Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A price tag on education

A young, Jewish girl sits in a Toronto classroom.  She struggles to focus while preoccupied with the swastikas etched into the top of her desk.  A Jewish boy in another school walks down the hallway as bullies throw coins at his feet and call him a "cheap Jew."  In a Canadian university, Jewish students hide their identity as they walk through corridors that are wallpapered with Anti-Israel and BDS propaganda.  A grandchild of a Holocaust survivor sits in a University lecture in which the professor shares poetry from Palestinians and facilitates a dialogue comparing the Holocaust to the "genocide of Palestinians at the hands of the Jews." This is the reality of 2019.  This is the world that we are raising our children in.  So, one needs to think about the price tag on education.

Our children need to feel connected to their Jewish roots and proud of their Jewish heritage.  They need to know their history so that others cannot shame them with the lies that are embedded in the propaganda that surrounds us.  If we want to be able to share Jewish holidays and customs with grandchildren one day; we need to invest that education in our children.  They need to feel a sense of belonging to the greater Jewish community. 

Our world is changing and with the winds of change comes uncertainty and fear.  Historically, uncertainty and fear along with financial difficulty led to blame and we know that blame results in hate and antisemitism.  Knowing this, we need to be proactive; not reactive.  We need to give our children the tools to navigate a secular community with a strong Jewish identity.  We can only do this by giving them a Jewish education.  We spend money and time on other extra-curricular activities to keep our children busy.  It is time to commit that time and money to ensuring that our children will have the knowledge to be Jewish leaders who understand our commitment to Israel and believe in their Jewish identity.  Every Jewish child deserves the opportunity to know what being a Jew means.  Every Jewish child deserves to learn about his/her history.

As the leaders in a Jewish community, it is our duty to ensure that we use all our resources available to us to nourish the Jewish minds and souls of our young.  The question is not, "What is the price tag of a Jewish education?'  The question we need to be asking ourselves is, "What is the cost of not giving a child a Jewish education?"

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Simchat Torah

Our class was very busy learning about the Torah and all the lessons that it teaches.

When asked “ What does the Torah teach us?” Some of the responses were:

“Not to kill”
“Not to steal”
“To give tzedakeh”
“To be good to people”
“Not to hurt people”
“Stories of our ancestors”
“Stories of how the world was made”
“How to live”

We created edible Torah’s as we learned the parts of the Torah.  We also went to admire our 300 year old Czech Torah that was saved during the Holocaust and recently donated to our shul.

After looking at the Torah and reciting a prayer, students enjoyed holding the Torah.

Admiring our 300 year old Czech Torah

Chag Sameach to all!

Sukkot Pictures

Learning about Sukkot

Learning about the lulav  and etrog

Monday, 3 September 2018

Shana Tova

A new year is just around the corner, which brings to mind many new beginnings.  It is an exciting time as children anticipate a new school year and Jewish families look forward to the celebration of the New Year with friends and family.  It is also a time of reflection.  It is a time to think about our priorities in life and reflect on our actions for the past year to see if they match what we feel are those priorities.

What is it that we hold most dear?  What are the things in our life that we prioritize and what have we done for the past 12 months to keep them central in our lives.

I think most parents will agree that our children are our number one priority in life.  Our health is also right up there at the top of the list and I know for me, my Jewish values and connection to Israel also makes the list.  Unfortunately, as we get caught up in our day to day business and chaotic lifestyles, we sometimes lose sight of those priorities.  I know that I am guilty of this.  Juggling the demands of a full- time job, part-time job and a family, it is very easy to place those priorities on the back burner..for later.  Next thing you know, you are driving your son back to University and wondering where the time went.

So, I ask you to think about those priorities.  Think about a daily action that you can do to keep connected to those important things in life, every day of this new year.

There are many small things to do in our daily lives to ensure we don't lose sight of what is really important.  Disconnecting from our phones and emails for an hour every evening to be completely present in the lives of our children is a good start.  Ensuring our phones are nowhere near our dinner table so that we can engage in meaningful conversation with our children is essential.  Taking half an hour a day for ourselves to rejuvenate both mentally and physically can also help us stay focused on our own health.  After all, as a parent it is very easy to put everyone before yourself until you are completely drained and have nothing more to give.  Therefore, it is important to see ourselves as a cup that needs to remain filled with happiness, energy, good health so that we can "runneth over" and feed our families with the overflow.  If we drain our own cup, we will have nothing left for others.  Don't forget to prioritize yourself too.

How are you going to keep Judaism in your home and model it as a priority for your children.  Maybe you need to cut out one of the many extra-curricular activities that your child does and instead, enroll him/her in our Hebrew School, where for 2 hours a week he/she can enrich their knowledge and pride in their Jewish roots.  Maybe, you can commit to one Shabbat a month, in which you turn off all electronics and spend the day reconnecting with family.  Maybe, coming to shul for Shabbat service one Saturday a month.  There are many ways that we can stay connected to our religion and our Jewish community. The question remains...if it is a priority to you, then what actions will you take to prioritize it?

As many families move away from Jewish Day Schools for a variety of reasons; unfortunately many children are also losing the connection to our faith.  It is difficult to stay connected to something that you don't fully understand.  Without the knowledge of our history and culture the continuity of our beautiful and rich religion is being threatened.  Our children are growing up in a different world than we knew.  They may know how to navigate social media, technology and code a computer but do they know why Israel is important?  Do they know the meaning of anti-semitism? Do they know that more than 6 million innocent Jews were murdered just 70 years ago?  Do they know that they belong to a Jewish history that goes back more than 5000 years and do they really understand the values of our Torah?

Do our children understand that "anti-bullying" laws are something that are not new?  They are Jewish laws that were written thousands of years ago, under the name of "Lashon Hora."

Do our children know that sending "get well" messages to the sick is also something that the Jewish people have been doing for centuries as "Bikur Cholim?"

How will our Jewish children grow up to be ethical, Jewish leaders if we don't work today to educate them?  As we prioritize our childrens' education, we need to also think about the Jewish component of that education.  We need to prioritize our childrens' connection to Israel and their Jewish roots.

Our mission statement for Aleph Beit Chadash Hebrew School is to strengthen that connection and instill pride in every child in their rich Jewish culture.  As a school, we look forward to partnering with parents in the honourable mission to build a strong, proud, Jewish future generation.

Shana Tova!

Shauna Small

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Solidarity with Israel is part of Judaism

Aleph Beit Chadash had an opportunity to Walk with Israel on May 27th with the Toronto Jewish community.  It was a beautiful day as we showed our pride for Eretz Israel by walking through downtown Toronto carrying our Israeli flag. 

So, it is days like this that make me reflect on the importance of Israel for the continuity of the Jewish people and the role that we must play in securing the State of Israel.  As we walked proudly with the Israeli flag waving among the crowds, there were also many "protesters" with different flags and signs that opposed Israel.  Some of these protesters were also fellow "Jews," One of my young students looked up at me and innocently questioned, "Why do those people hate us and why are those Jews on the wrong side of the road?"

How do we explain to our children that there will always be people who hate us, as there always has been.  Unfortunately, there is ignorance in our world but that must not stand in our way of standing proud to be Jewish and proud to call Eretz Israel our Eternal Homeland. 

It is for this reason that teaching modern Israeli history must go hand in hand with teaching religion and Jewish history.  It is not enough to teach our children about Ancient Egypt and it is not enough to teach them all the stories from our Tanach.  It is not enough to teach them about Rosh Hashana and Pesach.  We must teach them about Israel.  Our children must know that Israel is not only our Promised Land from Hashem; it is our "Promised Land from the Balfour Declaration (1917) and the Mandate for Palestine (1922).  Our children need to know that those who call Israelis "occupiers" and compare the Israelis to the Nazis are simply misinformed, ignorant and maybe even antisemites. 

This is the reason that the Mission Statement of Aleph Beit Chadash is more than just a commitment to teach Jewish holidays and Torah stories.  Our mission is to teach children about Eretz Israel, Zionism and the role that they must take as Diaspora Jews to ensure that we always have a strong Jewish community walking "on the right side of the street."

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Passover wishes

It is really hard to believe that spring has arrived and so has Passover.  It seems like time is running away from us as we try to fill our Sunday morning classes with lots of fun and learning.

This morning we hosted our second annual "Chocolate Seder" and welcomed many parents with their children to join in on the "Pesach" fun.  Along with learning the story of Passover and practicing the Four questions, students were able to participate in the traditional blessings and Passover songs.  We enjoyed our 4 cups of chocolate milk and of course all of our "sweet" substitutes on our seder plates.  The feeling around the table was cheerful, inquisitive and lots of fun.

On behalf of Aleph Beit Chadash, we wish everyone a Chag Sameach and look forward to seeing everyone on April 15th.

Purim fun

Our Purim celebrations were a little different since we were fortunate to have Ronnie and Noam (our Shinshinim) lead us in a "Tzahal" experience while learning about Purim in Israel.  They began our program today as our "Commanders" and the students were given various missions to collaborate on while also learning about Purim.  They solved codes to find answers and worked together in this engaging and fun program. 

Our older students were also performers today as they performed the Purim story for the younger students. 

Finally, they were able to enjoy our mini carnival, playing games and winning prizes.

Our morning was filled with lots of laughter and excitement today.
Chag Sameach and Happy Purim everyone.