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TT- BM Class (Bar and Bat Mitzvah)

As with the other curricula for JCM’s classes, the BM program will be built upon: Judaic Studies, Hebrew, Prayer, Ethics and Morals, Israel and the Holidays.

Students at this age will naturally be asking themselves: Why should I have to do all this study for my Bar/Bat Mitzvah?  Why should I have to give up my free time for more school?  Meeting this challenge head on involves dealing with the hardest of questions.  I recommend starting the year with the hardest theological question we are faced with, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Using Kushner’s book who personally went through the hardest of times prepares the students to widen their perspective in life and gets the soul wrestling with the Creator. Hevruta is especially useful at this age.  Let them wrestle together with the ideas and come up with amazing arguments. 

The goal for the end of the year is for the students to have a firm grasp of the basics of   Biblical Hebrew. Due to the time constraints of only meeting once a week, this class should focus on the Hebrew that is needed to be effective in the different parts of the Shabbat service.

Students will lead services throughout the year. As the years go by, there is a goal of developing familiarity with Jewish prayers. This being the first year, students will focus on doing some of the central prayers like the Shema and Veshamru. Trope will be introduced into the class in coordination with the Bnai Mitzvah tutoring. Prayer texts will be utilized to explore questions of Jewish identity and to consider the boundaries of what define us as Jews.  An example is the problematic language of the Aleinu that seems so exclusionary.

A focus during this year will be on the relationship between morality and taking responsibility (אחריות) over: yourself (א), your brother (אח), the other (אחר), knowing when to lead (אחרי), and knowing when to follow/listen (אחריו).  By looking at the specific parts of “Jewish responsibility”, the student can build a firm understanding that being a moral and upright person entails taking responsibility over what is important in life.

Turning study into action can be accomplished by asking how each student can become a community leader for JCM. Can they maybe sit with a child who is struggling with finding a prayer in the siddur? What can they do to exemplify leadership? The intention behind these components of the program will be to ready them for the Madrichim program (see more below).

The story of Abraham Joshua Heschel walking hand in hand with Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example of how a Jew is taking responsibility over the “other” (אחר).  Also important in this lesson is how Heschel recognized that difference is beautiful and that each of us has to define what Judaism means within the context of our learning.  Heschel learned that injustice to any human is evil so he stood up for the African American during the time of segregation. 

My work as a Shoah (Holocaust) Educator has left me firmly believing that by teaching the ethical   dilemmas faced by the Jewish partisans, we can overcome the negative image of the Jews not resisting the Nazis as they were being killed during World War 2.  This builds upon the enduring understanding that learning about life and choices that we can make is more significant than learning about death and statistics.  The Defiance Curriculum, based upon the hit Blockbuster movie of the same name, was created by the Jewish Partisans Organization to help our students know the heroic side of how our people survived.  A copy of this curriculum and resources attached to it are in the BBM curriculum and lesson plan binder.  The culmination of their study will be a virtual visit to the a Holocaust Center.

Now that students have been introduced to Israel they are now ready to understand why the Jewish  people attribute a holiness to the land.  This will allow them to then understand the importance that we attribute to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.  Knowing that the State of Israel has preserved the rights of all religions to worship in Jerusalem is important.  They will learn that there was once a Temple and the only remaining piece is the outer wall of the Second Temple.  Students should hear the Hatikvah and be able to recite it.  Students will also learn some of the differences between Israel and Canada in terms of geography, history and culture.

Current events in Israel needs to be mentioned daily in each class.  An interesting way to show a nuanced perspective to the news unfolding in Israel is to have one group of students prepare a current event from a right wing website (www.israelnationalnews.com), a centrist website, the Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com), and a leftist website www.haaretz.com). The overarching goal of this approach is to show how different perspectives of the same issue create truth for different sides in the conflict.

Fri, September 30 2022 5 Tishrei 5783