Honey on the Book Shelf


This is the honey time of year. Dippings abound and cakes are a-baking.

But there is more to this honey than simply well-wishing for a Sweet New Year.

Jewishly speaking, honey is also the kind of flavor we want for our children’s learning. This Torah that we teach must be sweet. The experience must be pleasant and the ambience must be fragrant with care and devotion. This is big.

We dribble the Aleph Bet with honey for our most tender aged students and we pray that our learning be sweet every morning in tefilah as we say ‘ha’arev na” – let the learning that is ahead of us be sweet.

“Lekach” is the Yiddish word for Honey Cake – it is drawn from the verse in Proverbs 4:2 where the word “lekach” refers to teaching as in learning as in “take away”!

 כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב, נָתַתִּי לָכֶם;    תּוֹרָתִי, אַל-תַּעֲזֹבוּ… For I give you good take away!

The custom is for Rebbeim to distribute slices of honey cake, “lekach” before Rosh Hashanah. As the cake is given, the blessing of good luck in Hebrew, “Hatzlacha,” is given as well. You see “Lekach” in gematria is “Hatzlacha”!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gematria  {for more of Jewish numerology } The calculation for each letter of each word is below, in case you do not believe me.

Here is wishing us all a year where the honey is on the bookshelf right next to our texts, that together with a little Hatzlacha, good luck,  should get us to a SHAnah Tovah and a wonderful year of learning!

heh = 5

tzadd  = 90

lamed = 30

chet = 8

heh = 5

Total =  138

lamed = 30

kuf = 100

chet = 8

Total 138

There you have it.


Face to Face

This is my maternal grandmother, Rivkah Miriam Rokeach Twersky Novoseller who was born in 1894. She was a Hebrew teacher in Odessa and then later a Rebetzin in Philadelphia.

Rivka Miriam

Here is what she used to say about meetings; “Meetings! All that you do at a meeting – is plan the next meeting.” Please say this to yourself with a heavy Russian accent for the full flavor of the quote.

Not sure what my Bobie would be saying about the amount of meetings her namesake and granddaughter is engaged in during any given week. The norm is  8 – 10 set weekly meetings. It can be daunting. Some might ask,”when does the work get done – if you are stuck  in meetings all day?”  This my friends, is the work. And these meetings are in addition to the board and committee level meetings and individual meetings that get set up with parents and community members which vary week to week and day to day.

Here is a handy dandy explanation of why meetings are critical from…Meetings.org

Why Have a Meeting?
The most common reason to have a meeting is to discuss something face to face. It could be a new idea, a new opportunity, a problem, to brainstorm something, reach a decision about something or any number of things. But it all comes down to discussion and face to face interaction.

I love that this website, which is all about making the most of meetings, repeats twice, in that one short paragraph the idea of face-to-face. This is really what it is all about. Doing the best for our students and our families means sitting together with people and taking the time to work through challenges and opportunities.

Emmanuel Levinas, French Jewish philosopher, returns often to his central idea of the human face; “The epiphany of any other person is ipso facto my responsibility toward him: seeing the other is already an obligation toward him.” And this – “In the innocence of our daily lives, the face of the other signifies above all a demand. The face requires you, calls you…”

This is why we meet. So folks, when anything comes up an idea, a thought or something that gives you pause – please give me a call and — let’s meet!


Visiting with Rabbi Rob Toren

We love when people visit SHA. We love to be generous with our time; show people around and let them experience SHA.

Rob & Rivy

Rabbi Rob Toren, Executive Director of the Samis Foundation visited today and was able to catch a glance of SHA’s use of technology in the 7th Grade Language Arts Class with Ms. E. and an 8th Grade Math Class with Ms. Norton. We observed as students responded to teacher prompts online and received rapid paced input from teachers and comments from fellow students. This immediate sharing of feedback moves classroom learning forward at a lively pace. Keeps you on your toes!

After walking around a bit more we did a few pop-ins to Kindergarten, Fifth Grade and then on to our EC to see our new EC Mural. Lots of conversations about curriculum, staffing, enrollment (223!) and endowment, brought our meeting to a close.

Rob, many thanks for visiting and for the tremendous support form the Samis Foundation!




Enter the student…

Yesterday, a Sixth Grader – yes, this HOS teaches – asked me; “why do you call us folks?”

As in, “Folks, open your Chumashim!”

Because, though this may not be great form, since this post is actually, not going to be about the calling of people, however I cannot resist the temptation to reprimand those who call people – adults, elders, respected members of the community – by the term “GUYS” – I actually harbor a not tepid loathing for those who call me, when I am in a group by the term “guys.”

First, I am not a guy. Second, even if I was – I do not consider this in the category of acceptable appellations. Therefore, I refer to students or teachers or parents as anything but GUYS. As in, “friends,” “class,” “colleagues,” or “talmidim,” “students” or even my favorite…“TEAM!” Let the record state thus. Now moving on…

Folks! Big news – I have a Tech Tutor. The amazing, as in; she makes the world go round, Ms E! We will be spending an hour each week – sometimes more – on helping me become even more Tech savvy; specifically, learning how to enhance students’ learning through technology. This is quite the endeavor.

Blog pic

When I started teaching, technology was how to run off a ditto. Making sure that the paper did not crinkle was a carefully honed skill. And folks, I was talented. I knew how to slide different colors of dittos under one piece of paper thereby having more than one color on a sheet. This was big and I will tell you somewhat modestly, that this was actually quite impressive in its day. I was envied. “How did you get the color on there!?” – was a question I often had to address.

‘Nuff said. It was a terrific start. Thank you, Ms. E. I am now all set up with a Sixth Grade Chumash EduBlog just like all Middle School instructors at SHA – and I added a Voice thread.


Now time to work on the Board Retreat this evening.

One Fell Swoop



It reached that point today. In one fell swoop* I gathered up all the wooden toys, knick-knacks, clever tchotchkes off the bookcase in my office. Yes, away went the wooden model of Paris, the super big erasers for my super big mistakes and even the pencil pouch from MOMA in New York that has this question printed on it; “What is Modern? “ Yes, a query we surely grapple with at SHA – a Modern Orthodox Jewish Day School.  Only one set of wooden toys now remain; toy building blocks in the shape of letters. They are sleek, beautiful and will soon spell something clever.

Why the grand sweeping away? Well, sometimes we just have to get rid of stuff so that we can get focused. There comes a time when we need to settle our minds in one particular direction. Does the actual physical moving things aside help us with our mental moving things aside? I think so.

After the deeds follows the heart,’ teaches Rabbi Saadia Gaon. Meaning, your heart may not be in something, but go ahead, do the right thing and your heart will follow. A tried and true Jewish notion. Perhaps we could extend the idea bit and conclude; clear away the physical clutter and soon the no-physical clutter will be eliminated as well.

Now, what clutter would that be? I think we get a lot of clutter in our heads as we allow ourselves to get drawn into drama that we do not own and need not own. A terrific exercise is to always ask ourselves – Is this about me? If it is not, then let it go. We have a dearly limited time on this earth. Let us not allow our psyches to be kidnapped by events that are other people’s business and have nothing really to do with us. All those rants may be fun and even entertaining but bottom line? They are a distraction, clutter, if you will, that we artfully use to avoid the stuff we really have to do.

So friends, here’s to sweeping away the clutter on bookshelves and… in our hearts and souls. Let’s focus on the stuff that really matters!

*For the linguists among us – this is an expression said to be first used by Shakespeare in Macbeth 1605.


The First Line…?


Read this quote this morning from veteran Principal, Joanne Rooney, “whatever we do in school should enhance learning. This is our paramount standard for all school activities…”  – agreed and even more critical in a dual-curriculum school.

That said this could encompass many things that might not appear to be enhancing school learning. For example, the Ice Breaker – yes, there always has to be an Ice Breaker and at the August Teacher In-Service this is what it was this year.

“Write down the first sentence in your autobiography.”

One may not at first glance think that this has anything to do with the enhancement of student learning. Aha! Therein lies the rub – it does! We put them in a basket and have been reading them out loud to staff and seeing if we can guess the author. It is definitely fun – some installments more than entertaining the others of course. It is good to laugh with co-workers. It is terrific to read wonderful writing samples and it is really important to get to know the folks you work with especially in such close collaborative ways. – Assuredly an activity that enhances student learning – second hand maybe, but enhance it does.

Here are three samples can you guess their SHA Staff authorship?

“Fifteen years old. Sifting dirt on the site of an ancient Native America settlement I realized I did not, after all, want to become an archeologist.”

Guess Who?

“What a blessed and amazing journey this is – what I call my life.”

Guess who?

“For the first five years of her life, her toys were stones, no electricity lit her home and all food was caught or shot…”

Guess who?

It is delightful to work with people who are fun, creative and engaging! SHA: Where We Belong!

You can see how engaging this can be? Now you try it – write the first line of your autobiography? Would your family members guess that  it was written by you?



First Day: SHA Where We Belong

1st Day

We are up and running. There is nothing quite like the First Day of School; kids in new shoes, Moms and Dads with a tear or two and teachers? Ready to roll!

Yes, the Hebrew saying, “Kol Hatchalot Kashot” – all beginnings are difficult – holds true to a certain degree. That said, report from the front?  A few scheduling issues to iron out and a bus from Seward Park that is still a work in progress, otherwise things are going swimmingly.

My first task this morning upon arrival was very high level. Sign making.

For the outside some Hebrew; the new Jewish Year which is 5775 —  in Hebrew letters with words arranged acrostically to share a timely message.

Tav  for Teheh, Shin for Shanah, Ayin for Im and Heh – Hamon – let the year be a year of MUCH … SHAlom, SHAlva and SHAyachut – our SHA wish for the year,  a year of peace, well-being and BELONGING.

Next up, the inspirational quote for the white board: “Surround Yourself with people who think you can.” Words to live by from D. Zadra. At SHA every student is surrounded by teachers who think they can! Creating an environment that fosters self-efficacy is what we are all about!

Wondering what to say to your child at the end of the day?


More tomorrow…