3/4 Class Notes

Teaching Pesach as a lens for exploring humane treatment of animals for Grade 5

1/28 Class Notes

What is your first recollection of Israel?
  • Earliest memory of the word Israel: It was repeated a lot in the סידור and it was one of the only words I could recognize, along with Adonai and יהוה.
  • When I was 19, I went over to the Hillel with a non-Jewish friend, kind of to show them "look, here's where all the Jews hang out." I wasn't really involved, besides going there for High Holidays. I remember the director told me about their birthright trip to Israel, and I remember thinking that I had definitely heard of Israel (it is a country in the Middle East, comes up a lot in the news), but I wasn't really sure where exactly it was on a map or how big it was or what it was like there.
  • My current relationship is a love-hate one. It's kind of like an abusive relationship--and I'm a battered housewife. I love him, but he really beats me up, and I can only take so much of him, but after being away for long enough, I always go crawling back (or at least want to). In all seriousness, I feel really connected to Israel, so much so that I feel I somewhat understand the culture, what it means to be Israeli, what the importance of עם ישראל, מדינת ישראל, וארץ ישראל. I feel really safe and comfortable there. I know my way around. Jerusalem is especially special to me.
  • Cultural perception: Love love love many aspects of the culture: lifestyle, friendship, relationships, family, Shabbat, being proud of being Jews together.
  • Spiritual connection: the Jewish homeland, a very special place. A physical and metaphoric center of Jewishness.

Why Teach Israel? What purpose does it serve? Where does it fit into a student's identity?

I think it's important to teach about Israel because I think it is an integral part of the Jewish people. It is, after all, where the Jews started. Historically, Israel is literally the homeland of the Jews. I think students (all students, no matter their background) should learn about their own heritage and be proud of it. The Jewish saga is our saga. Israel is the beginning point of our people. I agree that it is possible to be a Jew and not feel connected to Israel, but I think that leaves something to be desired. My family, for example, came from Germany. I know nothing about Germany and feel no connection to it. I think this is an unfortunate thing. People don't pop of of thin air. They come from somewhere. They add to future generations. Without knowing our history, and the history of our people, and specifically the role of Israel in our identity, we lose some of that connectedness to being Jewish.

Another reason: Jewishness connecting people from different sides of the world. I think it's a worthwhile goal for American Jews and Israeli Jews to meet one another and realize how much we share, as far as traditions, customs, values, etc. Israelis, who come from the other side of the world, can come and sit down at our Shabbat tables and share this experience with us. Being Jewish is the glue that is so strong, and so unifying, that it brings together people from very far apart places.

Israel connecting Jews from around the world: Israel is an all-around cool place. It connects Jews from all around the world. You can go to Israel and find every kind of Jew there. They are not there because they want to make money; many aren't even there because they were born there: they come to Israel to live with Jewish people, and to live and breathe Judaism. It's amazing for Jewish children in America to see this: a whole country where everyone is Jewish, where the Shabbat we talk about in school and the Shabbat we practice in our homes and synagogues is put into practice. The stores shut down, there is a shul on every corner. Yom Kippur in Israel consists of a nation fasting together. The streets have no cars; people are mostly wearing white. Even the most secular Jew goes to shul and fasts. It is a place for Jews to feel 100% comfortable to be Jews, and they can be any kind of Jew they want. The whole spectrum exists there.

Origins of Zionism
Israel was controlled during the Ottoman Empire. There was a captain in the Austrian army that was publicly demoted because of being Jewish. Theodore Herzl, who was a reporter who witnessed the Dreyfuss Affair, questioned the Jews' place in Europe. Started political Zionism, which said Jews should have a nation just like any other nation. They were thinking about it being in Uganda.
In Russia, there were cultural and political Zionists. Religious Zionism was pushed by Rav Kook, who lived in Israel and pointed out that you ca do things in Israel that you can't do elsewhere.
Cultural Zionism proposed that Jews lived both in and outside of Israel. Diaspora was needed kind of as shlichim. Pogroms in Russia--Jews being slaughtered by the thousands. They had 3 choices: stay home and change from within (Marx was a Jew!), have their own state--the first aliyot (about 10% of those who left), or Golden State ("go to America, the streets are paved with gold! thought 90% of emigrants leaving Russia). A lot of people ended up going back.
After WWI, after the Turks were defeated, the Sykes-Picot agreement determined that the area was split up among the French and the British, without asking the indigenous population.

The Balfour Declaration : from the British Parliament to the Zionist Federation saying that the British would put their best effort into establishing Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people, not disrupting the rights of the non-Jewish population.

Once the Hashimite kingdom came and took control of Trans-Jordan (they managed to rest it from the British), Zeev Jabotinsky established a right-wing, all-or-nothing form of Zionism. The Jewish population was growing, and they were buying land from absentee Arab land owners. (It wasn't until the 1980s that they started calling themselves Palestinians. They were called Arabs.) The Arabs were upset about this, and in the 1920s there were pogrom within Israel. In 1929, there were major riots, which led to the creation of the Haganah, the Israeli Underground. There was a rumor that the Jews were going to occupy the Muslim holy sites. In the 1930s, there was significant increase in immigration from Europe because of what was going on there, which led to increased strife. The British threw their hands up, and published the White Paper, which limited Jewish immigration to Israel to 15,000 per year for 5 years, after which the Arabs would be able to set the numbers. The British knew what was going on. This led to all the smuggling. In 1945, a new government in the UK agreed to overturn the White Paper, but changed their mind. They agreed to let the Jews sitting in Displaced Persons camps to go to Israel, but changed their minds. (In the United States, Ellis Island was closed from 1924 on, disallowing Jewish immigration.)

In 1947, the UN Partition Plan split up Israel based on population centers. The Jews voted to accept it, the Arabs rejected it. May 14 the State was declared, May 15, the Arab population attacked. After the War of Independence, Israel controlled most of the land (except for Gaza belonging to Egypt, and West Bank belonging to Jordan).

After the Six-Day War, all of Sinai was captured, but was given back.

1/14 Class Notes

Personal experiences:
  • peaceful
  • relaxing
  • different
  • family
  • special
  • surrounded by loved ones
  • suspended in time
  • smell of bread
  • lights/candles
  • anticipation

Biblical sources:
  • creating light
  • making sense of chaos
  • separating
  • light is good
  • stop work
  • relief
  • gift
  • connect human and divine conditions

1/7 Class Notes

Memories of Jewish Holidays
Pesach 2007, Old City, Jerusalem
I was in the Old City with a good friend from California. I started out feeling fine, but as the night progressed, I became incredibly sick. I lay on the couch next to the seder table and fell asleep. I asked my friend to wake me every time they ate matzah or drank wine so that I could participate. It was really special to spend the holiday in Israel, and even though I was sick, I still feel like I got the essential components.
I wanted to write about this memory because even though I was sick and could have gone home (some blocks away), I was compelled to be a part of the seder, eating the matzah and drinking the wine.

Purim 2007, Jerusalem
I was enthralled with how party-like a Jewish holiday could truly be. It didn't fall on a yontif, so there was music, people could drive and travel. I remember how festive and fun everyone was. People were dressed up in the streets, walking around, drinking. The store owners would pour you a glass of wine if you stopped by their store. People were taking pictures of one another's costumes and meeting new people.

Holiday, def. noun. a set time, fixed by law or custom, off from school/work/normal daily life, which is used to commemorate a specific event/concept/person

Hag, def. noun. from Hebrew, has roots in pilgrimage, especially agricultural pilgrimage. A set time, fixed by Jewish tradition, used to celebrate, commemorate or observe a Jewish religious or customary event or concept.

Pesach: presentation ideas
  • seder as a lesson plan--four questions, and answers come from this
  • themes: spring, freedom, rebirth,
  • different names of passover
  • different haggadot--differences? can use the text in different ways, with different big ideas--political messages, spiritual, personal,
  • Exploring different haggadot in terms of ethnic and tradition differences, and what themes these differences represent.
  • Where can haggadot be different? "We were slaves in Egypt, now we are free." Themes: Feminist, slavery vs. freedom, hope,
  • Four sons, four questions
  • Israel tours
  • "Let all who are hungry come and eat."
  • Alternative haggadot
  • Civil rights

What is the major theme or themes of the haggadah?
What does the haggadah talk about in terms of "We were slaves in Egypt, now we are free."
How does the Haggadah describe the four sons and what does this say about types of people?
Is the haggadah more personal or communal? Does it have a political message?
How does the Haggadah bridge the story to modernity/modern life?
Why would someone choose to use this Haggadah?
What might someone consider when choosing a Haggadah?