Each week, Temple Israel issues emails to the entire community of congregants and Kehillah families, providing information about upcoming activities and words of wisdom from our clergy. Contained within each of these mailings are messages relating specifically to Kehillah School activities, philosophies and programs. The ten selected messages that follow impart not only the goals, but also the tone and underlying nature of our school, while painting a picture of the values inherent in all that we do.
Kehillah students commemorated the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. by singing his praises, enjoying a book, and creating their own artwork about this inspirational leader. Their works of art were shared with the congregation in an exhibit at the Temple-wide MLK celebration on Shabbat.
As we make the most of our last few weeks of summer and prepare for the coming of fall, we think about the importance of transitions in life. The change of seasons plays a vital role in this process for all living things. School grade level advancements have long required people to adapt to change on an annual basis.
December’s theme of kedushah, or holiness, is demonstrated on a weekly basis here at the Kehillah School, where Shabbat is welcomed each Friday and concluded with Havdalah on Mondays. The children learn that Shabbat is the start of the special day of rest created and commanded by God, and that Havdalah is the ceremony separating Kodesh l’chol: the holy versus that which is ordinary. The peacefulness and joy of Shabbat holiness is felt by the children in wearing their communal school shirts each Friday; gathering with all our clergy for prayers; hearing the Shabbat melodies, blessings and songs about precious family time; and enjoying challah and sweet grape juice. On Monday, this kedushah ends with another communal gathering-this time to say good bye to Shabbat. A subdued atmosphere sets the tone as the lights are turned down low, the bright flicker of the havdalah candle dominates the room, and the sweet smell of spices is passed from one child to the next, all helping the holiness of Shabbat to linger in our senses.
Tzedakah, the monthly Jewish teaching for October, is a lesson in moral development, as righteousness is the literal meaning of this term for charity. Donations of money are not all that is raised through the teaching of tzedakah. As children learn to give of themselves for the benefit of others in need, they first need to take stock of what gifts they themselves possess and can share with others. This important exercise in self-awareness and appraisal helps to raise our students’ self-esteem, as does the value that they feel in offering tzedakah.
The happy faces of children, parents, and grandparents graced Kehillah’s first birthday celebration last week, amidst game playing, a lively sing-a-long, and indoor picnicking. At the conclusion of this festive milestone event, some of the parents and grandparents wrote these expressions of their sentiments about our school.
Picture the beauty of how caterpillars first experience life in a cozy cocoon, from which they transform into magnificent butterflies able to soar to greater heights. A similar metamorphosis takes place here at Kehillah. Child development is an ongoing process, in which each Kehillah student’s transition from one class to the next is treated as a special, individual journey from which our children emerge with the skills and self-confidence to venture forth into the world.
July’s Mitzvah Month theme has provided a variety of opportunities for our children to partake in activities for the benefit of those less fortunate than themselves. Kehillah Kampers created a lemonade stand to raise money for children’s cancer research, ran a bake sale to support the efforts of the ASPCA, and donated canned foods to needy families. Counting, measuring, cooking, sorting, and use of the alphabet served as educational components of these various efforts. Group collaboration and giving to others through both tzedakah and personal involvement provided the most meaningful life lessons of all.
Kehillah students will spend April 9 – 12 in an Egyptian landscape of their own making, in the Lapidus Center right here at Temple Israel. They will enter the room through the Red Sea, parted by fan-blown, colorful fabric streamers. Through independent play along Nile River water tables flanked by palm trees and ferns set over a sandy tarp, they will care for dolls in baskets and tubs as their own Baby Moses. In groups, they will be encouraged to ask questions and imagine God’s answers in conversation with a small tree adorned with fiery accents. They will work together to build pyramids from block furniture. Our rabbis and cantor will take turns with different classes, as each assumes the persona of Elijah, recounts his life’s journey, and shares his famous tales with moral lessons for the children. Through experimentation, students will see how the properties of sand can change with different additives. With all of this, plus two model seders, the students of the Kehillah School will have the opportunity to experience Passover to the fullest.
At the Shabbat celebration just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, our Kehillah School community enjoyed an “historical” visit from Rabbi Nir Barkin of Kehillat Yozma in Modi’in, Israel. While visiting to observe the pioneering “Kehillah Model,” he shared his dynamic abilities as a teacher by interacting with the children, for whom he connected the concepts of that week’s Torah portion, the historical and modern celebrations of Thanksgiving, and the morals and miracles of the Chanukah story. It was especially magical for the children to relate to someone who lives in the town of Modi’in, where the Chanukah story takes place! In a very short time, Rabbi Barkin had the entire student population engaged in his teaching of the Chanukah story through their own placement in a human map of the cities of Israel.
As we close this year’s annual Children’s Art Exhibit in the Murray & Gladys Goldstein Cultural Arts Center, we are reminded of precious connections experienced by our students through their creative expressions. Contained within our exhibit is a small model of the Kotel, or Western Wall. The four-year-old children of Chavayreem built and painted the model to house precious messages like these to God: