This year at ECDC we celebrated Purim in many traditional ways. We made crowns, graggers and hamentashen. We held our annual carnival where we had a different game in each room.
Weeks before the hamentashen, costumes and three-corner hats, ECDC Educators talked with Rabbi Locketz to think about the best ways to celebrate Purim with young children. We learned that the story of Purim comes from the Book of Esther in the Megillah and that there is no hard evidence that the events actually took place. Though the story includes wickedness and hatred, it has a happy ending – and Purim has evolved as a happy holiday enjoyed by children and adults alike.
The story of Purim, as edited for young children:
- Once upon a time in the lovely town of Shushan, there lived nice Uncle Mordecai and his niece Esther. (Uncle Mordecai and Esther were Jewish.)
- King Ahasuerus was the king of Shushan. He chose Esther as his wife, because she was kind and smart.
- Haman worked in the palace, and he was NOT a nice man. He made people bow down to him.
- Uncle Mordecai would not bow down to Haman. The Jewish people would not bow down to Haman.
- Haman wanted to send away the people who would not bow down to him.
- The Jewish people were sad, because they wanted to live in the lovely town of Shushan.
- Mordecai asked Esther to help her people. Queen Esther had to be very brave.
- Queen Esther told her husband, King Ahasuerus: I am Jewish and Haman wants to send the Jewish people away.
- The king was angry and asked his guards to send Haman away instead.
- Uncle Mordecai came to work in the palace and the people lived happily in the lovely town of Shushan.
The children embrace the characters of the story. They love the Purim songs that inspire twirling to the name of Queen Esther and booing to the name of Haman. Intuitively they rejoice in the goodness of Esther and deplore the nastiness of Haman. Though the story is told in a lighthearted manner, they learn about Esther’s bravery and the importance of doing the right thing.
This year I noticed the delight of the children as they pranced in their costumes – turtles, carrots, batmen, chefs, police officers and yes many princesses. I took special delight to hear one of our older children announce: I am not Jewish, but I love Purim!
Investigating Clay – A Special Kind of Play
Often when we think of children playing, we imagine that they are happily occupied and maybe interacting with friends. But play can be so much more. Play becomes a learning opportunity when one experience builds upon another. This happens most readily when a teacher (parent or loving adult) facilitates. “Clay Play” at ECDC is an excellent example.
We are indebted to Michelle Dreyfuss, our fabulous Art Teacher, and to Barbara Moser for introducing clay at ECDC. Ms. Moser is one of our wonderful consultants of the Federation’s Pittsburgh Jewish Early Childhood Initiative. She is also the Art Studio Specialist at the Cyert Center of Carnegie Mellon University. As Mrs. Dreyfuss explains:
Clay is such a wonderful sensory material for kids to explore; it is smooth and cool to the touch. It can be cut and stacked and molded. Add some water and it becomes a whole new experience. Add wire or string and the children discover something new. As the children become increasingly comfortable with the clay, we see stories and unique creations develop.
The children were introduced gradually to the material and to some of the tools that can be used. They have learned to use wooden dowels for pounding and flattening clay; wire for cutting clay; and water for changing the consistency. They have also enjoyed the use of various materials to print textures into the clay.
On one of the early visits to the Art Studio, Mrs. Dreyfuss showed the children how to roll the clay into balls – big, small and tiny. On a subsequent visit she showed them how to make coils, which can be used to form a bowl! The children examined some actual clay bowls and learned that clay, in contrast to playdoh, actually comes from the earth.
The children are also learning to properly care for clay. At the end of each visit, they each form clay into a cube and use a dowel to make a small dent, which is then filled with water to keep the clay moist while being stored.
As the months have gone by, the children are building structures that are more complex and detailed. In many cases, they have put multiple pieces together to make intricate sculptures. We are so thrilled to see how long they remain engaged with the clay – attentive often up to 40 minutes.
Investigating a material – any material – whether paint, wood, paper or clay, can be a multi-layered process, where discoveries build upon each other. How different from the image of “just child’s play”.
What is a Chanukah Menorah?
It is a nine-branched candle-holder lit during the eight-day holiday of Chanukah.
On each night of Chanukah another candle is lit. The ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper” or “servant”), is for a candle used to light all other candles. The shamash is usually taller than the main eight candles.
The Chanukah menorah is also known as chanukiah or hanukkiah.
Chanukah is the Festival of Lights
The celebration reminds us of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 167 BC. Though there was only a small amount of oil to burn for light, it lasted for eight whole days. That is why the Chanukah menorah holds eight candles.
At Temple Emanuel ECDC we made Chanukah Menorahs with a wide variety of materials…
Twigs Play dough Egg cartons Beads Legos and more….
As you can see, menorah making is a social activity that involves math, fine motor, language and imagination.
Our Kindergarten Enrichment classes even incorporated circuitry!
Thank you to our ECDC Teachers who contributed to this post!
Thanksgiving with Friends and Family
The Thanksgiving Festival is a wonderful tradition at ECDC involving food, song, friends and family. Our events this year were joyous with spirited participation of children and adults alike.
For the second year our children made delicious pumpkin cookies with Mrs. Freed.
And as has become our custom, Mrs. Ricci, our Music Teacher, joined us to lead song. Our play list included many old favorites.
- It’s a Beautiful Day
- I Looked Out My Window
- Pumpkin Dinner
- Grey Squirrel
- Turkey Tango
- Hinei Ma Tov
Hinei Ma Tov is a new song for us at ECDC. The Hebrew song has a beautiful melody which is enjoyed by young and old. The lyrics reflect the spirit of friendship and joy in our school community.
HINEH MA TOV
|HOW GOOD IT IS|
|Hineh ma tov uma na’im
Shevet achim gam yachad.Hineh ma tov uma na’im
Shevet achim gam yachad.Chorus
Hineh ma tov
Shevet achim gam yachad.
How good and pleasant it is
How good and pleasant it is
Due to a “day-off” in the Mt. Lebanon schools, many older brothers and sisters (many of whom are graduates of ECDC) were able to come to the Thanksgiving Festival this year. Though we did not anticipate it, the presence of many siblings added to the joy of being together. Smiling faces inspired me to take family and friend photos during the celebrations. (Note: Photos are posted with the permission of parents.)
My snapshots captured such a small percentage of our families. I invite you to send or bring photos to add to our Thanksgiving board in the school corridor.
The Reform Action Center (RAC) has two great opportunities for college students and recent graduates. The RAC’s Eisendrath Legislative Assistants are recent college grads who represent the Reform Movement and its values in the political process. Machon Kaplan is an internship program for college students interested in Judaism and social justice. Want to learn more? Go to rac.org/la or rac.org/mk.
Remember all those bags of food under the stairs that you couldn’t help noticing when you went upstairs? Thank you to everyone who brought in food during our annual drive for the SHIM food Pantry. On November 6th, after filling ours cars with donations, our 4th grade families brought it all to the food pantry and helped sort it and restock the shelves. What a mitzvah!
It’s the weigh in – did we bring more food than our 4th graders weigh? We did! [Once again, parents did not get on the scale!]
The 4th Graders weighed 710 pounds. The food? 854 pounds!!!! Incredible!
While we were there, we learned how a family “shops” at the Food Pantry and gets much needed assistance. We realized how much we can help and how fortunate we are to be able to support our community through our donations and volunteer time. It was a great morning – a worthwhile experience for all.
Our High Holiday Food Collection may be over…but don’t forget that you can donate year round!
Board member David Rullo gave the following D’var Torah at our November board meeting:
“Go away from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”
This Torah verse has always been special to me. I’m sure I’m not alone and that Jews across the world feel the same. It’s one of the foundational verses. It speaks to me in a very real way because it is the story of the first convert. As we all know, Abraham was not Jewish when God called him, Abraham wasn’t even his name. Interestingly, there is no mention of why Abram was chosen. We know that Noah “walked with God,” there are no notes about Abram. Instead, we are told his lineage and nothing more. Clearly, at least in my estimation, it is more important to be willing to go away from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that God will show you than to be a part of a particular bloodline or have special qualifications. The story continues…God creates a covenant with Abraham and gives him the responsibility of creating a nation and enacting the first rituals this new nation uses to distinguish itself from the other cultures surrounding it.
I have never given much merit to coincidence or the idea that things happen for a reason. This week though I may have to reconsider my skepticism. It was almost four years to the day that Kim and I attended our first “Taste of Judaism” course at Temple Emanuel on November 5, 2012. Almost four years ago to the day that I started a journey that would radically change my life and the life of my entire family. Almost four years ago to the day that I literally went away from my “land,” “my birthplace,” the home of my father and like Abraham, began the process of converting to Judaism.
Unlike Abraham however, I was fortunate enough to find a supportive community that helped with my journey. From that first Taste of Judaism course until today, Rabbi Mahler has always been available to answer questions and offer advice. Rabbi Locketz was one of the rabbis on my Bet Din and has been happy to answer question when I’ve approached her. I joined Temple’s Torah Study group shortly after that first of Taste of Judaism class and the weekly attendees became a network of friends who were only too happy to assist or teach when I reached out to them. My Jewish identity was established and cemented here at Temple Emanuel and now, because of what I’ve learned and experienced my Jewish identity reaches far beyond Temple and indeed allows me to influence the lives of Jews throughout Pittsburgh.
It is remarkable to me that in just four short years I have not only found a spiritual home but have also been accepted as a member and indeed, when the situation calls for it, a leader. I look around the room and am able to point to three other converts that sit on this diverse board. Temple is surely an open and welcoming place to allow four strangers to come into their community and rise through the ranks of leadership.
I have been incredibly blessed through my association with both Temple Emanuel and the Judaism I now call my own. I serve on this board as a way to say thanks to the spiritual home I found four years ago. My hope is that I can find connections over the next few years that will make Temple even stronger than it was when I tentatively walked through those doors four years ago unsure that this would even be a direction I wanted to pursue.
Rabbi Rick Jacob, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, speaks of Abraham in his weekly “On the Other Hand” podcast. He notes that Abraham is not perfect and makes mistakes. He is simply an ordinary person who had the courage to do what God asked him to do. In the end he hopes we can all, like Abraham, “Go forth and be a blessing.” It is my sincere hope that in my own way I can fulfill his hope here at Temple.
The Central Scholarship and Loan Referral Service (CSLRS) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh coordinates the efforts of a group of organizations, agencies and scholarship endowment funds that provide scholarships to local Jewish students enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education.
The goal of CSLRS is to provide financial support to as many deserving students in our community as possible. Demonstrated financial need is a primary criterion in evaluating applicants. Financial information is considered along with other pertinent facts such as family size and number of children/siblings in college.
While they generally do not assist students with family incomes in excess of $110,000 or who have investable assets of more than $250,000, exceptions may be made when there are extenuating family circumstances, at the discretion of the CSLRS committee.
DEADLINE FOR FILING AN APPLICATION IS FEBRUARY 9, 2017
For more information, go to: www.centralscholarship.org
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh scholar Rabbi Dr. Danny Schiff returned to Temple Emanuel Wednesday, October 26. He presented “An Israeli View of the American Election” before a crowd of 70+ audience members from the South Hills.
Rabbi Schiff started out by speaking of his long history with Temple Emanuel. He made mention of the fact that Temple is the very first synagogue in the South Hills he ever spoke at and that he was very anxious to begin this series of Fall/Winter South Hills engagements back at Temple.
He began the lecture by explaining that Israeli Jews are almost the exact opposite of American Jews. According to a Pew study, 55 percent of Israeli Jews consider themselves to be centrist and 37 percent conservatives while just 19 percent of American Jews label themselves conservative.
Although he left opinions to those in attendance, Rabbi Schiff pointed out that “Israelis want to have predictability, certainty and stability in a very unstable part of the world.” He then cited a CNN poll which stated that 42 percent of Israelis support Clinton; 24 percent support Trump and the rest are undecided. This discrepancy, given the strong conservative leanings in Israel, can be attributed to the fact that most don’t see Trump as predictable or stable.
The rabbi spoke for 45 minutes and then took questions from the audience. At the conclusion, Rabbi Mark Mahler thanked Rabbi Schiff for his presentation and said Temple hoped to bring him back in the Spring to discuss the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.
The next speaker to visit Temple will be Rabbi Gershom Sizomu as part of the South Hills Torah Weekend, November 18-19. Rabbi Sizomu is from Uganda, where he serves the Abayudava community and is a member of the Ugandan parliament. He will speak at Temple Friday night, Beth El Congregation Saturday morning, The South Hills JCC Saturday night, and will return to both Beth El and Temple for programs at the religious schools as part of the Global Day of Jewish Learning. Rabbi Sizomu is being brought to the South Hills through a grant from South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh.
Sukkot, a Jewish holiday, is the Hebrew word for “booths” or “huts.” Sukkot is plural for sukkah.
The plural form of the word is appropriate for our ECDC celebration, as each classroom made its own sukkah — so we made a total of ten beautiful Sukkot.
Sukkot is a festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest. During the harvest, the Jewish people were commanded to dwell in a sukkah. A sukkah should have three sides with an opening for welcoming guests and a roof “open” enough to see the stars. Also in accordance with Jewish law, the sukkah should be beautiful and made with loving care.
Sukkot is a joyous holiday with a tradition of inviting others to share a meal.
Our teachers and children enjoyed several snack-time picnics in the Temple Emanuel sukkah during our beautiful fall weather.
The Kindergarten Enrichment classes took advantage of the open roof by coming equipped with pencils, paper and clipboards, lying on their backs and drawing what they observed above.
After visiting the sukkah, the children made suggestions on what materials to use for their cardboard box versions. One group added a detailed scene of children eating around the table. Yes, it was the children’s idea to use a block for the table and to include two pet lizards.
Several groups planned their own ways to make sure that the stars could be seen. It takes teamwork and negotiation to build a sukkah!
We invited ECDC parents to enjoy our sukkah display.
The holiday of Sukkot gives us an opportunity to share meals with others, to express our thanks for food and to appreciate the beauty of nature.