Torah as Metaphor

Torah is light. . . Torah is bees busy making honey. . . Torah is a tree. . .Torah is commands. . . Torah is life . . . Torah is a gift . . .

These are some of the beautiful metaphors our third graders created to share at their yearly milestone event, their Chumash Ceremony. This is an exciting occasion during which we celebrate the formal beginning of Torah study from the Hebrew Text. The third graders have learned Torah stories in their previous years at JCDSRI. Now they are ready to build upon this strong foundation of Torah knowledge. They are prepared to utilize their Hebrew language skills to delve deeply into deciphering the Hebrew Text. As a community, we celebrate this achievement as we wish them continued success in their lifelong study of Torah!


Why send your child to a Jewish Day School?

First, let’s ask an even more basic question…

Why School?

In a recent article on the excellent education blog, MindShift, author, educational guru, and futurist David Price wrote about how education is changing, and needs to change in the coming years. The whole article is well worth the read but for now, I’d like to consider this bombshell of a statement he presents:

“The gaping hole in the middle of the public debate on schooling is that we can’t even agree on what schools are actually for…This failure to define a clear purpose has fatally held back progress in understanding how we learn best.”

To make matters even worse, many thinkers such as John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling and Seth Godin, author of Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?) believe the true purpose of school is to create obedient workers and complacent citizens for an industrial society!

As parents, I doubt “obedience and complacency” are our highest aspirations for our own children, especially as our country changes from an industrial economy to an economy based on service, innovation, and creativity.

So today, not only is there confusion about what and how we should be teaching, but we as a society don’t understand WHY we should be teaching at all! This astounding lack of purpose has led our education system to lurch in one direction, only to recoil and lurch in another. With no one to take on the deeply challenging question of “Why,” our schools have become a rudderless ship relying on centuries old ideals (the 3Rs for example), and enforced by the least creative or innovative assessment, the standardized test.

These problems exist because politicians make the policies, and their decisions are often driven by fear and competition. Are we fearful of China’s economic growth and feel we need to compete with it? Are we trying to beat Luxembourg’s per capita GDP? Do we need to beat South Korea in math? Do we need to maintain an obedient, hard working underclass? Will we create great thinkers and innovators, or use our businesses to import the finest minds from overseas? The answers to each of these questions result in tinkering of educational policies in order to affect society and the future of our country.

The status-quo drastically increases the risk of making policy decisions that are not in the best interest of children, such as cutting gym, recess, and the arts to focus more on the skills that show success on standardized tests. This puts pressure on teachers and children, damaging students’ creativity, self-esteem, autonomy and self-efficacy.

So it’s our job then, not the government’s, to ask “Why school?”

In my experience, when I have asked parents why they send their kids to school, it’s pretty simple. They almost unanimously say, “We want our children to get the skills and content to live happy, meaningful lives.” (If I’m wrong about that you can let me know in the comments below)

Even when I have asked cynics, the answer ends up the same. Imagine the conversation:
Why do you send your kids to school?
To learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.
So they can go to Harvard.
So they can go to the best law school?
So they can get a great job?
So they can provide a great life for their families and have every opportunity.
So they can live happy and meaningful lives!

The answer usually ends up the same, because under all of the ‘What’ and ‘How,’ we parents share a common ‘Why’ for our children and it is beyond Harvard, beyond wealth and beyond keeping the United States the largest economy in the world. In fact beyond any specific outcome we want our children to live happy, meaningful lives.

(I will be talking about how our academic program supports these goals in a later post. Please subscribe below if you are interested in reading more about the profound impact of progressive, constructivist education.)

So why a Jewish School?

If we take the same “why-based” approach to Judaism that we just took to education, we will find something miraculous. Ask yourself, “Why should we teach our children to be Jewish?”

Beyond tradition, beyond guilt or pressure, beyond heaven and hell, and even beyond faith and tradition, we find out deepest desires for our children: To live happy and meaningful lives.

By being part of a community, celebrating life’s joys and tragedies together, and connecting to our past and our future we find joy, direction, and meaning. Our lives are enriched by our ancient tradition and values. We become kinder, more empathetic people by regularly reflecting on our lives through Jewish practice, holidays, and prayer. We don’t live in isolation–we place our lives as part of the greatest project the ever existed, Jewish peoplehood.

Living a Jewish life makes our lives so much richer in the here and now, we naturally want our children to experience that as well.

This is the profound relevance of a Jewish Day School education. Our day schools don’t just provide excellent educations– they provide purpose, community, and meaning. No matter how good the local public or private school, they simply can not match a Jewish Day School’s ability to give students content and skills to live happy, meaningful lives. This is not to say other schools can’t offer any of these skills — they can, through a progressive education focusing on real world problem solving, project based learning, and focusing on creativity, character, and collaboration. But even the best secular school is missing half of the equation.

Next week: What is ‘Progressive Education’ and how does it create a joyous childhood while ensuring academic excellence? Click “Follow” below!

Gratitude on Gobble Day

There is so much to be grateful for, Mr. Tilove has been emphasizing the importance of  Gratitude (Hakarat Hatov) and Responsibility (Achriut) during our Kabbalat Shabbat service together on Friday. The answers the students gave were so powerful, especially when some of the students answered “I am gratitude for my family or my dog or my toys.  Some said, plants, food, my sister, my brother, the world, our school and  our teachers.  It was so inspiring to hear each voice and it is those voices that have inspired my list of Gratitude.

I am grateful for my beloved ( and very) patient family, Antibiotics, Probiotics, my incredible colleagues who have stepped up and took such good care of my students while I have been out for the count, my thoughtful, kind and loving class parents and finally my resilient fabulous first grade students.   I can’t wait to give a hug to each and everyone of them! Thank you all for your well wishes and love.

Lego Parking Lot


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We did some fall Lego clean-up as supplies were getting low and a cleaned up of the Lego gallery was a must.  Now everyone works on one “ship” or “structure” at a time.  We created a Lego parking lot (labeled, reserved parking for all!) The kids asked me to take pictures of the structures before they destroyed them  and put back into the box for further communal use.  Enjoy!

First Grade Torah Scholars


Our Torah study has evolved in magical ways.  We are using the medium of ripped paper to show our interpretations of the events in Bereishet (the first book in the Torah) Students are writing about their collages and many of their “I wonder” questions that they think of as they listen to each new Parasha (chapter). These writings will be included in their personal Torahs and be displayed at our milestone event.  Please see email for important information about upcoming events.

One Last Egg-experiment

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It was fascinating to discover that it was the apple juice that caused most damage to our pearly whites. The culprit being the natural acid that is in the juice.  I couldn’t resist and we had to do one more follow-up egg-spiriment and brought in two common household acids; White vinegar and Apple cider vinegar each containing 5% acidity. We wondered what would happen to a raw egg if soaked in vinegar.  Students were fascinated to watch the bubbling and slow disintegration of the shell.  It has been a while since we have checked them and will be interested to see what has become of them after the Thanksgiving break.

1st and 2nd Grade Daven (pray) Together





On  Thursday mornings, 2nd grade joins us for T’fillot. It is a very special moment in the week as my students welcome 2nd grade into their classroom.  We all look forward to it and it is magical to close my eyes and listen to their sweet voices praying as one.  We share snack together where they have the time to socialize, listen to a good book or do a word problem..


And speaking of word problems…..

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There Are Two New Jobs in First Grade!


I was so inspired by the Literacy for All conference that I attended several weeks ago. I learned about the importance of the language of math in the classroom.  One of the tricks of creating as many opportunities to talk about math is to add two more jobs to our classroom responsibilities. The Surveyor is in charge of creating a daily class survey for each member to  vote on with their individual photos. (More photos to follow!) and the Mathematician who is in charge of a different number each day.

Here is Ruben,  our first Mathematician showing how many ways you can show the number 19.


In The Beginning….

We have had an action packed, intense two full weeks of learning.

Egg-cellent Science experiments and  Chumash (the study of Torah) were pushed to the forefront of our studies.

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Students learned a song to remember the names of the five books of the Torah, (to the tune of Adon Olam, the final prayer we sing in T’fillah (prayers))


We invited Rabbi Gouze to teach us about the Torah, then walked as a group to the Temple Emanu-El Chapel to pick up a Torah. Students sang

“ Torah, Torah, Torah” as we returned to our classroom in a procession.

With great fanfare, we unrolled the Torah and gave the students a chance to examine the Torah.  We used Daniel’s Yad( pointer) which he brought in with his miniature Torah to find the word Beershit (In the beginning) .  It was wonderful to hear and see the students excitement to having the the Torah in their classroom!


Egg-celent scientific observations


We began our first experiment with our in-depth investigation of human and animal teeth. Our essential question for this unit:

What do human and animal teeth have in common?

Students were introduced to the anatomy of a human teeth and  key vocabulary such as: enamel, the crown, tooth decay, and gums.


The importance of brushing our teeth twice a day was driven home with our egg-speriment.


We compared the anatomy of a tooth and the anatomy of a chicken egg and discovered that the shell of an egg is very similar to human teeth. We then wondered what would happen if we smeared one egg with toothpaste and left another  without toothpaste and then soaked  both of them in sugary drinks over night.


Many students predicted that the egg with the toothpaste would get mushy or explode.  One student declared they would change color.

Students worked in groups of four. Each group was given three cups, three hard boiled eggs, a blob of toothpaste, water and one of the following liquids; Regular Coke, Diet Coke, apple juice and chocolate milk. The students labeled each cup, smeared one egg

with toothpaste and one without. There was also  a cup of water for the control group.


24 hours later, we observed our results then returned them to the liquids. After 6 days we took the eggs out again and recorded our results.  Students used toothbrushes to brush the egg shells  with

tooth paste and then washed them.


Below are the results of our experiment.

  • Apple juice and Diet Coke turned our eggs the darkest with a texture of “Venus”
  • All the eggs covered with toothpaste were significantly lighter.
  • There were no change in the eggs when soaked in water.
  • Chocolate milk eggs (though the smelliest) were the only eggs – after being brushed and washed – that returned to their original white state.



  1. Don’t drink sugary drinks and go to bed without brushing your teeth or your teeth will turn brown (if you do it every day)
  2. The shells showed no change in consistency after one day but were easily cracked after 6 days.egg exspiriment



Highlights  in First Grade!

While conferencing privately with students at the end of the day, I overheard the sweet voices of a group of students singing the Hebrew alphabet and reading from the miniature Torah and using a yad (the pointer)to follow along. So Precious!




Shavouah Tov to all!

(a good week)

Looking forward to meeting all of you on Tuesday!