The Simcha (Joy) of Sukkot

by Tzivia Garfinkel, Director of Jewish Life and Learning

Most of the time, Jewish holidays invite us to remember, perform rituals, tell stories, recite blessings and prayers, commemorate history. One of the striking things about Sukkot is that we are literally told to rejoice in the holiday - v’samachta b’chagecha ושמחת בחגיך. In fact Sukkot is referred to as Z’man Simchateynu - the season of our rejoicing in the kiddush said at the festive meals, as well as in the additions to certain core tefilot (prayers) that are included in holiday prayer services.
So, where does Sukkot fit into the annual holiday cycle? At first glance, it seems to be part of the fall holidays: Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot. But did you ever consider Sukkot's connection to Pesach/Passover? Sukkot rounds out a different holiday cycle. Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot are three holidays linked in three significant ways.
They are linked in a historical cycle:
  • On Passover the Israelites are liberated from slavery in Egypt
  • On Shavuot the Israelites get to Mt. Sinai where they receive the Torah and hear the Ten Commandments
  • On Sukkot after receiving the Torah, they wander for forty years in the desert
There's also an agricultural cycle:
  • Passover always takes place in the spring and is the beginning of the planting season
  • Shavuot falls seven weeks after Passover, in early summer and marks the harvest of first fruits (bikurim)
  • Sukkot always occurs in autumn and is the final ingathering/harvest festival
And then there's a God cycle that points to the relationship between God and the emerging Jewish people/nation:
  • On Passover, God redeems the Jewish people from slavery
  • On Shavuot, God reveals God’s self to the nation at Sinai
  • On Sukkot, God provides for the Jewish people as they wander in the desert
It always seemed to me that if we lived in a perfect world, the final link in these cycles would have Sukkot celebrate the entry into the Land of Israel. After all, that is the ultimate objective of the process. But instead, Sukkot is the holiday that marks not-yet- arriving!
We celebrate the process - not reaching the goal.
So why are we specifically instructed to “rejoice” in this holiday? Is it because we’re joyful to have successfully been written in the Book of Life? Is it to celebrate the benefits of an abundant harvest? Or is it to present us with the challenge to find joy in our lives even when we have not yet reached our ultimate goal?
For more information about Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, try my favorite Jewish website: My Jewish Learning  

Posted on: 10/11/2017 1:49 PM Comments (0)

What are the Standards for Mathematical Practice?

by Jen Levy, Math Instructional Leader

The Standards for Mathematical Practice are part of the Common Core State Standards for all grades. These eight Mathematical Practices go hand in hand with the content standards mapped out for each grade level. The Mathematical Practices describe varieties of expertise or habits of mind that mathematics educators at all levels seek to develop in their students. For more information on the Common Core State Standards for content and practices please see this website.
Here is a brief description of each of the Mathematical Practices:



Make sense of problems and

persevere in solving them

Student plans, persists, monitors and checks work in problems

Reason abstractly and quantitatively

Student makes sense and thinks reasonably about the quantities and their relationships in problems

Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

Student explains thinking to other people, and discusses other people’s thinking

Model with mathematics

Student sees math in the world around us and uses various models to solve problems

Use appropriate tools strategically

Student selects and uses math tools carefully and knows limitations/benefits

Attend to precision

Student speaks and solves problems with exactness and meticulousness and reviews work

Look for and make use of structure

Student looks for patterns, repeated reasoning and structure to solve problems

Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Student notices if calculations are repeated and looks both for general methods and shortcuts to solve problems


For more information on how to support the development of these Mathematical Practices at home, please see this helpful website.


Posted on: 9/13/2017 1:41 PM Comments (0)

Educating Students to be Thoughtful, Empathic Citizens

by Noah S. Hartman, Head of School

This past weekend we witnessed deeply troubling events in Charlottesville that can’t go without acknowledgment and condemnation. At the root of so much evil that exists in the world is ignorance, and the most potent weapon against ignorance is education. Our mission at Bernard Zell, indeed our raison d’etre, is to educate students to be intelligent, thoughtful, independent-thinking, and empathic citizens who create a world that will be better tomorrow than it is today. 
There is an important combination of nature and nurture—the environment in which we raise our children and the education that we provide them—that leads our students to become who we all want them to be, which in turn creates the world in which we want them to live. No one is born a racist, a bigot, or an anti-Semite, but unfortunately there are people whose minds are so poisoned that they actually preach these horrible things. Human beings are all created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God, and we respect and celebrate the diversity that makes the world what it is. But we vigorously reject those who pervert the freedoms we have and use them as tools of hatred and violence.
The Jewish community has always stood against discrimination, and we do so at Bernard Zell in the absolute strongest terms. Events such as those in Charlottesville remind us how important it is that we remain focused on raising great kids who can think critically, behave compassionately, and reject evil. One organization with which Bernard Zell has partnered in this effort for several years is Facing History and Ourselves, a non-profit that trains teachers to confront racism and bigotry. In a recent interview with NPR, the organization’s CEO, Roger Brooks, says they seek to “empower students to work against bigotry and injustice or improper uses of power,” and that, "people make choices and choices make history."
We will continue to do the same and to teach our students to make choices that will make the future brighter, kinder, and safer for generations to come.

Posted on: 8/16/2017 2:22 PM Comments (0)

To the Class of 2017: BE the Difference, BE the Greatness, and BE Zell!

by Noah S. Hartman, Head of School

Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School matters. A lot. We aren’t here just to fill a building or help stimulate the local economy, even if we do both. We aren’t here just for ourselves or even just for one another. We are here because the world needs us. The world needs empathic, compassionate leaders; intellectually curious learners; creative problem-solvers; and ethical citizens with a deep commitment to humanity. We are here because the world desperately needs more Bernard Zell graduates.
Sam Zell has said, "If I’m being intellectually challenged, if I’m doing things I’ve never done before, if I’m using my creativity and resources to solve problems, if I’m constantly learning—that is fun."
This sentiment truly encapsulates what our graduates are taking out into the world: intellectual curiosity, creativity, problem-solving, and a love for learning. Indeed the education that they have received at Bernard Zell will extend well beyond the classroom.
Our graduates' journey is one on which we are proud and grateful to have joined. They will see that they may never have teachers like the ones they've had here. That they'll likely never receive personal love and attention like they’ve experienced here. But now that they've completed the Bernard Zell experience, these future prospects shouldn’t be scary because our graduates also have gotten all the tools they need to confront whatever they encounter down the road. The further they get from their time at Bernard Zell, the more they will see the impact this school has had on them. And their teachers are always there for them no matter what, no matter where, and no matter when.
When in The Lion King, Jr., the Operetta performed by our 8th graders earlier this spring, Rafiki took Simba to the watering hole and told him to look at his reflection, he saw who he thought himself to be. Rafiki insisted that he look more closely, and when he did, he saw his father’s likeness. He was reminded of the love, the support, and the teaching that his father had given him as a child. He was reminded that he is the one true king. Our graduates, for the rest of time, can look at their reflections and be reminded of the love, the support, and the teaching that they got here at Bernard Zell. Whenever they're in doubt, they can also imagine Rafiki insisting that they look closer, and they'll see their Bernard Zell classmates and teachers.
On Thursday night, I challenged our graduates to also embrace the Jewish teachings and culture that define our school. I challenged them to make a difference. Go for greatness. Work hard. And to always remember to BE the difference, BE the greatness, and BE Zell! I wish them and all of you a wonderful summer. Hakuna Matata!

Posted on: 6/14/2017 3:00 PM Comments (0)

Extraordinary and Ordinary Moments From Jerusalem

by Tzivia Garfinkel, Director of Jewish Life and Learning

It is hard to describe all the extraordinary and ordinary moments that made up the last seven days of our Tiyul in Israel. Singing “Bo,bo, bo, boker tov” and “I can teach you a word . . .” on the bus to start our days, learning a new Hebrew expression daily, observing Yom HaZikaron and celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, hiking, rafting, bike riding, tasting new foods, riding donkeys and camels, eating in a mishnaic-era village as well as a Bedouin tent, floating in the Dead Sea, exploring the Kotel tunnels. It is hard to imagine that we actually did all this and more in one short week! And yet we did.
Our time at the site of Masada with the Class of 2017 had a unique highlight this year. We climbed up the Roman ramp and headed directly into what was the synagogue during the three years (70 - 73 CE) that the Jewish Zealots held out against the Roman legion after they had destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. The kids brought their siddurim with them to bring our Tefilah into that special historic space. As it was Thursday morning, we had arranged to have a Torah scroll for our service. Ten eighth graders prepared to read passages from this week’s Torah portion, “Kedoshim”.
Early that morning, one of the students who had not marked his bar mitzvah back home, agreed to have an aliyah la-torah, and get called up to the Torah at Masada. He had the first aliyah, and chanted the blessings, followed by the first passage of the Torah portion. His friends continued the reading and at the end of that aliyah, everyone gathered around and started singing and dancing to celebrate their classmate becoming bar-mitzvah! We didn’t have candy to throw at him, so we threw throat lozenges from the first-aid kit to carry out the tradition of throwing something sweet at the bar mitzvah boy! Then we lifted him up on a chair, Israeli-style, 13 times, with everyone cheering. It was a moment that we will all remember!
In the short discussion we had about the Torah reading, we focused on the opening pasuk or passage. It reads as follows:
קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה׳ אלוהיכם / Kedoshim t'hiyu ki kadosh ani adonay eloheychem Be kadosh/holy, because I, your lord, am holy.
When the kids considered what this might mean, one member of the class of 2017, a “modern commentator,” suggested this: since the Torah tells us that human beings are created in the image of God, and God is kadosh/holy, then maybe being kadosh/holy is the way that human beings are intended to reflect their being created in God’s image.
Our trip is designed to have moments that resonate with each student. We don’t always know which experience will connect with each student before it happens. But, when it does, we all sense the impact. Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem!

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Posted on: 5/12/2017 12:17 PM Comments (0)

We're On Our Way Home!

We are sad our adventure has come to an end, but we can't wait to see all of you!


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Posted on: 5/10/2017 11:42 AM Comments (0)

Tiyul Days 14 & 15 - Our Final Hours in Tel Aviv

By: Leo Fischer, 8th Grade Student

Yesterday we sadly left our friends at Kiryat Gat and headed for a city called Holon to go the the Children's Museum. At the museum everyone had one of two options: The first was an exhibit called Dialogue in the Dark which was an activity where you go through a series of pitch black rooms with a blind guide to try to get an understanding of what being blind is like. For many, this activity made people have more respect and understanding for blind people. The second activity was to experience what it was like to be deaf. In the activity you couldn't hear or talk so you had to communicate with facial expressions and other movements. After the activity we ate lunch outside in the blazing 98 degree heat and then headed off to Tel-Aviv for the last part of our trip.

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Posted on: 5/10/2017 11:33 AM Comments (0)

Tiyul Day 13 - Dig for a Day & Kiryat Gat

By: Kate Perloff, 8th Grade Student

Today we went to Dig for a Day. We dug in archeological sights and dug up old ceramics from Maccabean times. After that, we emptied the buckets that we filled with the dirt that we dug and sifted it to see if we got any other ceramic parts. Then we visited a cave. We had to climb through holes and slide down dirt hills. 

Later that day, we went to see our mifgash friends and the people hosting us in Kiryat Gat. We did many activities like answering questions about Israel's history, hanging out outside of the school, and having dinner in their library. After dinner all of us went to our host's homes and each did our own activities. I stayed with Avital and Lela Zerman. We went to the mall and met up with a few other kids from our school and then went to Aroma.  We had so much fun hanging out with our Mifgash friends!

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Posted on: 5/10/2017 7:31 AM Comments (0)

Tiyul Day 12 - Our Last Day in Jerusalem

By: Dani Lieb & Julia Leff

Sunday May 7 we woke up for our last day in Jerusalem. We started our action packed day with a trip to Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial here in Jerusalem. We broke into two groups and did an audio tour around the museum with a guide. The tour was an amazing experience and was very meaningful and emotional for some of us. After our tour we had 3 choice activities to choose from. We chose from a culinary activity, a political tour, and food packing. The the food packers went to the pantry packers organization and packed rice and barley, then packaged it using machinery for shipping. The political tour went with Neil Lazarus, a political enthusiast, near the West Bank and learned all about politics. Both of us were part of the culinary experience. We went to the house of a very sweet and adorable elderly lady named Dalia. When we arrived to her house we met her dog Tony and her husband Ezra (who she thought ran away from her when he was just in the other room). Dalia then showed us how to make her special homemade kubbeh (a dough pastry stuffed with meat and in an amazing beet soup with rice). We got to prepare and eat the food with Dalia. We were also lucky enough to hear her phone ring with Elvis Presley about 15 times and join her in dancing to it. After we all finished our activities we headed back to our hotel to hear a hilarious and informative lecture from Neil Lazarus about politics in the Middle East. Neil had great points to help us all understand the issues in the Middle East better. Next we had some rest time and then came dinner! We took the bus to a delicious restaurant called Fiori, where we enjoyed various pastas, pizzas, salads and breads. The food was amazing! After that we had about 20 minutes to walk around the square where the restaurant was called Tahana ha Rishona (the first train station). We all found a very good ice cream store with cool flavors and amazing ice cream. After that was over we headed back to the hotel, packed up to leave Jerusalem and went to bed. Amazing day over all and we can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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Posted on: 5/9/2017 5:08 PM Comments (0)

Tiyul Day 11- Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

By: Alex Gassel, 8th Grade Student

This morning was Shabbat, so we all split up in to groups to go to different synagogue communities that we may have not experienced before. My group went to a Syrian Sephardic synagogue. It was one where the boys and girls were split up. So the other girls and I sat up in a balcony. It was such an interesting thing for me because I have never been to a synagogue where boys and girls are separated. The actual synagogue itself was beautiful. There was art on all the walls and mosaics on the balcony. I found that in the service I knew most of the prayers and was able to follow along even though the tunes were different. I also noticed that the Torah was stood up which I have never seen before! After that we went back to the hotel and were able to have some free time before we went to meet with an organization called Ultimate Peace. They are a group that brings Israeli and Arab children together through ultimate frisbee and show them how to get along. The place that we met them was probably my favorite that we have been to. It was such a beautiful park in the middle of Jerusalem! I loved seeing all he people hanging out there because it was shabbat. When we got there the counselors explained a bit about what they were all about then we got to play! Some people played a game, while others just threw the frisbee around with each other. It was a very relaxing time which we needed after such a busy few days. After the park, as we walked back to the hotel, we went through the shuk we had shopped at the day before. All the shops were closed and now that the shutters were down, we could see all the amazing street art that was painted on them. Most of them were faces all painted by the same artist. It was really cool to see more of Israeli life in Jerusalem. 

Then we stopped at the hotel again before we went to Ben Yehuda street. There was a quick walk to where we would all meet up, and then we were allowed to go around with friends. We got dinner and did some shopping. We even got to bargain! That was really fun to try even if it didn't work out. We bought gifts for family and friends and of course for ourselves! I don't know about everyone else but I'm sure my suitcase will be over 50 pounds from all the things I bought! It was such an amazing night to just be with our friends and explore Jerusalem for ourselves. It had been such a long day that the second we got to the hotel we all went right up to our rooms. I had a great time and I'm sure the last few will be even better! 

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Posted on: 5/8/2017 1:18 PM Comments (0)
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