Professional Development

Jewish Values in Action: How Youth Professionals Help Teens Thrive

Jewish Values in Action: How Youth Professionals Help Teens Thrive

By Dana Sheanin This summer my daughter was bullied and harassed by her male counterpart on the regional board of a national Jewish youth organization. The organization's professional staff failed to take meaningful action, and I watched my daughter suffer for months before this young man was finally removed from his leadership position.

Opportunities for Teen Educators Abound through the Teen Initiative

Last Friday, 20 youth professionals met at the Jewish Federation of the East Bay for our Youth Mental Health First Aid training. This training filled up within hours of registration opening - proving that there is, indeed a demand for this critically important work.

Professional Development: A Call to Action

By Dana Sheanin and Jenni Mangel The 2016 Leading Edge study " Are Jewish Organizations Great Places to Work? " identifies five factors of great workplaces. One of these is talent development: "Leading places to work recognize that professionals crave opportunities to advance their knowledge, skill sets and abilities.

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







Hanukkah Resources for Educators

By Vavi Toran – Jewish LearningWorks

Scroll to explore:

·      The Dual Narratives of the Holiday – Historic and Miraculous
·      Hanukkah or Chanuka? (Or is it Hannukah?...)
·      Light as a Metaphor – Artists’ Perspective
·      Illuminate SF Festival of Light
·      Hanukkah Songs
·      Humor
·      Other Resources


The Dual Narratives of the Holiday - Historic and Miraculous

"Hanukkah, one of the most popular holidays of the Jewish calendar, is a military victory celebration. The Maccabees, the heroes of the holiday, were a band of Jewish fighters who took to the hills and the caves outside of Jerusalem to attack the Seleucid forces. Despite their small numbers, they forced the Greeks to retreat. Ultimately the Maccabees regained control of the Temple and of Jerusalem. But the victory could not have come about without combat, suffering, and even death, all wrought by the Jews. Sadly, if the Jews wanted their autonomy back, they were going to have to fight-and to kill-for it.

Despite Hanukkah's overtly militaristic origins, the focus of the holiday gradually metamorphosed from military power to the miracle of the oil. Now God, and not the Maccabee fighters, was at center stage.

The miracle of the oil embellishes the story. When the Maccabees recapture the Temple, they found a sole cruse of oil with enough oil for one day. But miraculously when they lit the lamp the oil lasted for eight days, until more oil was ready.

The miracle of the oil is nowhere attested in the "eyewitness" accounts from the era. Instead, it's found for the first time in the Talmud, a text that emerged hundreds of years later.

To be sure, the "new" version of Hanukkah does not in any way deny the role of the Jewish warriors, but it certainly does shift the focus. It is therefore not surprising that early Zionists, who knew that they would have to fight for their independence, insisted that the Hanukkah story be "restored" to its former version.

In an attempt to make the Hanukkah story more fitting for the challenges that Zionism faced, the poet Ahron Ze'ev (1900-1968) among many others rejected that passive God-centered rabbinic reading (or rereading) of the Hanukkah narrative, and wrote a children's song that became an anti-religious mainstay of the secular Israeli celebration of Hanukkah. The poem “We are carrying Torches” insists that "a miracle did not happen to us, we did not find a cruse of oil, we chiseled away the stone until we bled." Not God, but people. Not miracles, but pure physical might. Not oil but courage. Those are what will save the Jewish people."

- from Saving Israel by Daniel Gordin (Chapter 11: The Wars That Must Be Waged)

Whether you agree with the interpretation of Daniel Gordis about the reasons for the dual focus of the holiday or not, these two narratives do live side by side during Hanukkah. Perhaps in the Diaspora we tend to emphasis the divine intervention in a form of a miracle and in Israel many still focus on the courageous acts by the Maccabees. Whatever the balance between these two narratives - the historic and the miraculous - we joyously celebrate the holiday with lights, stories, dreidel spinning and oil drenched food!

Articles exploring many meanings and multiple narratives of Hanukkah.

Agnon's "Whirlwind of Voices" - Secular Zionism, Hannukah, and Contemporary Jewish Identity
by Roni Zemelman in Kol Hamevaser

Creating Light Each Day
by Gila Sacks for JOFA

Al HaNissim: Do I Really Believe in Miracles?
by Noam Zion From Haggadahs-R-Us

The Truth(s) About Hanukkah
by Shawna Dolansky for the Huffington Post

The True Meaning of Hanukkah
by Hilary Leila Krieger for NY Times Op-Ed

Hanukkah or Chanuka? (Or is it Hannukah?...)

There is major disagreement and confusion around the proper spelling of the name of the holiday in English.  Even Wikipedia deals with the alternative spellings issue in its main article.

We choose to use all of them!

Read More: Balashon: Etymology of Chanukah 

Light as a Metaphor

The song We come to chase the darkness away (Banu Choshech Legaresh) is a Hannukah staple that illuminates the power of light over darkness. This year it has an added significance for all of us.

We come to chase the darkness away.
In our hands are light and fire.
Each individual light is small.
But together the light is mighty.
Flee, darkness and night.
Flee before the light.

Four artists from four different disciplines bring their own unique perspective and meaning to the motif of LIGHT

"From every human being there rises a light..."
- Baal Shem Tov

Design by Tom Geismar

The poster designed by Tom Geismar is a part of Voices & Visions™, a program by Harold Grinspoon Foundation. A collection of 18 images, the series pairs leading figures of contemporary art and design with powerful quotes from Jewish thinkers across the ages. 

A traveling exhibit of 18 framed posters accompanied by professional development and educational guidelines will soon be available to your school/institution through Jewish LearningWorks. 
For more info

Discussion Questions:

1. Who are the lights in your life?

2. In what way are you a light to others?   


Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah is a popular animated film about the deeper meaning of light during the Festival of Lights. Retelling of the Chanukah story, it delivers the message that it is all right to be different and to stand up for what you believe. Available in our local Jewish Community Library and for sale 


H.N. Bialik - I Didn't Win Light in a Windfall The poem is about the art of poetry (Ars Poetica). Haim Nachman Bialik, Israel's national poet, examines the sometimes-painful process of poetry writing, the way it is perceived by the readers and their response to it. Light here is a metaphor for the poetic expression. Light, like a precious stone, is chiseled and quarried from the poet's heart. 
In-depth analysis of the poem in Hebrew


 Amir Dadon - Great Light Click to play

Amir Dadon - Great Light
Click to play

This song describes the hardship, doubts and loneliness associated with the road to independence, and the great light that emanates in the process of resolving these difficulties.   

Singer-songwriter Amir Dadon was born in Beer Sheva, wrote for and played with Idan Reichal Project, Shlomo Artzi and many others. His maiden album was a great success in 2010 and the song "Or Gadol" (A Great Light) was watched by more than two million viewers on YouTube. Besides his musical career, Amir works with youth at risk by introducing them to the power of music. He might be the light in their lives!

Hebrew Lyrics
English Lyrics

Illuminate SF Festival of Light

Experience San Francisco as a shining gallery of light during the fourth annual Illuminate SF Festival of Light, from Thanksgiving 2016 through New Year’s Day 2017. The 39-day event celebrates 35 dramatic, eco-friendly light art installations—9 new ones this year including iconic works in the new SFMOMA. Visitors may experience free neighborhood light art tours, artist studio visits and neon walking tours, a stargazing party at the Presidio and more interactive experiences.


Hannukah Songs

List of Hanukkah songs with Lyrics in Hebrew and English -

Comprehensive list of Hannukah songs and dances with downloadable Hanukkah Song sheets -

Hanukkah Songs on YouTube

Songs for Hanukkah With Uzi Chitman and Cheni Nachmias  in Hebrew -

A medley of songs and stories in Hebrew -

Fountainheads Hanukkah – Light Up the Night

Songs by The Maccabeats:
Candlelight by the Maccabeats -
Miracle with Matisyahu -
Latke Recipe -

Eight Nights – Hanukkah Mashup -


Elon Gold- Stand Up Comedy - Why the Jews Are Better Off Without Xmas Trees

Other Resources for Hanukkah

G-Dcast Spins Hanukkah  

An article by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz:  The Motif of Light in Jewish Tradition  

From the iCenter for Israel Education:

Chanukah Heroes – American Zionist Movement
Celebrating the Miracles – And the Heroes Who Made Them Happen
Heroes and activities for each night of Chanukah

An article about a collector of Chanukiyot (Hannukah menorahs) in Jerusalem


Educational Resources for Teaching Mussar & Middot


Mussar curriculum for young children - From the Mussar Institute

Middot:  A Stairway of Virtues - Curriculum (25 lessons) for grades 6-9

American Presidents & Jewish Values - Downloadable lesson plan with texts and other resources analyzing speeches of American Presidents through the lens of Jewish values.  Adaptable for Grades 5-10.

Study Leads to Action: Understanding and Living Jewish Values Curriculum - for Middle School Students - Jewish Values curriculum for middle schoolers from Jewish Education Center, Cleveland.

IJS Project on Middot includes curriculum and supplemental materials

Under the Same Sky:  “The Earth is Full of Your Creations” - Curricular framework for young children and families, learning values related to our world and nature, including 3 units:

  • Do Not Destroy (Bal Tashchit):  The Importance of Conserving and Protecting Nature
  • indness to Animals (Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim)
  • ppreciating the Wonders of Nature (Le’He’arich at Pelei HaTeva)

Values-based lesson plans and programs from PJ Library - For young children: Various PJ Library books with lesson plans and programs, categorized by value and age. Some programs are adaptable for multi-age programming


Online Resource for Families - Days of Awe resource for families – parents & children – from Jewish Educational Center of Cleveland

For Teens:

Getting to Know Your Values & Middot

Identity Cafe

Character Day Resources:

Making of a Mensch Video

Character Day Discussion Kits

Periodic Table of Being a Mensch –  Table of Middot developed by Rabbi Avi Orlow

Other Resources

Middot-opoly – Jewish Values Board Game

Downloadable Chart of Middot

Tikkun Middot Materials from institute for Jewish Spirituality

Embodied Middot

Resources: Middot (Virtues), Mussar, and Preparing for the Days of Awe

Lists of Middot

Pirke Avot:
“The Torah is greater than the priesthood and greater than royalty, seeing that royalty is acquired through 30 virtues, the priesthood twenty-four, while the Torah is acquired through 48 virtues.”

These 48 Middot are listed here on the URJ website:

Cheshbon Ha-Nefesh
Rabbi Mendel Menachem Lefin of Satanov identified 13 Middot in Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul), published 200 years ago in Lithuania.

Benjamin Franklin
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lefin was influenced by reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.  Franklin listed these 13 virtues, along with a rigorous method for self-improvement.  Franklin’s methods may have had an influence on subsequently developed Mussar practice.

A comparison of Franklin’s list of virtues with the 13 Middot in Cheshbon Ha0Nefesh, and the 13 Middot listed by Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the modern Mussar movement, can be found here.

National Mussar Resources

The two leading centers of Mussar learning in North America are The Mussar Institute and the Mussar Leadership Program.

Local Mussar Resources - aggregates information about Mussar classes and events across the Bay Area.

Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul) Preparing for the Days of Awe

Personal Improving through Personal Accounting
Cheshbon Hanefesh (from 
10 Tools for Cheshbon HaNefesh
Accounting of the Soul template/worksheet

Embodying Middot - Endurance / Netzach

Netzach - Endurance

On the map of the Sefirot, Netzach, often translated as endurance, perseverance, or eternity, is one of the Ten Measurements or Emanations of divine energy, and when mapped on the body appears at the right hip or right thigh, opposite to Hod, often translated as surrender, gratitude, glory, or present moment. The image of the map functions as a mirror, and the right and left sides balance one another, with a central pillar offering qualities that appear at the crown, heart, pelvis, and feet. Generally, the right side of the body is forward moving, expansive energy and the left side of the body is retreating, containing energy. So Netzach, located at the right leg or hip, can be expressed in movement as stepping forward, and Hod, located at the left leg or hip, can be expressed as stepping back. In addition, the triad of Netzach, Hod and Yesod are connected with action and activity in the world, how we walk and move in our lives.

Netzach as Eternity
Netzach is often translated as “eternity.” The first, most obvious way Netzach applies to the asana practice is the way in which we can bring stamina to our practice and build strength by holding poses for an extended period of time. But there is a gentle and surrendered aspect to endurance that is important as it relates to embodying this middah. When we employ endurance with the aspect of eternity in mind, we realize we cannot “power through” and give our all-out effort every moment throughout the practice, firing every muscle in a forceful way, or we will quickly burn out. If we approach embodying Netzach with the idea that we will live and breathe into the pose for ‘eternity’, building a sustainable and sustained practice over time, we must bring a softness of efforting, and find a way in which we can rely upon our bones, our breath, the spaciousness inside and around us in order to maintain the pose. 

For example, in Warrior II (Figure 7), when holding the pose for an extended period of time (which for some practitioners may feel like an eternity!), one way to find Netzach, Endurance, in the pose is to lift the torso up off of the hips, and unbend the front leg slightly so we are not relying too heavily upon the quadriceps muscles to support us. For the same pose, if we are holding the arms up out to the side from the muscles in the arms only, we can easily become tired. But if we consider the idea that the arms are extending all the way from the center of the spine behind the heart, and imagine that the arms lift with the support of the air underneath them (as if they are wings), energy extending outward, we can maintain the pose with endurance for a much longer time.

We are able to practice more easily and in a more sustainable way- for eternity! - with Netzach if we take the focus off of one particular muscle group in any given posture and allow other parts of the body or draw upon other sources of life energy (hiyyut) for the asana.

Netzach as the Part that Stays
In a vinyasa or flow practice Netzach can beautifully support us in moving through the poses with a quality of stability, steadiness and consistency. If we place our attention while moving from pose to pose on the parts of the body that stay in a relatively fixed position, we can find balance and strength.

For example, when moving from Warrior I (Figure 8)  to Warrior III (Figure 9) to Tree Pose (Figure 10), if we focus on the front standing leg as Netzach, or the part that stays, throughout the sequence, we can move the second leg through the postures - first in back for Warrior I (Figure 8), then it lifts for Warrior III (Figure 9), then it comes up bent to meet the standing leg for Tree (Figure 10) - around the steadfastness of the leg that stays put.

Similarly, if we move from Triangle (Figure 2) to Side Angle (Figure 11) to Warrior II (Figure 8), we can focus on the back leg as Netzach, grounding us, keeping us steady, and as the part that stays strong as we move the upper body and front leg through the changing shapes.

By focusing on the quality of Netzach in these types of flow sequences, we experience a sense of calm, steadiness, and solidity. The Netzach of a standing leg serves as an unwavering support, a source of strength - the part that stays when all else is moving.

This physical practice of maintaining a focus on the ‘staying’ part of the body can translate to our lives in the most helpful way. When there is turmoil, either within ourselves or in relationship with others, our ability to stay calm and focus on the quality of steadiness can be strengthened by this physical practice (Thich Nhat Hanh offers the image of being the mountain in the storm, or the rock in the rushing stream).

Netzach as Waiting
Netzach comes into play most helpfully for an asana practice with sitting forward bends. In poses such as Head to Knee Forward Bend (Figure 12) or Seated Forward Bend(Figure 13), there is an aspect of Netzach that relates to waiting and watching that can be extremely helpful. When approaching a forward bend from a seated position, it is most important to lift the hips so that the pelvis and torso can turn over the legs as one unit, so as not to take the pose into the lower back. The next step is to lengthen and lift the front of the spine and stay in the pose for a long time with an extended long back. When we sit and breathe and wait, watching with patience the small openings in the body, the pose itself begins to take on the waiting and watching with patience aspect of Netzach. Staying with these forward bend poses for a minute, two or three, before even beginning to release the spine into a rounded position, allows us to move into the pose much more deeply.

In practicing Netzach as waiting with patience, not pushing beyond our limits or trying to change what is true, we are practicing for all the ways in which we can do this in our lives. In his description of patience (Savlanut) in Everyday Holiness, Alan Morinis correlates patience with a kind of endurance or tolerance of circumstances, be they difficult or uncomfortable. “Patience is here depicted as a tool we can call on to help us endure when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances we did not choose or could not avoid.”[1]  By practicing more challenging poses with this quality of Netzach, we can prepare ourselves to meet other challenges in our lives with an aspect of waiting and watching that builds our capacity to respond, rather than react, no matter what comes our way.

[1] Morinis, Everyday Holiness, 57.


Throughout this guide, we will refer to the following poses:

Forward Bend - Uttanasana  (Fig. 1)
Triangle - Utthita Trikonasana (Fig. 2)
Mountain Pose - Tadasana (Fig. 3)
Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana (Fig. 4)
Seated Twist - Marichyasana III (Fig. 5)
Hand to Big Toe Pose - Supta Padangusthasana (Fig. 6)
Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II (Fig. 7)
Warrior I - Virabhadrasana I (Fig. 8)
Warrior III - Virabhadrasana III (Fig. 9)
Tree Pose - Vrksasana (Fig. 10)
Side Angle - Parsvakonasana (Fig. 11)
Head to Knee Forward Bend - Janu Sirsasana (Fig. 12)
Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana (Fig. 13)

By opening these pages, I acknowledge that this material is owned by Jewish LearningWorks' Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative.  I understand that I am prohibited from reproducing, distributing, or selling the material - in full or in part -without attributing ownership to Jewish LearningWorks' Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative. It was created by Julie Emden, Director of Embodied Jewish Learning - Julie offers workshops, classes and a Yoga and Jewish Wisdom Teacher Training.  She can be reached at

Embodying Middot Introduction

Explore three qualities through your physical body!  Read below for an introduction and click the buttons below for a deeper dive into specific qualities.

Embodying Middot
We can infuse any embodied practice, including Yoga, with an awareness of qualities which might deepen our spiritual growth.  Each trait can be invoked in any and every pose we do.  Practicing these qualities on the mat helps us integrate these qualities into our being.  This gives us a greater chance of continuing to exude the qualities we’ve cultivated in the world beyond our mat.  There is no ‘perfect pose’ for any given middah. Rather, we can take the same exact sequence any given day and infuse the practice with whatever kavanah (direction or intention) we wish to cultivate within ourselves.

Click-through the buttons above to explore three middot,  AnavaMenuchat Hanefesh, and Netzach, through various postures (images at bottom of page).

Each of these middot must balance with its opposite to work in harmony together.  To cultivate only one quality to its extreme is detrimental to our growth and antithetical to the idea behind cultivating and developing character traits in the first place. In the Mussar tradition, we each have our own life’s curriculum, with our own strengths and our own challenges. The goal is to create balance by engaging with our traits as we grow and change.

When we approach these qualities or middot by strengthening our kinesthetic understanding of each principle, we are able to engage with these middot in our lives from an organic, embodied, grounded place.

Why Yoga?
While we do not have an asana (posture) practice in Judaism, many teachings from the Jewish mystical tradition place great emphasis on the deep connection between body and soul.   According to the Hasidic rebbes, every day-to-day activity is for the purpose of connecting our physical beings to our spirit, and for revealing divinity on the physical plane. In fact, the rabbis of the Talmud are said to have spent the hour before morning prayer in ‘movement’ or ‘meditation.’ (Berachot 30b).

This is where Yoga comes in. The Sanskrit word Yoga means “to merge, join or unite”.  It refers to the unification of the “soul with the eternal truth.”[1] The word Asana means “holding the body in a particular posture with the bhavana or the thought that God is within.”[2]  When we infuse our Yoga practice with teachings from the Jewish tradition, we are not practicing ‘Jewish Yoga,’ rather, we are bringing our whole selves to our practice. 

The popularization of Yoga in the west has awakened a yearning among Jewish Yoga practitioners to connect our physical practice to the spiritual teachings of our own faith. For some practitioners this happens organically, for others, the invitation to connect the two is a long-awaited opportunity to feel at home in a body-based spiritual practice.

The practice of Yoga is one of many physical practices that can support us in bringing our attention to the present. This toe. This breath. This line of energy from the lesser trochanter through to the inner arch of the foot. Our Yoga practice is a means for us to enter more deeply into awareness of all aspects of ourselves. 

We are most joyful and whole when we can bring our whole self to the world. When we connect our personal practices for fitness and well-being with our spiritual practices, we can practice Yoga, dance, run, move, sweat, laugh, learn, meditate, rest and restore without leaving our Jewish selves behind.  We can show up in our Jewish body-souls to our practices for well-being with an integrated sense of presence. 

[1] Geeta Iyengar, Yoga:  A Gem for Women (Timeless Books: Palo Alto, California, 1990), 9.

[2]  Ibid., 25.


Throughout this guide, we will refer to the following poses:

Forward Bend - Uttanasana  (Fig. 1)
Triangle - Utthita Trikonasana (Fig. 2)
Mountain Pose - Tadasana (Fig. 3)
Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana (Fig. 4)
Seated Twist - Marichyasana III (Fig. 5)
Hand to Big Toe Pose - Supta Padangusthasana (Fig. 6)
Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II (Fig. 7)
Warrior I - Virabhadrasana I (Fig. 8)
Warrior III - Virabhadrasana III (Fig. 9)
Tree Pose - Vrksasana (Fig. 10)
Side Angle - Parsvakonasana (Fig. 11)
Head to Knee Forward Bend - Janu Sirsasana (Fig. 12)
Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana (Fig. 13)


By opening these pages, I acknowledge that this material is owned by Jewish LearningWorks' Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative.  I understand that I am prohibited from reproducing, distributing, or selling the material - in full or in part -without attributing ownership to Jewish LearningWorks' Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative. It was created by Julie Emden, Director of Embodied Jewish Learning - Julie offers workshops, classes and a Yoga and Jewish Wisdom Teacher Training.  She can be reached at



Yoga Postures and Themes for Passover

Explore freedom from an embodied perspective with these Passover-theme related yoga postures offered by Julie Emden, Director of our Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative.  Julie offers workshops, classes, and a Yoga and Jewish Wisdom Teacher Training. She can be reached at: 

These postures and themes were created for At the Well, a project supporting Jewish women to celebrate Rosh Hodesh all over the world.  See more resources from At the Well for the month of Nissan here.

Materials : yoga mat and blanket
Opening Kavanah - You are the Authority

The foremost theme for this month and gift of Passover is that we move from slavery to freedom, from constriction to expansion, from responding and reacting to other’s demands of us to acting from a place of true sovereignty and authority from within.  Please take on these suggested practices (and those from any body-based practice) with this in mind, and consider your own body’s unique needs when practicing yoga.  At Sinai upon receiving Torah, at the same time that we camp at the base of the mountain as one soul, we each also hear our own unique message, and we each receive our own unique place or letter in the Torah.  And when we receive manna in the desert, the amount we each receive is according to our individual needs - no more, no less.  Do not do anything that is not right for your body, in this moment, in this time.  You are the authority and you are sovereign over the gorgeous domain that is your body-soul-heart-spirit being, for this practice and always.

Theme 1:  Moving from Constriction to Expansion - Mitzrayim

When we look at the Hebrew word ‘Mitzrayim’, we see the word ‘Tzar’, which means constriction, surrounded by the word ‘Mayim’, which means water.  All of the joints in the body are surrounded by water in the form of synovial fluid.  As you practice these poses, bring awareness to the fact that the joints (tzar) in our bodies - our wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles - which enable us to move and create change  in the world!- need mayim, softness, and  fluidity in order to be healthy and strong.

Hip Openers - Lying on the floor
Lying Two-Knee-Spinal-Twist 

Eye of the Needle 

Happy Baby

Theme 2:  Softening the heart - Exodus 8:28 - “And Pharaoh hardened his heart…”

As Pharaoh witnesses and experiences the ten plagues, we hear over and over that his “heart is hardened”, and the language in the text indicates that his obstinacy becomes habitual.  Releasing habits that no longer serve us to live in integrity with our deepest potential and desire is another theme for the month of Nissan. In fact, Moses is told at the burning bush to ‘take off his shoes’ (Exodus 3:5),  but the Hebrew can also be translated as ‘unlock your habits!’  Day to day, as we sit and move with postures of leaning over computers and steering wheels, we can create a habitual shape in the body of shoulders rolling forward, chest collapsing and a ‘closing of the heart’.  These poses support us in opening our hearts and shoulders, and also bringing awareness to the spaces behind our hearts.  They provide a countering to the habitual way we often move through the world.

Heart Openers

Supported Backbend Lying back over a rolled blanket or Bolster

Cow-Face Pose arms    

Eagle Pose Arms 

Theme 3: Stepping into the Sea on Dry Land - Exodus 14:22 - “And the Israelites entered the sea on dry land”

You may have seen the movie, or considered the scientific research about the parting of the sea in the Exodus story.  What is possibly as fascinating as the notion that the sea parted for the Israelites, is that the text says that the Israelites stepped onto dry land ‘b’toch’, inside of, the sea.  What?!  How could the land be dry, even if the sea had parted? And have you ever tried to walk on wet soaky sand just after the waves recede on a walk at the beach? It’s not easy.  This is our task in Nissan, and in our lives.  How can we maintain stability, stay grounded and connected to our foundation, in times of turbulence, change and upheaval? How can we stay upright and connected to what is solid, perhaps relying merely on our bones, our etzem, our essence, during times of intense change and transformation. These standing poses can help us feel our feet, solidly rooted and firmly planted and the limbs of our legs rising up from that foundation, as a resource, a source of strength and support for us as we move through the world and reach for our dreams.

Standing Poses

Mountain/Mt Sinai Pose

Warrior 2

Side Angle


To experience these and more, join Julie for one of her Passover workshops:











Reflection on Enchanted Journey with Piyut

One participant shared this feedback:

"You brought us into the world of Piyut with a welcoming wide smile and delicious food, tastefully presented. The Moroccan decor and Tsipi’s attire and her twinkling eyes with endless longing for her childhood experiences were magic keys that opened the gate to the world of Piyut.

The balanced combination of knowledge and spirit enriched both the mind and the soul, that doesn't know how thirsty it is for that poetic world, obscure and beautiful, and which highlights the ancient Hebrew language of past generations.

You invited us to this poetic world through all the senses! We felt the piyut through body and soul. We stroked the glorious words as we visited Jewish homes in Spain, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq and Israel.


A pleasure!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Thrilled with the turnout and the impact of the latest program from our Integration of the Arts Initiative. We spent the afternoon with educators from all over the Bay Area for a sweet taste of Piyut, Hebrew poetic liturgy. 

Many thanks to our wonderful partners from Piyut North America, JCC of the East Bay, and Tehiya Day School; to our fearless leaders, Rabbi Tsipi Gabai and Vavi Toran, and to each of the educators who attended and have returned to their classrooms or communities ready to engage young minds with new and wonderful tools.


A window into the work:

We transformed the space with rugs, artifacts and props to create a festive and lively atmosphere.  We opened the program with traditional music in the background and delicious Middle Eastern food in our bellies.

We presented piyutim as the sound track of the Jewish people, and discussed the contemporary revival of this music in Israel and around the world. Rabbi Tsipi Gabai shared her personal strong connection to piyutim through her history from home, synagogue and her rabbinic studies.

We dove deeply into five piyutim, with an examination of the text, the origin, poetic elements, and community of origin. Rabbi Tsipi Gabai with the aid of two musicians - Katja Cooper on percussions, and Rachel Sills on the Oud, taught each piyut. Katja demonstrated on the different percussion instruments, their origin and purpose and Rachel introduced the Oud which is perhaps the instrument most associated with Middle Eastern music.

Midway through the program we introduced a reflective tool encouraging participants to complete one of the statements: 

“Singing piyutim connects me to…”

“Singing piyutim connects me to teaching about…”


We then formed a circle and improvised a dance interpretation of their responses, which included concepts and words including: past and present, heartbeat, happiness, ancient, roots... 

We introduced curricula and books for teaching Piyutim in the classroom and gave participants kits including 18 recorded Piyutim and Mizmorim created by Piyut North America. 

Toward the end of the program, we shared our learning and were blown away by the impact, just in a few hours.


22 participants attended, representing three day schools, six synagogues, several private tutors, one Hebrew immersion program, and one preschool, from all over the Bay Area and as far as Lake Tahoe Region.



For more information on Piyut, Integration of the Arts or upcoming professional development opportunities, email

9Adar Project, a Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict

Compiled by Vavi Toran


Machloket (“Dispute for the Sake of Heaven” or Constructive Conflict) is among the great Jewish ideas.  Jews have been doing it for thousands of years.  We are grateful to our friends at the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution for creating the 9Adar Project, a Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict.  We are partnering with them to promote the study of Constructive Conflict here in Northern California, from February 12-20, 2016, culminating in the Feast of Jewish Learning on February 20th.

We have created this page to support you, our local educators as you find creative ideas and new pathways to bring the theme of constructive conflict to your classroom, through the lens of Israel. In addition to our resources below, you can find more resources and curricula about constructive conflict generally from the 9Adar Project in Jerusalem here.

We hope you find these resources useful and inspirational.

Four talked about the pine tree. 
One defined it by genus, species, and variety. 
One assessed its disadvantages for the lumber industry. 
One quoted poems about pine trees in many languages. 
One took root, stretched out branches, and rustled.
— Conversation (Sicha), a poem by Dan Pagis | Israeli Poet (1930-1986) | Translated by Rabbi Steven Sager

Machloket (Constructive Conflict) 


The word Machloket in Hebrew shares its root chet-lamed-kuf with words that include: division, discord, partial, share, plot of land, smooth, slippery and flattery.

The road to constructive conflict, especially in Israel, has to be paved with honesty and respect for passionate people who don’t share the same opinions – in some cases about a plot of land.

Let’s make it a smooth rather than slippery process.

Here are a few examples how Israeli artists, poets, musicians and writers deal with machloket:

Two Elements a poem by Zelda
The poem represents a dialogue between the vocal and passionate flame and the silent and proud pine. How are these two elements alike and how are they different? Do we contain both the flame and the pine? Is this an inner conflict? What is the conflict about? Is this machloket solvable? How? How could a real dialogue between the two elements sound?
More about Zelda

There’s No Machloket
A song by Shalom Hanoch
(Hebrew lyrics)







Is this machloket really just a small misunderstanding? Perhaps if the two sides really listen to one another they will find they have a lot in common. With a biblical reference for a pastoral and peaceful future together, Shalom Hanoch moves from a misunderstanding between Ami and Tami to the more acute machloket between Ami and Sami, Sami and Zami.

A few things that might get lost in translation: Ami and Tami are the Hebrew equivalent of Hansel and Gretel, or two typical Israeli names. Ami can also be interpreted as “my people” or “my nation,” Mami is a common endearment, Sami might be a sephardic name, and Zami is an Arabic name.

There is no Machloket between Ami and Tami
It’s just a small misunderstanding
Get wet from the same rain
Live in the same country
Hate each other’s guts a bit
Cause each other a bit of trouble
Be a bit mean to each other, ‘cause basically
There is no Machloket
There is no Machloket
There is no Machloket between Ami and Tami
It’s just a small misunderstanding
There is no Machloket between Ami and Tami
It’s just a small misunderstanding
Drink the same water
Take shelter under the same Schina (Divine Presence) 
Hurt each other a bit on the way
Attack only as a defense
And maybe it’s because that really
There is no Machloket
It’s just a small misunderstanding
There is no Machloket between Ami and Tami
It’s just a small misunderstanding
When we find King David
The picture will certainly change
We shall sit comfortably at home
Under a vine and the shade of a fig tree
We shall live in peace ‘cause basically
There is no Machloket
It’s just a small misunderstanding
A small misunderstanding
No Machloket
Between Ami and Tami
Between Tami and Ami
Between Ami and Mami
Between Mami and Sami
Between Sami and Zami
Between Ami and Sami
And Rami
And Ami
Between Ami and Tami
Between Tami and Ami
— Lyrics and Music: Shalom Hanoch


Visual artists express their opinions on canvas, walls or other media. Occasionally they have visual conversations and even banter in galleries or on city walls. We bring you a variety of art samples to explore and interpret.

David Reeb and Avner Bar Hama are artists who use the map of Israel in their artwork and present opposing political views. The questions they raise represent a central machloket in Israeli society – the issue is the Green Line and its inclusion or omission from official maps.

Green line by David Reeb
In the mid-1980s, the Green Line (which marks the pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel) became a dominant component of David Reeb’s paintings. His representation of this charged political frontier makes a statement about the permanent status the occupation acquired in Israeli consciousness.
Read More


Orange Map: Today Gush Katif – tomorrow Jaffa by Avner Bar Hama

Representing the opposing political view, Bar Hama presented a conceptual piece at (L)Attitudes in Washington DC portraying the map of Israel made entirely out of oranges.
Read More


Both Sides of Peace - Israeli and Palestinian Political Posters
Book Cover by Yossi Lemel

"Both sides try to get closer but hurt each other. The strings are in the colors of Palestinian and Israeli flags." -Yossi Lemel

Ironically, the metaphor for Israeli born Jews, the Sabra (cactus pear in Arabic)—prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside—is also an Arab symbol of resilience and tenacity, and is a natural fence that keeps in livestock and marks the boundaries of family lands.


The Face 2 Face Project
For this project, portraits of Israelis and Palestinians are pasted face to face, in monumental formats on both sides of the separation wall and in several Palestinian and Israeli cities.

4 efforts to diffuse conflict in Israel with art
Peace and Conflict Through Graffiti

Other Resources:

New from the iCenter

Contexts, Perspectives, and Values in Israel Education

Approaching Conflicts is designed to help educators and learners engage sensitive material with more confidence, ask more questions, and challenge assumptions for the purpose of a strong and meaningful relationship with Israel.

A Conversation Between Etgar Keret and Sayed Kashua

In the summer of 2014 – after a conflict that caused many Israelis, Jews and Arabs, to feel a growing despair for the possibilities of peace – prominent Israeli Palestinian writer Sayed Kashua announced his plans to immigrate to America. Afterwards, in a public exchange of letters, Kashua wrote to Etgar Keret, a popular Israeli Jewish author, to further discuss his decision. The two, longtime friends, discuss their lives and families among lingering possibilities of peace and coexistence while expressing exhaustion with continuing violence and conflict.


Encounter’s Communication Guidelines
Transforming conflict through face-to-face understanding

The guidelines serve as the blueprint for our common values.  They help to create a framework in which people of diverse ideological view­points can explore deeply contentious and charged topics respectfully. These guidelines enable questions to be framed in ways that speakers are able to hear, without feeling attacked, and reframing comments and statements into genuine questions.

Art Bridge

Creativity for Peace


More 9Adar Resources can be found here.

To share additional resources, please comment below.



Beyond Silence Closing Keynote

By David Waksberg

Many years ago, I was in an area in the Soviet Union that had been a Nazi killing field during the Holocaust.  Thousands of Jews had been murdered there.  But there was no plaque there, no stone, nothing to mark the graves of the victims or even to acknowledge what had happened there.  The fact that Jews had been exterminated there – this was covered up for years.  In fact, the government built a housing project on the site.

I was there 45 years after the end of the war.  And what had happened at that place was still shrouded in silence and denial.  But, around that time, some of the buildings were falling apart.  It turned out the bones of the victims were coming up from beneath the earth and destabilizing what had been built on top of them.

The lie that had been constructed was literally crumbling.

I guess that was the first time I truly saw and understood the cost of silence and denial.

Here is a story from Rachel Lev’s Shine a Light:

“I had no place to run,” writes a survivor of sexual abuse, “no place to hide, no place to find someone I could count on – not my rabbi, not my religious school-teachers, not even my Jewish neighbors.  I had no choice but to submit and muddle through.”

Survivors’ stories are about trust and the betrayal of trust.  And who is the betrayer?  The betrayer is the one in whom trust is placed, and who violates that trust.  First and foremost it’s the abuser, of course – so often someone in a position of trust, power, authority.

But consider –

“No place to find someone I could count on – not my rabbi, not my religious school-teachers, not even my Jewish neighbors”

She placed her trust first in her family – but that’s where the abuse was; and then, in the community (her neighbors), her teachers, and her rabbi. 

That’s what I would do.  If I needed help, where would I turn?  Who would I count on?  My family, my community, my teachers, my rabbi. 

Her experience (and her experience is all we have and, let’s face it, all that’s truly relevant) is that she is let down.  She’s seeking people she can count on.  She finds none.

Is not this too a betrayal of trust?

Now, we don’t really know what happened with her neighbors and her teachers and her rabbi.  We don’t know if she reached out to them and was let down or if she simply perceived that she would be let down and was too frightened to try. 

Does it really matter? 

Do I ever want someone – someone who is in a vulnerable position, someone who needs help – to feel that they can’t count on me?     Because – even if they could count on me – if they didn’t know that they could, then what difference did it make?

It’s not enough to be rock solid.  The person in need must really know that we are rock solid. 

Most of us here – clergy, educators, counselors, Jewish professionals –consider what we do important and even noble and sacred. All of us serve people, serve our communities.  And all of us have people who count on us.  Have we done what we need to do to let them know that they can count on us?  What steps can we take to make that so? 

Survivors’ stories are about trust and the betrayal of trust.  And, like so much of Jewish history and experience, they are about power and powerlessness.

In this story – we are the powerful ones.  We are the ones with the opportunity to come through; we have the power to protect, to heal.  Or not.  But let’s not fool ourselves – there is no middle ground.  There is no such thing as neutrality here.   We either continue and compound the betrayal of trust or we are the ones who interrupt it. 

Alice Walker wrote:  “What is painful is that what I am writing, someone right now is living.”

We learned that 1 in 5 children in this country is sexually assaulted before the age of 18.  Research tells us that patterns among Jews don’t differ that much from the general population – certainly, we are less exceptional than we wish to believe.  Which means that – while we’ve been meeting today, a Jewish child somewhere has experienced incredible pain and horror.

Actually – when I first wrote that, I wrote – “unspeakable pain and horror.”  But I’m not going to say that.  “Unspeakable” is the word I’m not going to say any more.  The fact that this issue has felt unspeakable for so long is such a big part of the problem.  We must end that and the only way to end it is to speak the unspeakable and make visible that which has been hidden.

The single most powerful factor contributing to child sexual abuse is the ability to get away with it.  And the ability to get away with it depends on its unspeakability; and on our collusion, our denial, our silence, our fear.  Silence is the enemy.

We are all here because we know we have the capacity to make a difference.    Let’s be honest, we can leave here feeling a little better about ourselves or we can leave here with an intention and a plan to actually make change – to break the cycle of betrayal, to use our power to heal.  We are leaders.  We can and must be the change we seek.


No single individual can provide the answers.    I don’t believe that is how collective impact works.  But I do have some questions, that I hope will help us to develop those answers together.

We’ve learned an enormous amount today – thanks to our wonderful presenters.  The question now is what we do with what we learned.

Those of us who work in and represent institutions –

-       What did we learn today that is actionable in our professional capacities?

-       Do we have a set of protocols in our congregation, school, or agency?  Did we learn enough to create one?  If not, do we know who to reach out to for help?

-       Do we have a plan to share what we learned with others?  And how will we do that?

-       Are our staffs educated?  Do they know how to identify signs of abuse?  Are they equipped to respond appropriately?  Do they understand reporting requirements?  Do they know how to report? 

-       Do those most vulnerable understand how and where to get help?  Are our stakeholders aware of this issue and aware of our policies?

-       Have we created a culture and an environment that make is as clear as possible that we CAN be counted on?  A culture in which children (and anyone really) feel safe coming to us?  And what would it take to make it so? 

-       Are we equipped to provide the spiritual and emotional support needed for healing?   Are we equipped to provide this support to ourselves?  Are we ready to receive it?

For each of us as individuals – are we prepared to deal with survivors with open ears, open minds, and open hearts?  Are we prepared to be their advocates?  Do we understand how this issue relates with Jewish values around teshuva/repentance, and around the power of words?  What personal and professional learning must we still do and do we know where and how to get that learning?

And what if the accused is a colleague, a friend, a respected mentor?  What then?  Can we be counted on then?  That’s where the rubber hits the road, doesn’t it?  Will we have the courage to still listen with open minds and hearts to something so hard and so painful to hear?  Or will we take the easy road of denial and join the long line of rabbis, teachers, leaders, and neighbors who, when push came to shove, couldn’t be counted on.  This is where leadership of strength, courage, and compassion is needed.

And then there is the communal level.  How do we ripple beyond our own institutions?  So many of us participate in collegial networks.  We have an educators’ council.  Our Day School Heads have their own network.  Our synagogue executives have BATA.  We have networks of teen educators, of early childhood educators.  The Board of Rabbis.  How can we use these networks to share information, learn from one another and help our community get beyond silence?  And how can we use these networks to multiply and magnify our impact?  And how might we build on this network – the 150 of us who came together today – to build on what we learned and shared together, to create collective impact for our community?

And what about those i who don’t belong to our shuls, who don’t go to our schools?  We who are leaders in our community – do our responsibilities end at the edge of our real estate?  And is there no correlation between the experience from the survivor I quoted – that she could find no one in our community she could count on – and an individual’s decision not to affiliate?  If that were your experience – would you?

How can we take what we learned today to make our community a safe haven?   Or, at the very least – a safer haven.

This is a story of power and powerlessness.  And we are the powerful ones.

Many of us think of our institution as a kehillah kedoshah – a place where holiness resides; a place where we are in the continual state of striving for and creating holiness.  And we should, because – whether they are searching for God or knowledge or for community – our stakeholders are looking for holiness.  They seek it in our institutions and they seek it in our community. 

Holiness is what our tradition is after.  It is about understanding what it means to be holy, and then – doing it. 

There are many ways we can be holy and many ways to make our institutions holy.  The rabbis might say that holiness has 70 faces.  But this we know - holiness cannot coexist with violence and abuse.  It just can’t.  And trying to create a community of holiness in a place of silence and denial of abuse, is, l’havdil, kind of like trying to build a housing project and pretending that the housing project is not sitting on a killing field.  It’s bound to crumble.

I think that’s why we are all here, why we all took a whole day out of our busy schedules – because we understand that this work is not a “nice to have.”  It is essential to who we are – as individuals, as institutions, and as a community.

Which is why we can’t let this end here. 

I am grateful to my colleagues on the organizing committee for their leadership and we are all grateful to you for your leadership – in being here, and for your leadership going forward.

Remember that silence is our enemy.  Silence is denial.  Silence is pain.  Silence is betrayal.

Beyond silence means we leave silence behind – as individuals, as institutions, and as a community.  It’s the path – and the only path – of hope and of holiness.

Chazak v’amatz, v’rachmanut.  May we possess the strength, courage, and compassion, and may we give to one another and to our colleagues, our congregants, our students, the strength, courage, and compassion to make it so.


Mizrahi Heritage Day: November 30th

Dear Educators,

As of a 2014 Knesset Bill, November 30th is Mizrahi Heritage Day in Israel. In America many Jewish organizations are using the time preceding and following November 30th as an opportunity to honor Mizrahi Heritage in their communities. Last year the Jewish Community High School of the Bay spearheaded an initiative to start a Mizrahi Heritage Week honoring the members of the community who come from the Middle East and North Africa whose stories are often ignored in the larger Jewish narrative.

Adam Eilath, a teacher at the school is available to speak with any educator in the Bay Area who is interested in developing programming at their institution around November 30th. His email is Attached is a mini curriculum guide for teachers.