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Malkie Herson's Blog

Thoughts from Malkie Herson

Tu B’shvat – the Jewish New Year for Trees

 At Zimmer Preschool and Olam Academy and Breitman Hebrew School, our children are starting a new holiday unit about Tu B’shvat – the Jewish New Year for Trees. The Jewish calendar actually celebrates four distinctive New Years that create an opportunity for us to commemorate creation, agriculture, social and political entities, our responsibilities toward contributing to our community’s infrastructure. 

 Tu B’shvat (which is not a name, but actually the Hebrew pronunciation of the date - the 15th of the month of Shvat) celebrates the beginning of the spring agricultural cycle in Israel.  If you were visiting Israel at this time the fruit trees – especially the almonds – are beginning to bloom along with the sweet smell of citrus.

 According to biblical dictates farmers in Israel do not use or sell fruit from trees until their third year of growth. During the time when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Tu B’shvat provided the demarcation for marking the years of a tree's growth (similar to the way that all thoroughbred race horse ages are calculated from January 1 for the purpose of becoming a “three year old” that can run at The Kentucky Derby). Once the tree reached “maturity” and its fruit could be picked – the third fruiting season - the farmer would be required to bring a percentage of the third year’s produce to the Temple for charity and dedication. 

 For the children, who for the most part require a concrete relationship to give context to their learning, we concentrate on the beauty and value of fruit-bearing trees. By linking information they are learning or have familiarity with, we can create a meaningful connection between the observance and spirit of the holiday. No, we don’t live in Israel, we don’t bring tithes to the Temple, we are not contemplating the greater agricultural cycle, but we can talk about trees, about their parts, about fruit, about springtime blooms after a winter’s sleep. We can thank Hashem for filling our world with trees. For some of the older children we can also talk about Israel, climatic differences, seasonal change, and use beginning map reading and early math skills in our discussions. Creating an environment that talks simultaneously “to” the children’s cognitive level as well as just a bit “beyond” their comfort zone we can help our children learn, grow and develop as well rounded human beings.

 Tu B’shvat reminds us of our relationship to the natural world, the way G-d intended it to be, including our need to care for and respect it and to act responsibly in order to keep the earth’s environment safe for our children and their children after that. Jewish teachings don’t ask us to give charity, but rather “to do righteousness,” which is really the root concept for the word “tzedakah.”

 To this end the children will explore and focus on different aspects of trees and fruit:

Young two’s are gaining the vocabulary to talk about a topic, thus they will concentrate on trees, fruit from trees.  Older two’s will be able to expand that idea to include parts of a tree and the recognition that some trees give us fruit, some do not. At this stage the children will create representations of trees and fruit and explore through pictures/photos, walks outside, and representational creations (using various art materials).

 Our three year olds will link their knowledge about trees and fruit to a discussion about climate and seasons.  They will start a conversation about contrasting climates- here in NJ as opposed to the climate in Israel. Just as we care for ourselves, trees are living and our three year olds can make the connection between caring for animal and plant life. They will be discussing how different kinds of fruit grow on trees that live in different kinds of climates.

 The pre-K class will be learning and exploring climate as a factor in nature. They will also review concepts from previous learning about trees and fruit and will bring a cognitive skill- graphing and math into the equation!

 In Kindergarten, where the children have begun to explore abstract content, they will certainly build further – talking about climate, water requirements and irrigation.  They will be able to extrapolate the needs of people in an arid climate (most of Israel) and how irrigation is used as a method of allowing fruit trees (and food sources) to grow.

 Olam Academy's 1st Graders will be exploring these concepts and adding new Hebrew vocabulary words into their knowledge base. Tu Bishvat unit will reflect that interdisciplinary way we approach education. 

Breitman Hebrew School will have many hands-on activities - hunts, match-it-games, 7-Species Tasting Test, etc. - to bring this holiday alive. We will analyze the commonalities between human growth and trees, and the symbiotic relationship between human and nature.

In each of the age groups the children will also be discussing the beauty of nature, our responsibility to care for the natural world and how we can show our appreciation of it.

 Each holiday has its customs and rituals. On Tu B’shvat we eat fruits, specifically the fruits and grains with which Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, dates, pomegranates and olives.

 A wonderful Tu B’shvat celebration will take place in preschool on January 20th.  The children will be participating in a representational fruit market.  The market itself will be organized by the pre-K class and each class will participate by visiting the market, visually examining the choices, making personal choices of which fruit to eat and then joining their preschool community in a fruit-feast in honor of Tu B’shvat. Conversations linking the teachings and experiences of Tu B’shvat with the fruit market will occur in each class.

 In order to “stock” our market, each teacher will be posting a list of fruit we need from each class. Parents are asked to choose a fruit that they can provide (you’ll be asked to designate your choice on the list) and deliver it to the pre-K class (Morah Janice & Chayala on the 2nd floor) between 9:00 and 9:30 AM on either January 18 or 19. The children in the pre-K will appropriately thank you for helping to stock their market! The fruit will be shared communally by the entire preschool.

 Thank you for learning about Tu B’shvat through this short note, we hope the children are sharing some of their new knowledge with you at home!

 Although it’s snowy and cold outside in New Jersey, Tu B’shvat can also remind us of the beautiful spring that lies in wait.

 

B’shalom,

Malkie and Ann

Tu B'Shvat Letter

Dear Zimmer Parents:
The children are starting a new holiday unit about Tu B’shvat – the Jewish New Year for Trees. The Jewish calendar actually celebrates four distinctive New Years that create an opportunity for us to commemorate creation, agriculture, social and political entities, our responsibilities toward contributing to our community’s infrastructure .

Tu B’shvat (which is not a name, but actually the Hebrew pronunciation of the date- the15th of the month of Shvat) celebrates the beginning of the spring agricultural cycle in Israel. If you were visiting Israel at this time the fruit trees- especially the almonds – are beginning to bloom along with the sweet smell of citrus.

According to biblical dictates farmers in Israel do not use or sell fruit from trees until their third year of growth. During the time when the Temple stood in Jerusalem Tu B’shvat provided the demarcation for marking the years of a trees growth (similar to the way that all thoroughbred race horse ages are calculated from January 1 for the purpose of becoming a “three year old” that can run at The Kentucky Derby). Once the tree reached “maturity” and its fruit could be picked – the third fruiting season- the farmer would be required to bring a percentage of the third year’s produce to the Temple for charity and dedication.
For the children, who for the most part require a concrete relationship to give context to their learning, we concentrate on the beauty and value of fruit-bearing trees.

By linking information they are learning or have familiarity with, we can create a
meaningful connection between the observance and spirit of the holiday. No, we don’t live in Israel, we don’t bring tithes to the Temple, we are not contemplating the greater agricultural cycle, but we can talk about trees, about their parts, about fruit, about springtime blooms after a winter’s sleep. For some of the older children we can also talk about Israel, climatic differences, seasonal change, beginning map reading and early math skills. Creating an environment that talks simultaneously “to” the children’s cognitive level as well as just a bit “beyond” their comfort zone we can help our children learn, grow and develop as well rounded human beings.

Tu B’shvat reminds us of our relationship to the natural world, our need to care and respect it and to act responsibly in order to keep the earth’s environment safe for our children and their children after that. Jewish teachings don’t ask us to give charity, but rather “to do righteousness”- which is really the root concept for the word “tzedakah.”

To this end the children will explore and focus on different aspects of trees and fruit:

• Young two’s are gaining the vocabulary to talk about a topic, thus they will
concentrate on trees, fruit from trees. Older two’s will be able to expand that
idea to include parts of a tree and the recognition that some trees give us fruit,
some do not. At this stage the children will create representations of trees
and fruit and explore through pictures/photos, walks outside, representational
creations (using various art materials).

• Our three year olds will link their knowledge about trees and fruit to a discussion about climate, seasons and here in contrast with Israel. Just as we care for ourselves, trees are living and our three year olds can make the connection between caring for animal and plant life. They will be discussing how different kinds of fruit grows on trees that live in different kinds of climates.

•The pre-K class will be learning and exploring climate as a factor in nature. Theywill also review concepts from previous learning about trees and fruit and will bring a cognitive skill- graphing and math into the equation!
In Kindergarten, where the children have begun to explore abstract content,
they will certainly build further – talking about climate, water requirements and
irrigation. They will be able to extrapolate the needs of people in an arid climate
(most of Israel) and how irrigation is used as a method of allowing fruit trees
(and food sources) to grow.

•In each of the age groups the children will also be discussing the beauty of nature, our responsibility to care for the natural world and how we can show our appreciation of it.

Each holiday has its customs and rituals. On Tu B’shvat we eat fruits, specifically
the fruits and grains with which Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, dates, pomegranates and olives.

Our Tu B’shvat celebration will take place in school on January 20th. The children will be participating in a representational fruit market. The market itself will be organized by the pre-K class and each class will participate by visiting the market, visually examining the choices, making personal choices of which fruit to eat and then joining their preschool community in a fruit-feast in honor of Tu B’shvat. Conversations linking the teachings and experiences of Tu B’shvat with the fruit market will occur in each class.

In order to “stock” our market, each teacher will be posting a list of fruit we need from each class. Parents are asked to choose a fruit that they can provide (you’ll be asked to designate your choice on the list) and deliver it to the pre-K class (Morah Janice & Chayala on the 2nd floor) between 9:00 and 9:30 AM on either January 18 or 19. The children in the pre-K will appropriately thank you for helping to stock their market! The fruit will be shared communally by the entire preschool.

Thank you for learning about Tu B’shvat through this short note, we hope the children are sharing some of their new knowledge with you at home!
Although it’s snowy and cold outside in New Jersey, Tu B’shvat can also remind us of the beautiful spring that lies in wait.

B’shalom
Malkie and Ann

Chanukah

Dear Parents,
 

Horray! It’s Chanukah! Tinkly flames atop a beautiful Menorah sets the perfect stage. Family dreidel games, played with coins – both real and chocolate! Deep-fried donuts and latkes (potato pancakes)! Singing, dancing, fun...
 

Chanukah – like all Jewish holidays – is quite the multi-sensory, joyful celebration.
 

And, Chanukah, like all Jewish holidays, celebrates much more than a story that happened long ago. It celebrates a message that is relevant to us today; a message that can translate into a ‘power tool’ for us to incorporate into our psyches to use to become our best selves.
 

Historically, the Chanukah story celebrates a military victory over the Greek Syrian armies. When the Greek Syrian army, led by King Antiochus inherited this region from Alexander the Great and – as was his custom – forced his conquests to give up their values and to adopt his narcissistic and non-G-dly ways, the Jews resisted and ultimately succeeded in getting their land back. At the face of it, the Jewish army was virtually powerless in the face of the mighty Greek-Syrian army, but they were armed with a strong belief in what they were fighting for, and that gave them the strength they needed.
 

This is a powerful message for all of us. Surely, we all have principles. But for these principles to be strong enough to withstand pressures, they need to come from a deep place and to be constantly revisited and reflected upon. Otherwise, they’re on auto-pilot and may not be a source of strength when we need them most.
 

Our older preschool children are using the Chanukah holiday to explore the value of tenacity and bravery. In what situations might we need to access a sense of bravery? What does it mean to be brave? What do we do when we are not feeling all that brave? How do we communicate respectfully when our friends have different opinions.
 

These are all complex questions with complex responses. And, we adults struggle with the very same questions. But, if we start these conversations with children as young as preschool, think of the head start they have in life!
 

Best wishes for a holiday of light – physically and spiritually.

Happy Chanukah to us all!

Malkie

Thanksgiving Feast is approaching...

Dear Zimmer and Olam Families:
Our Thanksgiving Feast is approaching- the children will be preparing for a joyous holiday celebration.
Malkie and I are writing to you to ask your help in giving our Feast a slight “twist” this year.
Our staff works tirelessly helping your children comprehend and internalize the concepts of thankfulness, helping, empathy, gratefulness, etc. We practice using caring words, word of gratitude and acting in kind and thoughtful ways to each other. We talk about respect for each other, for our parents, for other adults. We promote acts of kindness towards others. Some of our children will create cards to express these thoughts, some will sing songs, some will create short plays. Your child’s morah seeks to facilitate your child’s development, self awareness and self worth. The children spend many waking hours with caring adults who do this because it’s a life’s mission to spend their time and energy working with children and their families.
This year we want to enhance the experience. We’d like to suggest that as parents you/we spend a few moments thanking the morahs at school who mentor, guide and counsel your children.
Our “Feast program” will include a few minutes for you to create a card, note,
poem, picture- a written expression- that expresses thanks to your child’s teacher. The teachers are not aware of this part of the program and it will not be a shared activity with your child. Rather, it is an opportunity to create tangible adult to adult confirmation that we all appreciate the value of our teachers’ efforts. You need not think of an elaborate statement, a simple thank-you will do. At the end of the feast, we will leave a few moments for you to approach your child’s morah to give her your note or card.

Thank you for “lending” us your children all week long. We appreciate your confidence in our ability to create an emotionally safe, intellectually stimulating environment.

Thank you, in advance, for helping our morahs’ know how much you appreciate their commitment.
L’hitraot, see you at the Feast!
Malkie and Ann
 

 

 

ASK ANY GOOD QUESTIONS LATELY?

Imagine you are standing at the doorway of the most incredible palace. It’s yours to have; all you have to do is walk through the doorway. Every part of you wants to enter.

For the briefest moment, though, you pause. “Maybe I should just turn around and leave,” you think. 
But then you are greeted by the most gracious of hostesses.
She gently takes your hand and leads you inside.  
Whatever you imagined from the outside, the inside is a million times more.
Walking in was a good decision.
 
If “knowledge” is the beautiful palace, the hostess beckoning us inside is our internal “sense of inquiry”.
We gain access to knowledge in our willingness to ask (meaningful) questions.
 
Asking questions is a doorway to knowledge, to understanding, to connection.
Asking questions is a power. A power that we should hold on to and never let go.
 
Yet, asking questions is not always easy.
Is it that we don’t want to expose our ignorance?
Is it that we are comfortable in our apathy?
Is it that we – the freest people in history – are willing to conform, sometimes blindly?
 
Passover holiday celebrates our freedom. True, it celebrates our freedom from physical slavery (external shackles), but it also celebrates our potential for freedom from any internal mechanism that keep us from being the best we can be.
 
Apathy, the opposite healthy curiosity, is an internal shackle that enslaves us.
 
So, Passover – the Holiday of Freedom – celebrates questions.
We have rituals and practices throughout the Seder Meal that are specifically designed to provoke questions. Indeed, we ask the famous 4 Questions.
 
In the Hagadah, we are introduced to Four Sons, each with his own distinctive world view: A ‘wise son’, a ‘wicked son’, a ‘simple son’ and one ‘who doesn’t know how to ask’. We are introduced to them by the kinds of questions they ask. Interestingly, the wise son and the wicked son both ask similar questions. It is the attitude that makes the difference. The wise son asks with authentic curiosity and openness, while the wicked son asks with contempt and cynicism. The wise son is open, the wicked son has his mind made up and is immovable. The simple son also asks questions, but shallow, skin-deep questions, not meaningful explorations that will lead to personal development. And, the fourth son is totally apathetic; he doesn’t question at all. He lives on auto-pilot. He does things without mind and heart.
 
The years of early childhood are formative years. It is now that we plant our children on healthy paths for life. It is now that we establish our children’s world views. Certainly, we want our children to grow into adults who know how to think, to wonder, to analyze, to evaluate, and to ask meaningful questions.
 
Zimmer children’s questions are celebrated. Even the youngest children are encouraged to hone their observation skills. We encourage them to ask questions about their observations. As Morahs, we model question-asking. As the children get older, we discuss the notion of asking questions: What is a question? How do you know if someone is asking - or writing - a question? What are different types of questions? Are there things you never think or care enough to ask questions? What happens if we have a question but we don’t have the courage to ask? In that case, what could we do to encourage ourselves to ask questions?
 
Questions beget answers beget more questions beget more answers…which leads to personal growth and discovery… which leads us to ‘own’ the palace.
 
To life in the palace! 
Malkie

Happy Birthday!

 Dear Zimmer Parents,

 

It was 11:45 and Morah Batsheva popped her head into my office, "Morah Malkie, I'd like to show you something. Can you please come for a minute?" These kinds of requests from the teachers usually mean that there is something awesome going on in the classroom and they are inviting me in to be part of it.
 
"Sure!" I said.
 
I followed her out and the most AMAZING sight was waiting for me: There, in the lobby was 60 of the most beautiful pairs of eyes looking at me. "Surprise!" they all shouted gleefully. "Happy birthday!"
 
They showered me with cards. The messages were so sweet!
 
I needed a whole bunch of fingers to show them how old (!!) I am.
(For the record, I needed 8 hands...go on, you do the math...)
 
Parents, you have raised the most beautiful children, children who will surely grow up to be an asset to this world. They share their love so willingly. Their joy and beautiful personalities are infectious. I feel honored to be part of their educational journey.
 
Sincerely,
A newly-minted 40-year-old,
Malkie

WE WALK IN MIRACLES EVERY DAY

Dear Families,
 
Last night, we had our bi-weekly curriculum meeting. The holiday of Purim is coming up next month, and we challenged ourselves to mine the holiday for its deeper message, to see beyond the story and rituals of the day. It is that message that we take to the children, in an age-appropriate way, helping them see the world through a lens of values and big ideas.
 
So, what is Purim’s deeper message? At the face of it, Purim celebrates a victory we had as a people when, despite a terrible decree from the political ruler of the day, disaster was averted. As it turns out, the Jewish people had a sympathetic queen at the right place, at the right time, and she used her influence to save us. A series of lucky breaks.
 
And that is the Purim message. Purim celebrates…well, it celebrates the miracles in regular life. Miracles that we may take for granted. It helps remind us that life may not be filled with blockbuster miracles – like Passover’s story of the Ten Plagues and Splitting of the Red Sea, or Chanukah’s miracle of oil remaining kindled longer than it is naturally possible – but, life is filled with miracles. We just need to open our eyes to see them.
 
It’s easy to gloss over the miracles of the average day.
So often when we ask each other, “What happened today?” the response is, “Nothing.” 
But is that really true? What was special about today?
 
It is a tremendously beneficial to our mental health if we are able to notice and appreciate small things/small moments: My apple tasted so sweet at lunch. The sun feels amazing on my face as I get out of my car. My friend looked at me in a way that made me feel good.
 
We walk in miracles every day.
 
I want to take this opportunity to thank the miracles we have in our classrooms, with our teachers, every day. I feel incredibly grateful both in my role as a Zimmer mom, and as Educational Director. (Whenever I run staff development meetings for other preschools, as I drive home, my urge is to call each of our teachers and to tell them how much I appreciate them!)
 
An example: The other day, Morah Janice was with Pre-K in the playroom. Two children were on the tricycle together. One child tipped. Immediately, the other child jumped off the trike and said, “Are you okay? I think I was driving too fast. I’m sorry you got hurt.” Such an instinctive display of empathy, such ownership! Morah Janice was amazed. She told me, “This ability for a young child to first consider someone else’s needs before his own, is incredible! This is not something you see everywhere!”
 
So…
- Thank you, Morahs, for interacting with my child in a ‘language’ of  respect and dignity; due to your modeling, that is the language he learns to use when interacting with others.

- Thank you, Morahs, for dialoging with my child in ways that train him to think for himself, for not stifling his creativity by merely telling him what to do, what crafts we’re making, what songs we’re singing, etc.

- Thank you, Morahs, for creating immersive learning environments that expose him to things that he wouldn’t have otherwise.

- Thank you, Morahs, for trying so hard to communicate your ways with us parents, so that we can offer our children consistent messages.
 
The list can go on and on…indeed, my boys and I walk in your miracles every day. As a mom, I feel it. As the director, I know it. Thanks for your commitment, passion and efforts.
 
Sincerely,
Malkie

The Power of Stories

T
 
 
his morning, a parent stopped in to tell me that she had listened in on her child’s teacher telling the Chanukah story. She said that she was moved by “the softness of the story-telling”. I asked her to elaborate. She said that she couldn’t quite explain but “it feels so different to the way I remember the Chanukah story told to me.”
 
Some background on the Chanukah story: Two hundred-fifty years before the Common Era, the Syrian-Greeks Empire controlled Israel and tried to force their Hellenist ideology on Israel's Jewish community. The Jews refused to be swayed from their ideals, and ultimately drove the mighty Empire from their land. This triumph, the unlikely victory of a weak minority against a world-class army, is celebrated on Chanukah. 
 
 
 
Here’s why I think the story-telling sounded “soft”…
 
 
 
 
1.      The story is infused with values and morals:
When our staff meets to plan how to tell the holiday story we focus on the messages and lessons that we hope the children will extract from the story. (I hope that our Thanksgiving video illustrated this.) For example, our older children are exploring the big ideas such as courage, strength of character, pride in one’s identity, etc.*
 
A story told around morals, and not around badly-behaving characters, is an effective way to teach morals (and sounds softer)…
 
2.      The wording is sensitive (even of less-than-impressive characters):
Careful attention is placed on the wording we use in telling the stories. Children learn to talk based on how they hear those around them talk. (Pretty overwhelming thought, no?) So, we want to be sure we are using words that would feel right when we hear the children using them.
 
Look at it this way: How do toddlers learn languages? By hearing people talk. Simple.
 
Likewise, children learn all language – the language of dignity, of respect, of not jumping to conclusions, of patience, of giving a second chance, of a soft tone, etc. etc. – all by how they hear those around them talk.
 
For example: We want to raise children who are DISCERNING human beings, as opposed to JUDGMENTAL human beings. So, we need to talk in language that reflects these ideals. When we describe a character who behaved badly, we are careful to distinguish between the person and his action, between the action and the motive. In retelling a story, it is important to clearly delineate between good and bad behavior. But no less important: We must clearly delineate between people’s behaviors and the actual person. Because, if a child hears judgment, he learns to… act judgmentally.
 
A story told with sensitive language, language that reflects the complexities of the character’s context, is an effective way to teach how to talk sensitively (and sounds softer)…
 
3.      We recognize the power of a story.
Stories offer a unique venue to learn social/emotional skills. Stories are about other people’s lives, so it feels “safe” to explore the choices and struggles they faced and how they overcame them (or didn’t!) If we include in our stories nuanced descriptions of the character’s struggles and choices, we leave room for the children to think, to feel and to discover. Stories – when explored deeply give us clues to our own psyches; they give us perspectives to draw from when faced with variations of these stories in their own lives. It is not likely that our children will face the same struggles of the Macabees. But they will face choices that’ll require of them personal bravery and integrity and a willingness to take risks. They will face situations in which they will need to muster a strong sense of identity.
 
A story told by a story-teller who appreciates the power of story, is an effective way to teach all sorts of social emotional skills (and sounds softer)…
 
What a powerful time to instill values, childhood years are! By incorporating values into our children from the get-go, this is the only way they know to look at the world. They don’t have to overcome judgment (for example); they never had that as their world view to start with!!
 
Happy Chanukah!
Malkie
 
* Please take a look in the classrooms to see the children’s Chanukah work. Teachers will be posting their Chanukah messages on their blogs as well.
 

Let's Surround our Children with Love and Nurture

Dear Parents,

Many of you asked for a copy of the video we showed at our Sukkot Supper last week. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO) The message of that video (as gleaned from the message of the Sukkot story) is how important it is to surround our children in a nurturing atmosphere if we want to optimize their desire to learn and to grow. Why? What is the connection between the two?

Have you ever attempted a new project or experimented with a new experience that required you to leave your emotional safety zone? Was it easy?

Isn’t it easier to tackle these sorts of things when we know that our ‘support team’ (spouse, friend, parents, teacher, etc.) is behind us with unqualified love and acceptance, even if we were to fail?

If this is true for adults, how much more so for young children! At this stage of their development, children are learning a tremendous amount. They are learning how to be a friend. They are learning how to think creatively. They are learning how to take another into consideration. They are learning how to be communicative. (All this in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic!)

For them to learn, they have to be willing to take risks, to tackle an endeavor that they may not succeed at first. But, to be willing to do that, the learner needs to know that s/he is accepted and loved no matter what.

Indeed, it is well documented that the emotional and cognitive support, love, and nurture that a child receives during their early years actually increases his/her capacity to learn and to develop mentally and physically.

It makes a lot of sense. A child who receives strong and consistent messages of “I love you; I believe in you; I am rooting for you; I will always be here for you,” will simply do better overall.

We see this same idea in the Sukkot story. The Sukkot story unfolds three thousand years ago. The Jewish people, a newly freed people, were traveling through the desert on their way to nationhood. These years are the parallel of early childhood. We had to grow and to develop into a viable nation. We had a lot to learn. And, we were doing this as we were traveling through a desert, which is quite a challenging experience. But through it all, G-d nurtured us and surrounded us with clouds of protection. It was upon this foundation of support that this new nation had the emotional availability to learn and to grow.

From that story, we learn the importance of providing a loving foundation of support for our children. Indeed, the stronger the message of support, the more likely it is that our children will be emotionally available to learn and to grow.

Sincerely,

Malkie

Yom Kippur

Dear Parents:
 
This Sunday evening begins the holiday of Yom Kippur, one of the most well-known of Jewish holidays. We welcome this Holy Day with a prayer known as “Kol Nidrei” – a prayer which addresses vows and promises we may have taken over the course of the year.
 
Why dedicate this prime time of synagogue attendance to a prayer that
focuses on20the annulment of vows? On the face of it, its substance seems an odd choice for this uniquely contemplative time.
 
There are many beautiful explanations offered as to why this prayer was selected; I’d like to share a thought of mine. To me, the Kol Nidrei prayer is much larger than vows; it is an acknowledgement towards the overall power of speech. Speech, the bridge that connects people. And what a potent bridge it is. How we speak to each other has such influence on our relationships.
 
The following guide to promote effective communication with children is from Stanford University: 
 

 
  • Make yourself available for uninterrupted, one on one time with your children, sharing her interests and following her lead.
  • Get down to your child’s eye level. This is a great equalizer and makes conversation easier because it shows that you are interested.
  • Be aware of the tone of your voice. Comment on what you notice or observe in a voice that is calm, positive and genuine. 
  • Encourage your child to think and reflect by asking open-ended questions that elicit more than a yes or a no answer. “Why do you think that block keeps falling over?”
  • Give your child enough time to listen, think and respond.
  • Practice active listening: help clarify questions or comments by rephrasing what your child has said. “ So you think it’s falling over because we made it to tall”
  • Model the give-and-take conversations. Give your child many opportunities to practice listening as well as being heard.
With wishes for a happy new year, full of rich communication and relationships!
Malkie

How to Nurture a Sense of Inquisitiveness within our Children

Dear Parents,

We hope you enjoy the Hagadah Book that your child worked so hard to make. It showcases the knowledge that the children acquired and the skills that they honed. (As this is an “expanding Hagadah”; we designed it in a way that shows the growth of the children over the course of their early childhood years.) 

As you read the Hagadah and hear the children talk about Passover, you will hear the many interesting and distinct customs we have on this holiday. Actually, no other holiday’s table looks quite like the Passover one. It is full of sensory experiences – foods, props, stories, movements – designed thousands of years ago by the rabbis of the Talmud to elicit questions and evoke curiosity. For example, we dip a fresh vegetable into salt water. That’s strange. Why do that? We eat bitter herbs at a celebratory dinner. Huh? Why eat flat matzah in place of soft bread? Reclining at the dinner table, now that is strange! Why? Why? Why? Why?

But why go to so much effort to stimulate questions at the Seder Table? What is the power of questions? Why is it so central to the Passover experience?

Because curiosity and inquiry are central to the learning experience and questions are their tool of discovery. 

We learn by asking questions. We observe or hear or study things that need clarity, so we take the time to seek out answers… answers that beget more questions… creating a cycle of inquiry and discovery. As long as we keep on asking questions, we can keep on finding answers.

 The sensory experiences at the Seder table are not just gimmicks, or an end in itself, rather they are the means to elicit and to awaken a curiosity. Once the questions are on the table (no pun intended) we can begin to search for answers for them. It is upon a foundation of authentic curiosity that exploration becomes most meaningful.

 This idea can be applied as the model for how children learn in general, and the responsibility of the teacher in creating an environment that motivates learning. A quality teacher recognizes that a question is an invitation by the learner for him/her to enter the learning process and responds to the question with great care and devotion.

 How might we use this attitude at home?

· Point out intriguing things that will elicit questions. (Example; “Hmmm, I wonder why such and such looks this way…”)

· Encourage children to ask questions, as the saying goes, “The only stupid question is the one not asked.”

· As children ask questions, research the answer together, rather than “issue an answer.”

 With best wishes for a Happy Passover, and for healthy and inquisitive children,

Malkie

How to Nurture a Sense of Inquisitiveness within our Children

Dear Parents,

We hope you enjoy the Hagadah Book that your child worked so hard to make. It showcases the knowledge that the children acquired and the skills that they honed. (As this is an “expanding Hagadah”; we designed it in a way that shows the growth of the children over the course of their early childhood years.) 

As you read the Hagadah and hear the children talk about Passover, you will hear the many interesting and distinct customs we have on this holiday. Actually, no other holiday’s table looks quite like the Passover one. It is full of sensory experiences – foods, props, stories, movements – designed thousands of years ago by the rabbis of the Talmud to elicit questions and evoke curiosity. For example, we dip a fresh vegetable into salt water. That’s strange. Why do that? We eat bitter herbs at a celebratory dinner. Huh? Why eat flat matzah in place of soft bread? Reclining at the dinner table, now that is strange! Why? Why? Why? Why?

But why go to so much effort to stimulate questions at the Seder Table? What is the power of questions? Why is it so central to the Passover experience?

Because curiosity and inquiry are central to the learning experience and questions are their tool of discovery. 

We learn by asking questions. We observe or hear or study things that need clarity, so we take the time to seek out answers… answers that beget more questions… creating a cycle of inquiry and discovery. As long as we keep on asking questions, we can keep on finding answers.

 The sensory experiences at the Seder table are not just gimmicks, or an end in itself, rather they are the means to elicit and to awaken a curiosity. Once the questions are on the table (no pun intended) we can begin to search for answers for them. It is upon a foundation of authentic curiosity that exploration becomes most meaningful.

 This idea can be applied as the model for how children learn in general, and the responsibility of the teacher in creating an environment that motivates learning. A quality teacher recognizes that a question is an invitation by the learner for him/her to enter the learning process and responds to the question with great care and devotion.

 How might we use this attitude at home?

· Point out intriguing things that will elicit questions. (Example; “Hmmm, I wonder why such and such looks this way…”)

· Encourage children to ask questions, as the saying goes, “The only stupid question is the one not asked.”

· As children ask questions, research the answer together, rather than “issue an answer.”

 With best wishes for a Happy Passover, and for healthy and inquisitive children,

Malkie

Purim Invite

Dear Parents,

“Happiness breaks through our sense of limitations.”

- A Chassidic Saying

Purim is the most fun of all the Jewish holidays. Although its message is profound (as I attempted to describe in my last letter), the festivities surrounding the holiday are great fun: We dress in costume, eat lots of yummy sweets and surround ourselves with spirit.

As a community, we are celebrating with a party on March 10th at 5pm. We will be having a DRUM CIRCLE*, a festive MEAL and a MASQUERADE. We hope you will join us! For those of you who want to hear the Purim story in the original Hebrew, read from a “megillah” scroll, we will be reading it at 3:30pm.

Having a joyful disposition is a lifelong pursuit. It doesn’t come easy for most of us. While it may be relatively easy to feel pleasure, feeling joy is far more challenging. And being joyful is what really sustains us.

So how do we capture joy and make it our life view? I find that there are two components to accomplishing this:

1: I need to encourage myself to consistently see all the good that is around me, the good that I often take for granted.

2: When I feel the negative thoughts coming, I must find the strength to close down those ‘voices’ that threatens to take me down – to have “mind over matter” and to try to use my energies instead on finding solutions to the issues that are overwhelming me.

How we apply this message at Zimmer:

Throughout the day, we focus on the gifts we have. For example, before we eat snack and lunch, we take a moment to think about the fact that we are lucky to have yummy, healthy food we like, and parents who prepare it for us. (We make a blessing, too.) When we go outdoors we take the time to notice the incredible outdoor world we have. We talk about how fortunate we are that we have our friends, etc. This helps the children learn to notice the many gifts they have.

While we would not expect children of this age to quiet negative thoughts, they are able to have “mind over matter” with regard to other things, like if they want to shout/bite/hit/push/leave out another child. To help the children get used to the idea of making active choices, of having “mind over matter” we encourage the children to acknowledge what they are feeling, but then to STOP, to THINK, and to MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE.

Sincerely,

Malkie

DRUM TALES combines the fun and music of a traditional Drumming Circle with story-telling. Each participant is given a percussive instrument, and their own musical and percussive personality. As the story unfolds, the characters step into the spotlight of the plot in motion, the different musical and percussive innovations follow the characters. ‘Drum Tales Purim’ is set in ancient Persia, with Queen Esther, King Antiochus and Mordechai. Join us for this exciting tale of mystery, miracles, triumph and joy!

Mishloach Manot

Dear Parents:

Did you notice the royal palace as you came to school this morning? Walk inside and feel like a king or queen! The royal palace of Persia is the setting of the Purim Story, a story that took place 2,300 years ago...

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

Megillat Esther, The Book of Esther (where this ancient story is transcribed) opens in the royal courts of the Persian Empire and the King Achashverosh (Xerxes). The Jewish people, having being exiled from the land of Israel to Persia (by way of Babylonia), were part of this empire. A beautiful Jewish woman by the name Esther was forced to join the king’s harem. As luck would have it – or Divine providence – she made a deep impression on the king, he fell in love with her and he asked her to marry him. Esther’s uncle, Rabbi Mordechai, told her not to reveal her Jewish identity to the king.

Enter the villain of the story, wicked Haman, the arrogant advisor to the king. Haman wanted to destroy the Jewish people and got the king’s permission to annihilate all the Jews. Rabbi Mordecai advised his niece Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. She told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai*.

*This is not the way we tell the story to the children. Class newsletters will describe it further.

THE PURIM MESSAGE:

The Book of Esther is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name nor any reference to G-d. It seems as if our victory was due to wonderful coincidences and ordinary good luck. But G-d often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance. It is up to us to uncover that hidden-ness of the Divine/human relationship and acknowledge its place in our lives.

Taking this message to human relationships – friendships, even strangers – we share a world together and it is wonderful to take the time to acknowledge the connections we have with each other!

PURIM TODAY:

To commemorate the miracle and the message, Rabbi Mordechai established the Purim holiday. He asked that everyone should involve themselves in uncovering the hidden beauties all around them. We have a festive meal in celebration. We hear the story of Purim to gain context for this message. We give money to charity: Helping those who have less than us is our moral responsibility. And we give MISHLOACH MANOT, gifts of foods to our friends to celebrate our relationships.

‘MISHLOACH MANOT’ MESSAGE:

Purim reminds us that there is always a special relationship to celebrate! All we need to do is stop, think about it and tap into it. And that what Purim asks of us to d o. To stop and think about the people dear to us and show our appreciation. We give each other gifts of food to express our gratitude for the relationship.

Here at Zimmer Preschool we are a family. We share common goals and aspirations for our children and know the value in creating relationships.

This Purim come and be part of this beautiful Mishloach Manot Project!

Mishloach Manot is a food gift that we give to a friend to acknowledge our relationship.

This is a wonderful opportunity to foster our connections we have within the Zimmer School community.

We, at Zimmer, will facilitate the giving/getting of Mishloach Manot Food Gifts between our families.

Here’s how we will do it:

  • By Wednesday, February 25, we ask that each family write a short description about themselves to share with the family that they’re (randomly) matched with. This way we can get to know each other better.
  • On Friday, February 27, each family will be matched to another family to give a Mishloach Manot Food Gift.
  • You can assemble the Mishloach Manot Food Gift in our Mishloach Manot Gift room (upstairs at Zimmer) where there will be a large assortment of Purim treats and decorative packaging.
  • In addition to the food package, how about writing a note to ‘your’ family? You can take it home to do that or you can do it there. Paper and pens will be provided.
  • Over the next days – or at the Chabad Purim Party, Tuesday, March 10 at 5pm – please give ‘your’ family their gift.

So, to get this process going, please send in a write-up about your family. You can include the names and ages of your children, where you live, hobbies and interests of your family or anything else you would like to share.  

Please send your family's description by Wednesday, February 25.

If you have any questions, please speak with Morah Batsheva, who is coordinating this project, or to Morah Linda.

With wishes for rich and meaningful relationships!
Malkie

Dear Parents,

Thanks for the feedback from yesterday's e-mail.
Just to recap: Our objective is to strengthen the ties within the Zimmer community. In the spirit of the upcoming Purim holiday, we thought it would be nice to have a Mishloach Manot Gift Food exchange (all the goods provided by Zimmer). To facilitate this, we ask that each family share a short blurb about themselves by
Wednesday, February 25. Then, we will randomly pair families together - each making the Food Package for each other.

Some of you have asked for a sample of what a family description might look like. Here goes: “Hi, we are the John Doe family, made up of Mom, Dad, Jane, John, and our pet dog, Fido. Our grandparents live locally so we get to spend lots of time together. We love doing activities together, though sometimes life gets to busy to do it often enough. Mom loves to knit and play the piano, Dad loves skiing and would rather be outdoors any day, Jane has been excelling in ballet, and John is part of the band at school. Recently, he just got to participate in a big parade in Anytown, NJ.  We have been part of the Zimmer (or Chabad) family for… and we are curious to see who we are "matched up with." We look forward to strengthening a relationship and getting to know more about you! Happy Purim.

hearing emotions

Dear Parents:

I just spent a wonderful all-female weekend with 2,500 (!!) of my Chabad colleagues. As you may know, the goal of Chabad globally is to create havens to support each person’s journey towards a life of fulfillment. Although all 2,500 of us share this goal we each express it in the unique way that matches the particular needs and contexts of each of our respective communities.

Here in Somerset County, NJ, one of the many ways this goal takes form is in our preschool. If I had to condense our overarching goal of preschool into a single sentence it would be to encourage our children to value their thoughts and feelings and to use them to make active choices that will allow them to lead a fulfilling life. (Of course, imbuing children with knowledge of their world and guiding their skills-acquisition flows seamlessly from this attitude.)

Dr. Haim Ginott writes that an indicator of a quality teacher is one who “helps children recognize and respect their inner feelings. Above all, he is cautious not to confuse children about how they feel.”

Wow! “Above all, he is cautious not to confuse children about how they feel.” What does that mean? So often, when our children share with us their emotions – for example: I am angry! Or, I am scared – we come back with “You have nothing to be angry about,” or, “There is nothing to be afraid of.” Instead of helping the child work through his/her feelings, this attitude forces the child to stifle his/her emotion, filling him/her with confusion.

When a child is told, "There is nothing to be afraid of," his or her fear increases. Dr. Haim Ginott describes it this way: “The child gets thrice frightened: In addition to his original fear (1), he is now afraid to be afraid (2), and fearful that he will not be able to hide his fright (3). Fear does not vanish when banished. It does not disappear when its existence is not recognized. When a child is afraid, it is best to acknowledge his fear openly and with respect.”

This attitude applies to all emotions. How does a bashful child feel when she or he is advised, “don’t be shy,” or a child in pain is told, “there is nothing to cry about” or a child with a problem, “everyone has such problems,” or “there is nothing to worry about”?

Rather than deny their emotions we must encourage the child to explore them. Then – only then – can the child control it.

The other day I overheard a child say to his teacher, “But I want it now!” The child desperately wanted the toy that another child was using. He was old enough to understand that he must wait his turn; this “whine” was more about his not getting his desire immediately satiated. The teacher smiled at him, acknowledging his desire and said, “I do understand how much you want the toy. It is a fun toy to play with. Do you think you can hold on to that feeling for a little while? Do you think you can save it for a bit until your friend is finished playing with it?” The child gave the teacher the widest, brightest smile. “Yes!” he responded, “I think I can!”

When a child is sad/scared/angry/jealous or happy/proud/bubbly, we get right there with them. We allow the child to taste his or her feeling. Otherwise we risk turning our children into people who don’t really understand their own emotions. When children share their emotions with us, we thank the child for sharing, we rephrase their words so that the child sees that we understand what she or he said, and then we help them work through it. Not with quick fix responses, but by gently encouraging the child to find a solution. “That must really hurt. What do you think you can do about it?”

I have seen this work countless times!

With respect,

Malkie

Please Note: 

·         I have been approached by some moms requesting a group in which we explore PARENTING AND EDUCATION together. I would love to put such a group together. If you want to be part of this, please send me an e-mail at mherson@aol.com. Based on the feedback, we will choose a date and time.

·         Thanks to all who are contributing to our RECYCLING AREA. We continue to request these 6 items: Corks, bottle/container caps and lids, plastic bottles, specialty papers, tubes and rolls, egg cartons.

·         ENROLLMENT for camp, preschool and kindergarten is open. Please contact Linda at linda@chabadcentral.org with any questions.

·         Every Tuesday morning, Chabad offers a TORAH CLASS FOR WOMEN. It is led by my husband, Rabbi Mendy. The group is studying the Book of Genesis, with a look at its practical and relevant lessons. Everyone is invited.

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