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Bet Midrash February Newsletter

Bet Midrash February Newsletter

What have we been learning?

A message from Rabbi Ariann

According to Jewish tradition, there are two primary concerns when it comes to the way we pray: keva and kavanahKeva means "fixed," and it's the idea that each person should have an established and fixed prayer schedule which follows rabbinic guidelines, and should include fixed language in their prayers.  Kavanah means "intention," and it's the idea that prayer is much better when it's motivated by sincere feeling.  When a person lacks one of these, our tradition teaches that keva is better - even if you can't always have the right intention, it's best to stick to your prayer routine.  If you wait for the right feeling to come, it may never come, or you may miss moments when it comes upon you suddenly when you're already in the middle of prayer.  Every teacher I've had who has tried to convince me to take on a new habit has drilled down the importance of keva, from meditation to running, from journaling to learning a new language, you're unlikely to find inspiration in your work without regular practice.


Just as prayer holds these two, sometimes conflicting, areas of concern, so too does teaching.  How much of your classroom experience should be organized around keva: routines, predictability, norms, standard processes, written curriculum.  And how much should be based on the kavanah of the moment: responding to the news, leaving for trips or new settings, following a tangent of conversation into a whole new area of inquiry.  We've been asking these questions over the past month in particular, attempting to balance our regular learning with a necessary response to the moment we are living in and the reactions of our students to this moment.  As always, the best of our responses have drawn from the beauty of our tradition, and the Jewish values which animate each of us to work on making the world the place it should be.

I am hoping many of you will join me in discussing a vision for infusing evermore kavanah into the life of the Bet Midrash.  We will be having a series of living room meetings for these conversations, and you can RSVP to one of those meetings here.


Gimmel (3rd grade)

January was an exciting month for Kitah Gimmel. We completed volume one in "Time To Read Hebrew." Our class was excited to work with Morah Sara, our Hebrew immersion teacher, again. We also studied the story of Abraham and Sarah and enjoyed a variety of activities to help us relate the story of the first Jewish people to our world today. The words of Lech Lecha inspired us to draw our own footprints only to move forward with what inspires us. We spoke of the importance of taking action as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel did in support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Izzy, our talented madricha, taught us the song of Lechi Lach by Debbie Friedman. We concluded the month by making posters to speak up for what we believe is right! – Dina Bernheim


Dalet (4th grade) Chagall Paintings

Tamar Arieh and Sarah O'Leary carried Kitah Hay's posters all the way to Washington, DC!

Dalet (4th Grade)


The Dalet class finished their Chagall projects. What a fantastic display of ideas! This month we will learn about the artist Yaacov Agam, one of Israel’s most famous artists. He is best known for his early pioneering of ‘kinetic’ art. He worked in many other genres as well. We will be focusing on his “Star of Peace” for Ben Gurion University. The subtitle of the work is dated March 26, 1979 - the day Israel and Egypt signed their historic peace treaty ending three decades of hostilities between both countries. It depicts the six pointed Star of David and the five pointed Star of Islam. They are the same size. From one angle we see the Magen David and from another angle we see the Star of Islam. When looking directly at them they appear to be fused. More than ever symbols of peace give us hope. We will be celebrating the holiday of Tu Bishvat-the ‘birthday’ of the trees. The class will have a seder to enjoy the seven species associated with Tu Bishvat and write poems - odes to trees. We will continue reading Bible stories learning about the early kings of Israel. – Ann Krauser


Hay (5th grade)

This month in Kitah Hay was all about civil rights. Honoring MLK we looked closely at a picture with MLK marching together with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath (who was holding the Torah) from Selma to Montgomery. We talked about how important and inspiring the Jewish support of the civil rights movement was and also talked about Rabbi Heschel's famous quote - "I felt I was praying with my feet." We also talked about the importance of music in the civil right movements and listened to a few songs while dancing - "Down by the Riverside" and "We Shall Overcome." Rabbi Ariann visited the class to talk about the Women’s March and what it means to stand up for people who may be vulnerable or marginalized (we learned some new vocabulary!). The 5th graders were quick to realize that the voice of children is also often overlooked! To turn words into action the students made amazing posters for the Women’s March that were used in the march in DC by BK members.

- Tamar Arieh


Gan/Alef (K/1) and some enthusiastic teenagers create magic with black art paper.

Kitah Bet (2nd grade) holds teeny, tiny future parsley plants.

Gan/Alef (K/1)

In Gan/Alef we have been exploring light and darkness and what's Jewish about colors. We've examined stories from the Torah looking for examples of how colors are used. We've also explored different artists' work and created our own colorful masterpieces. We absolutely loved scratching our black art paper to reveal vivid colors underneath – even the madrichim loved this project! Currently we are using our Torah stories to help learn about what makes a family. We will be working on our own family trees in honor of Tu Bishvat- the “birthday” of the trees. – Pia Kutten


Kitah Bet (2nd grade)

Bet class has been busy getting ready for Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, which occurs on the 15th day of the month of Shevat (February 10-11th). This holiday helps us learn the Jewish commandment of Bal Tashchit, do not destroy the earth. students thought of many ways we can help protect the earth and our environment. In Israel it is almost springtime and traditionally trees begin to bloom and new ones are planted. In this spirit we decorated clay pots and planted parsley, which can be used at the Passover seder. We will also have a Tu Bishevat seder, where the seven species of the land of Israel, mentioned in the Torah, are eaten. – Ellen Goldsmith


Be verrrrry careful!

Kitah Zayin (7th grade) performs a parsha play for Kitah Dalet (4th grade)

A Word about Tikkun Olam

Those of you who were present last Shabbat at 9am heard Rabbi Elliott's clear statement of our values at Bnai Keshet: we are committed to the wellbeing of our Muslim neighbors, friends, and family; we are committed to supporting refugees and other immigrants hoping to make a new life in this country.  Our vision of the world as it should be is expansive and inclusive. 


Last Monday, our 6th graders and their parents joined for a Family Education session on Tikkun Olam where we studied the origins of the phrase tikkun olam from the Mishnah (a 3rd century rabbinic legal text).  We learned that although our vision of repairing the world is messianic in scale, the actual work is sometimes small, nuanced, inch-by-inch, legalistic, and doesn't do the job all the way in one step. 


The number of things we can do to work toward the perfection of the world are uncountable, and many of them will feel very small.  As our year continues, will be calling on you to help us do a little bit of this work by supporting Kitah Vav (6th grade) families and Kitah Zayin (7th grade) students in their tikkun olam projects, as well as projects that involve the entire Bet Midrash.  We're looking forward to your enthusiastic participation! 


Below is the first of these requests:. Please feel free to bring your used crayons to Bnai Keshet and drop them in the Crayon Initiative Box in Red Gables.  This will support Jessica Kunkin and family in their 6th grade Tikkun Olam project. 

Important Upcoming Dates

February 3 - Soulful Shabbat Dinner and Services, 6:30pm

February 4 - Bar Mitzvah Celebration of Ian Harris

February 4 - Going to College with Strong Convictions and an Open Mind 10th-12th graders, 7pm

February 5 - Gimmel (3rd grade) Family Education, 9:30am

February 18-20 - No Bet Midrash, Presidents' Day Weekend

February 18 - Bar Mitzvah Celebration of Ian Mayoff

February 20 - B'nai Mitzvah Celebration of Eilat and Liyam Herman

February 24 - Kinder Keshet, 5:30-7pm

February 25 - Reconstructionism: Constantly Evolving with Rabbi Ariann, 9am

February 25 - Bat Mitzvah Celebration of Anna Kupferman

February 25 - Bet (2nd grade) Havdalah, 5-7:30pm

February 26 - The Jewish Call to Social Justice: Interfaith Community Organizing in Ferguson, MO, with Rabbinic Intern Sarah Barasch-Hagans, 11am

Tue, June 19 2018 6 Tammuz 5778