Weekly D'Var Torah

Student D’var Torah by Abigail Lozow: Beha’alotecha

This week’s parashah is Beha’alotecha. In this parashah Aaron is instructed to raise the light in the menorah. Once again G-d instructs someone to do something. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:” (Vay 1:1)

Almost everyday we are instructed to do something whether it is, “the parent spoke to Abby saying,” “the teacher spoke to Abby saying,” “the advisor spoke to Abby saying,” or even “the sibling spoke to Abby saying.” We are told what to do so much, just like G-d always tells the people what to do. But if we did not have anyone telling us what to do, where would be right now? We would have no divrei Torah, no completed school work or even clean rooms. Where would the Jews be right now? We would not have our amazing religious traditions.

Sometimes we may want to be independent and not have people tell us what to do, but it is essential to have people telling you what to do because they are looking out for you. Hashem tells the Jews what to do, but it benefited the Jews so much, just like how it benefits us today. Divrei Torah help us learn weekly lessons about our daily lives. This school year is just like the Torah: it has many different lessons, prepares you for the future, and could be boring at times. This year has been great and I hope we can make next year even better. And for the last time,

Thank you very much for listening and shabbat shalom.

This week’s student d’var Torah was written by Abigail Lozow, a seventh grader at Denver Jewish Day School.

Weekly D'Var Torah

Student D’var Torah by Gabby Gabbay: Naso

This week’s parashah goes over the details of who is going to work in the mishkan (tabernacle) and other different laws. I was particularly torn when I read about this because I wanted to talk about both the mishkan and the law which pertains to “the wayward wife” suspected of cheating. Well, I guess I’ll just have to talk about both.

The mishkan, as we all know, is a very holy “portable temple” which Moshe and the Jews took through the desert. I continually find this concept very interesting because it always amazed me how much constant and unwavering devotion the Jewish people had to G-d; so much so that they would build a temple and constantly take it apart even as they were wandering. Granted, they did see the literal wrath of G-d when they left Egypt and literally crossed the split in half sea, but nonetheless, something about it still amazes me because recently I’ve been seeing my life as slightly cushioned. I get to drive my car, go to school, write my essays, do what I have to do and I get to go home to a house and usually dinner is served to me. I guess you could say right now I’m living a good life. I’m genuinely content with the events that take place in my life and, for some reason, in the back of my mind I feel slightly overindulged. Sometimes I wonder what I even do to deserve this contentment with my life. What do I even do to show my devotion to G-d? Of course I am grateful, but I do not by any means have any intention of carrying a portable temple around in the desert for 40 years. I am perplexed by this and I have not come to a solution to my scenario, but I do believe part of even thinking about this leads me to think that the least I can do is be grateful and mindful of what I do have. I do acknowledge that it could be gone in an instant and hopefully by cherishing my happiness when it’s around, that’s one step toward showing devotion to G-d.

The next point that jumped out to me was the “wayward wife” scenario. I decided to look further into it and found that this “(suspected) cheating wife” is actually a metaphor for G-d and the Jewish people. We indulge in the idea that G-d is not all powerful and we are on our high horses thinking that we are the only beings. Perhaps those ideas are only an illusion because we don’t even have the capacity to understand what a being that is better than us would be. In this case, we are either ignorant or just really supercilious and conceited. The reality is in thinking this, we are not betraying G-d, we are just straying from G-d or even hiding from G-d’s infinite power, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The truth is I guess I actually wasn’t torn between talking about these two topics because I came to the realization that both of the things that I wanted to talk about today tie together almost flawlessly. The wife that gives the appearance of her cheating on her husband is like us, the Jewish people. The truth is we can never truly and fully betray G-d, we can only give the appearance of betraying G-d. Just as I assume I don’t give enough of my devotion to G-d, that’s something only G-d can judge and maybe I only appear to MYSELF as unworthy, but the truth is maybe that’s not for me to judge. (“That’s not for me to determine”)

Shabbat Shalom.

This week’s student d’var Torah was written by Gabby Gabbay, an eleventh grader at Denver Jewish Day School.

Lower Division

The Who’s Tommy features Denver JDS first grader

While the occasional theater spotlight at Denver Jewish Day School has tended to reside with students in the Upper Division, that has all changed in 2018. In April, Denver JDS first grader Sam Bird was cast into the role of Young Tommy for “The Who’s Tommy,” a musical production through the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company.

Sam is the son of Caron Blanke and Dirk Bird, and the youngest of three siblings.

When Sam’s mom, Caron, originally heard about the opportunity for two young boys to share the role of Young Tommy during the musical’s five-week run, she knew she had to submit a resume for Sam to give him a shot at an audition. Sam had grown up watching his two older siblings (Ari and Ruthie) perform in musicals, and he developed a passion for theater at a young age.

Sam has wanted to be on stage ever since the day he could talk. He seems to have the ability to switch gears and pretend to be a different character or actor in an instant, always looking to impress his audience.


“It’s been the most incredible experience for Sam,” says Caron. “He is performing with a remarkable caliber of performers, many of whom have come straight from Broadway. We just feel tremendous gratitude that he has had such an incredible opportunity.”

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Sam has been the talk of the town recently at Denver JDS, and for those who have still not seen “The Who’s Tommy” the show continues its run through this weekend. You can find tickets here. All teachers get 50% off the cost of tickets, and students can purchase tickets for $10 before the show begins, if there are seats still available.

The Denver JDS community is incredibly proud of Sam. We wish him the best of luck t as he finishes up his five-week run of “The Who’s Tommy” this weekend.

Weekly D'Var Torah

Student Dvar Torah by Isaac Makovsky: Bamidbar

There is nothing in this world cuter than a baby, other than puppies, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Babies are innocent cute things that are just fun to be around. But babies have no idea what to do and cannot understand anything when they enter our world. We have to be careful around them and only allow them to see and hear the right things. So how does this apply to the parashah? Well in this week’s parashah, Bamidbar, Hashem commands Moses to count all of the Jews, but to count the Levites separately from the rest of the nation. And Moshe is commanded to count all male Levites who are more than 30 days old. It does not seem necessary to count the little babies as they can’t do any work in the Mishkan (Sanctuary).

Well, the reason children are counted so young is because it is never to early to educate a child. Children are affected by their environment and every child counts. But after this, Hashem commands Moses to count the Levites again, this time for the older, mature Levites. The reason Moses has to count again is because one is never too old to learn. This second reason might apply more to this class. We might be thinking that we know everything and there is nothing more to learn, or start thinking that as we grow older. But the reality is we must continue learning and even if it isn’t school work, we will continue to grow and educate ourselves.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

This week’s student d’var Torah was written by Isaac Makovsky, an eighth grader at Denver Jewish Day School

Project-Based Learning

Five Denver JDS students participate in Solar Rollers

At the beginning of the school year, Denver JDS Science Department Chair, Melanie Knowles came across an incredible opportunity when she heard about Solar Rollers energy education program. Five Denver JDS students — Eli Asarch, Jonas Rosenthal, Gavin Sher, Shaun Slamowitz and Louis Stein — were up for a challenge, and once the kit and course materials arrived, set to work in February.  Three months later, they had built a solar-powered radio-controlled racecar.

After spending many hours during school and on their own free time building their own solar-powered car from scratch, Eli, Jonas, Gavin, Shaun, and Louis spent two weeks testing their car for the Solar Rollers race. After some trial and error, fixes were made to the car and they placed seventh out of 31 teams at the race. Not bad for first-time participants.

 

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Denver JDS students Eli Asarch, Louis Stein, and Gavin Sher.


“I am very proud of our students,” said Melanie Knowles. “From dedicating long hours of their own time (even during their spring break) to learning how each and every individual part and system of the car operated as they prepared for the race, this was no easy task.”

Eli, Gavin, and Louis built the Solar Roller car from scratch with the basic materials being carbon fiber, styrofoam, solar cells, electronic components, and a battery storage system. They learned to cut the carbon fiber, soldered wires and circuits, and eventually connected 15 solar cells into one circuit. They even reached a max speed of 31 mph during their final test run.  

 

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Not only was this an incredible first-time opportunity for Denver JDS students, but it also presented Eli, Gavin, and Louis with some hands-on experience in developing and optimizing their own clean energy system, which also happened to be a racecar.

“This was one of the highlights of my school year,” said Denver JDS junior Eli Asarch. “I hope that we will participate in Solar Rollers next school year, and that Denver JDS students will get to participate in this for years to come.”

Judaic Studies

Denver JDS Judaic studies program gives students personal connection to Judaism and strong sense of Jewish identity

Between Passover and Shavuot, some have the tradition of counting the omer (the 49-day period between these two holidays). This tradition has an agricultural basis in that the period marks the beginning of the barley harvest as well as a historical connection in the counting down to receiving the Torah. Because the omer is tied to receiving the Torah and building anticipation for Shavuot, it has also become a time for reflection, refinement, and growth. Between Passover and Shavuot, some have the tradition of counting the omer (the 49-day period between these two holidays). This tradition has an agricultural basis in that the period marks the beginning of the barley harvest as well as a historical connection in the counting down to receiving the Torah. Because the omer is tied to receiving the Torah and building anticipation for Shavuot, it has also become a time for reflection, refinement, and growth.

At Denver JDS, we embrace any opportunity for reflection, refinement, and growth. Our students set personal goals and develop plans to attain them. Our teachers regularly engage in professional development, and as a school, we are constantly evaluating our programs to ensure they provide the best possible environment for that student growth. As part of that commitment to ongoing improvement, we have begun the process of looking at our K-12 Judaic studies curriculum. In some ways, our Judaic studies program is one of the most important aspects of Denver JDS. It is a key part of our academic program. It is one of the main elements that differentiates us from other schools in Denver. It Is the soul of our school.

As a pluralistic Jewish day school, our Judaic studies program should infuse a multitude of perspectives. Yes, denominational perspectives such as Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox should be represented in the learning at Denver JDS, but so should Reconstructionist and secular Zionist and post-denominational modern thought as well as numerous other views. Exposing our students to different sources challenges their thinking and shows them the variety within Judaism, making it clear that no matter what they think or believe or practice, they have a home, and they belong. Ultimately, we as a school foster skills and content, which the students can then, with the support of their families, use to adopt the beliefs and practices which resonate with them.

Our goal for our Judaic studies program is for students to become Jewishly literate lifelong learners with a personal connection to Judaism and a strong sense of Jewish identity. As such, we are working to further refine our curriculum with a balance of skills and content as well as depth and breadth. In order to accomplish our goal, we have to carefully consider when students learn what. Just as students should have a solid understanding of algebra before moving into calculus or a grasp of basic phonics before moving into chapter books, Judaic studies has a logical scope and sequence.

Our students need to be familiar with the written Torah before studying the oral Torah. They need to ask and answer their own questions before they examine the questions of others. They need to be familiar with basic narratives before they can critically analyze and compare different texts. While some of this scope and sequence depends on a sequential order of teaching specific material, other pieces depend on the developmental stages of students, areas of student interest and the most effective way to engage students in learning at different stages in order to foster independent learning skills, all of which we take into account.

Additionally, we are also aware that we live in the 21st century and have an obligation to prepare our students for success in today’s world. So, along with the skills of decoding text and breaking down commentaries and understanding the deeper meaning of different narratives, we also emphasize critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. These future-ready skills have been a focus and priority for our school over the last few years, but they have always been highly regarded in Jewish tradition, and they have always been integral to Jewish study, so Judaic studies is a natural place in which to highlight and emphasize these skills.

As we move forward on this path of reflection, refinement, and growth specifically tied to our Judaic studies program, we share many of the same feelings as the Israelites as they awaited the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Just like them, we know that change is a process that cannot be taken lightly. Just like them, we are thoughtfully preparing for the future, and, just like them, we are excited about what comes next.

Avi Halzel                                         Dr. Sarah Levy 
CEO/Head of School                      Director of Jewish Life & Learning

Elana Shapiro                                  Jason Snyder
Lower Division Principal            Upper Division Principal

Weekly D'Var Torah

Student D’var Torah by Sara Green: Behar-Bechukotai

This week’s parashah discusses the laws of the shmita cycle. This is where every seven years we let the land rest and we don’t use it for growing. Although this will sound weird, this relates to my life in a big way. I go to the gym a lot. I know that rest days are crucial for training and getting stronger. It is almost impossible to train seven days a week and not get burned out and or get injured. So one is constantly instructed to take rest days in order to let the body heal. I have a shoulder injury, and right now rest days are key in making sure I don’t overwork my shoulder and that I stay safe. Yesterday I was deciding whether or not to take my coach’s advice about additional rest days. After reading about this parashah I connected the two and realized how important it is to let whatever you are working rest. Just like it may seem fine to work your land for all seven years with no break, it may also seem fine to constantly put your body through intense workouts. It is always import to take the time to let yourself regain strength, and so to, one must give their land a chance to rest.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

This week’s student d’var Torah was written by Sara Green, a tenth grader at Denver Jewish Day School.