Friday, May 30, 2014

The Journey Continues High School Graduation, 2nd Grade and Confirmation

The week began with Ethan's graduation from High School.  It was a proud moment to remember.  Last child to move on to college is certainly a milestone and we look forward to many more.  I was struck by Ethan's graduation and my visit to Washington DC and confirmation.

While staying with my daughter in Washington DC.  I visited her 2nd grade classroom and as always I realize how important her work is with her students.  I showed them an iMovie about Ethan's graduation and we had a conversation about how important a High School diploma is for everyone.  I explained that after High School Ethan will go to college and that is also very important and another step in the right direction.

I explained to get a good job you must continue studying, you need to know how to read, do math and without these skills it is not easy in this world.  I know that every day in 2nd grade is hard to connect how the math tests and grammar lessons translate to High School graduation never mind a job.  I know that the students are inspired by her teaching and they have learned quite a bit from her.

This is not an easy job and although there are many rewards in teaching there are just as many challenges.  I have always admired teachers, whether in public school, Religious School and at any age.  It is not an easy profession and we need to look at our schools and students and help them learn so they can be successful in life.

Another milestone which all of my children achieved is Confirmation.  At Lakeside our confirmands are in 10th grade and our service is on Shavuot, Wednesday June 4, at  7:00 pm.

Again it may not be easy to connect staying in Religious School and becoming a Jewish adult  and living Jewishly at University but I encourage all my B'nai Mitzvah students to continue with Confirmation and study with Rabbi Serotta.  You may not need a confirmation certificate to find a job but we know it will enrich your life.  Please join us for this beautiful service.  I have always enjoyed confirmation and I know that this year's class will not disappoint us.   I look forward to more milestones with my personal children and my other children, my students.  I look forward to seeing you at Confirmation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tzedakah, Tzedakah, Tirdof, Tzedakah, Tzedakah you shall pursue Part 2

To continue the Tzedakah Recipients for Lakeside Congregation  Religious School for 2014 here we go:

2nd grade: Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel.

The Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of disabled individuals through a unique therapeutic and recreational method: Animal Assisted Therapies 
(AAT). Today, over 700 people participate in our therapeutic programs. Along with therapeutic riding lessons, outdoor riding trails and a dog-assisted therapy program, the center offers in cooperation with the Israeli Sports Academy, Wingate, professional courses and training in AAT. 

5th Grade will be donating to PADS, via Lakeside congregation.  Every third week during the school year we pack and donate 50-100 lunches to send the PADS Shelter in Waukegan.

Packing for PADS
PADS’ vision is to provide a path to stable housing and self-sufficiency for everyone who experiences homelessness in Lake County. Our greatest hope is to help end homelessness and ensure happy, healthy, and safe lives for  generations to come.
We will take the 5th grade money and be able to buy some needed supplies when we pack for PADS.  We always seem to run out of bread, or chips and this will allow us to quickly run out and buy what we need on a Sunday.  

6th Grade is donating to Camp CAR, Madrich Will Rivlin will be a counselor there later this week.  

Camp CAR welcomes elementary school students from the city of Chicago. Campers who attend have the opportunity to meet teen mentors, eat three nutritious meals a day, and enjoy activities such as swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, cooking, and a variety of sports and team building activities – all for free!  If you are interested in donating to camp CAR:

Camp Car Supplies or checks can be dropped off or sent to: 
Camp CAR Donations 
Attn: Logan Zinman 
1121 Lake Cook Rd. Suite D 
Deerfield, IL 60025

I think that all of the projects  our students have chosen are well deserving of our Tzedakah we have collected all through the year.  Pleaser take a look at these projects and  I know you will be as proud of our students as I am.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tzedakah, Tzedakah, Tirdof, Tzedakah, Tzedakah you shall pursue Part I

Not withstanding my title which is a play on  "Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof - Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may live, and inherit the land which the Lord your God gave you (Deuteronomy 16:18)." Sometimes at the end of a school year I do feel as if I am pursuing 1) Asking each class to decide on a specific Tzedakah 2) Getting these names and addresses to our bookkeeper  3) cutting checks and 4) publicizing the not just the miracle but what tzedakah we have supported this year.  Our teachers and students have made some wonderful choices. 

JNF Box from years past
I imagine that some of our parents and for sure our grandparents grew up with a Jewish National Fund Blue Box in their house.  It is a mitzvah, to give Tzedakah right before Shabbat, right before you light candles and sing Kiddush and do Motzi.  Now there are so many different Jewish charities and projects we can support it is hard to choose which one should get all the pennies, nickels, and dollars our students have contributed over the year.  Here is our list.  I recommend that you click on the link and find out more about all of these wonderful organizations.  

Kindergarten - 1st Grade will be donating a leaf on our Lakeside's Tree of Life.  If you want to donate a leaf for a simcha in your family feel free to contact Allison Gelman at  

3rd Grade:  The Ark
The ARK provides free social and medical services to help distressed members of our Chicagoland Jewish family return to self-reliance.  Lakeside does a food drive from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot for the Ark.  

4th Grade:  Leket Israel National Food Bank
Leket Israel
Serving as the country's National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity amongst the growing numbers of Israel's poor. In 2013, with the help of over 50,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescued and distributed 25 million lbs of produce and perishable goods1 million prepared meals, and 1.1 million (8,000/school day) volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children. Food, that would have otherwise gone to waste, was redistributed to hundreds of nonprofit partners caring for the needy. Leket Israel offers nutrition education, capacity building, and food safety projects to further assist our partners.

7th Grade:  Keshet
Keshet is the premier provider of educational, recreational, vocational and social programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities operating according to traditional Jewish values.  Our mission is to enhance independence and integration to optimize personal potential.  Many of our 7th grade students have participated in Keshet's Buddy Sports program which allows their students to participate in baseball, bowling and have a fun time.  

8th and 9th Grade, Pre-Confirmation  St. Baldrick's Foundation: Rabbi Ike Serotta's Donations page
At the end of October, Rabbis Phyllis Sommer and Rebecca Schorr had a crazy idea: what if thirty-six Reform rabbis would shave their heads to bring attention to the fact that only 4% of United States federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for all childhood cancers as well as raise $180,000 for this essential research. As of today they have raised $617,993.  

We have a few more Tzedakah recipients and I will write more in a new post!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Counting the Omer; What are sheaves of wheat?

Ariella gathering wheat
Every year students at Lakeside know that between Pesach and Shavuot (2 of the 3 Pilgrimage Holidays, Sukkot is the third) we collect cereal boxes on the bimah to help us count the Omer.  As you can find on My Jewish Learning

"The omer refers to the forty-nine day period between the second night of Passover (Pesach) and the holiday of Shavuot. This period marks the beginning of the barley harvest when, in ancient times, Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest. The word omer literally means "sheaf" and refers to these early offerings."

I know my students think of cereal boxes when counting the Omer and I am glad they have learned something about this ritual.  I am not sure if they have ever seen sheaves of wheat.  Why would they?  

The pictures on my blog are of my good friend Ariella Nachshon who lives in a city outside of Tel Aviv with her family. Whenever I go to Israel Ariella opens her house and we always have a wonderful time together.   She celebrates holidays back on her kibbutz and we see her, her family and her community actually gathering sheaves of wheat.  These pictures tell the story so beautifully.   I could never explain with words the story these pictures tell us.  I hope to show some of my students these beautiful pictures of harvesting wheat.  I suppose it might open a discussion of how do we get from wheat to cereal but I have a few days to work on that answer.  Early Shabbat Shalom to all.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Friday Night Live and ARZA Shabbat

This Friday night at Lakeside we have the convergence of Friday Night Live with Adam Kahan and his band Kavannah and ARZA Shabbat.  Now you may be familiar with FNL here at Lakeside; it's a wonderful t'filah full of music and instruments.

Explaining ARZA may take a few more lines.  From their webpage:

Our Mission

ARZA strengthens and enriches the Jewish identity of Reform Jews in the United States by ensuring that a connection with Eretz Yisrael is a fundamental part of that identity.

ARZA develops support for and strengthens the Reform movement in Israel and promotes advocacy for a Jewish, pluralistic, just and democratic society in the State of Israel.

ARZA links the people and institutions of the Reform Movements in Israel and the United States, informed by a love of Israel and a belief in K’lal Yisrael – Jewish peoplehood.

ARZA works in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and their affiliates. ARZA represents United States Reform Jews in national and international Zionist organizations.

Rabbi Josh Weinberg
ARZA is now run by a former student of mine:  Rabbi Josh Weinberg and I could not be more proud of him.  He recently taught at our annual NATE Kallah held here in Chicago.  His topic was not easy:  How do we talk about Israel: difficult questions.  Many people attended and I know they enjoyed studying with Rabbi Weinberg and learned how to tackle hard questions.

Adam Kahan 
ARZA is wonderful organization which melds together my two passions Reform Judaism and Zionism.  ARZA gives Reform  and Progressive Jews all over the world the opportunity to come together and find common ground.  As a member of Reform congregation you may choose to join ARZA and then have a voice in upcoming Zionist elections.  I encourage you to join ARZA and make sure your voice counts.  ARZA also sponsors great activities including Bike the Drive, take a look.

How does this all blend into Friday Night Live you ask.  We will be singing Israeli songs and of course every t'filah mentions Israel and we will try and point that out to you.  Adam and his band have always been able to take us to a wonderful spiritual place and I know that Friday night they will take us to Israel as well.  I know you will enjoy coming out to pray with Adam and his band this Friday night at
 7:30 pm at Lakeside.  Early Shabbat Shalom and I hope to see everyone tomorrow night.