We are now in the month of Elul, which precedes the month of Tishri; the month of the High Holy days. During Elul we are to prepare ourselves for the upcoming holiday season. There are many different ways to get ready and as usual I am personally preparing for the High Holy days by preparing our educational program at Lakeside Congregation. School this year will look a little different and a little like it has in the past.
On the first day of school we will have a Kickoff for Lakeside which will feature a Firetruck bouncy house, a police car, an opportunity to say and write thank you notes to our local first responders. music, making s'mores, and information tables by our Lakeside affiliates. It will be a fun morning for the whole family and for prospective new members. I hope to see all of you at our opening program.
We are also very excited to launch our new Lakeside Academy for grades 5-10. Students will be able to chose from a list of electives for the 2nd half of class. Students will have a core curriculum from 10:30-11:15am and from 11:15am-Noon they will be able to chose an elective. Here is a video with some of the electives we will be offering. Lakeside Academy Electives
Other ways to get ready during the month of Elul is to #BlogElul. I hope to start blogging shortly and here are the topics that I will participate in Rabbi Phyllis Sommer of Am Shalom.
It is daunting to try and blog every day and I have never been very successful. It does push me to think, prepare and get ready in many different ways. Today's blog is understand. I think to understand you must first know what you don't know. After opening school for over 30 years (27 here at Lakeside) I almost always have butterflys the night before. I have come to understand that I can't always anticpate everything that will happen or 100% accurately predict how the day will turn out. I can do all the hard work before hand over the summer to insure there will be a modicum of success and continue to build on my understanding to make next year even better. I look forward to blogging Elul and preparing for the High Holy days.
We have been in Kibbutz HaTzofim Bet for over a week and the chanichim (campers) and Madrichim (counselors) are settling into their groove. When your chanichim come home happy and tired this Sunday here are few things we think you can incorporate into your family discussion:
- Helping out in our community: In Tzofim we helped each other out all day every day. Your child has been on Meal prep: setting the tables and doing some easy food prep, clean up: cleaning our eating areas and doing dishes as well as Nikayon (general clean up). Most days, except Shabbat, we give Nikayon scores to every Ohel, tent. Chanichim work very hard to earn top scores by organizing their belongings and making their beds!
- D’bar Ivrit: Speak Hebrew every day: Your child will come home with dozens of new Hebrew vocabulary words. Ask them their favorite words and write them on note cards to post around the house.
- Enhancing spirituality: Our chanichim have all prepared daily t’filot, services, for our community. Through their beautiful words and images they lead us in prayer. They also began every meal with the Motzi prayer and end every meal with the Birkat Hamazon, grace after meals. Try adding the blessing over the bread on Fridays to make Shabbat a little more special.
- Being kind to animals and tending the garden: Our chanichim take care of all of the animals in our refet, farm. They feed them, pet them and as they answered when we asked, “we hang out with them”. Chanichim also tend our garden by watering, weeding, and hoeing the ground. They attend to these duties every day except on Shabbat.
- Trying something new: Our limud, leaning
activities has revolved around heroes and we encouraged our chanichim to
try something new every day. They climbed Etgar our high ropes course
and were challenged on our low ropes course where they had to spot one
another as the ropes were about one-foot off the ground. We have more
surprises for the end of our week and be sure to ask your chanich about
what super power they chose for their cape. Try to keep the challenge
going at home and plan something small for you and your child to try
that is different from your everyday routine.
- Ending the day: Every Ohel, tent (and in other eidot, units, this happens as well) our Madrichim create a special experience for our chanichim. Every night “lights out” is different. It could be “meet the Madrich”, story time, music or just about anything that will calm chanichim and bring them together as a chevre, friend group. Most of the girls Ohelim sing the moon song (ask them about it!) and all of the Ohelim end the day with singing Shema together. We know that when your child gets home they will miss their friends, their madrichim and saying good night in this special way.
We are so proud of everything that we have taught, learned and experienced over these past two weeks. Don’t be afraid to ask your child to clean up their room, do the dishes, set the table or try out something new. They may be ready for a new pet or to help out in your garden. They have been all doing these activities and so many more and we hope they will continue their quest for enriching their Jewish identity, friendship connections and independence.
Vanessa M. Ehrlich is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park, Illinois. Nicole A. Jahr is Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Beth El Madison, Wisconsin. Together, they proudly serve as Segel for Tzofim Bet.