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Apples, Bees, and a Brit Milah

September 16th, 2022 | 20th of Elul, Parashat Ki Tavo 5782 / פָּרָשַׁת כִּי־תָבוֹא


Dear Beit Rabban Community,

I have promised every staff member at Beit Rabban the same thing: I will pay for your event if you allow us to host your simcha at the school and invite all students, whether it is a wedding, sheva brachot, brit milah, baby naming, book launch party, or whatnot. I make this offer because I firmly believe there is no better way to educate than through experiential education. Sadly, only one person ever took me up on this. Years ago we hosted a daytime sheva brachot for a wonderful teacher named Nicky Ehrich and her husband Nadav, and our students will never forget it! While I wish more folks would cash in on this pretty sweet deal, I am also glad that I have not had to justify an extraordinarily large catering bill to our finance committee.

This week we got the best of both worlds! Judaics teacher Jessica Jobanek and her husband Harold invited the entire middle school to attend their baby's brit milah only five blocks from school. All the educational benefits without any of the catering headache! I joined the students on Wednesday morning to meet the now-named Shmuel Meir, aka Baby Sammy, and welcome him into the Jewish people. In advance of the event, students studied the practice of circumcision (in this case, I do prefer text learning to hands-on education) to understand the textual sources of this ritual and to prepare for an experience that many of them have never seen, especially given the lack of in-person events over the past few years. Our students were important members of Jessica and Harold's community that morning, and they were welcomed so beautifully by the Ramat Orah community and their Rabbi, Aviad Bodner. They brought cards and presents for their teacher and marveled over her baby. You could hear a pin drop during the ceremony (a never-before achieved feat with a group of adolescents). It was an incredible learning experience in which students deepened their understanding of Jewish practice and deepened their connection to community, two educational outcomes that are not necessarily assured even after months of learning in a classroom.

The next morning I was back at our lower school campus, and I spent time in a couple of Gan (preschool) classrooms. In one class I found a platter with slices of a few different apples laid out, they appeared to have been out for a couple of days and were guarded by a sign that read "Please do not eat these apples, we are observing them." Children poked, smelled, and observed the apples with magnifying glasses. They seemed to be in relationship with these evolving apples intentionally placed there by their teachers in the weeks before Rosh Hashanah in order to provoke questions and observations and in order to enrich the children's eventual experience of dipping apples in honey for the holiday. In another classroom, a table was set with various bee and honey-related items for children to explore. A teacher and a student read a book together about the honey production process, and the child kept pointing to different items on the table that related to what the teacher was reading. This too is experiential education, anchored in the authentic experience of preparing for the holiday and involving multiple senses. This learning will be remembered- not necessarily the specific observations, but, more importantly, learning to look closely, reflect, question, connect, and enjoy the special sweetness of preparing for the holidays.

We're back and the experiential education is in full force! It's so much fun. So, maybe consider having your next simcha at Beit Rabban? We'll provide all the guests :)

Wishing you all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,

Stephanie

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