I turned 13 in December and will be having my Bar Mitzvah service on May 26. One of my favorite sports is basketball; I have been playing since first grade. I’ve played on a traveling league for the past three years, where I get to go all over Wisconsin for games.
I am in the dual language program in my public school where I spend half my day in English and the other half in Spanish. My goal is to have my Biliteracy Seal on my high school diploma.
I also have been playing percussion in band for the past four years. I joined the jazz band in middle school, and really love playing the full drum kit in the fun songs we play.
I first decided to join Hebrew school in third grade. I did not know what to be a Jew meant, other than the few things we did at home. Over time I have been learning and developing my own idea of being Jewish. I wanted to become a Bar Mitzvah because that takes me one step closer to the Jewish community and the MCJC community. I never would have gotten this far if it wasn’t for MCJC and the teachers. They have guided and helped me in so many ways.
One of my biggest passions is giving to those who need a little extra help. When I was younger and my mom took me to Chicago, I would bring all my money to give to the local homeless man where my Aunt
Lauren lived. This is why I have chosen to help my local homeless community with my mitzvah project.
I will be collecting donations for the local PADS shelter here in Woodstock. I will be setting up a collection at MCJC, looking for in kind donations of items such as $5 gift cards to locations like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Jewel. You may also donate items such as hand warmers, sterno, bug spray, ponchos, canned food with easy pop-top lids, small battery operated flashlights, batteries, travel size toiletries, travel size first aid kits, battery operated radios, toilet paper, sun tan lotion, silverware, travel size sewing kits, travel size deodorants, variety sizes of Ziploc bags, and disposable containers for food.
What a busy couple of months we had leading up to Spring Break. In addition to our regular classroom Hebrew/Judaica/holiday studies, we had some really fun special events!
This culminated in our early March Purim Fest filled with raucous activity! We began with our Megillah reading, where our costume-clad students enjoyed shaking their homemade groggers to Haman’s
name, as the adults enjoyed partaking in the Goldschlager. This was followed by the community compiling bags for the PADS homeless shelter, filled with much needed toiletries and paper goods. Thanks to all for donations! And, of course, we then held our carnival with some new games and prizes, along with a fun raffle. Thanks to the Maintenance Men, as always, for their delicious picnic that morning.
March also brought us wonderful Passover events. Rabbi Scheiman from Chicago joined us for Matzah Making, much to the enjoyment of the students AND the teachers. After a short discussion about the Passover holiday, kids learned how to mix the water and flour. Then while wearing their matzah hats, they rolled the dough and made it “holy”…using a fork. Rabbi baked the matzahs in his oven, and each of the kids was able to take one home…if it got that far! Thanks to Jill Purvin for coordinating this event.
We also joined other synagogues at CKI in Elgin for a special Passover program. We were thrilled to have several teachers, Rabbi Tom, and about ten students from MCJC in attendance. The morning consisted of singing followed by several fun stations including a Passover floor game, matzah tasting contest, and seder plate learning.
Rabbi Tom and Rabbi Friedman from Aurora taught the students about Elijah and Miriam’s cups, which was followed by an art activity where the kids were able to decorate their own beautiful glasses to bring home. They also made creative tambourines to use while we danced and sang. A special thank you to Davina Kelly for helping to coordinate this program, and for coordinating the PJY program this year.
Happy to report that our grade 2/3 class finished making their Torahs and yads…this was a very exciting project that began last year. We held a Torah parade around the school so they could show off their hard work and creativity. These will head home soon with the children.
We are looking forward to an exciting end of the school year, filled with some Israel activities for the upcoming holidays. Please attend Closing Day on Sunday, May 6.
At MCJC, we teach our children to question, to debate, to fall in love with Torah, while finding their own voices in the chorus of our tradition.
Our students don’t have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah – they become a Bar
or Bat Mitzvah. They become responsible adults in the Jewish community and in the world.
Starting in fourth grade and continuing on up to and even past our children’s Bnai Mitzvah ceremonies, Rabbi Tom trains our children to become fluent in the Shabbat morning prayer service which includes proficiency in reading Hebrew, knowing a variety of Jewish liturgical music, and finding personal meaning in the prayers themselves.
By Jennifer Schwartz, MCJC Religious School Lead Teacher
One of my favorite memories is finding the chametz before Pesach with my Papa. We would hide small chunks of bread throughout the house on napkins; then we’d take a flashlight and go back through for a seek-and-destroy mission. The chunks of bread would be swept into a paper bag and taken to our local shul to be burned the next day.
Why not start this tradition with your own family? Customarily, the search for chametz (leavened food forbidden duing Passover) in the home is done with a beeswax candle, a wooden spoon, and a paper bag for collection. Before collection, “hide” ten small pieces of bread throughout the house, wrapped in or on something flammable (no aluminum foil here guys). The hiding doesn’t even have to be done the day of the search! Hide them before and adults can write down where they are, just in case. Make it a real mission for the kiddos!
The evening before Pesach, say the following prayer:
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.
Next, have someone hold the lit candle and find all the hidden chametz, even ones you didn’t hide but you might just find! The wooden spoon can be used to sweep the chametz into the bag. Once you’ve completed the search, gather the search party back together and recite the Kol Chamira:
All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and of which I am unaware, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.
After this declaration is recited, all unknown chametz in your home will be considered nullified. Your bag is now safe to be destroyed.
The children have jumped head first into more writing and reading in these past months.
The older classes have been using their Hebrew reading skills to read and write Valentine’s Day related words and make Valentine’s Day presents for their families.
They have also used their Hebrew writing skills and collected “Mitzvah points” by writing Refuah Shlemah cards for Mrs. Janowitz while she is out. They have been working so hard extending their Hebrew knowledge beyond memorization!
The children have also been coming together on Wednesdays for large group activities. One Wednesday, Mrs. Eskoz hosted a wonderful activity focusing on the children taking large print words and creating familiar prayers. The children were able to create and successfully read the Shema as well as many food blessings.
March 4 is a big event for us all…the Purim carnival! The teachers have planned a fun-filled, family event with food, games, and prizes. Megillah story-telling will start at 9:30 a.m., and we plan on seeing you there with your creative costumes and your groggers ready.
I could not be more proud of our students and staff. They have been so focused on doing mitzvot and gathering tzedakah this holiday season.
The 4th and 5th graders engaged in a highly successful bake sale during our Hanukkah Boutique. Not only did they bring in baked goods, they also decorated their own personalized cookies that Hospital.
Each classroom collected canned goods to build their Can-ukiah as high as it could possibly go for the month of December.
The classroom can counts are located on the large, blue bulletin board outside of Mrs. Eskoz’s room. We will make sure the congregation knows which
classroom had the highest number of cans and how many canned goods we collected.
On January 7, MCJC will host a blood drive. Haley Markowitz has been kind enough to head up this initiative. We would love to see a record-breaking number of attendees this year, following in the footsteps of our children and their mitzvot.
Please contact Haley if you have interest in volunteering or donating.
The Hebrew word for education is chinuch. The Talmud associates this word with the word chen, grace. That education, in the Jewish tradition, is the act of drawing-out, revealing the unique inner beauty of each and every student.
The Torah is called the Book of Life, sefer ha’chayim – not the Book of Knowledge. Judaism is not something you study; it is something you get intimately involved with. It is a relationship. A meeting place where we meet God.
This is so very relevant to today when knowledge is available
on every Internet-connected device, where what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know.
The determinant for a successful educational program must first and foremost be measured by how well it is able to engage, to integrate, and to inspire the whole child. That is the world they inhabit, and the world they would like to build. Education is, after all, an organic process that when most effective, weaves life and learning together, naturally and seamlessly.
And so, at its core, Jewish education cannot and should not be reduced to disseminating information. Rather, Jewish education is about sharing a world of ideas. It is aspirational, and never about arrival.
Blessed are You God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us through His commandments, and commanded us to be immersed
in the words and in a life of Torah.
Hello families and congregants! What a busy, fun-filled year we have
had so far!
Beginning with Rosh Hashanah, our Gabbai, Gene Lindow, spoke to the children about the shofar and how it is incorporated into the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. He also supplied each of the children with their own shofar to practice with and blow at family Tashlich as well as the end of Ne’ilah services. The sanctuary was full of the sounds of delighted children when they practiced their first tekiah gedolah with Gene and his “big shofar”! Don’t hesitate to visit Facebook with the hashtag #littleshulontheprairie to get a glimpse of the giggles and trumpeting yourself!
The Family Services were filled with visions of Clifford making a mess and cleaning it up (and don’t forget, he says “sorry” too!), stories of The Hardest Word and Jonah and the whale AND the worm, and handing in Cheerios to represent things we can do better next year. Thank you so much to Paula Eskoz, Davina Kelly, and Michelle Heath for leading the children’s services!
Finally, the children worked hard on making decorations for the Sukkah. The younger classes decorated pine cones while the older classes made fruit wreaths and craft stick Magen Davids. The children traveled outside with their teachers to hang their handcrafted decorations, making it extra special. The Sukkah was permeated with the sounds of singing and the smell of pizza! We all danced, heard Rabbi Tom’s educational words, and sang the prayer over the lulav and etrog. Each child then had a chance to shake, shake, shake….shake the lulav! Shake the etrog!
To keep up with the children’s projects and experiences, please visit our Facebook page! Just “like” McHenry County Jewish Congregation on Facebook to see our pictures and invitations.
We have such great momentum rolling with art projects, songs, stories, and so much more. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings us!