Category Archives: Religious School

Religious School News Week of February 12, 2019

We’re still looking . . .

The MCJC Board is restructuring and reinvigorating the Religious School Education Committee. We are looking for a Committee Chair as well as members. Interested parties email

The MCJC Religious School still needs Substitutes for Sundays, 9:30 am – 12 noon, and Wednesdays, 4:30 – 6:00 pm, all grades. If interested, please email

It may snow outside, but we’re warm and happy inside at MCJC.

In the Classroom:  The K-1 class finished their Ten Commandments unit. Their books look great! The 2-3 class continued working on their Shabbat Shalom scrapbook, and making a Shabbat Shalom banner for the sanctuary. The 4-7 graders started planning their Jewish values film, and are very excited to begin filming. Hebrew studies for all are going well.

This week:  Wednesday, February 13 – Religious School for grades 3-7. Sunday, February 17 – Religious School for all grades

Upcoming Special Events:  Friday, February 22, 6pm – K-3 families will sponsor a veggie/dairy meal for Shabbat. All are welcome!

PURIM FUN: Sunday, March 17 – Please join us for a Family Purim Celebration. One of our many fun activities will be making Blessing Bags. Please continue to bring your donations! We are looking for these items:

alcohol wipes
band aids
bathing wipes
feminine hygiene products
multi-vitamins, chewable in unopened containers
peanut butter crackers
soft breakfast bars
socks, black best
Zip-Loc bags – quart and gallon size

And Wednesday, March 20 – Megillah Shpiel Night. The fun starts at 5 pm.

Snacks:  Also, if you have not done so already, please bring in snacks for the second half of the year.  They can be bulk, or if you prefer, cash donations are acceptable.

Absence:  Last but not least, if your child will be absent, please email or text 847-373-3186.

Religious School News Week of January 22, 2019

Even though it was cold and snowy outside, we were thinking of Spring and celebrating Tu b’Shevat.  It was wonderful seeing all the students in grades K-7 together having a good time trying out some new fruits, making bird feeders, and learning some interesting tree and environmental facts with our trivia game.

Wednesday, January 23 – Regular religious school for grades 3-7.
Sunday, January 27 – Regular religious school for all grades.  Grades 4-7 please fill out and return Jewish values film project permission slip.

Please bring in snacks for the second half of the year. They can be bulk, or if you prefer, cash donations are acceptable.

And remember: if your child will be absent, please email or text 847-373-3186.

The Day After Tu b’Shevat: 10 Ways To Celebrate The Trees Year-Round

Maybe it’s spring in Israel, but in our area, Tu b’Shevat found us buried in snow with well below freezing temperatures.

We sang and danced with Rabbi Tom…

Still, the celebration went forward at MCJC even though we didn’t get to plant trees outdoors as we enjoyed the first warming rays of spring sunshine. And we have some great pictures to show for it! Here we are, singing and dancing with Rabbi Tom — and making bird feeders for our feathered friends.

Here are 10 things to do year-round to celebrate trees and birds and the natural world that surrounds us:

  1. Take a family walk through the woods — even when it’s filled with snow. Robert Frost thought it was especially beautiful then. You can enjoy it too!
  2. Try growing fresh veggies from food scraps.
  3. Keep the faith: warmer days will come. You can get more from your garden when it does get warm enough to plant if you get things started indoors early.
  4. Enjoy this great Ted Talk about the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, how it is becoming a carbon “sink” for the world.
  5. Talk about what the Tanach (Jewish Bible) has to say about the environment.  When you finish the quotes in this article, follow the links to more material. Family members can take turns tracking down quotes from the Bible and from rabbinic texts, bringing one to each meal to share with the family and discuss.
  6. Share a “sourced” meal. Ask family members to share in some

    We made bird feeders for our feathered friends.

    detective work, finding out where each food item came from. Where and how was it produced? Were animals involved? How were they treated? Were people involved? Were they respected and pair fairly for their labor? What kind of energy was involved in producing the food item?

  7. Inventory your home to see how you can reduce food waste.
  8. Inventory your home to see where you use plastic. How can you reduce the impact of plastic on the environment by using less or repurposing what plastic you do use?
  9. Read together as a family these two books by forester, Peter Wohlleben: The Hidden Life of Trees and The Inner Life of Animals. 
  10. Conscious choice: it’s a buzz phrase today, but conscious choice is what kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, are all about. Now we know that what we eat impacts the environment as well. What can you learn together about how food is produced in the U.S. today? What Judaism says about the food we eat? (Hint: it depends). Richard Schwartz, founder of the Jewish Vegetarian Society,, has gathered a significant body of material from Tanach and rabbinic texts about vegetarianism and the environment. You can find this material here: The Schwartz Collection on Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights and here:

These activities all have a common purpose: thoughtful renewal of our relationship to the environment and the food it provides. Great ways to celebrate Tu b’Shevat year-round.

From The Shabbat Version of ‘Baby Shark’ Will Blow You Out of the Water

Read more about this really, really, really popular  video and other great things to enjoy with your kids here:

And watch it here or on Kveller:

From Kveller: If you are a parent to young children, you may have heard the song “Baby Shark” about, oh, some 235,000 to 2.3 million times already. The 60-minute loop of the hit kid song (and dance) has, impressively but unsurprisingly, over 30 million views.

But now, there’s a Jewish version of this ear worm that’s equally annoy… I mean, catchy. Jewish a cappella group the Maccabeats have put out a parody of “Baby Shark” that’s guaranteed to get your kids excited about the holiest day of the week: Shabbat!

Called simply, “It’s Shabbat!” the song chronicles all the awesomeness of this holiday, including challah, yummy food, and every exhausted parents favorite Saturday afternoon activity: nap time. With adorable animation and a cute Shabbat-themed dance, it’s sure to get your kids dancing and singing this Friday (and every) evening!

Religious School News Week of January 15, 2019

It was great seeing our parents and students again after the break. Welcome back!

This week: Wednesday is regular religious school for grades 3-7. This Sunday, January 20 we observe Havdalah at 9:30 am followed by class time (Hebrew for the upper grades).

Beginning at 10:40 am, we will enjoy a special Tu Bi-sh’vat Celebration. Parents and friends are welcome to join us. We will sample tree fruits, plant seeds, make bird feeders and play an environmental trivia game.

Other reminders: Please bring in snacks for the second half of the year. They can be bulk or, if you prefer, cash donations are acceptable.

If your child will be absent, remember to email or text 847-373-3186.

Hanukkah, Hanukkah, Chag Yafeh Kol Kach…

12/04/2018 Update: Our Annual MCJC Hanukkah Party was great fun! Here are a few pictures . . . more to come in our Slideshow in the right column:

Our very own MCJC “Maintenance Men” make the best latkes anywhere!

The Religious School hosted our Annual MCJC Hanukkah Party this past Sunday, December 2 from 9:30 am – 12 noon.

Some more of our “Maintenance Men . . . “

During this fun and festive morning, we enjoyed a scavenger hunt, candle-making, cookie-decorating, giant-sized dreidel games and a Hanukkah music game. Oh, and we can’t forget Latkes, made our our fabulous MCJC Maintenance Men and served up late morning.

These kinds of events make MCJC the warm, fun and happy family place we all love so much. We’re so glad you were there to share the fun and deliciousness. Happy Hanukkah!

The festivities begin . . . What better thing to do in a kitchen than make menorahs from dough? More to come. Religious School Hanukkah Event Sunday, December 2. 

4 Steps for Talking to Kids About the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (from Kveller)

For our MCJC Religious School Parents from Kveller

By Sivan Zakai

As a mother of three children in elementary school, I want to make my home into a fortress of safety. I dream of barricading the doors, shuttering the windows, and cuddling beneath the blankets, my arms tightly wrapped around my kids. I’d like to shield them from all harm — including the pain of being an American Jew at the time of the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of this country.

But as a scholar who studies how American Jewish children understand and process the world around them, I know that’s not the right approach. In fact, when tragedy strikes is exactly the time when children most need loving adults to help them make sense of the senseless. After years of studying other people’s children, and practicing with my own children, here are four tips for speaking with your kids about the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

1. Acknowledge the tragic reality

Many parents worry that talking to their kids about the rising tide of anti-Semitism or the specter of gun violence will shatter the beautiful innocence of childhood. Yet educational scholars have shown that learning about difficult current events only enhances children’s ability to cope with the world.

Especially as our kids are growing up in an age of easily accessible information, they are adept at stumbling upon or searching for the latest news. If your children are in elementary school, at any grade level, chances are very high they already have a sense that a terrible tragedy has befallen our community and our country, or that they’ll soon hear about it from other children or by overhearing adults.

My own kids’ experience provides an example of why parents need to be prepared to speak with their children. My eldest, age 11, came home from spending Saturday at a friend’s house already knowing many disturbing details about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, including the death toll. My 8-year-old, by contrast, had been home all day and hadn’t seen or heard the news. But he did have exposure to the shaken adults in our family, and by the afternoon, he turned to me and asked, “When are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Kids are savvy, and they are perceptive. Even when they don’t rely on adults to tell them what has happened, they do count on us to help them understand the troubling world in which we all live.

2. Respond to your child’s needs

Kids of different ages need different framing. Children as young as kindergarten know when the adults in their lives are upset or worried about current events; they rely on those adults to model how to talk about sad and difficult things.

By second grade, most children begin to piece together discrete bits of information from a variety of sources in their lives. Each overheard conversation or online excursion becomes a chance for them to find another piece of the puzzle they are trying to construct. Second and third graders desperately want to understand what’s happening in the world, and they need adults to help them see the bigger picture.

By fourth grade, many children are able to see current events, even tragic ones, as part of a larger political and historical framework. They, too, need adult guidance to understand the world around them, though they’re often more focused on the why than on understanding the whowhat, and how of events like younger children.

Kindergarteners and first graders may be like the Passover child who doesn’t know to ask. To them, offer a basic frame, keeping in mind that if you don’t provide a narrative it is likely another child will. You may say something like, “it is a sad time for the Jewish people and the United States of America because many people were killed while attending synagogue.”

Second and third graders are likely to want to know specific information about what happened in Pittsburgh. Answer their questions as straightforwardly as possible, being conscious to offer only the details they request.

Children fourth grade and up will likely be searching for an answer to the question, why? An age-appropriate response is to remind children that there are no good reasons to commit murder, even you explain the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter’s anti-Semitic and anti-immigrantmotivation.

3. Assure kids of their immediate safety, without making promises you can’t keep

As a mother, I want to be able to promise my children that I will be able to keep them safe, always and everywhere. But I know that’s a pledge beyond any parent’s control, and in the age of school lockdown drills, young children know it, too. Even so, children need to feel safe, and they often need reminders of the safety precautions that are already in place (or soon to be implemented) in order to protect them.

With my own children, I revisited the safety protocol at our synagogue, explaining why there are armed guards and regular emergency drills. I reminded them of a beloved and well-qualified community leader who chairs the safety committee, and the children themselves generated a list of other people whom they trust who are working to make the synagogues, schools, and other places they frequent as safe and secure as possible.

4. Keep talking

An initial conversation is necessary, but that’s just the beginning. In order for kids to process terrifying events, they need to know that they can talk with their trusted adults on an ongoing basis. Circle back to your children, asking them, “How are you feeling?” The goal is to leave them the choice of whether to pivot to another topic or revisit your earlier conversation.

When I did this with my own children, each had a response that exemplified his own personality and developmental stage. My 5-year-old hugged me tightly and said simply, “I’m sad and I’m OK.” My 8-year-old — always the biggest worrier in our house — admitted that he was concerned, but he’d realized that he was no more worried than any other day in a country persistently threatened with gun violence. My preteen had no desire to reopen the conversation at all, and he didn’t need to.

No parent wants to engage children in conversations about violence, hatred, and profound grief. Yet sometimes doing just that is what children most need to feel safe in a broken world. Unfortunately, this shattering week is one of those times. So, hold your children close — and keep talking.

Religious School News: School Happenings

November/December 2018 – Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet
Volume 5779

By Davina Kelly

Our Religious School is officially in session and off to a busy start. On Opening Day, we welcomed back our families and faculty and met some new ones. The morning was filled with learning what’s new with our school, visiting with friends, meeting new members, a little class time, and lots of food. A special thanks to the Faculty, Membership Committee, and Maintenance Committee for providing a delicious lunch.

In September, we learned about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, with many of our students attending the children services at MCJC. Then we had fun celebrating Sukkot by making decorations for the Sukkah, shaking a Lulav and Etrog, and eating pizza. Next,
we celebrated Simchat Torah. Students were able to take a close look at our Torahs, hear readings from the beginning and end of the Torah, sing, and dance. We ended the month with many of our families participating in the McHenry County Crop Walk.

Students dance with the Torahs during Simchat Torah.

Hebrew learning is well under way as well. Grades 2-7 are using new materials this year with an online component. All students are enjoying practicing their Hebrew reading with some new games. Also, grades 4-7 are busy learning with Rabbi Tom during B’nai Mitzvah time.

We are looking forward to the rest of the year. There will be much more learning and fun to come.

MCJC Participates in the 2018 McHenry County Drop Hunger Walk

MCJC joined 12 local churches and participated in the 2018 McHenry County Crop Hunger Walk on Sunday, September 30. A total of $20,794 was raised by this year’s Walk participants. A quarter of the money raised from the Walk will benefit local food pantries, and the rest will go toward hunger prevention programs, clean water, and provide emergency relief world wide.

MCJC participants in the 2018 McHenry County Crop Hunger Walk included: Davina, Jim, Sienna, and Andrew Kelly; Dara Turnball, and Brandon and Eli Pacyna; Jonah, London, and Asher Markowitz; Carrie, Jason, and Briella Bernstein; Kelly, Robb, Ryleigh, and Brooklyn Tadelman; Paula Eskoz; and Bruce Weiss.

MCJC’s involvement in the 2018 McHenry County Crop Hunger Walk demonstrated once again that MCJC is a caring synagogue, and its members feel it is important to do good deeds for the community in which it is located.