Pass-Over House: fake blood, real lesson

Fake blood! Fake house! Fake Death! Real lesson.

Passover house before the 10th plague (still clean)

PassOver house before the 10th plague (still clean)

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Tuna Can Seder Plate (instant upcycle)

fishy or fab?

fishy or fab?

Minimalist, instant, kinda pretty, and absolutely free: the Tuna Can Seder Plate. Continue reading

Snail Plate = Seder Plate (instant upcycle)

seder plate, kid-sized

seder plate, kid-sized

Instant upcycle for the miniscule percentage of folks for whom both statements apply:

  • need a seder plate
  • have an escargot plate

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Lulav Brush for Passover (one more lulav re-cycle)

small lulav leaf brushes for bedikat and biur chametz

small lulav leaf brushes for bedikat and biur chametz

This quick DIY takes longer to explain than to make. It’s a wee brush for the night and morning before Passover: a riff on the traditional repurpose of using Sukkot’s lulav for the pre-Passover Search and Destroy mission. Continue reading

Afikomen bag in 30 minutes

Afikomen bag materials (spelling guide, bag, labels, yarn). The purple one is finished.

Afikomen bag materials (spelling guide, bag, labels, yarn). The purple one is finished.

Afikoman bag: a seder-centric craft for those of us with 30 minutes or less. It’s practical, decent-looking, durable, and fun for kids to make.  Continue reading

Hula Hoop Seder Plate: BIG Upcycle for Kids

Hula Hoop Seder Plate

Hula Hoop Seder Plate (scrap art)

A seder plate the size of a hula hoop—because it is a hula hoop—makes an unforgettable project and display. Kids can learn or review the symbolic foods and traditional placement thereof; work individually or in small groups; and create a teaching prop that gets noticed even in cavernous synagogue social halls. Continue reading

Seder Plate Symbols: Where They Go

what and where?

what and where?

Where should the seder plate symbols go? Every year I have to look it up, and every year I can’t seem to find a handy-dandy reference. I make seder plates with students—real plates and “enrichment” types with funky materials like LEGO or candy—so proper placement matters. I want to be consistent, and I like to know what tradition says and why. Store-bought seder plates Continue reading

Casting Lots for Purim: Knucklebones

polymer knucklebones for casting lots

two of my polymer knucklebones for casting lots

Happy Lots! Pur = lot, Purim = lots. That’s “lots” as in what Haman cast or threw to determine the date upon which to kill the kingdom’s Jews. In the Megillah, the lots indicated Adar 14, and thus we eat Haman’s hat / pocket / ear (depending on your translation) on that date ever after. Continue reading

Casting Lots for Purim: a Hands-On Display

games of chance

games of chance for casting lots

The name Purim means “lots,” which means absolutely nothing to my students. Lots? Lots of what? Continue reading

Mishloach Manot for free: origami upcycle DIY

mishloach manot bag

mishloach manot bag: ready to fill and send

First, tell me you’ve seen my original post—with quick video—about making these EASY origami mishloach manot bags. Because today’s upcycle is that very same pattern but with newspaper, which makes the bag even cheaper and greener.

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The Jews and Their Toys (Playmobil Martin Luther accessories, unauthorized)

Playmobil's Martin Luther doll

(photo credit: Playmobil)

Playmobil’s new Martin Luther doll—”the fastest-selling toy of all time”—comes “complete with quill and Bible,” but I thought he needed another accessory to be truly complete.* Namely, a wee copy of his 1543 treatise On the Jews and Their Lies. Continue reading

Why Downton Abbey’s New Jew “is not Russian”

Teacup

Spode “Buttercup”

Downtown Abbey’s new Jew—Our Rose’s dishy friend Atticus Aldridge—has caused quite the ripple in Jewish media. So far, the articles take for granted some knowledge of Jewish history: they assume readers understand or at least half-remember from Hebrew School electives the details behind why the Aldridge family—operating under a less goyische surname—left Russia in the years 1859 and 1871. And, they don’t explain the climax of the scene—henceforth called the Tea With Jew scene: the outburst  Continue reading

Anatomical Heart Valentines for Passive-Aggressive Jewish Moms

anatomically correct heart valentine

I *anatomically-correct heart* U

Feeling snarky about Valentine’s Day at your kid’s secular school?

Or, are you just a bit bored with craft-foam hearts?

Or, do you worry you might damage yourself and others if you see one more Pinterest board full of cloyingly twee DIY Valentines?

Too bad. Your Jewish kid still has to cough up 18 sealed, unmarked Valentines to distribute at the class party. Continue reading

Torah is Sweet: Chocolate Alef Bet for Consecration

alef and tav represent the entire Torah

alef and tav represent the Torah

(DIY chocolate Hebrew letters and a drop of honey = a sweet start.)

Back in the day, a child started cheder (religious school) with a taste of Torah: by licking an aleph-bet slate dribbled with honey. The Hebrew letters symbolized the whole Torah, Continue reading

Upcycled Water Bottle Bird Feeder for Tu B’Shevat

bottle bird feeder

black oil sunflower seed, bamboo perch

Upcycled water bottles as birdfeeders are not new, so why am I sharing this?

Because this morning I sort of perfected them. My class of 2nd graders made a bunch and we had to be quick. So shall I: Continue reading

Tu B’Shevat Collaborative Leaf-Rubbing Banner

tree leaves for crayon rubbing at Tu B'Shevat

arranging our pressed, fall leaves

A giant, collaborative leaf-rubbing print for Tu B’Shevat. We tried this in Kindergarten last Sunday and it worked. Gorgeous. And, we still had time to make individual leaf-rubbing prints to take home. The 9-foot banner will hang at the school entrance to welcome students and visitors at Tu B’Shevat. Continue reading

Mitzvah Chart / Jewish Values for Kids

Click to print a PDF and use in class or at home

Click to see larger PDF and to print

Print this chart to reframe ordinary actions and values Jewishly (and in Hebrew too, even if you don’t know from Hebrew). When you catch your kid doing something good, name it, frame it, praise it. I post a copy in the classroom.

The chart makes it so easy: it names the mitzvah (commandment), the transliteration, the Hebrew term, and “When You Can Refer to It.” I’ve reproduced it here with permission.*

For example: “Common Courtesy/Respect = Derekh Eretz = דֶרֶך אֶרֶץ = When children show respect for each other, as in letting a child get in line.” (Also, table manners, taking turns, not interrupting, etc. It literally means “way of the land,” and it assumes the land is a place where we are considerate of others.) Continue reading

Hands-on Activities for Teaching “Kosher”

Things I did not anticipate at yesterday’s Kosher Grocery Quiz: 1) despite being Southern, our little Jewish kids had no idea what “pork rinds” were and did not think them hilarious, and 2) every single child assumed the “silver polish” was something ladies do to fingernails.

without exception, every child looked for the hecksher

without exception, every child looked for the hecksher

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Carob for Tu B’Shevat Show and Tell

carob pods, seeds and chips

carob pods, seeds and chips

Carob pods and carob chips for a taste (and smell and sound and sight and touch) of Tu B’Shevat.

Carob is a biggie for Tu B’Shevat. It’s a tree fruit native to the Land of Israel, it’s de rigeur at a Tu B’Shevat seder, and it’s part of the story about Honi the circle-maker lots of us read aloud on Tu B’Shevat. Continue reading

Pigs in a Breastplate (parsha or Torah project)

painted breastplate black

Torah breastplate upcycle (from frozen food packaging)

When my husband brought home the wrong brand of kosher pigs-in-a-blanket, I opened the box, slid the frozen contents onto the formica, and nearly plotzed.

It doesn’t take much, I can hear you thinking.

But truly, look at the plastic tray. Albeit designed to keep mini franks from merging into one giant maxi frank, it is an instant and entirely unintentional Torah scroll / priestly breastplate. An accidental choshen.

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