My name is Caleb Malovany, and I’m in 4th grade. I go to religious school here at Etz Hayim, and over the years, I’ve learned a lot – including how to ask more questions! When I saw people at Sunday morning minyan wearing those black boxes with black straps, I was curious. I knew they were called “tefillin,” but I didn’t know what they were for. So I asked Rabbi Bass if I could come meet with her so she could teach me. She agreed, so I went to her office with my grandma on a summer morning. I brought my great-grandfather’s tefillin with me, to show her. My great-grandfather’s tefillin were too fragile to use, and Rabbi Bass was also concerned that they weren’t kosher because she couldn’t see the letter “shin” on them. So she brought out her set and let me try it on. She taught me what’s in the black boxes and that I can’t officially wear them until I’m 13 (bar mitzvah). My grandma was very proud to be with me during this meeting with the Rabbi. I would like to thank Rabbi Bass for teaching me all this stuff!
This summer I had the incredible experience of attending a 3-week summer session at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. I’ve been to Israel as both a tourist and a student including a 10-day session at Hebrew Union College as part of my Masters program. This was my first experience, however, attending a Hebrew ulpan (immersive Hebrew language instruction) and studying Talmud and Torah using the original texts (i.e., not translated).
At the CY, I studied Modern Hebrew 5 days a week for 3 hours a day in ulpan. In ulpan, there is no English. Everything we need to say and all of our questions must be in Hebrew! Before ulpan, my Modern Hebrew skills were limited to ordering in restaurants and asking for directions to the bathroom. The college classes I took in Biblical Hebrew were of limited help (it’s analogous to speaking Modern English v. Shakespearean English). Thanks to a wonderful teacher, Nitza, and my motivated classmates, my Hebrew improved greatly.
For three afternoons each week, I studied Talmud with Rabbi Joel Levy, Rosh Yeshiva (Head of the Yeshiva). The portion we studied was a discussion about the Noachide Laws. The Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח Sheva Mitzvot B’nei Noach) are a set of imperatives which were given by God as a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” – that is, all of humanity. The Seven Laws include prohibitions against worshipping idols, cursing God, murder, adultery and sexual immorality, theft, eating flesh torn from a living animal, as well as the obligation to establish courts of justice.
Of course studying Talmud is never straightforward. In 27 hours of class time we only translated and studied two pages of text! We spent many hours in small group discussion about the content of the seven laws and whether there were parallels elsewhere in the Torah and/or the Ten Commandments. We also discussed how these laws were enforced (or not) among the non-Jewish population living after the flood.
I also participated in a Tanach (Torah) class taught by Vered Hollander-Goldfarb. Our topic was the story of Jacob and Esau which I thought I knew well. But what started out as a story of sibling rivalry and trickery quickly turned into a much broader statement about transfers of power and morality throughout the Bible. Did you know, for example, that Mordechai is a descendant of Jacob and Haman a descendant of Esau? The prophecy given to Rebecca, that there were two nations in her womb, continues to resonate throughout our Jewish narrative.
The Conservative Yeshiva attracts students from all over the world and from all walks of life. Several students were fellow Jewish educators. Others were academics, clergy, and/or recent converts to Judaism. There were students from the US, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Hong Kong. The collective experiences of my fellow classmates added to the richness and value of my studies.
When I wasn’t studying, I spent time wandering around Jerusalem. I prayed at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) and put notes in the Wall from our Religious School students. I visited the Israel Museum, Yad VaShem (the Holocaust Museum), the Yishuv Museum, and the Hebrew Music Museum. I traveled to the shuk (market) many times and enjoyed fresh figs, falafel, hummus, bourekas, and other delicious foods.
The CY Summer Program is open to anyone who wants to study in a liberal Jewish environment in Jerusalem. You can drop in for a day if you are visiting Israel. If you are interested in learning at the CY I would be happy to share more of my experiences with you. Thank you to the congregation for supporting my learning and professional development. I look forward to implementing my new knowledge and skills in our Religious School and Adult Education programming.
This year’s teen field trip was to historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We kept busy with a tour of the Museum of American Jewish History where we learned about different waves of Jewish immigration to the United States, starting in the 17th Century up to the present day. Some highlights were an original pair of Levi Strauss jeans and a letter from George Washington to the Jewish community with the famous quote, “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”
We also toured the Eastern State Penitentiary where we saw the restored synagogue that Jewish inmates used to pray and hold religious events such as seders.
In between “educational” stops we sampled delicious Philadephia food at Reading Terminal Market, the Bourse, Su Xing kosher Chinese restaurant, and Federal Donuts. We also had some time for shopping and touring the historic area that houses the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Finally, we “escaped” from Alcatraz in under one hour at an escape room adventure.
Next year we go back to New York to learn more about Judaism and to eat more delicious food!
Thank you to Dan & Hannah Rosman who chaperoned.
On Sunday, February 3, 2019, all ages learned together at our All-Shul Learning: Shabbat event. We started the day with a minyan service and then discussed the 39 Melachot, or categories of work that are prohibited on Shabbat. Rabbi Bass explained that these categories relate to the building of the Mishkan, the portable, temporary version of the Holy Temple that the Jews carried throughout their forty years in the desert. For example, we cannot sew on Shabbat because our ancestors sewed curtains for the Mishkan.
Next, we broke into groups and travelled through four stations. At one station, Will Rivlin and Abby Cohen led the group in a spirited Shabbat song session. At another station, Lital Burr and Jeannie Sklar helped the group make wooden plaques to display the words of the Hamotzi prayer. At our third station, Maddy Naide and Jeana Kimelheim showed the group how to create fabric hallah covers to use on Shabbat. At our fourth station, Rabbi Bass, Leah Edgar and Jennifer Bachus taught the group how to braid and decorate party hallah.
At the hallah station, Rabbi Bass explained the mitzvah of “taking hallah.” This phrase refers to separating a portion of the dough before braiding. In the days of the Temple, this portion of dough was set aside as a tithe for the priests, or kohanim. In modern times, we separate a small piece of dough — about the size of an olive — and either burn it or dispose of it respectfully, rendering inedible the portion that God commanded be set aside.
As the day drew to a close, we held a Kahoot (online) quiz in the sanctuary to test participants’ knowledge of the Saturday morning service. Questions such as “What is a Gabbai” (someone who assists with the Torah reading and the service) and “What is the Hagbaha” (lifting the Torah after the reading) did not stump the crowd. We know our Shabbat stuff!
We hope that congregants will join us on March 10, 2019, for our next All-Shul Learning event, which will cover the aspects of kashrut.
Thank you to everyone who helped prepare for the event and run the stations: Rabbi Bass, Lital Burr, Will Rivlin, Jeannie Sklar, Jennifer Bachus, Leah Edgar, Jeana Kimelheim, Abby Cohen & Maddy Naide.
On Saturday, January 26 approximately 15 people from Etz Hayim including parents and students gathered at Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Community Center to participate in a Havdalah ceremony and enjoy an evening of roller skating. Havdalah (Hebrew: הַבְדָּלָה , “separation”) is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Sabbath and ushers in the new week. The ritual involves lighting a special havdalah candle with several wicks, blessing a cup of wine and smelling sweet spices. Moreh Will led us in a musical version of the Havdalah ceremony and the students helped us with the ritual objects.
Havdalah is a short and sweet ceremony that is easy to incorporate into your family’s traditions. You can learn the music from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gebsb-po8jY
When you follow Havdalah with roller skating, it makes for a fantastic Saturday evening.
Thank you to Alexis Joyce & Laura Naide for planning the event and to Moreh Will for leading Havdalah
On Wednesday, December 5, we celebrated Hanukkah with a donut decorating challenge called “Donut Wars”. We had a total of 45 people!
Students were randomly divided into teams of 4. Each team participated in 3 rounds of donut decorating, ala the cooking show “Chopped”. Each round had a theme (“Lights”, “Maccabees” and “Miracles”) and a mystery ingredient. In addition to the donuts and the mystery ingredient, students could use items from a central pantry. The pantry held treats such as chocolate chips, frosting, candy sprinkles, and colorful cereals.
Students had 8 minutes for each round to decorate their donuts. The donuts were judged by an esteemed panel of CEH Religious School teachers. Teams were judged on presentation, taste, and creative use of the mystery ingredients. Prizes went to the 3 top teams, plus a special prize to the team that kept their workplace the cleanest.
Our students worked together beautifully and created surprising interpretations of our Hanukkah themes. During the second round (“Maccabees”), several teams decorated their donuts with a hammer motif. In all three rounds, there was an abundance of creativity, enthusiasm, and sugar. Food Network watch out – we have some stars on the rise!
Thank you to RS Teachers: Adam Wassell, Robyn Norrbom, Lital Burr, Amanda Sky, Emma Rosman, Hannah Rosman, Jeana Kimelheim, Rabbi Bass, and Edgar Rendon.
–Laura Naide Director of Religious Education
On Sunday, November 18, 2018, grandparents, parents, and children gathered at CEH to learn “What’s Jewish About Bubbies?”
Bubby (plural: bubbies or bubbes) is a Yiddish term for grandmother. The Yiddish term for grandfather is Zayde. We call our grandparents many other terms of endearment (e.g., granny, pop-pop, savta, saba, mimi, grandpa), but bubbe and zayde are very well-known terms among many Jewish families.
Jewish law and tradition emphasize the responsibility to honor our parents and grandparents. From the Ten Commandments (“Honor Your Mother and Father”) to the recitation of our ancestors at every prayer service, we are reminded to show respect and reverence to the generations before us. Grandparents play an especially important role in teaching Jewish traditions to their families.
To celebrate grandparents, we ate cookies and milk, sang songs, read stories about Jewish values, created grandparent awards, and played grandparent bingo. We learned that the group strongly preferred chocolate chip cookies although gingerbread/ginger snaps were a strong runner up. Moreh Will taught us the Hebrew words for family members such as father (Abba) and mother (Ima). We also played several exciting games of dreidel in our new “spinagogue.” We had around 30 people ranging in age from newborn to grandparents.
The most important lesson of the day was how special it is to spend time with our families. Based on the success of this event, we are now planning another grandparent-focused celebration for Spring 2019.
Next Event: What’s Jewish About Libraries?
–Alexis Joyce, Laura Naide, Will Rivlin
On October 30, 2018, five CEH staff members attended The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Family Programming Professionals Conference. CEH was represented by Laura Naide, Director of Religious Education; Alexis Joyce, Preschool Director; and Linda Lichtman, Milena Serrato and Ana DeMaree, Preschool Teachers. Altogether more than 50 Jewish professionals from the Greater DC Metro area met to learn and share ideas about family programming.
We started the day with a text study led by Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, the Federation’s Scholar-in-Residence. Our text (Brachot 10a) was the basis of a discussion about how we deal with perpetrators of evil. Do we blame the perpetrator? Or do we embrace the idea that every person created by God has the capacity to do good in which case we focus on the sin and restitution/rehabilitation. We were able to share our thoughts on this dilemma in light of the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh.
We next learned from a diverse panel on “Creating an Inclusive Community.” The participants included a same-sex couple with one Jewish and one non-Jewish spouse, a Jewish parent of developmentally-delayed children, and a transgender Jew of color. The panelists shared the best and worst experiences of their Jewish journeys. The overarching messages were: 1) never assume that you know someone else’s journey, and 2) engage the person, not the “category.”
We concluded the morning with two professionals from PJ Library who shared four family engagement principles. First, “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” This means that frequent social interaction builds lasting relationships. Second, “Stop, look, and listen.” Make time to reflect on your programming and question it – does it meet family’s needs? Third, “PJ Library is a GPS for parents in the driver’s seat.” While PJ Library and other Jewish institutions can guide, support and incentivize Jewish engagement, parents ultimately choose their destination. And, fourth, “Jewish content, quick and deep.” It is important to offer accessible Jewish content that addresses parents’ deepest needs and inspires them to learn more.
The afternoon was similarly busy, with workshops on experiential programming, building relationships, marketing and family education. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to meet in small groups and put together action items and follow up with a colleague
This opportunity to learn and build relationships with other Jewish professionals will help us to continue to provide excellent family programming at CEH. This year’s programming, “What’s Jewish About . . . “ provides opportunities for families to learn about life through a Jewish lens at different locations throughout Arlington. We invite you to join us at our next event, “What’s Jewish About Bubbies,” at CEH on Sunday, November 18 at 1:30 PM.
PJ Library offers FREE books delivered to your home for children ages 6 months to 11 years. Visit pjlibrary.org to sign up.
— Laura Naide & Alexis Joyce, Family Programmers
Check out these fabulous photos of the Religious School celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary!
On April 8, Kitah Chet (8th & 9th Grade) traveled to New York City for 48 hours of Jewish drama, history and food. We hopped on a bus at Union Station in DC and were dropped off later that morning in mid-town Manhattan. Our first stop was Maoz, a kosher fast-casual falafel restaurant. The food was delicious, but the restaurant was tiny so we ate our lunch al fresco on a cold breezy day! After dropping our bags off at our hotel some of us walked around the Times Square area and others chose to chill out at a local Starbucks.
Our first event was attending the show “The Band’s Visit” at Barrymore Theatre. In this show, a mix-up sends a group of Egyptian musicians to a remote Israeli town. When the locals take them in for the night, their lives intertwine in the most unexpected ways. For some students, this was their first Broadway show. The singing and acting was wonderful and we all appreciated the experience. We spent the rest of the evening eating – first at John’s Pizza, which is located in a renovated church and still retains a beautiful stained-glass ceiling. We stopped for dessert at Magnolia Bakery, renowned for banana pudding and enormous cake slices.
The next morning, we took the subway to the Lower East Side for a visit to the Tenement Museum. Our tour took place in a building originally constructed in 1863 and home to many Jewish immigrants over the years. We saw renovated-to-the-era apartments and learned about the garment work that many Jewish families did to survive (giving rise to the infamous term “sweat shop”). The students had many questions about how families survived, if children went to school, and what life was like within these cramped and dark apartments.
We finished our NYC experience with a kosher Chinese vegetarian lunch at Buddha Bodai, followed by a stop for knishes at Yonah Schimmel’s famous restaurant (tip: try the broccoli and potato knish). There was lots of napping on the bus ride home.
Kitah Chet will take an annual trip to experience living Judaism in other cities. Stay tuned for next year’s trip to Philadelphia!
Chaperone and Knish Lover