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Judaic Studies

Parshat Hashavua: Eikev by Zehariah Oginsky

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses continues his speech to the Israelites. He tells them they will have to annihilate people who are not believers in God. Moses reminds them not to forget God’s commandments even after they enter the land of Israel and that their biggest task is to continue to fear God. Read the full text in English and Hebrew: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25.

Also, don’t forget to check out this week’s Dvar by Zehariah Oginsky:

This week’s parsha starts with Moses telling the Jewish people that if they follow the mitzvot, they will prosper. He also reminds them of what happens when they don’t follow the mitzvot, like the sin of the golden calf. Next, he tells them that man live not only because of food and water, but also by God. After that, Moses tells them that Canaan is flowing with milk and honey and is blessed with the seven species. Moses also tells the Israelites that, as long as they are faithful to God, they will be blessed with rain. If they stray from God’s ways, they will be cursed with drought. The parsha ends with Moses reciting the second paragraph of the Shema. He also says what will happen if the Israelites follow or don’t follow the mitzvot.

A major point I want to talk about is the Israelites need for rain. God promises that there will be rain as long as the Israelites follow the mitzvot. Almost all of the Israelites were farmers, they relied upon the rains to be able to grow enough food to support them. If there was a drought, famine would ensue. These days, we have a massive disconnect between where our food comes from and the food that we eat. Ben Zoma used to say: “How much labor Adam must have expended before he obtained bread to eat! He plowed, sowed, reaped, piled up the sheaves, threshed, winnowed, selected [the ears], ground, sifted [the flour], kneaded and baked, and after that he ate; whereas I get up in the morning and find all this prepared for me,”.

Unlike Ben Zoma, we often fail to acknowledge how much labor and energy is put into the food that appears on our tables. I feel that it is important to have an idea of where our food comes from and how much work was put into it. In addition, many of our prayers and holidays revolve around asking God for a good growing season, but we have lost a lot of connections with these prayers and holidays because we are no longer farmers. Perhaps we can find ways to try to rebuild that connection between our agrarian past, and our current situation as a people. In this way, we might also be able to bring more meaning into festivals like sukkot.

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Denver Jewish Day School Updates

Get to Know the PTO

The 2016-17 academic year has begun, and we at the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back for an exciting school year.

You may have heard of us or seen us around the school, but did you ever wonder what it is exactly that we do? Well, the PTO is a group of parents and teachers that work together for the benefit of Denver Jewish Day School – its faculty, staff and students. We provide services for the staff and teachers that help further enrich our students’ education, we host social programs and activities that bring our community closer together, and we sponsor school spirit programs. We are here to help grow and strengthen the Denver JDS community in a supportive and meaningful way.

This year, keep an eye on the calendar for the following events:

  • Back-to-School Coffee
  • Sukkah Hop
  • Art Extravaganza
  • Fall and Spring Book Fairs
  • Ice Cream Fridays
  • Faculty/Staff Appreciation Week
  • And more!

One of the ways in which PTO accomplishes its goal of building and strengthening the Denver JDS community is its contribution to the school’s annual budget. Each year, our parent/teacher partnership invests more than $10,000 in providing resources above and beyond those afforded by the school operating budget. Our contributions, made possible through various fundraising initiatives done in conjunction with the school’s development department, have in the past supported such initiatives as upgraded wifi capabilities, new television screens for use in education, the establishment of a C.O.O.L. Classroom, the redesign of our art studio, and more. This year, we hope to provide a new shade structure as well as contribute to the upgrading of the school’s technology infrastructure!

As parents, we are all critical to the success of Denver Jewish Day School and its impact on our children – both within the classroom and without. Our contribution of time and/or money to PTO-sponsored initiatives ensures that our children can take part in leading-edge educational opportunities by providing our teachers with a fuller range of resources they need to provide these opportunities. Throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from us as we update you about our success. And yes, you’ll also be asking you to support our fundraising efforts. Because without you, without parental investment, Denver Jewish Day School could not provide our students with the outstanding education they receive.

So, keep an eye out for some of the following initiatives this year, as we come together to give our time and financial resources to this incredible community:

  • Auction
  • Box Tops 4 Education
  • Faculty/Staff Gifts
  • Mishloach Manot Purim Fundraiser

Want to learn more about how you can get involved with the Denver Jewish Day School PTO? There are opportunities for involvement on a one-time basis or on a longer term basis, as well as chairing a committee.  See below for a current list of PTO volunteer opportunities.

If you are interested in getting involved or just learning more, come to our first PTO meeting on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 8:15 – 9:15am in the Lower Division Discovery Lab or contact Carla Kutnick, PTO President, at carlakutnick@hotmail.com.

The current PTO leadership:

President – Carla Kutnick
carlakutnick@hotmail.com 

Vice President/President Elect – Mindy Greenwald
mindygreenwald@gmail.com

Secretary – Hannah Katz
hannahkatz26@gmail.com

Room Parent Coordinator – Tracy Klein
tracygklein@hotmail.com

Current opportunities to get involved:

  1. Come to our first meeting on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 8:15 – 9:15am
  2. PTO Auction committee – the auction is scheduled for December 1, 2016
  3. Sponsor your student’s grade for Ice Cream Fridays by paying $40
  4. Sign up to help plan the Sukkah Hop
  5. We are seeking an additional chair for the fall and spring Scholastic Book Fairs
  6. Sign up to help out with the Mishloach Manot Fundraiser, which begins to meet during the winter time
  7. Sign up to help out with Faculty/Staff Appreciation Breakfast and Week, which takes place in May
  8. Help develop ideas about keeping Upper Division parents connected to PTO
  9. Volunteer to help with the fall photography fundraiser
  10. Send Box Tops 4 Education in to school with your students – DJDS receives $.10 for each one
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Judaic Studies

Parshat Hashavua: Va’et’hanan by Ashira Wolpo

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses stresses to the Israelites the importance of keeping God’s commandments when they enter the Land of Israel. Moses repeats the Ten Commandments and utters the Sh’ma and V’ahavta. Read the full text in English and Hebrew :Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.

Also, don’t forget to check out this week’s Dvar by Ashira Wolpo:

In this parsha, Moses does a lot of reflection on his life after leaving Egypt up until the point of being banned from entering the land of Israel. He thinks about Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments and how he pleaded to God to let him into Israel, but God refused. Moses’s journey has come full circle and is coming to an end. His time leading the Jewish people through the desert is over. Moses is an old man now, and it’s time to say goodbye only to be watching from afar.

How can this not be coincidence for us to be talking about reflection this first week of school. The first week holds new promises for the new year and allows for fresh starts, but I can’t help but reflect on my last year in middle school. From teaching Ms. Gerdes how to dab to celebrating our last day of Elitch’s, I’m so glad I was able to go through it all with my eighth grade class. I struggled last year with many things, and surprisingly so many people stood up to help me and listen to me. Since our Durango trip, I’ve never felt so close to a group of people. But last year wasn’t just the eighth grade. There was Color War where I was able to make new friends and converse with people I had never even thought of befriending. At the shabbaton, I balled my eyes out despite not knowing any of the seniors personally. I became friends with every single seventh grader (now eighth graders) and I spent most of my summer with them.

Reflection shouldn’t have to only be about what you personally experienced. When the was the Florida shootings earlier in the year, there was such an outpour of love and support from my friends and family who were all genuinely concerned.

I wouldn’t trade this life and my friends for anything. And I’m glad that at the beginning and of every year I have the opportunity to look back and reflect like Moses did. Reflection is a part of Judaism. From stories in the Torah, to reading them in synagogue each week, to the Mishnah and Gemara. Everyone in this community has memories and opinions which demand to be heard and remembered for many year to come.

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Judaic Studies

A Rare Opportunity, the Gift of LOVE

Sometimes, the most special moments at Denver Jewish Day School happen when we get the opportunity to take advantage of a rare gift, expanding our knowledge and strengthening our community. This week, we at Denver Jewish Day School are excited for just such a rare opportunity:  that of celebrating Tu B’Av as a community during our first week back at school.

Tu B’Av, the little-known but totally awesome Jewish mini-festival that once marked the beginning of the grape harvest in Jerusalem, usually takes place at a time when Denver JDS students are off enjoying their summer holidays. This year’s earlier-than-usual back-to-school affords us a special opportunity to celebrate together as a community.  

Today, Tu b’Av is mostly perceived as the holiday of love, a kind of Jewish equivalent to Valentine’s Day. However, the holiday’s roots run much deeper – according to tradition, Tu B’Av marks the day the daughters of the Tribe of Binyamin were allowed to marry the sons of the other tribes, thus bringing love, peace and reconciliation to the people of Israel.

To commemorate the positive spirit of this holiday, students in Kindergarten through 12th grade will come together to explore its meaning.  It’s not often that our Seniors interact with Kindergartners, but on Tu B’Av all students will join together in a three-legged race, mural-making, Israeli dance, and even sending messages of love and optimism to their classmates. Our hope is that students will not only learn about Tu B’Av’s historical customs and values (and their relevance today), but also be reminded of some of the skills they learn in the classroom every day: teamwork, collaboration, and creative thinking.

Ultimately, Tu B’Av allowed Jews to celebrate and be thankful for  all the great things that life has to offer. Celebrating together as a school community will allow our modern students, faculty and staff to celebrate and be thankful in the same way.

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Denver Jewish Day School Updates

A Note to Our Community, as We Begin a New School Year

The halls of Denver JDS have been eerily quiet all summer, and we have looked forward to beginning the new year energized and ready to provide engaging, meaningful and rigorous work in the classrooms as well as a range of special experiences beyond. Our faculty and staff have been busy preparing, and the 2016-17 will undoubtedly be the best yet for our very special Tiger community!

This summer has certainly been an interesting one for us all. While there have been many blessings, there were definitely times that made us feel “the world was too much with us.” It does feel good, then, to be able to come together with our Denver JDS mischpacha. Whether a Senior who has long made Denver JDS his or her second home, a veteran faculty member, or a new member of the Denver Jewish Day School family, it is a great comfort to each and every one of us to be part of such a strong and close-knit school community.

As our school continues on its exciting journey of re-thinking traditional educational practice and more prominently integrating 21st century skills, project-based learning, and student inquiry into the way we educate our students, we look forward to some exciting developments in the Lower Division this year:

  • We continue to build and enhance our C.O.O.L. (Collaborative Open Opportunity Lab) Classroom as a flexible 21st-century learning environment. Lower Division faculty and staff will focus much of their professional development this year on Project-based Learning, exploring new ways for our student to make real-world connections to their learning and encourage them to be active constructors of knowledge.

  • As part of our efforts to enhance classroom technology and increase the number of student devices throughout the Lower Division, we are very excited to introduce even more iPads and Chromebooks into classrooms. This initiative will allow our students to leverage the power of technology in their learning and inquiry process and collaborate and share their learning with others in new and exciting ways. We are also adding a 3D printer to our computer lab. Our students will have the ability to design and invent like never before.
  • We are delighted to welcome three wonderful new educators this year: Rebekah Kochavi, a proud Denver JDS parent of two Upper Division students, joins our First grade team and comes to us with five years of teaching experience in Kindergarten and First grade. Mark Parmet will join our Fifth grade team, returning to Denver JDS after working six years in our Upper Division and then taking last year off to earn his Master’s degree.
  • We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Sarah Levy as our new Lower Division dean for the 2016-2017 school year. Dr. Levy comes to us with 13 years of experience in Jewish education and brings with her a breadth of educational leadership experience from past positions in synagogue education, Jewish Day School education and, most recently, as the director of Adult Education at the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE).
  • Finally, we are pleased to announce a new parent education series, Planting the Seeds: A Series of Growth featuring different lectures and events throughout the year. Join us for this opportunity to engage in your own learning while getting to know some of the members of the Denver JDS community and exploring integral facets of the school’s philosophy of learning. Keep an eye out for more information in the coming days!

The Upper Division also continues engage in exciting curricular innovations:

  • We are excited to welcome new teachers: Aarti Vipani, Mark Gatlin, Jason DiGioia, Megan Zitron, and Sam Tluscik.
  • We know that the world does not break itself into discrete subjects such as English, Math, and Judaics. In order to make our curriculum better match the larger world we are offering new Interdisciplinary Options classes such Israeli Literature which will be taught in both English and Hebrew, and Ethics of Extinction which will include both Science and Judaic elements. We also continue to expand our computer science program. For the first time, in partnership with Denver JDS Graduate and Snapchat Co-Founder Daniel Smith, we are offering AP Computer Science.
  • We consider tzedek to be an invaluable part of the character education that makes our school special. To that end, this year we will launch our new Tzedek (justice) Program, designed to immerse students in the Jewish concept of social justice. In Seventh grade, students  will take a specific class in tzedek, and will have the option of taking classes with a tzedek focus and undertaking social justice projects in High School. This will qualify them to earn a special diploma with tzedek focus at graduation.
  • A key element in making these and all of our programs successful this school year is open and appropriate communication. We are a vibrant community of students, parents, and educators, and working together as partners to share information in a clear, open, and respectful manner will be essential as we move through this academic year. We do appreciate your insight and feedback and encourage you to communicate with us about successes and challenges throughout the school year.

These are just a few of the exciting innovations that are occurring at Denver JDS this year. American philosopher John Dewey writes “education is not preparation for life, it is life itself.” While Mr. Dewey was writing generally about education, he could have been referring to Denver JDS specifically. For us education is not something we do, it is who we are.  We cannot wait to share our passion with your students.

Warmly,

Elana Shapiro                                   Jason Snyder
Principal, Lower Division            Principal, Upper Division

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Faculty & Staff

The Value of Learning

The halls of the Lower Division at Denver JDS are eerily quiet during the summer months. Yet, even as our students busy themselves with summer activities, our teachers continue to work in their classrooms, setting up learning spaces, planning next year’s curricular units, and getting a head start as they prepare to welcome students back to school in August.

Summer is not just an opportunity for our faculty to prep and plan; it is also a wonderful time for professional growth and learning. Many of our teachers use these slower summer months to further their education, hone their teaching practice, and collaborate with other educators. This summer, a number of Lower Division teachers have taken part in literacy instruction training seminars, conferences on students with special needs, professional development opportunities about connecting to and teaching Israel, and conferences on 21st century skills and technology.

A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of attending the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE16) conference here in Denver. Four of us from Denver JDS joined this incredible gathering of innovative and forward thinking educators, which attracted 16,000 participants and boasted more than 1,000 sessions. It was truly mind-boggling to be part of such an incredible event.

I always find conferences exciting and great professional learning opportunities. ISTE, though, was something more. As our school continues on its exciting journey of re-thinking traditional educational practice and more prominently integrating 21st century skills, project-based learning, and student inquiry into the way we educate our students, it was amazing to connect with educators from the United States and around the world who are in that same “construction zone” that we find ourselves in.

Schools across the globe are working towards re-imagining the educational landscape in which  our children are growing up. The “traditional” education model, which served its purpose in preparing students for the industrial era through the 1950s, is no longer as relevant today; being with so many like-minded educators who recognize our need to re-vamp was inspiring for me both professionally and personally. I learned so much by attending sessions given by authors of books I have read and admired or of educational bloggers whom I follow throughout the year. It was great to sit down and share a cup of coffee and some new ideas with a fellow educational leader from an independent school across the country. It was incredible to network with other Jewish Day School educators from America and abroad. All of these connections are critical to our own school’s success.

There is nothing like a multi-day conference to build my empathy for our students and how fatiguing it can be to process and take in so much information all day long. But there is little that can compare to the excitement I feel when I have the opportunity to take part in this type of professional development. It inspires me to hone our teaching practice and to work towards creating a school that inspires our students to innovate, create, have agency over their learning, and be prepared for the world they will face.

In this age of globalization, it is so important for us as educators to remember that there are many ways to connect with networks far and wide, to expand our thinking, grow our ideas, and affect real change in education. There is so much out there to learn from and be inspired by, and it is important that we also share what we are doing and inspire others. Building relationships with other innovative educators is like a school think-tank of sorts, where the power of many thoughts, ideas, and different practice grows exponentially because of the different perspectives brought to the table. This is what fuels me as an educator and as a person.

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Denver Jewish Day School Updates

Looking Back on a Great School Year

Finals are over, cubbies and lockers are empty, our 5th graders have crossed the bridge to the Upper Division, and our graduates have begun their final summer before heading off to the next stage in their lives. School is officially out! Together, we completed another exceptional school year.

As I sit here in my office, among the unusual quiet, I can reflect on a year full of accomplishments and important discussions that helped us move our school forward on the path toward innovation that allows us to provide our students with the highest quality Jewish day school education around.

As I look back on some of my favorite memories from the past year, I’d like to share with you some of  our greatest achievements, made possible thanks to the collaboration and hard work of all of the Denver JDS Team:

  • Have you kept track of all the great things happening at our school? We hired Ayelet Margolin-Lehtman, our new Director of Marketing & Communications, and she has begun to help us tell our story and share our most favorite moments with all of you. Want to join in the fun? Follow us on Facebook and on our blog, The Shofar. Have a story you want to share? Contact Ayelet at alehtman@denverjds.org or (720) 449-9551.
  • Officer Todd Bittner (“Officer Todd”) joined our team as Director of Security, and we are working together to implement some new and improved safety and security guidelines for our campus. If you see Todd and his red shirt out in the parking lot, don’t forget to say hello!
  • Under the leadership of our educational team, we’ve made tremendous strides in updating our curriculum to a more project-based learning approach that focuses on teaching the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. In the Lower Division, for example, we introduced a C.O.O.L (Collaborative Open Opportunity Lab) Classroom, an engaging, multi-use space where students can collaboratively create and innovate in new ways. Read more about the C.O.O.L Classroom here. In the Upper Division, we have instituted the one-to-one technology program that integrates the use of laptops and tablets into each student’s individual education. We are also very pleased with the new HS Coding curriculum and we look forward to expanding the program next year.
  • This year, we are sad to say goodbye to Upper Division Principal Bryan Hay, who will retire at the end of the month after 35 years of service to the school. We are thrilled to welcome in his place mentee and former Dean of Students and Faculty Affairs Jason Snyder, who has a wonderful vision for the Upper Division. For more on Jason’s philosophy, check out a recent blog post, “My Charge as an Educator.”
  • The Wabash Farmette at Denver JDS opened on school grounds. As part of our move toward project-based learning, the Wabash Farmette will allow us to incorporate outdoor education into our curriculum, providing students with hands-on experiences and alternative modes of learning.
  • Over the past 18 months, we have taken part in Atidenu, a program of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) designed to provide Jewish day schools with a comprehensive toolkit to strengthen their recruitment and retention efforts. As a result of this program, our enrollment for the coming year has increased by more than 10%, with a kindergarten class reaching capacity.
  • Thanks to your generosity, we were able to meet our fundraising goal (to cover the $1.3 million in operational costs not covered by tuition revenue) earlier than ever before, and we project that we will once again finish the year in the black.

As you look back on your year at Denver JDS, I hope that you have as many fond memories as I do. I thank you for another meaningful and successful school year.

Have a great summer, and I look forward to continuing our important work together in the fall.