by Sam Spinrad
Sunday mornings, after tefillah, our first, second, and third graders and their parents spend twenty minutes studying with Rabbi and me. Our theme this year is “Jews Around the World.” We are enjoying learning history, studying photographs, and connecting with individuals from around the world to learn about Jewish life outside of Maine.
In September, we asked, What is an immigrant? We discussed where our ancestors came from and what might have been the experience of coming to the United States as a Jew. We learned the song “Wherever You Go, There’s Always Someone Jewish,” which mentions countries not known for their Jewish inhabitants. Then we began our journey around the US and the world.
We compared stained glass window designs on synagogues around the country. Students noticed Biblical references, religious symbols, and beautiful designs. We compared fried Hanukkah foods eaten by Jews in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Americas. We examined combinations of Jewish and local cultures, such as the Ladino language from Spanish.
We spoke with Jewish students in the Chicago area, learning about connections with President Obama and the community’s history. We connected with a recent Bar Mitzvah student in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, discussing differences of climate and religious school class sizes. Our focus shifted to Alabama, where we studied the Jewish dilemma during segregation and the bus boycott, and one rabbi’s choice. We then learned about a pioneer female Jewish doctor in New Orleans. We spoke with high school students from Alexandria, Virginia, about their Bat Mitzvah experiences. We concluded our domestic journey in New England, learning about life a half century ago in Jewish Boston and Jewish Maine.
This spring, we will learn about Jewish life abroad, including locations like Canada, England, France, Switzerland, Afghanistan, and Israel. It has been an exciting journey, educational for parents, students, and teachers too!