5 Ways to Make Purim More Inclusive

Purim celebrations, by their definition, are festive and spirited events. Between the graggers, the shpiels, and the carnivals (most often held in echoey social halls), Purim is nothing if not loud and boisterous. Unfortunately, the onslaught of sights and sounds can be overwhelming for even typically developing children and their parents. This goes double for a family who has a child with sensory sensitivities. Often, those families will stay away from Purim celebrations out of fear that their child will become overwhelmed and have a full-on meltdown in front of everyone in the synagogue.  

Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to make Purim more accessible to every child and every family. Many are budget-neutral (or at least budget-low-impact) and all are relatively uncomplicated to make happen. Check out the list below, pick a few to try this year, and see what a difference it makes.

  1. Create a quiet space. More than anything else, the existence of a quiet space for kids (or adults) who are feeling overwhelmed will transform your Purim celebration. If you do just this, many families who would otherwise never consider coming will do so. All you need is a room nearby (but far enough to dilute some of the noise from the celebration) with a door that closes, stocked with a few pillows, blankets, art projects, sensory materials like beans and playdoh, or anything else you think your community might enjoy.

  2. Make headphones available during the shpiel (or throughout the day). Having a few sets of noise-reducing headphones available for kids (or adults) who get overwhelmed by too much noise will go a long way towards making folks feel welcome. We like the $12 ones here.

  3. Create a social story.  Social stories are simple illustrated booklets that tell kids what to expect at a Purim celebration. They are not meant to change the child’s behavior, but rather to help them understand events and the expectations and challenges associated with them. Click the links for great examples from Matan and Gateways.

  4. Offer gluten- and dairy-free hamantaschen.  Nothing says “Purim” quite like hamantaschen. Unfortunately, many kids (and adults) have dietary restrictions--gluten- and casein-free (i.e., dairy-free) diets are especially common--which don’t allow them to eat standard hamantaschen. You can make gluten and casein-free hamantaschen  following recipes like this one or purchase them commercially at places like Mariposa Baking Company or even Amazon.

  5. Tell the community that you are doing these things. All of your great work on inclusion will only succeed if people know you are doing it! Advertise the accommodations you are making explicitly on publicity associated with your Purim event: in email blasts, on flyers, in newsletters, on signage the day of the event, and beyond.

Chag sameach!

Tu B'shvat Prep For Educators

Tu B'shvat  

Spotlight on the Olive Tree:

Tu Bishvat - New Year of the Trees (Rosh Ha'shana La'ilanot) - was originally the ancient fiscal new year created to calculate the age of trees for tithing.

Today, it is celebrated in Israel with tree planting and as an environmental awareness day.

Trees (and planting significant numbers of them!) are of great importance in Israel. Many Israelis are named after trees. In your classrooms, among your friends, and in the halls of the Knesset, you will find people named: Amir, Amira, (treetop), Oren (pine), Ilan, Ilana, Ilanit (tree), Elah (Terebinth), Alon, Alona (Oak), Erez (Cedar), Hadas (Myrtle), Tomer (Palm) and Shaked (Almond).

Even though you are unlikely to find a kid name Zayit (Olive), of all the trees, the Olive Tree has a special national meaning. With its deep roots, steadfastness, gnarled and hollow trunk, and multipurpose fruit and oil, it serves as a symbol of survival, oneness with the land, and of course, peace. 

READ more in a post Vavi Toran wrote for the iCenter a while back.

It includes “Trees!" lesson plans for various grade levels developed by Rabbi Avi Deutsch for Jewish LearningWorks

In addition check this Visrael video about how Israeli kids celebrate Tu B'shvat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purim 2017: Moral Dilemmas | Lesson for Teens

This Purim, we've created activities, guiding questions and "moral dilemmas" scenarios to serve as a touchpoint for conversations with your teenage students. 

The Purim story offers many opportunities to connect with teenagers around themes occurring in their own lives -  passion, jealousy, fear of the other, love, relationships and responsibility.

Reading and exploring excerpts from the Megillah brings up a number of questions including:

• How and why are women judged? 

• When is the right time to “come out”, to stand up for what you believe in and to advocate for others?

• What responsibility do you share for the collective?

We hope the activities, guiding questions and “moral dilemmas” scenarios spark meaningful conversations with your students.

With questions or for support in creating more ideas please don’t hesitate to contact us:  Ivitemberg@jewishlearningworks.org or 415-751 6983 ext 149

 

Suggested activities:

1.    Divide teens into groups.  Assign each group one of the moral dilemmas below and ask them to create a short presentation on its relevance to them

2.    Ask the teens to role play a scene wherein the protagonist must decide between two opposing courses of action.  Charge the teens with acting out the protagonist’s thoughts

3.    Ask the teens to create a scene without an ending.  Offer the audience the opportunity to weigh in on how the tale should end

  

 

Moral Dilemmas:  

 

Scenario 1 Coming Out

Esther Finds Favor
…9. Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. 10. Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known. 11. Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.…                                        New American Standard Bible

 Discussion questions:

• Under what circumstances is it important to stand up and assert who you are?

• How can real change occur without taking steps that hurt someone’s feelings?

• When might ensuring your physical and emotional safety be more important than standing up for something you believe in?

Scenarios:

Gil and Evan are a gay couple who have been together for nine years.  After years of struggle, they are finally legally married.  They are going to visit Evan’s elderly mother (he is her youngest!). She lives in an assisted-living, tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone. Even though she knows that Gil and Evan are married, she introduces them to her friends as “my son Evan and his friend Gil. “

How would this situation be different if: it took place in an Orthodox shul in the Midwest, where Gil’s brother plays a prominent role as a community rabbi?

How would this situation be different if: it took place in rural Pennsylvania and Gil’s brother were afraid that if the true nature of the relationship between his brother to his husband were known, they might be physically hurt?

 

 

 

Scenario 2 Mutual Responsibility

 

…12. They related Esther's words to Mordecai. 13. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14. "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"…New American Standard Bible

Discussion questions:

• Does what happens to others of your religion, ethnicity or culture always impact you? 

 In what ways are you responsible to your people?

Scenarios:

David is very excited to be admitted to the college of his choice.  He is especially excited to get involved in rowing crew and in political environmental causes.  Soon after his arrival at school he is asked to participate in Hillel activities relating to recent expressions of anti-Semitism on campus.  David considers the invitation but between school, crew and advocating for endangered species he is uncertain he has time.  

How would this situation be different if: David were a senior who was very popular and held a position in student government?

How would this situation be different if: Speaking out against anti-Semitism might put David at risk of losing friends or being physically targeted on campus

 

 

Scenario 3 Beauty and Power

 

12. Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women-- for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women-- 13. the young lady would go in to the king in this way: anything that she desired was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. 14. In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.…

Discussion questions:

• Under what circumstances should women use beauty to access power?

• What tools might be effective for women to oppose a male dominated system or culture?

Scenarios:

Sophie is smart, and accomplished young woman.  She is frequently told by her peers that she could be a Hollywood star.  Sophie has always wanted to be a writing and hears of an opening at a publishing firm that she is interested in. A peer at the firm has shared that her interviewer has a “weakness for pretty women who wear revealing clothes.” Sophie is tempted to play up her looks for the interview.

OR

Josh is staffing a leadership program for teens.  Some of the girls wear clothes that he feels are designed to make them appear sexy.   Josh believes these girls may not understand the impact of their clothing choices.  When he tries to talk to the girls about wearing other clothes out of respect for themselves and their bodies, they tell him that he is being sexist and accuse him of trying to limit their sexual expression.

A Message from our President

For me, learning is the nexus of our past and our future. Jewish learning is the gateway to a profound heritage that touches and explores every aspect of the human experience with honesty, wisdom and humor.  Only through education can we embed generations to come with the richness of our intellectual and spiritual history, making it a central, meaningful part of their lives as Jews, today and tomorrow.   

Jewish learning inspires us to examine what it means to live by values deeply rooted in Jewish tradition: critical thinking and debate, welcoming the stranger, responsibility for the vulnerable, repairing the world.  Jewish learning builds connections to the past, among Jews across generations and cultures, to Israel, and to values that can help make a better world.

Jewish LearningWorks is the only organization in the Bay Area that provides the backbone for high-quality Jewish learning – ensuring that teachers have the highest possible knowledge and pedagogical skills, that curricula are up-to-date, and that first-rate educational opportunities are available in the plethora of learning environments, styles, and readiness that our diverse community and modern life demand. 

In today’s world, Jewish learning must be both broad and deep.  I am proud of how Jewish LearningWorks accomplishes this, through a range of offerings from our extensive programs for professional educators, to Israel-related initiatives, to opportunities that provide in-home and event-based experiences for Jews with a variety of interests and learning needs. 

 I am particularly grateful for the dedication and capabilities of our extraordinary board of directors, our devoted programming and administrative staff, and our exceptional CEO. 

As the parent of three now-grown children, I have witnessed and experienced the impact that strong Jewish education has had on my family and our community. When I became involved with Jewish LearningWorks, eight years ago, I realized how deeply my family’s Jewish education was impacted by this organization. I am grateful to Jewish LearningWorks and honored to serve as its board president. 

L’shalom,

Julie Dorsey