Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


September 24, 2017, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204


Morah Erin’s Hebrew Class It was great to see everyone today! Although we had class last week, today was our first real class because we had the advanced class with us last week. I gave out 3 books to the students, a composition book, a book called I Can Read Hebrew, and a book called S’fatai Tiftach. Students should bring all three books EVERY week. I’m trying something new to help clarify homework. Students are writing the homework assignment in the composition book, so that students and parents are aware of what the homework is right away. You will also find our behavior contract glued in the front of the composition notebook (except Ray–he did not get a notebook and says he can bring the one we used last year for next time, which I really appreciate). Students and parents should read the contract together and sign it before next class. Today we learned the phrase “hello, I’m here, today is Sunday” and wrote it in our notebooks. We did a check to make clarify vowel sounds and/or make sure we remember them. Then we worked on increasing our reading speed in I Can Read Hebrew. Students practiced 3 lines at a time, then read it with a timer and tried to beat their own time when they read it again. They wrote their second time in the book and part of their homework is to beat their own time.

Homework: Read and do pages 3-5 in I Can Read Hebrew. Read and sign the contract. Try to beat you own time by reading and rereading on page 3! If you get good try the lines on page 4 to see how fast and easy you can get them!

Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class.  We started by writing in Hebrew with our personal whiteboards: the alphabet, including some subtle distinctions in letter shapes, vowel sounds and so on; remembering by writing our first names, the opening of standard blessings, and the first sentence of B’reshit, all with my help using the new big whiteboard UUCA has installed. Then we read and wrote some high holiday vocabulary: Elohim, and why it’s in the plural; other names for God; what Rosh means, and Rishon; how about chodesh (month, from chadash, meaning new, as in the moon); shana (year); yom, tov, and yamim tovim; kippur, kippurim, and what washing away one’s sins looks like—people remembered Rabbi Leila having folks write their sins in water-soluble ink and dipping them in water as a community, watching the words wash away. We’ll be reading three types of Hebrew this year: more of B’reshit and some other uniquely famous passages from the Torah in the original; more prayer Hebrew as they become more conversant; and some conversational Hebrew to acquaint us with the language as spoken today.
Homework:  Get ready for the high holidays by reading and understanding this hugely intense prayer—the famous Ashamnu, a list, literally from Aleph to Tav, acknowledging wrongs we’ve committed during the year, with a request for God’s forgiveness (and an implicit request for the forgiveness of our fellow earthlings whom we’ve wronged in any or all of these ways). Try to read the Hebrew aloud, then read the English and see how up-to-the-moment the list of wrongs feels. Remember that for centuries Jewish people have recited this every year, and be comforted: the tradition understands that we never become perfect, we all continue to do these things, but we shouldn’t stop trying.


Moreh Steve’s Jewish Studies Class We talked (of course) about the upcoming high holidays: how they’re observed, what they’re for, and what we’re supposed to do, not just during their observance but in the 10 days between them. So we talked about asking God for forgiveness, and our fellow humans; we talked about fasting, wondering what a fast is all about; and then looked in detail at what it is to take stock, what we need to notice about our own behavior, and especially what makes a real apology (hint: not apologia, a self-justifying explanation). 1: You can’t say “if [I hurt you],” you have to say “that” (and if you don’t know whether something you did or failed to do hurt someone, ask). 2: You have to state the wrong, at its true size, not spin it to make yourself look a little less bad. And 3: you have to make it up to the person. How to do that, if the wrong thing you did can’t itself be undone? Show the person kindness, that’s how. Change your attitude toward her or him.

Homework: This is going to be hard, ok? Think of someone you’ve wronged, maybe insulted or mistreated, belittled or dissed, maybe someone who annoys you and makes you feel somehow not yourself. Practice in your mind, in front of a mirror alone, or even on family members, how you’re going to apologize face to face to the person and promise her or him you’ll try to change—and then actually go and do it. Remember what we talked about: sincerely, truly saying you’re sorry and promising to make amends is a very, very brave act. Try it and see how you feel afterward about the person, and about life in general—and remember you’re doing the right thing even if the person doesn’t gratify your apology with immediate acceptance.

Moreh Zach’s Jewish Studies Class Today we discussed the first chapter of All-of-a-Kind Family: “The Library Lady.” We discussed the setting of the book, how it consists of a fictionalized version of the author’s own childhood on the Lower East Side, circa 1912. And we discussed some of the material culture mentioned in the story. Mostly, we considered the values displayed in the chapter. Mama teaches her daughters to love books, to confess their mistakes, to tell the truth, to pay their debts, to comfort the distraught, and to share their resources to make things better. We discussed how these reflect Jewish values, including those we observe during the High Holidays. We also looked at period photographs of the Seward Park Library, which opened on the Lower East Side in 1909 (https://www.nypl.org/about/locations/seward-park). The students remarked at how crowded it was, and we discussed how families’ homes may have lacked not only books but also pleasant places to read.

Homework: With the holidays coming up, next week we are skipping ahead to the chapter called “Succos,” (pp 166-175). Students should read the chapter, think of three questions, and bring their books to class on September 24. If you can email me questions in advance, that would help.

Morah Shana’s Jewish Studies Class I gave textbooks to every student. Please have your child bring them to class. In our second class we continued our learning about Rosh Hashanah. We talked about Rosh Hashanah being the world’s Birthday and how we celebrate it. Specifically what we do in the synagogue that day and what we do at home. I foreshadowed our next class on Yom Kippur by talking about the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Homework: Talk with your children about Rosh Hashanah–eat apples and honey and practice the blessings.


Contact Kol Ami

P.O. Box 1801, Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: 571-336-5544
Rabbi's Study: 202-364-3006

Where We Meet

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington Blvd. (Route 50) & George Mason Dr.
Arlington, VA 22204
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