I had never been to a conference or class on Sephardic heritage before, and how to implement such material into the classroom environment and curriculum. I was intrigued because I previously worked in a school that had a large contingency of families with various Sephardic backgrounds, and didn’t know much to teach them. I had a challenging time in the beginning, as some students in that particular school associated Limudei Kodesh teachers with “being Sephardi,” and found it funny when I said I was Ashkenaz.
When I teach Chumash or Navi in my eighth grade classes, I teach mefarshim to explain the pesukim. When I teach the classic machloket between Rashi and Ramban at the beginning of Parashat Kedoshim, I have the students do research on the life of Rashi and Ramban. I ask them to research where they came from, when they lived and what contributions they made. The same holds true each time I introduce another one of the commentaries. As a result of our conference, I make a concerted effort to stress that the different mefarshim that we analyze regularly, come from varied backgrounds.
I have done a lot of Sephardic traditions at Yavneh to name a few:
Rosh Hashana seder
I cooked and prepared everything in the kitchen for the entire grade. We ate every food representing the simanim of the new year. We relied the brachot and learned why we eat each food item.
I ran simultaneously an Ashkenazic and Sephardic seder. The children made kiddish in Sephardic tune and learned how the Persians hit each other with scallions in Dayenu (that was the hit of our seder).
Combining my Sephardic theme loosely to TuB'shvat, I am using the opportunity to explore our "family" trees and customs.
I am also hoping that in the course of completing this form the parents & even extended family will have stories to share.
My plan is to have the children on a rotational basis present their families to all of us. If possible, and of course with parental consent, I am encouraging them to bring in pictures and artifacts as well that come from their countries of origin and/or are used in our various religious observances.
Sephardic Culture Month:
We want all of the children to experience Sephardic culture so they can cherish and respect the rich differences in every family's customs and history.
Here are some of the things to anticipate throughout the month:
I walked away from the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals’s seminar with a newfound appreciation and motivation to include more Sephardic halachot, minhagim, and culture into my school.
I was excited to join the Sephardic educators conference led by Rabbi Hayyim Angel, theNational Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. It was an opportunity for me to learn from other educators great tools and resources to help bring Sephardic culture, customs and laws to the classroom. The wide range of presentations touched upon different subjects and provided the space for great conversations. I was able to use some of what I learned to teach the students a Chanukah lesson that infused Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs.
As an Ashkenazi Jew who only attended Ashkenazic schools and institutions I was (a little embarrassed to say) ignorant regarding the Sephardic world. Tefillot, brachot, minhagim, songs etc… A new world opened in front of me and I am grateful for that.
It was a pleasure learning how to integrate Sephardic education into my daily teaching. After attending the seminar, I was enlightened and enthralled to share what I learned and of course to include the information in my interactions with students and colleagues. I was excited to imbue my teaching with the nuances of Sephardic halacha, hashkafa, and history. A few days after I was enlightened with the new and exciting information about Sephardic Judaism, a friend and former colleague, Jessica Feiwus, Elementary School teacher at Solomon Shechter of Manhattan, telephoned me.