shouldn't say yes to everything in our lives, it is important to keep conversations moving forward and value others. When at work or in school, talking to classmates or a teacher, it is better to build ideas rather than immediately shut them down. I began with a brief example of an improv game where somebody's thumb controlled whether or not I positively or negatively spoke about a specific topic. I mentioned that this could apply to daily life and speaking negatively about others and being cognizant of it, lashon hara. We then spent the rest of classwork workshopping a bunch of improv games where various students got to be participants. We had a lot of fun with this, especially the game called "Gibberish" where students got to translate other students' nonsensical speaking. We were having fun with this and so I promised the students that we could continue with some improv next class as long as we were able to debrief and recognize how most of this relates to our daily lives as well as Judaism.



9th Grade Blog                                                                January 2, 2019

This week we reviewed more organizations involved in tikkun olam, or repairing the world, and explored more grey areas.  We also discussed why it is important to give to others in need, and also discussed the best ways to help people. The students agreed that it is not always a good idea to just give money to those in need.

-Josh Gertler for Becca

9th Grade                                                                December 19, 2018

This week we discussed Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. After learning about the definition and its importance to Judaism, we talked about which organizations count as repairing the world, and which non-profits might not be.

-Josh Gertler for Becca

9th Grade Blog                                                    December 12, 2018


This week Nir, the Israeli Young Emissary, shared Israeli music with the students, and displayed the variety of genres within "Israeli" music. In class, we discussed Jewish ethics in the context of a zombie apocalypse. There were ethical scenarios including how decisions should be made, how to resolve conflicts, and how to punish someone for breaking the rules. The students all agreed that they probably would not have survived a real zombie apocalypse, but hopefully our discussion might have provided a little bit of help should, G-d forbid, one occur!

Josh Gertler for Becca

9th Grade Blog                                                       November 7, 2018

In ninth grade, we continued to work on our game that mimics Apple to Apples. I told the students that we’re not going to spend too many more classes on this project, and that I would like for us to have a box to put the cards in as well as a directions sheet to make it more authentic. We have a card and a logo design for a game (see photos) and spent most of the class coming up with more ideas and are really involved in the process of game creating. We are very excited to see the final product!
Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 6.02.35 PM.png       Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 6.02.43 PM.png     Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 6.03.16 PM.png


9th Grade Blog                                                               October 24, 2018

Today in ninth grade, we continued to work on our Apples to Apples spinoff game. I explained to the students that I had good intentions for making this game sort of a big thing. They seemed to be in a little bit of a creative slump, but in the end, I got some great ideas from them for green cards and red cards. One student even mimicked the red cards, like it is shown in the actual game, with little descriptions at the bottom. I also explained to the students that we could create rules and an age minimum if they wanted to make it more genuine. After Halloween, I have plans to use our workshopping time more usefully by implementing more of an organization tool to help us with the game!


9th Grade Blog                                                                October 17, 2018

Tonight in ninth grade we had a very relaxing night. Since there was only one student in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade class, we invited her to join our class for the night. We ended up playing the Jewish edition of Apples to Apples, which helped to spark a really cool idea. As a class, we want to create our own version of Apples to Apples: Jewish Edition. This is because we felt that the already-created game was not sufficient and could have had better thought-out and more creative cards. We began a document where we put in our ideas for green cards and red cards and the student that we invited to our class designed Kol Haverim Apples to Apples cards. Hopefully we can turn this into something really cool. I have high hopes that this game can be laminated and played by other high school students in the synagogue!



9th Grade Blog                                                        October 10, 2018

Tonight in 9th grade, we spent some time discussing gender stereotypes and how they can relate all the way back to the time of Adam and Eve. It made for a very cool conversation! We started by independently working on a "draw your career" activity where we had to draw a worker doing a specific job and give the worker a name (pictured below). This was meant to spark some discussion on gender concepts and misconceptions.


I had intended to spend more time discussing what gender really means and why it is such a hot topic today, but instead the conversation led in a different direction. I posed the question, "If G-d created a complete human (Adam), why was he later separated into Adam and Eve?" Drew brought up the concept of being alone and we extended out thinking by talking about self-sufficiency and humans' need to actualize their own individual potentials, which would not be possible if there was one, perfect being. We discussed why G-d would not create identical beings and many students said that would create a world of monotony and sameness that can lead to problems, and we considered that having different people can maximize giving, reviewing, and meeting needs. 


9th Grade Blog                                                         October 3, 2018

Tonight we focused on disabilities and abilities. I first posed students with the task of filling out an informational sheet with their non-dominant hand without explaining why I was asking them to do so. I also participated in this activity and it was quite challenging. I then asked them to tie their shoes with oven mitts on their hands and get to a certain destination with blindfolds. We had discussions based on the activities and how they may relate to disabilities and/or abilities.


I connected our discussion to Judaism and posed to the students questions about Judaism's approach and acceptance of disabilities. I told students how the Israelites arrived from Egypt with blemishes and how G-d healed them all before He presented the Torah at Mount Sinai. Did G-d feel that those receiving the Torah had to be deserving and free from disabilities? Is Judaism accepting of all its congregants or not? I was very impressed and happy with the discussion we had.  


9th Grade Blog                                                          September 26, 2018

Welcome back!

I am so excited to be working with your boys again this year! It's a relief that I already know the class so well and know what close friends they all are. Tonight, all of the Upper School participated in a Sukkot activity where we drew who we would invite to our sukkah and explained why. After that, we spent some time catching up. I then handed each student a picture of a stick figure, and without clear direction (intentionally), asked them to draw or write all of the ways a body/person can be "wrong." I definitely got quite the variety of answers. Many 9th graders drew/wrote physical disabilities, drugs, cancer, crime, gender stereotypes, and more. We noticed that sometimes these sorts of things could not be physically seen like some cancers, Asperger's, social anxiety, and other similar things. We had a lengthy discussion (with some small distractions) about why these things on the stick figures are considered “wrong” and what Judaism may say about it all. We wondered what society may think about these things and why are they are uncomfortable or difficult issues to discuss.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Mon, July 22 2019 19 Tammuz 5779