Hamakor- the Source Friday, May 1, 2020/7 Iyar 5780


A round of applause for our families and resourceful teachers who pulled off an energetic Yom Ha-atzma’ut on Wednesday! Even over the Internet, our school spirit shined, starting bright and early with an ECC trip to Israel, and followed by live cooking demonstrations, games that tested our Israel knowledge, and I.D.F. "training" with our Shinshinim. For many, the day ended with a recorded concert performance by the Holy Band, which had performed for Hillel live on the occasion of Israel’s 70th birthday two years ago!

Capt. Barbara Dworin readies for take off

Throughout the day, families showed off how they were commemorating Israel Independence Day, with blue and white cakes, homemade flags, chalk art, and Israeli dance parties in the living room. Principal Melissa Michaelson kicked off the day with a blue & white cake displayed during morning announcements. “Yom Ha-atzma’ut is a significant and joyous chag, and I wanted to bring some extra sweetness to the day since we can’t physically be together.”

Principal Melissa Michaelson with her children, Sydney (seventh grade) and Merrick (class of 2019) Michaelson

Yuval Weiss-Izhaki, who led the IDF activities, loved reuniting with our community. “It was amazing to see and talk with students again.” Yuval was among our Detroit-based Shinshinim who returned to Israel after school closed due to the coronavirus. “I enjoyed watching them do the workout to the best of their abilities, even if it meant they had to sweat a bit,” he said with a wink.

Yuval Weiss-Izhaki (center) leading an IDF workout

“I loved working out with Yuval,” said seventh grader Zachary Elbinger. “It was fun to get some exercise in the middle of the school day.”

Closer to home, in her kitchen, Judaic Studies teacher Omer Chudnow taught how to make a classic Israeli salad with techina, assisted by her third grade son, Reemone. “It was fun,” she said. And naturally, she had to make the most of our new reality. “I had to figure out where to place my computer so everyone could see what I was doing!”

ECC teacher Jackie Berns demonstrates Israeli flag-making
The Holy Band

We thank the sponsors who were to have helped make our in-school festivities a success, and are grateful for their continued support: Telemus Financial Life Management and Fischman Insurance Group, our Carnival event sponsors; Sandy and Jim Danto, our Games and Bounce House sponsor; and Mira and Leopoldo Eisenberg, our Sweet Treat sponsor.

Going to town: leadership team updates parents on remote learning and more

At our Town Hall on Thursday evening, the Leadership Team informed parents about the ways our remote learning is teaching our students the skills they need to move forward in their education, and also about the ways only a Jewish day school can nourish a child's soul, particularly during times of insecurity.

"The kids are conversing in Hebrew, writing Divrei Torah, participating in tefillah, and pulling out the values embedded in our Jewish texts," Rabbi Fain, Rav Beit Hasefer said. "Moreover, they are developing meaning, identity, and purpose - learning that our rituals keep us together, and that they have something to contribute to the world. The value of that facet of their education is so vital, especially now," he said.

As for skills, learning specialists are intervening when necessary: From vocabulary, to testing accommodations, to helping students process emotions and stay organized. Teachers have reimagined the curriculum in "purposeful ways, using new tools," 1-4 Learning Communities Director Andrea Jenkins said. Some communities have also expanded Morning Meetings, and tefillot, and teachers are holding "office hours."

COO John Pitcher touched upon practical matters such as retrieving items from lockers and returning Chromebooks the 5-8 students use through our 1:1 technology program. Details regarding dates when parents will be able to come to school will be forthcoming.

While it is impossible to know exactly when Michigan schools will reopen or what school will look like when it does reopen, Principal Melissa Michaelson said, "know that as we move forward, we continually reflect, assess and plan for a variety of scenarios, always with our mission, core values, and students in mind. We have been ahead of the curve since the pandemic forced all schools to go online, and we will remain out front. We are all sharing this story, and we will learn lessons from it. I believe at the end of the day, we're all writing a best seller."

Home is where the learning is: new student programs launched

This week remote learning kicked into higher gear with additional educational programs provided to students, as well as new live classes that give students opportunities to engage with our specialty teachers.

The online math proficiency program, iReady, offers skills reinforcement for our fifth and sixth grades, and is also offered optionally in seventh and eighth grades. “It’s a way for students to get extra practice in and work on concepts that may be challenging,” said Kim Love, Director of Student Services.

Specialists' new live classes supplement the abundant recorded material delivered to ECC-4 students. Throughout the week, children can now "zoom" into MakerSpace Recess, Movement with P.E. teachers, Shabbat music, and ECC music classes.

P.E. teacher Brad Frietag and his sons lead our students in a virtual activity

Early signs of success: 17 students joined Dawn Straith, our Innovation Hub Coordinator and Educator, to make a mobile out of Jewish stars using objects found at home. “It’s been great to see what the students have been making on their own while at home, and now we can brainstorm activities to do together,” Mrs. Straith said.

“We’ve heard from several parents who are happy and grateful for this real-time approach,” said Andrea Jenkins, 1-4 Learning Communities Director. “For parents looking for more live time with teachers, this is a daily opportunity we are happy to provide.”

Activity links will be sent to ECC-4 families at the start of each week.

Tigay’s Tips for Staying On Task

In a recent video message sent to second grade parents, 1-2 General Studies teacher Julie Tigay shared some strategies that can help all students succeed during our time at home, and make home and school “feel as similar as possible.”

  1. Make a daily checklist that your child can check off when assignments are completed. It will help you as a family to stay organized, and it will add to your child's feeling of independence.
  2. When they’re meant to be focusing on a lesson, make sure your children are not multi-tasking.
  3. Use the worksheets and papers (i.e. “Weekend Newspaper”) we have made available for you to print out - they are what students are used to using at school.
  4. Read with a snack!
“We hope you’re having some fun being a fly on the wall, seeing the learning,” she said. “Everyone, adult and child alike, is doing the best we can with everything we’re going through. Please recognize your child’s abilities, and notice what they do well!”

Learning At Home: 3-4 Judaic Studies

Morah Niva Amiel-Wilner has always embraced the use of technology as a tool to enhance curriculum; now it’s a lifeline that keeps her connected to her third and fourth graders. Not only does she “meet” with them on Monday mornings to practice conversing in Hebrew, but she also holds Zoom office hours on Tuesdays to help students complete assignments, or play Hangman or Pictionary in Hebrew. And on Wednesdays, the 3-4 Learning Community gathers for tefillot. In addition, she communicates daily via texting and FaceTime with students and parents who have questions or need additional assistance with homework.

Morah Niva Amiel-Wilner "zooming" with students

“I want to be available for immediate academic assistance,” she said. “I also know kids want to sometimes just talk and socialize. Sometimes I feel like we can stay on longer, and just keep on talking. It’s a way for us to continue to share our lives with one another like we do at school.”

And of course, technology allows the fourth grade students to continue their relationship with pen pals in Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel. This week, they combined greeting cards to create together a beautiful video (below) demonstrating their strong connection to Israel.

“It was a highlight of Yom Ha-atzma’ut,” Morah Niva said. Through remote learning, and thanks to technology, “we showed that we are one nation - am echad.”

making memories

Part of the focus of our seventh grade Diyyun class asks students to identify and reflect upon their Jewish identities, “and to recognize that our Jewish journey mirrors the challenges and highlights of Jewish history,” teacher Leah Gawel explained. During our remote learning period, she has given her students time to create digital Jewish memory books at home, where they can reminisce with their parents, find old photos, and “create some meaningful family moments,” she said. The assignment also wove in vocabulary and emphasized solid writing skills as would be expected in any General Studies class.

The results are heartwarming, and revealing -- as students share their family histories, favorite Jewish foods, holidays, and customs. Students also, in some cases, wrestle with questions related to levels of observance and ritual practice, and their future Jewish aspirations.

Judaism includes knowing that “I have a community to rely on, and people I can trust,” student Michael Basso said.

Student Meir Shomer included as one of his favorite memories the use of his mother Molly Spalter's chanukkiah to light candles on Chanukah, one that was given to her upon her own Hillel graduation in 1999, a hopeful sign that these students will pass on the Jewish tradition to their own children in the future.

advancement news

tony sanders memorial honors beloved coach

Our memorial gathering for Coach Tony Sanders is available to view here. We invite you to celebrate Coach Tony by giving to the Sanders Family Support Fund to support Coach Tony’s family during this challenging time. Hillel will collect and disburse the funds to his family on behalf of all who give. You may also pledge or give to the Coach Tony Memorial Scholarship Fund at Hillel. Celebrate Coach Tony’s life at Hillel and his impact on the Hillel community and students he loved.

capture your child's beautiful smile & support hillel

Faces of Hillel are here! We invite you to purchase beautiful black & white portraits of Hillel students here. Each portrait is $75.00, and the proceeds benefit tuition assistance. The price includes the digital photograph (to be emailed to you after purchase) and an 8x10 matted print that can be picked up in the Advancement Office when we return to school. The portraits can be viewed here.

sponsor a day of learning

Our Day of Learning Sponsorships are an important way to support our school during a time of need. Your gift of $180 helps to maintain our robust remote learning and to assist those families who have been adversely affected financially by the coronavirus. Sponsorships are announced daily to our students and to our community. Learn more here. Thank you!

DVAR TORAH: Parashat Achrei Mot/Kedoshim

By Tom Yaari, 7-8 Judaic Studies Teacher

“Love your fellow as yourself - v’ahavta l’re’acha kamocha.” Among the numerous mitzvot and instructions for ethical living that can be found in this week's Torah portion, it is arguably this beautifully simple and elegant phrase that resonates most of all. In fact, nearly every major religious or ethical tradition in human history has included some form of this phrase within its teaching. More than just a mitzvah or piece of wisdom, this ideal--to love one another as you love yourself--serves as the basis for human empathy. Indeed, it was Hillel the Elder himself who famously referred to this piece of text as, “the whole Torah,” reasoning that everything else in our holy books is merely commentary.

So how does one love their neighbor as one loves themself? It might seem easy enough if you phrase it with active intent: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” or, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” But these variations are not quite as powerful as the original dictum. For starters, many people treat themselves very poorly. Others might enjoy being treated poorly. The diversity of human experience can make it difficult for us to know what is contained within the hearts of our fellow humans. And it can often require the patience and wisdom of a sage such as Hillel to truly understand what lies within our own hearts.

It is a measure of true brilliance that sets this simple, three-word phrase apart from all others. It shows us that the essence of empathy is not treatment, or deeds, or even behavior. It is love (ahava) --v’ahavta.

By commanding us to love each other as we love ourselves, the Torah has effectively excluded acts that may appear loving on the surface, but might truly be motivated by selfishness or even malice. Love must be sincere or it is not truly love.

Therefore, true love for oneself is the prerequisite for the fulfillment of this commandment. Only by loving ourselves can we begin to share love with others. It is this love for our bodies and souls that requires our Jewish laws of purity. Treating others nicely and respectfully is great, but the Torah is not meant to teach you manners. Perhaps in these trying times, we all can take a moment to find that spark of love within ourselves.

recipe of the week: chocolate chip scones

We're still tallying results from last week's survey of your favorite Hillel lunch, so in the meantime try this delectable chocolate chip scone recipe from our food services team. Post your results using #hilleldayathome. Betayavon!

Created By
Hillel Day School