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Sat, 12 Jun 2021 08:21:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. This week, JCDS celebrated Pride together as a community as well as in individual classrooms, learning about its history and marking Pride month in our own unique way on Rosh Chodesh. Teachers and students first laid a foundation of historical knowledge, each grade at its own level. Gan Nitzan … More School Sparks: Pride Rosh Chodesh

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

This week, JCDS celebrated Pride together as a community as well as in individual classrooms, learning about its history and marking Pride month in our own unique way on Rosh Chodesh.

Teachers and students first laid a foundation of historical knowledge, each grade at its own level. Gan Nitzan read the book Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag about the creation of the rainbow flag from its beginnings in 1978. They enjoyed both its message of love and pride, and the beautiful illustrations.

In the fourth grade, students learned about the history of Pride at a deeper level, talking about Stonewall and the trans folks of color who led a protest that turned into the first ever Pride. The class discussed the acronym LGBTQ+ and students asked thoughtful questions about the different terms, most of which were already familiar to them from their Fall unit about identity. They hope to read more Pride-themed books in their remaining time together this month.

On Thursday the celebration culminated with Rosh Chodesh t’fillah dedicated to Pride month, taking an already joyful day to the next level with an exuberant Hallel service.

Students were encouraged to wear the colors of the rainbow, and Middle School students, Alanna and Kayla, led the school in a joyful, musical Hallel service to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and the holiness of all human beings made b’telezm elohim, in God’s image. The prayer of Hallel seemed particularly relevant and meaningful in the context of the gratitude and joy of Pride month. With enriched understanding of LGBTQ+ history, students came together with an appreciation of how far LGBTQ+ rights have come in our country and everything they hope can be accomplished in the future.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 04 Jun 2021 08:23:32 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. This week, JCDS observed Memorial Day with activities and gatherings led by faculty members Andrea Silton and Josh Mocle. By delving deeper into the journeys of the forefathers and foremothers of America, students gained a new appreciation for the freedoms that their sacrifice has afforded us. Students learned what … More School Sparks: Memorial Day

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

This week, JCDS observed Memorial Day with activities and gatherings led by faculty members Andrea Silton and Josh Mocle. By delving deeper into the journeys of the forefathers and foremothers of America, students gained a new appreciation for the freedoms that their sacrifice has afforded us. Students learned what effort it requires to preserve our freedoms in this country and how previous generations gave their lives so that we may live in the America we know today.

This concept of learning from the paths walked by those who came before us is evident throughout the early books of the Torah, where the life narratives of the forefathers and mothers are shared in great detail. One might ask why seemingly mundane details such as places visited and water sources identified are outlined so specifically, and indeed the Ramban thought it necessary to tackle this question outright in his commentary on Bereishit.

I will tell you a principle by which you will understand all the coming portions of Scripture concerning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is indeed a great matter which our Rabbis mentioned briefly, saying: “Whatever has happened to the patriarchs is a sign to the children.” It is for this reason that the verses narrate at great length the account of the journeys of the patriarchs…

Ramban Bereishit 12:6

The Ramban quotes Chazal, the learned rabbis of old, who explained that the actions of the fathers and mothers are a sign to the descendents who will come later. We are given the histories and memories of those who came before us, the challenges they encountered and the choices they made, so that we can use those stories as signposts as we navigate our own choices and the contemporary challenges we face.

As we observed Memorial Day this year, we reflected on how history must inspire our own action, serving as lessons and signposts for us to follow. We discussed that we can honor those who sacrificed their lives by remembering them and continuing to work for freedom and equality for all. Students explored the freedoms we have in this country and ways that they personally could incorporate either their appreciation for these freedoms or the commitment to preserve these freedoms into their own daily lives. These ideas were written on star-shaped pieces of paper to complete the American flag.

In the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln famously named the “unfinished work” of democracy, the noble goal that is always in progress. It is up to every one of us to continue to fight for the actualization of the ideals of the forefathers and mothers who founded this country and gave up their lives so that we could live in peace and freedom. It is the responsibility of each generation to take up the unfinished work and strive for the “more perfect union” that those who came before us dreamt about and sacrificed for.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 28 May 2021 17:32:00 -0400
By Michelle Janoschek, 5th Grade Humanities and Math Teacher, Tamar Co-Advisor Literacy in the 5th grade classroom has been quite an exciting place as of late! Tamarim (fifth graders) read the book, Letters From Cuba, which is the story of a young Jewish girl, Esther, who flees Poland in 1938 and settles in Cuba. Characters … More School Sparks: Letters From Cuba

By Michelle Janoschek, 5th Grade Humanities and Math Teacher, Tamar Co-Advisor

Literacy in the 5th grade classroom has been quite an exciting place as of late! Tamarim (fifth graders) read the book, Letters From Cuba, which is the story of a young Jewish girl, Esther, who flees Poland in 1938 and settles in Cuba. Characters in the book come from different countries, religious backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and social classes. Tamarim learned about Cuban historical information, African religious traditions, and historical events. Additionally, they discovered how Esther learns that she is more than one simple identity when she realizes that she can adapt to her new life in Cuba by incorporating many different elements that she learns from the people around her.

This week, the author of Letters From Cuba, Ruth Behar, virtually visited the Tamar classroom. Two years ago, she visited JCDS in person to discuss her book, Lucky Broken Girl, and she was so excited to return to spend time with Tamarim. Ruth’s upcoming visit was a sweet surprise for Tamarim. They could hardly believe that an author was coming to visit us to talk about a book that they thoroughly enjoyed reading.

As they read the book, Tamarim engaged in havruta discussions, often thinking of questions that were stimulating and served as discussion starters. We referred to the essential questions for the unit, which helped guide their learning. These included: How do immigrants learn to navigate their new countries and define what home means? What contributions or influences affect one’s identity over time?

In Pirkei Avot (4:1) Ben Zoma asks,
.אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם, הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קיט) מִכָּל מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי כִּי עֵדְוֹתֶיךָ שִׂיחָה לִּי

Who is wise? He who learns from every man, as it is said:
“From all who taught me have I gained understanding.” (Psalms 119:99)

As we move through the world, the places we visit and the people we meet can teach us lessons that shape our identity in valuable ways. As Esther demonstrated, being open to learning from everyone who we encounter can help us gain understanding of how others live and the choices we wish to make in our own lives.

The book is written in letter format, with Esther writing letters from Cuba to her little sister, Malka, who was still in Poland with the rest of the family. Throughout the unit, Tamarim wrote their own letters to special people in their lives, as well as Ruth. These letters served as inspiration for Ruth’s talk during her visit.

The visit began by having each student introduce themselves and tell Ruth about their favorite scene in the book. Students then asked some questions that they had prepared, followed by Ruth sharing a slideshow with pictures of her family members and several photos from her trips to Cuba. Many of the photos that she showed were scenes that were vividly described in the book. It was such fun to hear the students excitedly exclaim, “Hey! I remember reading about that in the book!” Tamarim had many questions that focused on characterization, the history of Jews in Cuba, the anti-semitism that Esther experienced, and how the community came together to support Esther and her family. Additionally, they asked about the feelings and emotions portrayed through the characters, the process of writing the book, going to Cuba to do research for the book, and asking about Ruth’s family history and how it inspired her to tell Esther’s story. Lastly, Tamarim shared several ideas that Ruth could think about if she were to write a sequel! She truly was an inspiration for many of our budding Tamar authors!

The hour-long visit passed by very quickly, and soon it was time for the students to say goodbye and share appreciations with Ruth. Ruth shared her appreciation for Tamarim and noted in an email after her visit, “I am so moved by all that they have learned from Letters from Cuba and their brilliant ideas about the characters, the scenes, and the sequels.” Ruth plans to send each student a signed bookplate, which will be a wonderful memento of their time together.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 21 May 2021 18:48:00 -0400
By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher. אֵלוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר. הַפֵּאָה, וְהַבִּכּוּרִים, וְהָרֵאָיוֹן, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה These are the things that have no measure: Peah [corner of the field which, while harvesting, must be left for the poor], Bikurim [First-fruits that must be brought to the Temple], the Reiyah [brought to the … More School Sparks: The Cycle of a Year Through Plants

By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher.

אֵלוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר. הַפֵּאָה, וְהַבִּכּוּרִים, וְהָרֵאָיוֹן, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה

These are the things that have no measure: Peah [corner of the field which, while harvesting, must be left for the poor], Bikurim [First-fruits that must be brought to the Temple], the Reiyah [brought to the Temple on Pilgrimage Festivals], acts of Chesed kindness,and the study of the Torah. (Mishnah Peah 1)

In the mishna above, we see that there is a connection between the fruits of the land and acts of kindness. In modern society, it is hard to feel the connection to the fruits of the land, as most of us buy food products from supermarkets, far from their original source. For that reason, the 7th grade scientists have participated in a garden project to learn about the importance of the cycle of nature and plants and the role of these plants in our own food supply chain. This was an immersive experience for our students to gain a literal “hands-on” experience and much greater appreciation for where our food comes from.

Through this project, the 7th graders have learned that plants are crucial within food chains in nearly all ecosystems and that plants transform energy from the sun through photosynthesis. They also learned the plant cell structures and functions, the structure of a plant from the roots to the leaves, and how plants grow from a seed into a fruit. In addition, we spent time learning about how compost helps the environment and the role of plants in the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles.

During the year-long garden project, students built terrariums, grew potted herbs in the winter, and planted a variety of indoor plants, such as tomatoes, carrots, kale, lettuce, and pepper. The students then transferred their indoor plants into the garden and will care for them until June, when we hope to harvest the fruits of their labor as summer officially kicks off. 

In Israel, the month of Sivan (May) is the time of the wheat harvest. In ancient times, this is reflected in the ritual service of the festival of Shavuot by the Two Loaves offering, made from the newly harvested wheat, and the Bikkurim offering. The summer months from Tamuz to Elul (June-August) are spent harvesting and gathering the summer crops and fruits. The cycle ends in the month of Tishrei (September) and is reflected in the festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, when the cycle begins again.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 14 May 2021 19:45:00 -0400
By Josh Mocle, Middle School Humanities & Social Studies Faculty + Middle School Advisor. Kohelet 4:9-109 Two are better than one, since they have good reward for their toil.:טטוֹבִ֥ים הַשְּׁנַ֖יִם מִן־הָֽאֶחָ֑ד אֲשֶׁ֧ר יֵֽשׁ־לָהֶ֛ם שָׂכָ֥ר ט֖וֹב בַּֽעֲמָלָֽם10 For if they fall, one will lift up his friend, but woe to the one who falls and has no second … More School Sparks: Eighth Grade Retreat

By Josh Mocle, Middle School Humanities & Social Studies Faculty + Middle School Advisor.

Kohelet 4:9-10
Two are better than one, since they have good reward for their toil.
:טטוֹבִ֥ים הַשְּׁנַ֖יִם מִן־הָֽאֶחָ֑ד אֲשֶׁ֧ר יֵֽשׁ־לָהֶ֛ם שָׂכָ֥ר ט֖וֹב בַּֽעֲמָלָֽם
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his friend, but woe to the one who falls and has no second one to lift him up.
:יכִּ֣י אִם־יִפֹּ֔לוּ הָֽאֶחָ֖ד יָקִ֣ים אֶת־חֲבֵר֑ וֹ וְאִ֣יל֗וֹ הָֽאֶחָד֙ שֶׁיִּפֹּ֔ל וְאֵ֥ין שֵׁנִ֖י לַֽהֲקִימֽוֹ

When COVID-19 descended on our community last spring, it brought with it many challenging, often painful conversations with our students. However, one of the most painful conversations for me was having to say the following six words to our graduating 8th graders: 

“We can’t go to New York.” 

The 8th Grade New York Trip is just about one of the most beloved traditions to which our middle schoolers look forward. Whether it meant getting to spend a week in the city, tasting a bit of (structured) freedom with their friends, getting to know their teachers better, and, most importantly, learning through experience and adventure, the trip brought so much to so many for more than ten years.

Losing the trip only made the realities of our lives in quarantine more stark and unforgiving. While we as a staff made sure the JCDS Class of 2020 left our halls (virtual as they may have been at the time) feeling special and loved, there was nevertheless a feeling that something was missing. 

Which is why, when we returned to the building this Fall, I immediately went to my colleagues with six new words: 

“We have to figure this out.” 

New York was still a non-starter, we knew that. But there had to be something…anything…that we could do to replicate the experience while still honoring our guiding principles of Briyut (Health and Safety), Areyvut (Collective Responsibility), and Shlemut (Spreading Calm). 

It turns out that our parent community, as well as our medical advisory team, was very much on the same page. Several months of planning, countless emails, two donated Cape Cod lake houses (major thanks to the Engelhart Family), and a whole lot of love and care later, and the first ever JCDS 8th Grade Retreat was born.
 
These four days on the Cape have been a revelation for our students and our staff. After a week in quarantine (save for attending school) and multiple COVID tests, our students are able to interact in ways they haven’t in over a year while inside our bubble: eating, singing, laughing, and learning together, unmasked and smiling. A small oasis of normalcy amid the desert of distance in which we find ourselves. The impact of even the small moments, the smirks and flashes of teenage wonder, is immense. 

“I feel like I got closer with my class  which says something since we’ve been together for 9 years  and to just be together like we used to. It gave us a good sense of closure. I cried a lot…it was sweet and sad. But I would be more sad if I had to end the year without seeing everyone’s beautiful faces.” –Ma’ayan R.

“It’s been a community bonding experience and it’s been nice to be with my friends and see a different side of them than I usually do. It’s been fun just to be normal during the pandemic and have fun like it’s a normal year.” –James H.

“It’s nice because we haven’t had a lot of time to just be together. The activities are organized but still flexible and creative. It’s just nice.” –Natan M.

“This week has been peaceful and a great way to take a break from all the troubles in the world. I’ve bonded with all of my classmates.” –Libby S. 

“It was 100% worth it to quarantine and test to come here. It’s been so hard to be so far from our friends all year. Just being together means so much.” –Yael G. 

It has been the honor of our year to bring this opportunity to our beloved 8th Grade. If it takes a village to raise a child, this trip has truly taken a Manhattan-sized city. But as we end our nights singing together by the campfire, all of the work it took to get here falls away and is replaced by sheer, unfiltered, and very normal joy and appreciation of this wonderful class.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 07 May 2021 14:05:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. God revealed to Adam each generation with its scholars, each generation and its wise men, each generation and its writers, each generation and its leaders. Adam was the only one who saw the lineage which descended from him, until the end of all generations. (Yalkut Shimoni) The Torah dedicates … More School Sparks: L’dor V’dor

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

God revealed to Adam each generation with its scholars, each generation and its wise men, each generation and its writers, each generation and its leaders. Adam was the only one who saw the lineage which descended from him, until the end of all generations. (Yalkut Shimoni)

The Torah dedicates many verses and chapters to the genealogy of families. Many parshiot list the names of the parents, and of their children, and of the next generation of grandchildren. The legacy of remembering those who came before and brought us to where we stand today is a foundational value and principle of a Torah-centered life.

The Yaklut Shimoni, a midrashic Biblical commentator in the 11th or 12th century whose own name remains undiscovered, writes that Adam’s unique honor was that God showed him every generation that would descend from him, each with its own individual contributions, until the end of time. It was the highest honor because it is this progression of generation to generation, name to name, leader to leader, that shows us who we are and who we strive to become.

In December, JCDS observed its very first Day of Learning in memory of Michael Horen z”l, the grandfather of Victoria Gechter. Victoria’s mother, Elisha, approached us about creating a meaningful day of learning to honor his memory and his life’s work.

This week, on Wednesday, May 5th, we honored Betty & Gil Hoffman, z”l with a Day of Learning in their memory. Betty and Gil were the beloved grandparents of Gil Hoffman (First Grade). Gil’s parents, Natty and Carl Hoffman, were excited to honor them on this particular day because May 5th is National Children’s Day in Japan, where Betty and Gil lived happily for many years. One of the ways that Children’s Day is celebrated in Japan is with the flying of fish-shaped flags, called Koi Nobori. When the flag is hung, the family says a prayer that their children should grow up strong and healthy. It is a day of celebration and hope for the future of the next generation, which seemed like the perfect day to honor the memory of Betty and Gil Hoffman.

Nikki Cohen, First Grade General Studies teacher, told her students that one way of honoring people is by doing special things related to their lives. Gil’s class read a book together about this special day and did an art project. The entire school participated in the Day of Learning by doing a related craft, writing wishes for their future, or writing about things that make them happy.

On these special Days of Learning, all learning that happens at school is dedicated in memory of the family members who we are honoring. We are so grateful to the Gechter/Horen and Hoffman families for including the JCDS community as they honor the life and memories of these special and most beloved grandparents. Learning the names and stories of previous generations helps us understand where we come from, the extraordinary legacies we carry, and the many unique contributions each of us can offer to our community in this generation.

Students enjoyed popsicles as a special treat to celebrate Japan’s National Children’s Day.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 30 Apr 2021 12:00:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. In the wake of the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial last week, school leaders rose to meet the challenge of how to bring the lessons and values of this difficult moment in history to students. Teachers in all grade levels approached the topic in ways that were appropriate, … More School Sparks: Action In Justice

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

In the wake of the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial last week, school leaders rose to meet the challenge of how to bring the lessons and values of this difficult moment in history to students. Teachers in all grade levels approached the topic in ways that were appropriate, safe and productive. Guided by JCDS’ Social Justice Group, teachers focused on the frameworks of Justice and Action in their teaching. It was important to give students space to ask questions, reflect, and discuss, and then talk about what they can do themselves. Teachers stayed rooted in the JCDS Habits of Mind and Heart, especially in Multiple Perspectives, Empathy, and Reflection.

Once Lower School students had a chance to absorb the facts of the verdict in age-appropriate detail, they explored the Jewish values of Tzedek (Justice): The moral responsibility to do what is right, Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World, and Pikuach Nefesh: Saving a life takes priority over everything. Classes reflected on these values and what they meant to individual students by quietly communicating their thoughts on large pieces of paper labeled with these concepts. The students then came back together to reflect on what they had learned from this collaborative activity. Teachers closed the session with a reminder of the pasuk in parshat Shoftim,

צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף
“Justice, justice you shall pursue”

This was a reminder that we must constantly be working together towards a more just world. By facilitating conversations in which Jewish sources can be viewed as a resource for making sense of complex events, students are given the tools and the understanding to turn to Jewish values in difficult moments in their own future.

After making space to discuss the trail and verdict and opening the conversation to student questions, Middle School students discussed the concepts of Justice (n.): The moral responsibility to do what is right, Heal (v.): become sound or healthy again, alleviate (a person’s distress or anguish), correct or put right (an undesirable situation,) Accountable (adj): To be held responsible. Students talked about the ways in which these concepts are similar and different to one another and the role each played in this trial and verdict.

In small groups, Middle School students examined this excerpt from Pirkei Avot:

“לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר וְאֵין אַתָּה בֶּן חוֹרִין לְהִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה“
“It is not on you to finish the task, but neither are you free to ignore it”

There is so much change that is needed in our world, and the idea of creating real and lasting change can be daunting. As students strive to make sense of long-standing and complicated historical patterns that manifest in current events, this text encourages them not to despair of making an impact. We are urged to all to do what we can in the time that we have. Students understood that if each of us do something small to educate ourselves and others or support those most affected by racism and bigotry, we can make a big difference together with intention, energy and empathy.

This concept immediately resonated with many of our Middle Schoolers, who came up with their own ideas for how to create a better future for all people in our country. Student ideas included using their own spheres of influence to spread thoughtful antiracist materials, such as on social media, learning the stories of leaders in these movements, exploring why Covid disproportionately affected communities of color, and many more. While at first our students were the recipients of the facts and perspective we gave them, they quickly stepped into their own leadership moments and reinspired their classmates and teachers to pursue justice together in ways large and small to make a lasting impact.


We hope that you will enjoy, “Letaken לתקן,” with melody by Oren Kaunfer, words by Reb Nachman, and vocals by Tutti Druyan, Oren Kaunfer, and JCDS’ 2019-20 nigunim t’fillah elective singers. “If you believe breaking can be, you should believe that fixing can be.”

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 23 Apr 2021 12:00:00 -0400
By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher. .אָמַר רַב זוּטְרָא: הַאי מַאן דִּמְכַסֵּי שְׁרָגָא דְּמִשְׁחָא וּמְגַלֵּי נַפְטָא קָעָבַר מִשּׁוּם ״בַּל תַּשְׁחִית״ Rav Zutra said: He who covers an oil lamp or who uncovers a kerosene lamp for no purpose violates the prohibition: Do not destroy (Bal tashchit) since by doing so the fuel burns more … More School Sparks: Bal Tashchit


By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher.

.אָמַר רַב זוּטְרָא: הַאי מַאן דִּמְכַסֵּי שְׁרָגָא דְּמִשְׁחָא וּמְגַלֵּי נַפְטָא קָעָבַר מִשּׁוּם ״בַּל תַּשְׁחִית״

Rav Zutra said: He who covers an oil lamp or who uncovers a kerosene lamp for no purpose violates the prohibition: Do not destroy (Bal tashchit) since by doing so the fuel burns more quickly. Talmud Bavli Shabbat 67b:14.

Bal tashchit, according to Halacha, is understood to include senseless damage or waste. In the Talmud, we see references of this principle to wasting lamp oil, tearing clothing, chopping up of furniture for firewood, or killing animals.

In the premodern world of our Sages, everything required an extraordinary effort to cover our basic needs of food, clothes, light, heat, and water. They depended on animal and human power to run the world.

The inefficient use of oil, destruction of furniture and clothes, the misuse of tools, or killing animals would seriously impact the life of a household and even cause it to starve or die.

With the advance of science and technology during the industrial revolutions: first (Mechanization and steam power), second (mass production and electricity,) and third (automation, electronic and IT systems), we didn’t depend anymore on human and animal power and we forgot the connection of Bal tashchit and our needs. We can now leave lamps on all day, and waste water or food without thinking about the impact we have on the world.

For that reason, the 6th grade scientists learned where the energy to power our homes and school comes from and how we are wasting energy from the power plants that are burning fossil fuels in order to provide constant electricity. Unlike the oil of Rav Zutra, the fuel seems to never end.

Most electricity generation in the United States today takes place in thermal power plants, which burn either fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, biofuels, or nuclear fuel in order to heat water and produce steam. The steam spins a turbine to produce electricity, which is then fed into the utility grid. Burning these fuels results in the production of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary heat-trapping, “greenhouse gas” responsible for global warming.

We were delighted that our 6th grade scientists participated in the Eversource Challenge, a contest run by the energy provider. Their grade specific assignment challenged them to write a letter to their parents or guardians, asking them to change their energy habits and become more energy efficient. Students were asked to discuss topics such as energy conservation (for example, turning off the lights) and using energy-efficient technologies like LED bulbs. This opportunity gave students the chance to process all that they had learned and to put it into their own words, tailored to the specific energy needs of their home environments. For example, Alanna ended her letter with the following:

“To conclude, I want you to remember that doing these acts to reduce our daily energy consumption leads to brightening my future in this world. I believe that our family can make a difference if we consider how we consume energy; starting with small measures that build up to make the world a better place”

Our own Nadav was one of the three winners of the regional challenge! His letter included helpful details such as unplugging an electronic device as soon as it has reached full charge, as well as a year-long cost breakdown of LED bulbs versus traditional options.

As Nadav concluded, “These may seem like small things, but if we make more good habits like these, it will all add up to bigger changes. If we also encourage other people to do so, we can make a difference in our communities and the world.”

As we reflect this week on Earth Day and our responsibility for the well-being of our planet and environment, our 6th graders hope that we can incorporate some of these seemingly small changes into our daily lives and improve the future together.


Stay tuned for next week’s School Sparks, where you will learn more about our students’ learning on the days after the Chauvin trial verdict.

As we look ahead to next week’s School Sparks, we hope that you will enjoy “Letaken לתקן,” with melody by Oren Kaunfer, words by Reb Nachman, and vocals by Tutti Druyan, Oren Kaunfer, and JCDS’ 2019-20 nigunim t’fillah elective singers. “If you believe breaking can be, you should believe that fixing can be.”

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Sat, 17 Apr 2021 05:51:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. This week, we begin the Jewish month of Iyar and observe two important days on our calendar: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. On Yom HaZikaron we remember the fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks throughout Israel’s history, and on Yom Haatzmaut we celebrate Israel’s founding and continued … More School Sparks: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

This week, we begin the Jewish month of Iyar and observe two important days on our calendar: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. On Yom HaZikaron we remember the fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks throughout Israel’s history, and on Yom Haatzmaut we celebrate Israel’s founding and continued independence. These two days are marked in close sequence, but their observance and tone could not be more different. First we share a day of mourning, a day when the names of every individual lost is displayed on Israeli television and so many families light yahrzeit candles in their homes for the loved ones who did not return. For many Israelis, Yom HaZikaron is not a large and abstract memorial day but a moment when their grief feels as fresh as ever, a day to look at and share old photos and remember the losses suffered on Israel’s painful road to statehood.

And then, in the span of a few hours, a shift in the air and it is Yom Haatzmaut. A proud reminder that these sacrifices were not in vain, for here we stand in a Jewish homeland as so many wished for, for centuries. This is a day about community, of collective gratitude and celebration.

It was important to us that our students experience this juxtaposition for themselves this week. On Wednesday, Yom HaZikaron, students were asked to wear white shirts and dark bottoms to respect and remember the solemnity of the day. Grades 4-8 participated in a solemn ceremony outdoors led by the 8th Grade, with songs performed in Hebrew by grades 5-8.

Then on Thursday, Yom Haatzmaut, it seemed the whole school burst with joy and celebration! Students, dressed in blue and white, hopped aboard a pretend flight to Israel, after presenting their passports at Security, of course. Grades Kindergarten through Fourth Grade played Israel Geo Bingo, took a trip to the mini Kotel on school property to write notes, participated in a Chidon HaTanach Trivia Bowl and even enjoyed an outdoor “Waze” simulation where kids, with the help of their buddies in the Middle School, followed Hebrew directions to travel around the outside of the school. This activity is a celebration of Israel as a start up nation!

Grades 5-8 learned the history and meaning behind Israeli street signs in an art project where they designed and created their own street signs. They participated in “Gadna” Basic Training Bootcamp team-building activities, as well as the Chidon Tanach Trivia Bowl and the outdoor “Waze” simulation, helping younger children navigate school grounds.

Towards the end of the day, the entire school came together in the communal spirit of Yom Haatzmaut to do one art project creating paper mosaics of places in Israel and then ended their “visit to Israel” with a whole-school Israeli dance party outside. It was our intention to give our students a taste of the solemnity and historic importance of Yom HaZikaron and also its joyful counterpart, Yom Haatzmaut, when we celebrate as a community with joy and music.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 09 Apr 2021 18:32:01 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School In our last weekly conversation, we explored the Exodus story of Pesach and the charge presented to every person to relive the Passover story with each annual retelling. We began to grapple with the idea of history becoming memory, of long ago and far away stories becoming personal experiences. … More School Sparks: Yom Hashoah

By Shira Deener, Head of School

In our last weekly conversation, we explored the Exodus story of Pesach and the charge presented to every person to relive the Passover story with each annual retelling. We began to grapple with the idea of history becoming memory, of long ago and far away stories becoming personal experiences. We found that although this is not always easy, it is possible to internalize these moments of our history to the point where they are components of our own identities. This practice is so important each year on Yom Hashoah V’Gevurah, when we remember the Holocaust and its effects on our collective identities all these years later. As with Pesach, this year we again asked ourselves how we can help our students connect to this history, to these personal stories of resilience, faith and survival.

On Thursday morning, we gathered students for a tekes, a communal assembly, to reflect together on the meaning of the day and the role each of us plays in the survival and continuity of this history. Oren Kaunfer, Madrich Ruchani, explored themes of heroism and resistance with our students, but the most resonant call to action was when Oren described how necessary it is for all of us to seek out stories from survivors of their experiences and the experiences of those who perished. That we must see it as our job as a group and as a generation to ask questions and share the answers so that these stories are not lost.

We then recounted that one of the most powerful, long-lasting ways to honor those who experienced the Holocaust is to get up close to their stories. That is what connects us to events that happened many years before many of us were born and helps us bring those memories far into our future. As we learn to seek out stories, to find out what memories lay behind the familiar faces of the people we know, we learn to connect and expect unshared stories in everyone we meet, and we begin to turn toward others with increased empathy, curiosity and sensitivity.

The 6th and 7th grade explored these stories in the classroom as they toured the New England Holocaust Memorial via the new NEHM tour app. This rich virtual experience, which is available to anyone touring the site in downtown Boston or from home, guides the viewer through multiple stops at the physical memorial, utilizing videos of survivor testimony and paying special attention to the design of the memorial itself. As the tour draws the attention of the viewer to the multiple locations of the word “Remember” on the walls of the memorial, students read:

“While this Memorial allows us to grieve and recall those lost, it also pushes all of us to remember the hatred and evil, as well as the apathy. It reminds us of the bystanders that allowed the events of the Holocaust to take place. The Memorial asks us to ‘Remember’ the events of the Holocaust whenever we see one group of people persecuting another. Remembering this particular history allows us to reflect on our own choices and actions today.”

The faces and voices of the survivors, all of whom are local to the Boston area, and the charge to listeners to bring the lessons of the Holocaust into their own lives and the choices they make, combine to create a powerful and real connection, and made an incredible impact on our 6th and 7th grade students.

Students in younger grades took a closer look at these personal narratives through the lens of art and painting, or by exploring storytelling. Each class experienced an age-appropriate way to connect and internalize the legacy of the Holocaust.

All students encountered the poem “Take a Giant Leap”, written by survivor Sonia Weitz for Holocaust Remembrance Day. It reads, “Come, take this giant leap with me into the other world . . . the other place…” And that is the opportunity that we have tried to provide for all our students this week: the tools to leap into these stories, to learn to look more deeply and sensitively, to take up the task of keeping these moments of history alive for many years to come.

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Selections from Tamarim (5th Graders) “Voices from the Ghetto” Art Gallery

After reading the poem, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” (written by Pavel Friedmann at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp on June 4, 1942), students were asked to reflect and create a painting with this question in mind, “If that voice came to you today, what do you think it would say?”

I Wish to be Free

“The boy I think would want to be free.” 

Luke

Butterfly of Peace

“I painted this because the poem was about butterflies and Shalom means goodbye, hello, and peace. The background is dark because of what happened to the boy.” 

Miriam

Sunset

“Sunset, because as long as the sun rises and sets, you will always be alive.” 

Micah

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Boker Tov JCDS: A Student-Led Podcast

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Dr. Susie Tanchel and Oren Kaunfer Receive National Awards from The Covenant Foundation


Dr. Susie Tanchel, Head of School of the JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School in Watertown, MA, was one of three recipients nationwide of the prestigious 2018 Covenant Award for exceptional educators at The Covenant Foundation's annual ceremony in New York. The award is designed to honor and celebrate those who have made an impact on Jewish life through innovative educational practices and models.

In addition, Oren Kaunfer, Spiritual Educator/Leader of the Jewish Life Team at JCDS, was among five recipients honored with The Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators bringing fresh promise and deep commitment to continually elevating the field of Jewish education.

“It is very special for JCDS that, for the first time, two members of the staff of the same school are being honored in the same year by The Covenant Foundation and recognized for their accomplishments," said Arnee R. Winshall, Founding Chair of the JCDS Board of Trustees.

“Susie's extraordinary work in re-visioning pluralistic day school education shines a bright light on JCDS as an innovative, pioneering model of 21st century day school education within the Greater Boston Jewish community, on a national level, and beyond," said Elizabeth Waksman, President of the JCDS Board of Trustees, in sharing the news of the school's awardees.

Established in 1991 to honor and celebrate those who those who have made an impact on Jewish life through innovative educational practices and models, the Covenant Award is presented to three educators every year after a rigorous selection process. Along with Tanchel, the 2018 Covenant Award recipients are Naomi Ackerman, Founder and Executive Director of the Advot Project Los Angeles, CA, and Deborah Newbrun, Senior Jewish Educator and Director Emeritus at Camp Tawonga, San Francisco, CA. The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies.

Accepting the award from Keating Crown, Dr. Tanchel said,“It is our highest hope that our children will use their hearts, minds, and souls to impact their Jewish community -- but if this is as far as their goodness spreads, then we have failed in our mission, for it is our sacred responsibility as Jewish educators to also nurture and challenge our children to understand that working for a better society is their birthright."