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From the Field-Jessie Gindea

Jessie Gindea (cohort 11) is a first year middle school teacher at the Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford, NJ.  She is also a Nadiv Fellow (working both as a day school teacher and informal educator, and as a camp Judaics specialist). Jessie has shared two activities, a Tefillah program and Ta’amei Tanakh, that have worked successfully with her classes.

1. 6th Grade Tefilah

Jessie wanted to help the students better understand the daily prayers they were reciting. Each day, she spends discussing part of a prayer with the entire 6th grade (about 50 students). On a recent Wednesday, students came in to see seven posters hanging around the room, asking questions such as, “What am I thankful for? What is my favorite part of Wednesday? How can I help someone today? What can I accomplish today?” The students briefly discussed the meaning of “modeh ani” and then each student was given a marker and allowed to write their responses on the appropriate posters.


2. Ta’amei Tanakh

To excite the students about Judaic studies, Jessie instituted a program called “Ta’amei Tanakh”. Anyone in the 6th-8th grade is welcome to sign up to join her for lunch once a week (with a limited number able to sign up). She brings a special food treat, and students need to guess why she chose that food based on the week’s parsha. Afterwards, she shares with them why she made the choice, but she often feels their answers are better than hers! The first week – for parshat B’reisheet – she brought in double-decker Oreo cookies. Students came up with lots of explanations, including:

  • ·         This is the perfect food, and God created a perfect world.
  • ·         The Oreo is round, and this is about the creation of the world, which is round.
  • ·         The middle cookie is the rakeah, dividing between the heavens and the earth.
  • ·         The Torah is wonderful and delicious, just like an Oreo.

Jessie then shared her reason: God created humans, male and female, from one body, and there is a midrash that Adam and Chava actually shared a spine—just like this Oreo shared a middle cookie.  

Later in the year, Jessie will sponsor a recipe contest for a particular parsha.