Being Kodesh When Chol
Since the first institution of Shabbat in the Bible, Judaism has been filled with ceremonies marking sacred moments. We sound the shofar for the New Year. We welcome a new baby into the covenant. We marvel at the new moon. Yet our lives are also filled with countless mundane moments that feel utterly meaningless.
One of our responsibilities as educators is connecting our students and their families to as many sacred moments as possible, even when those moments are hard to find. Sometimes we are even required to turn something mundane (chol) into something holy (kodesh).
This edition of the newsletter is dedicated to taking regular moments in our lives and connecting them to Judaism, making them holy. From taking the SAT to starting something new, there are sacred moments just waiting to be explored! We hope you gain new insight
into a way in which your community can engage with the divine in every moment we’re awake.
Director of Education
• Book Club. Book clubs provide a topic for a group of strangers (or friends) to discuss without necessarily knowing what to say. While many of us have participated in book clubs, one way to lower the entry barrier is by exclusively choosing books that have also been made into movies. This will give participants the option to read the book or watch the film. You can even make your group into a film club, where members go to the movies together and then discuss the film at a nearby coffee shop. Many books include questions at the end to help guide your conversation.
• Adult Education Programs. Lay-led Torah study, a guest lecturer, or an interactive session from the ISJL program bank can create learning opportunities for your community. You can even invite congregants to lead a session on a topic in which they’re an expert. If you have a congregant who is an English teacher, they can teach a class on Israeli Literature; a member who loves to knit can lead others; a congregant who is an excellent golfer can create “Torah from the Tees,” and your “pro” can lead like Moses (avoiding the water hazards). By using the resources already at your disposal, you can create meaningful learning.
• Food. There is no better way to bring people together than with food. Organize a meal at a restaurant, grill at a park, or host a potluck at a congregant’s home. Create new spaces for this crowd to schmooze and enjoy each other’s company (while the young parents suffer with shuttling their children to and from kids’ activities).
• Building Bridges. Although some empty nesters choose to relish and enjoy their newfound freedom, others still hope to maintain a connection with the religious school. While some may choose to teach at the school, others may simply be searching for occasional opportunities to participate. Invite them to read a story to the younger students, to substitute teach, to supervise and greet folks at the entrance, or simply invite them to special events such as a mock seder or a Purim carnival.
These are just a few tips for ways to engage a unique and vital sub-set of your community!
- Shira Moskowitz, ISJL Education Fellow 2015-2017
Sports & Asher Yatzar
In many cases, a good portion of the Jewish content our students learn comes in the few hours each week that they are in the religious school environment. While we try to make these times as exciting and innovative as possible -- to have our students positively identify with Judaism a few hours each week may just not be enough. With this knowledge, we try to cultivate other opportunities for Jewish engagement. We plan Jewish movie nights, host Shabbat dinner with family and friends, and look for Jewish cultural experiences in other parts of the country. But, have you considered bringing Judaism and Jewish values to everyday activities that are not inherently Jewish?
One such activity in which a lot of our students participate is sports. Many are on soccer or basketball teams, play tennis, swim competitively, and more. These sports provide many positive growing experiences for our students: teamwork builds trust and accountability. As Jewish educators, we want to sync these positive growing experiences for our children with their Judaism. Asher yatzar allows us to accomplish that goal.
Asher yatzar helps us to appreciate all of the wonders of our bodies, and we need these amazing bodies to perform well at our sports activities! Take this opportunity to teach your students about how Judaism values our functioning bodies.
Here is an English translation of the prayer:
“Blessed are You, Sovereign of the universe, who formed people with wisdom and created within them many openings and hollows. It is obvious and known, by You, that if even one of them ruptures, or if even one of them becomes blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You, Sovereign, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”
Work with your students to create individualized asher yatzar tags. These tags can be printed on cardstock to contain the blessing above and decorated to fit each student’s favorite sport. When students finish, laminate the cards, and tie a string so the tag can be attached to their sports bag! This way, students will carry a reminder of their Jewish practice with them as they get into the game (or need a reminder to stretch after a good workout).
- Arielle Nissenblatt, ISJL Education Fellow 2014-2016
The ISJL Education Team
We're proud to provide our partners with monthly additional resources and enrichment to share with your classrooms and communities! If you have newsletter questions or requests, email Associate Director of Education Rabbi Matt Dreffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.