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
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
· 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
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
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
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!
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.
List of Hanukkah songs with Lyrics in Hebrew and English -http://www.hebrewsongs.com/chanukah.htm
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 -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg3Be6doSCU
A medley of songs and stories in Hebrew -
Fountainheads Hanukkah – Light Up the Night
Songs by The Maccabeats:
Candlelight by the Maccabeats - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feYf5pJqhoE
Miracle with Matisyahu - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHwyTxxQHmQ
Latke Recipe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg51la8Yayc
Eight Nights – Hanukkah Mashup - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAbTDHblxFM
Elon Gold- Stand Up Comedy - Why the Jews Are Better Off Without Xmas Trees
Other Resources for Hanukkah
An article by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: The Motif of Light in Jewish Tradition
From the iCenter for Israel Education: http://www.theicenter.org/compilation/chanukkah
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
BimBam is a media studio making Jewish videos, apps and animated series that are joyful, empowering introductions to Jewish ideas and life for kids & adults.
For kids 4-7 and their parents. Shaboom! is a new series of videos based on Jewish values from BimBam. Shaboom! videos help kids see and learn about Mussar ideas and Jewish values and how they can be useful in everyday family life.
PJ Library offers free children’s books each month for families with Jewish children.
PJ Library has many children’s books related to the season, including:
PJ Library also has many books covering Jewish values:
If you would like to receive PJ Library books, sign up here.
Jewish children’s books relevant to the High Holy Days and Jewish values are also available at:
Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley, Dayenu Judaica in San Francisco, and for circulation at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco and via its pushcart program at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto and at the San Francisco JCC.
Other Resources for Families and Young Children
This online Days of Awe resource for families – parents & children – is from Jewish Educational Center of Cleveland.
High Holy Day Resources for Families and Children with Disabilities – this resource was developed for families with special needs, but it is a great resource for any Jewish family celebrating the holidays.
Wise words from a Jewish educator on teaching Jewish values in the home in everyday life.
Jewish LearningWorks Online Resources for Families
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.
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
http://imcomingclean.weebly.com/ - Days of Awe resource for families – parents & children – from Jewish Educational Center of Cleveland
Character Day Resources:
Periodic Table of Being a Mensch – Table of Middot developed by Rabbi Avi Orlow
Middot-opoly – Jewish Values Board Game
From the vault of discarded-but-not-forgotten resources, another installment of holiday ideas. It is quite amazing to me that in all my many years as a Jewish educator the issue of freedom is only becoming more and more relevant. It is enough to follow recent election campaign rhetoric to understand that even the most basic freedoms we assume are granted in a democratic society are at risk. On this holiday, as we celebrate and enjoy unprecedented freedoms, let us not forget that we cannot take them for granted and let us remember those who are still enslaved in one way or another.
We hope the resources we put together here are thought provoking and inspirational for you and your students.
Chag Cherut Same'ach
Happy Freedom Holiday
Every Person Needs to Have a Certain Egypt
Poem by: Amnon Ribak
The poem in Hebrew
to redeem themselves from it, from the house of slavery,
to go out in the middle of the night to the desert of fears,
to march straight into the waters,
to see them open before them to both sides.
Every person needs a shoulder,
on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their backs.
Every person needs to have a
and a Jerusalem,
and one long journey,
that they will forever remember
in their feet.
Every person needs to have a
To deliver themselves from it
with a strong arm,
or with grinding teeth.
Every person needs terror and great darkness,
and comfort and promise and redemption,
that they would know to look up at the sky.
Every person needs one
that would always be on their lips.
A person needs to bend one time –
Every person needs a shoulder.
Every person needs to have a
The Haggadah, which we read on Erev Peasach, is the reenactment of our master story. The text tells us that "In each generation, each person is obligated to see himself or herself as though he or she personally came forth from Egypt." It is not enough to remember or retell the story, but rather to experience the move from slavery to freedom on an intimate personal level. We, who are blessed with freedoms and liberties, are also obligated to look beyond our opulence and help others who are not yet liberated to come forth from their Egypt.
These Israeli songs, hinting at the Passover story, deal with personal liberation and modern day exodus.
Out of Egypt - Alma Zohar (with subtitles)
From Slavery to Freedom
Lyrics: Yanlele Rotblit
Music: Yitzhak Klepter and Guy Bokatto
Sunger: Arik Einstein
And there's something in me, like a full moon of Nisan
That calls me to rise, and calls yet again all the time
To embark on a journey full of perils
For a hint of a chance of an envisioned happy and unimaginative future
There is probably a chance, that from the top of some mountain
I will see far away a promise for tomorrow
That might not arrive, but even if I'll die on the road
Tonight I will go forth, from slavery to freedom
My ability to suffer failed, I could bear no more
Enough is enough, I said, I have to go
The slave in me, I left behind
In a place to where I shall never return.
I have nothing more to say, there are no words
I have nothing more to lose, except for these shackles
They have cut me to a pulp, I am still scratched
Tonight I will go forth, from slavery to freedom
A couple of years ago, we were fortunate to have a remarkable opportunity to closely examine the Arthur Szyk's Haggadah at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Szyk (pronounced "Shick") created his magnificent Haggadah in Lodz, on the eve of the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. The Haggadah is filled with sumptuous paintings of Jewish heroes, tyrannical foes and stunning calligraphy. Behind the beautiful design and masterful illustrations Szyk carefully interjects his criticism of Nazism in Europe. Szyk, who immigrated to the US in 1940, was throughout his life a staunch visual commentator on social and political issues. He was known for standing up to tyranny and was dubbed "A Soldier in Art" by his peers.
Unfortunately, tyranny and enslavement have not been eradicated yet. On Passover night we ought to be mindful of people in the US, in Israel and around the world who are not free. We bring you several samples of "Freedom Haggadot" and other resources with the hope that you will find a way to incorporate them into your Seders.
Current human rights issues in Israel
Foreign Workers and their families
Strangers No More, a film about the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, won the Academy Award in the category of Documentary (Short Subject) 2011
Slavery-Free resources for educators
Atzum - Justice Works/Addressing urgent need in Israel, one person at a time. Task Force on Human Trafficking
Global Slavery Index finds Jewish state doing relatively well, but problem persists
Two Historic Haggadot and their Influence on Contemporary Israeli artists
There are several Haggadot dating back to the Middle Ages that we are familiar with. These illuminated manuscripts tell historic tales of Jewish life and creativity. They are also fine examples of ancient Jewish art and are therefore being addressed visually in contemporary Israeli art. Two of the most widespread examples are the Birds' Head Haggadah and the Sarajevo Haggadah.
Birds' Head Haggadah
The Birds' Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript (S. German, c. 1300), derives its name from the birdlike human figures illustrated in the manuscript's margins. This motif is believed to be related to the biblical (Second Commandment) prohibition against creating graven images. The Birds' Head Haggadah, discovered by Israeli art historian Bezalel Narkiss in 1946, the realistic human figure is avoided by providing it with the head and beak of a bird. Some of the figures wear helmet-like hats reminiscent of the conic hats Jews were obliged to wear in Ashkenaz (Germany) during the Middle Ages. From time to time new theories claim that the codex was illuminated by Christian artists who interjected anti-semitic elements by depicting Jews as ravens.
The Wandering Jew
Sgan-Cohen used the hybrid figure as a symbol of the wandering Jew and by association as his self-portrait. In his painting The Wandering Jew Sgan-Cohen used the motif of the Hand of God, pointing (in the picture) to the image of a man (the artist's self-image) with a bird's head wearing a Judenhut, a pointed Jewish hat that was forced upon Jews in the Middle Ages. The chair, a symbol of settling down, remains in the foreground empty for now.
The Aachen Hagaddah
Cherkassky created the illustrated "Aachen Passover Haggadah" (named after the German city of Aachen where the artist did a residency). The Haggadah portrays graphic designs in red, black and gold - inspired by Jewish images, the Russian Avant-garde and anti-Semitic images. Throughout the Haggadah there are images of birds; their head is a Jewish head wearing a Streimel. These illustrations resemble the ones appearing in the Birds' Head Haggadah.The red, swollen feet symbolize the wandering Jew and the journey from Egypt to the Holy Land.
Radical Storytelling: Samuel Klein explores a challenging new Haggadah by artist Zoya Cherkassky
The Sarajevo Haggadah - Creation
The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world. Originating in Barcelona around 1350, the Haggadah has survived many close calls with destruction, including World War II and the Bosnian War. Historians believe that it was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. Notes in the margins of the Haggadah indicate that it surfaced in Italy in the 16th century. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 by a man named Joseph Kohen. The novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (2008), crafts a fictionalized history of the Haggadah from its origins in Spain to the museum in Sarajevo. The fascinating history of Dervis Korkut, who saved the book from the Nazis, was told inan article by Geraldine Brooks in The New Yorker magazine. The article also sets out the story of the young Jewish girl, Mira Papo, whom Korkut and his wife hid from the Nazis as they were acting to save the Haggadah. In a twist of fate, as an elderly woman in Israel, Mira Papo secured the safety of Korkut's daughter during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.
The dramatic history of this Haggadah and its beauty fired the imagination of several Israeli artists, most notably the painter Arie Aroch. Aroch was familiar with the Sarajevo Haggadah and its illustrations, which interested him both thematically and composition-wise.
Several pieces of his artwork are either directly related to the Haggadah or offer further developments on the themes and composition. These include: Moses from Sarajevo, The Creation, and The Figure 2 (based on a page where the number 2 was scribbles on the margins).
Other Resources for Passover
Resources to enhance your reading and discussion of The Betrayersby David Bezmozgis
We invite you to "Think Inside the Box" with our Book Club in a Box program! Whether you are thinking of starting a group or are already in one, we can help every step of the way—including providing the books free of charge. Call 415-567-3327 x706 or email email@example.com to learn how we can serve you.
Many of us get most of our news and form our opinions from our preferred press sources. Some of us read the newspaper in the morning, some listen to the radio on their way to work and some watch the evening news. Recently we heard on Israel's TV channel 10 (preferred press source), that most young Americans get their news and form their opinions based on watching Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, from their friends' posts on social media sites and from tweets by celebrities rather than news commentators.
Here are a few resources that have to do with opinions rather than news. They are a testament to the complicated issues we face, and explain in a way the heated arguments that happen daily here and in Israel.
We are sorry if this only adds to the confusion rather than solves it. Unfortunately, this is the nature of this very long and painful conflict.
What's your opinion??
All the best and let's continue to hope...
David Grossman's "End the Grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian Violence". published in Yediot Ahronot.
Jon Stewart The Daily Show, We Need to Talk About Israel
Extended Interview with Hillary Clinton
Ha'aretz Opinion Pages
Ynet (Yediot Ahronot) Opinion Pages
The caption reads: Failure of Humanitarian Cease Fire
The comic depicts opposing sides in Israel (on the right activists against continuing the Gaza operation and on the left for continuing the operation)
Web page for Ha'aretz Daily caricatures:
By Vavi Toran
In the past few weeks I argued with almost everyone I know. I also agreed with almost everyone I know. In the morning I am right-leaning and at night I am a leftist. In the morning I see no other way than continuing with all our might until the job is done (what job? When do we know it’s done?) and at night I mourn for victims of both sides. Most of all I wish this was over. I wish for an end to violence and suffering. When I talk or argue or try to get my point across I don’t always remain calm or listen attentively to my adversary. Many times we find out a few minutes into the heated argument that we have very similar beliefs after all. We argue because we care!
But not everywhere and every time there is a clash of ideas they remains civil and non-violent. On the streets of Jerusalem, in public places where people are demonstrating for this or that side, in written and broadcasted commentaries, and in social media, the discourse is far from civil and hatreds ancient and new come out in their ugliest manifestations.
Today is erev Tisha B'av, the commemoration of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
“Why were the Temples destroyed? The ancient rabbis explain that the First Temple was destroyed because of three things that occurred in it: idolatry, unseemly sexual behavior, and bloodshed. And then they give what to me is a provocative answer as to why the Second Temple was destroyed: "Because there was sinat chinam, baseless hatred." The Talmud goes on to say: "This teaches that baseless hatred is equated with three sins: idolatry, unseemly sexual behavior and bloodshed." (Talmud Yoma 9B)
What is sinat chinam? It includes gratuitous internecine backbiting, malicious hurtful speech and the inability to discuss differences in a civil way. These behaviors are seen as being as bad as idolatry, adultery and murder.
The astonishing claim is that how we talk to and about each other around issues that matter can destroy a city or maybe even a country. Words matter. Innuendo can kill." (From an article by Rabbi Laura Geller)
On this Tisha b’Av let us remember to listen to one another, honor each other’s opinions, and respond with civility and compassion.
This poem by Yehuda Amichai “From the Place Where We Are Right” - is especially poignant on this day.
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
Read more about Tisha B'av.