Kitah Chet (8th & 9th)

December 11, 2018

Dear Kitah Chet Parents,

I am writing to let you know about a program your students participated
this month. On Sunday 12/9, the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse’s
(JCADA) dating violence prevention initiative, AWARE®, ran their It’s Not Love®
workshop for the students of Kitah Chet and Kitah Zayin. Our goal for the
program was to educate our students about healthy relationships and the topic
was chosen based on a popular vote on social justice topics to discuss that
occurred in November in Kitah Chet’s classroom.

The workshop was a choose-your-own-path style workshop and every student assumed the role of a character who was in an abusive relationship or was friends with someone in an abusive relationship. Students engaged in small group discussions in order to identify characteristics of both a healthy and unhealthy relationship.

Engaging in a dialogue with your child about the program and healthy
relationships will help ensure this program has a lasting impact. For more
information about healthy relationships, warning signs of dating abuse, and how
to talk to your teen, we encourage you to visit If you
have any questions about this program, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Julie Margolies

October 2018

This Fall Kitah Chet will be focusing on the intersection of Judaism and social justice.  We will explore how the Jewish tradition defines charity, giving and justice, while discussing how we to analyze, identify and address inequity to create a more socially just world.  We will welcome a few guest speakers who work or volunteer for socially just organizations and will have the opportunity to ask them questions about their work.  Our semester will culminate in the design and completion of a social justice project, which the class itself will design.  ~ Julie Margolies

November 2018

End of Month Wrap-Up

Kitah Chet students continued to explore the concepts of tzedek and tzedakah this month and expanded their perspectives to consider how we can envision a more just world through applying the concept of tikkun olam. We learned about the cycle of social action, identified characteristics that ensure successful social justice projects, and collectively decided to focus our culminating project on the issue of domestic violence.

December 2018

Kitah Chet will welcome at least one guest this month to speak about their work promoting social justice.  We will work collaboratively to create a final project addressing the social justice issue our class has chosen to focus on: domestic violence.

Kitah Chet has just two sessions left this semester!  On 12/9, we will welcome a number of guest speakers to speak about social justice issues chosen by our class.  On 12/16 we will reflect on and celebrate our accomplishments, and finalize our culminating project.

February 4, 2019

Hi. I’m Laura Kumin. Daniel Ben-Chitrit and I are your daughter/son’s Religious School teachers in KItah Chet at Etz Hayim. Our module, Dishing the Diaspora, meets roughly every other Sunday for 8 sessions. (We would have had 9, but our first session, on January 13th, was snowed out.) Our goal is to provide students with a sense of how the diaspora has resulted in a wide variety of foods, particularly as those foods relate to Jewish holidays. Each class will have a theme or themes relating to the overall topic of the module. We’ll be cooking in most sessions and eating in all, so we hope to keep the students’ attention and interest up, as we cook and eat our way through this program.

Our first session included:

  • an introduction to the module;
  • an examination of what diaspora means, literally and also in the context of the dispersal of Jews throughout the world, facts about where Jews live today; and
  • finally a discussion of Tu B’shevat, ending with a Tu B’shevat ice cream seder.

The introduction included students answering questions about themselves, who they admire and why, what they like to eat, and what Jewish food traditions they have observed and participated in at home. In the second part we talked about the number of Jews worldwide at various points in history, where they lived and why they left certain countries or areas of the world. Our Tu B’shevat discussion centered on the food traditions for the holiday, including the sheva minim or 7 species of sacred grains and fruits, what carob and etrog are, and where the students might find them today. If you are interested in the Tu B’shevat seder, I’ve attached a copy to this note.

Our next session is this coming Sunday and we’ll be talking about Purim. We will also make hamantaschen using fillings that the students named as their favorites.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or want any additional information about the class. I enjoyed our first session and look forward to teaching, talking, and cooking with your daughters and sons.

Best regards, Laura Kumin

February 11, 2019

Hi. Laura Kumin here.

Purim is not for another several weeks. (It begins on Wednesday March 20th.) However, because of our class schedule, we celebrated it a bit early by making hamantaschen yesterday. Class began with a quick overview of health and safety in the kitchen. Then we got to the fun stuff – making and eating hamantaschen.

When I asked the students at our last session about their favorite hamantaschen flavors, not surprisingly, chocolate was the heavy favorite. Therefore, we made chocolate dough and a decadently rich chocolate filling. We also made a “plain,”  more traditional dough. Beyond chocolate, the students mentioned apricot and strawberry, so we had fillings with both of those flavors: one made primarily from canned apricots, cooked with a kiwi to help the apricots gel, and a quick-and-easy strawberry filling that was simply strawberry jam.

The students divided into two groups to make the doughs and fillings. Daniel led one group in making the chocolate dough and apricot filling, while I led the other in making the more traditional dough and the chocolate filling. Once we had prepared the doughs and fillings, the students worked in 3 groups to mix-and-match doughs and fillings, create, and bake the hamantaschen. Of course the final part of the class was spent eating and critiquing the various combinations.

As the students measured, mixed, rolled and baked, we talked about several techniques important in baking. They included the proper way to measure (scooping and leveling), why we use parchment paper on baking sheets (to keep the hamantaschen from sticking), and even how to modify a recipe when it turned out that we did not have as much unsweetened baking chocolate as the recipe called for (we added more chocolate chips and lowered the amount of sugar we used.)

The recipes we used are attached to this email. Although I had planned to discuss more about other Purim food traditions besides hamantaschen, we did not get the chance to do that. We’ll have a brief discussion on that subject on March 24th, along with conversation about shabbat.  (Kitah Chet did not have class last week during the school-wide shabbat session, so we will catch up on that in our own fashion next month.)

Daniel will lead the next session, on March 10th, on Kashrut.

Best regards,

Laura K.


March 2019

March 24, 2019

Yesterday morning, the smells wafting out of the kitchen at Etz Hayim were enticing, thanks to the challot that the students in Kitah Chet made for themselves and their families. We followed a “no-rise” recipe (attached) that uses yeast, but only requires a resting time of 10 minutes. While it hasn’t got quite the same texture as “real” challah, the shape, smell, and taste are reasonably close. (We had quite a bit of interest in tasting our challah from teachers and students in other classes as the loaves baked and their aroma permeated the first two floors of the building.) If you ask your student about our baking adventure, you’ll probably hear that we had to scramble mid-way through; the all-school shelter-in-place emergency drill caught us in the kitchen as one group of students waited for their loaves to finish baking and a second group was in the midst of braiding their dough. We left everything and scrambled to a nearby (empty) classroom, following Morah Laura’s instructions, until the drill was over. The challah loaves didn’t seem to suffer from our interruption.

We also discussed the general topic of Shabbat, including what some of your families do to mark the beginning of Shabbat, and what is involved in havdalah at the end. We did not get time to make our own besamim bags for havdalah, so I plan to do that in two weeks, at our next session. After that wrap-up activity leftover from our Shabbat session, we’ll turn to Passover and make our own versions of charoset at our next class, on April 7th.

Special thanks go out to Leah Edgar, our madracha for this session. Besides being a delight to work with, she helped with every phase of the session from sorting out the ingredients to cleaning up at the end – and everything in-between.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch through email or drop me a line and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Best regards,

Laura (Kumin)

Kitah Chet Challot

No Rise Challah – Recipe adapted from OMG Yummy – Makes 4 small loaves

  • (2) ¾ oz packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 medium size oranges (Cara Cara if available)
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg for egg wash
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 7 to 8 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 cup mini or regular chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon each of sesame seeds and poppy seeds

Prepping the Dough

  1. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven if you plan to bake two/four loaves at once or in the center of the oven for one; preheat to 375 degrees, and line 1 or 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Prep your orange juice and zest. To make a full tablespoon of zest you’ll probably need to zest more than one orange, depending on the size. If you zest both and have extra zest, you can put the excess in a small container or Ziploc bag and freeze it for future use. Squeeze the juice from the oranges – it should come close to 1 cup. If not, you can add store-bought orange juice to make a cup or just use a bit of extra water. Add hot water to the orange juice to equal up to two cups. Mixing the hot water with the cold juice should yield lukewarm liquid, which is what you want to mix with the yeast.
  3. Put the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, and pour in the orange juice and water. Whisk it (by hand) so the yeast dissolves. Let this stand for a couple of minutes to be sure you see some bubbles or action in the yeast mixture so you know your yeast is alive and well. Then whisk in (by hand) the 2 eggs, and the oil.
  4. Add 7 cups of the flour, the salt, sugar, and orange zest to the bowl, and beat with the dough hook for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary. I always end up using just the 7 cups of flour. In my heavy duty mixer, it takes only a minute or two for the dough to come together. But don’t go by time, go by look and feel. Smooth and elastic. If you poke it, does it spring back? Does it feel smooth or wet and sticky? If too wet and sticky, add a bit more flour.
  5. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl, form into a round loaf, then poke a 1-inch hole all the way through the center. Let the dough rest uncovered on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.
  6. Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 4 equal pieces for 4 loaves. Then divide each of the 4 pieces into 3 pieces. Those 3 strands will be the braids for each loaf.

Braiding the Dough

  1. If needed, re-flour the work surface. Flour your hands.
  2. Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 14 inches long. I form the dough into a cylinder then roll it out with the palms of my hands to about 14 inches long. If it’s uneven, I just squish it with my hands to even it out a bit but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Repeat with all the pieces so each loaf has 3 ropes of dough.
  3. Now braid your challah – Start by pressing together the ends of the 3 strands at one end. If you are adding chocolate chips, flatten each strand, put the chips in the middle and fold and roll the strands back up. Then braid as you would braid someone’s hair until you reach the end of the strands. Squish the ends together and fold under if you want to hide them. Move the braided loaf onto the parchment lined baking tray. Don’t be afraid to manipulate the loaf to even it out. It all ends up looking beautiful no matter what!

Baking the Bread

  1. Beat the extra egg in a bowl and brush it all over the loaves. Sprinkle the seeds on top or put your mixture of seeds into a small bowl. Then dip your finger into the leftover egg mixture, then into the seeds, then place the seeded finger onto the loaf to create the dots. It’s fun and looks great but if you are short on time, just sprinkle the seeds on and that will look fantastic as well.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes longer. About 15 minutes into the 350 degree baking time, rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 15 minutes more, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.
  3. Cool before serving.

April 2019

April 8, 2019

Yesterday was all about spices – and fruit – at Kitah Chet. We finished up our unit on havdalah by making besamim bags. After talking about what it takes to do havdalah at the end of Shabbat, we focused on the tradition of smelling fragrant spices to keep the sweet smell of shabbat going throughout the week. While we noted that traditionally besamim spices are somewhat limited, (cinnamon, nutmeg cloves and allspice are common), there are many more fragrant spices (and even a few flowers that are considered like spices). For example, we smelled cardamom, fennel seeds, dill seeds, and chamomile. The students then chose several of them for their own customized spice mix and made up the bags.

Then we moved on to the next holiday on the Jewish calendar – Passover. We began by discussing what foods we need to make a seder plate and what they represent. Then we honed in on two of the main Passover-specific foods, matzo and charoset. We talked about how people had a more difficult time going without wheat products that are not kosher for Passover in the days before gluten-free products were popular. Using Kosher for Passover Cheerios as an example, we talked about how people and companies make Passover-friendly version of common wheat dishes and products. I asked the students how they would explain Passover and the seder to a non-Jew who didn’t know anything about our holidays and traditions; their bottom line seemed to be that Passover seders are a long on pre-dinner stories and talk, followed by a delicious meal.

Our cooking/food activity was making charoset. After looking through a variety of different recipes for charoset, each student made his/her own version. They chose from a wide array of ingredients Morah Laura kindly provided and had the benefit of Daniel Ben-Chitrit’s explanation of his own family’s Sephardic charoset traditions. While the students made their charoset, Daniel (literally) whipped up two versions that are in the middle of the attached many charoset versions photo. The first contained traditional Ashkenazic ingredients, pureed into a paste and the second, also pureed, was Sephardic in both its ingredients and method.

Some but not all students pulsed their charoset in the food processor. At least two students chopped theirs entirely by hand and one (a team of two) processed half of their batch to a smoothie-like consistency. To give you a sense of how varied their own versions turned out to be, I provide below their recipes:

Ethan – 1 & 1/4 cups almonds, 2 tsp coconut flakes, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 1 & 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp honey, 3/4 of an apple chopped

Gabe and Ellie – (working as a team) – 2 apples (1 red and 1 green), 1 banana, 1 orange, 1/2 cup chopped pear, 1/4 cup grape juice

Liz – 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, 1 cup chopped red apple, 1/2 green apple chopped, 1 tbsp chocolate chips, 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup grape juice, 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 pinch cinnamon Process first 5 ingredients slightly. Microwave rest. Mix and let marinate, then drain excess liquid.

Hannah – 1 green apple chopped, 3 tbsp chocolate chips

Will – 1/4 cup coconut, 1/2 cup chopped apple, 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped dates, figs, some juice and chocolate chips, about 1 tbsp honey, some apricots (after tasting Will decided recipe should include more chopped apple)

Many thanks to Daniel (as always) who worked with me on all aspects of the program. Also to our substitute madricha, Leah, who is lots of fun in addition to being a great help.

And a few photos of our charoset making.

Bet regards,

Laura Kumin

April 29, 2019


We have 2 more sessions, next week (May 5) and then our last session two weeks later – on May 19th. At that last session, we will do a blow-out Jewish food fest where the students will cook about 5 dishes and we’ll invite the entire school to sample the results. From shakshuka to vegan tsimmes to a Yemeni flatbread called malawach, we’ll cook and sample dishes from all around the Jewish world. We need 5 parent volunteers to help us supervise the cooking – and of course, join us in the eating. If you can participate, please email me (at or Laura Naide (at Many thanks in advance for your help.
This week we were all about kugel. The students split into two groups, sweet and savory. The sweet group made Laura Naide’s fabulous cornflake crusted noodle kugel (attached) and the savory group did a potato kugel (also attached) from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame. The scene at the Etz Hayim kitchen was raucous, even perhaps a bit chaotic as one group mixed cooked noodles with prodigious amounts of dairy, topped with vigorously crushed cornflakes mixed with sugar while the other peeled and shredded potatoes before mixing them with eggs and onions. The results were delicious as I can personally attest, having tasted both kugels. I hope the students enjoyed them too. We made enough to share and parents, students and teachers stopped by for a taste as the aroma drew them in. We also talked about kugel – what it means, where the word came from, and what it might mean. From lokshen (noodle) kugel to vegetable versions (that caused at least one student to grimace), we described and considered the many possibilities of kugel ingredients. 
The students also participated in an “escape room” activity that tested their Passover knowledge as they pieced together clues scattered throughout the room. 
Next week we’ll talk about the Jews of South and Central America and their food. Rabbi Bass will join us for part of the time as a guest speaker. She promises to bring a Brazilian treat too. And we’ll also do research for our food fest two weeks later. 
Best regards, Laura K. 

May 19, 2019


Our Kitah Chet final session of the year was a fun Jewish Food Fest. With the help of Kitah Zayin (7th grade), our students made a fabulous feast that included foods from Israel (Israeli salad, falafel, labneh and tahini sauce), Morocco (shakshuka), Tunisia (malowach), Poland (tzimmes) and Germany (apple cake.)  Each group made a poster about their chosen country and dish. When the students from other grades, teachers, and parents came to eat, the students served and described their offerings. 

So glad that many of you were able to join us to enjoy the delicious food, along with the entire student body and teachers, as well as adults who were in the building for other reasons and followed the aromas downstairs to the social hall. 

Your kids have been a delight this year. In this final session, they proved themselves to be able cooks, generous hosts, and good at cleaning up.  Many thanks to all of you for encouraging your students to continue learning about Judaism and Jewish culture. I hope they’ve enjoyed the class and will continue to learn, cook and enjoy celebrating Judaism through food. 

A special thanks to my co-teacher Daniel Ben-Chitrit, a knowledgable and fun companion in this endeavor the whole year. Also, thanks to our madracha Hannah, and those who helped out today – Dan Rosman, Rose-Ella Slavin, former student (in Kitah Quetzal) Jeanne Kimelheim, and the teachers of Kitah Zayin, Julie and Stewart. Apologies in advance if I’ve misspelled anyone’s name or left anyone out. 

Enjoy the pics, and the recipes (except for falafel) are attached. Somehow I didn’t get a photo of the group I helped – the fabulous tzimmes makers – sorry. 

Have a great summer and please send my best wishes to your kids (my students.)


Laura K