Month: January 2021

Keeping the Memory of the Holocaust Alive in the Next Generation

The charge to Jewish educators to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in the next generation is gaining urgency. 

And of course, the Holocaust is an emotional topic for the classroom, triggering complex questions on emunah and other complicated discussions. 

But every generation should have a relationship with the Holocaust. Teaching it can give students perspective and inspiration. The goal in teaching the Holocaust is to teach students how to investigate the context, dynamics and complexity of the experience. 

To better support teachers, the ATT recently held a professional development session in collaboration with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Rabbi Reuven Brand, Rosh Kollel of the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel, provided insights into teaching this difficult subject to students in grades 7-12. 

Rabbi Brand is a noted scholar of the Holocaust, who has presented to the entire spectrum of audiences with sensitivity, clarity and practicality. 

Different approaches to teaching the Holocaust

Using an interdisciplinary approach of integrating Holocaust stories in other subjects to inspire students in mitzvos and Torah observance can be a powerful way to approach the subject. 

Sharing moving stories about Jews in the Holocaust finding ways to keep mitzvos can be an inspirational way to help students relate to the subject. There are incredible stories of Jews who found miraculous ways to wrap tefillin, keep Shabbos, have a Pesach seder and other moving examples during the Holocaust. 

When effectively sharing stories from the Holocaust, it’s important to know the audience and share the information sensitively. With some of the sensitive material, giving the students an opportunity to journal about their feelings can be a helpful way for students to engage with the stories. 

Showing artifacts can enrich students’ knowledge of what happened during the Holocaust, bringing the lessons beyond the page. When sharing artifacts, it’s important to use them in a meaningful way, sharing a story or lesson about what the artifact means. 

An effective way to inspire students is to give them an opportunity to explore the material themselves, such as projects on Holocaust-related topics and personalities as well as pre-war and post-war topics of interest. 

It’s important to differentiate between source material when planning lessons about the Holocaust. Primary sources give students more of a feeling of authenticity than secondary sources, but both can be used to enrich lessons.

Accessing Holocaust resources 

There is a wealth of information for planning meaningful lessons about the Holocaust. Teachers can gain access to many resources for teaching the Holocaust from Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Illinois Holocaust Memorial Museum websites and Spertus Library

For educators, it is increasingly important to make responsible choices in teaching methodologies when instructing their students about the Holocaust. This era of history should be taught in the most realistic and experiential way while tying in its relevance and impact on today’s Judaism. 

Following any Holocaust lesson, the next step is to ask students, “What do we do now that we have learned about this?” 

The Holocaust played such a pivotal role in our Jewish history, and finding ways to teach students about the history, repercussions and being open to the more complex questions that come up provide a rich and necessary educational experience. 

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Beshalach

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

In this week’s parsha we find an interesting posuk that comes after the splitting of the sea and right before the Jewish people singing the famous song, the Shira, in gratitude for the miracle that just saved them. “The Jewish people saw the great hand that Hashem showed in Egypt. They feared Hashem and believed in Him.”

There is an obvious question here. What does this mean that they saw the great hand that Hashem showed in Egypt? Shouldn’t they be saying they saw the great hand in front of them since the miracles in Egypt had happened in the past?

There is a famous expression – Hindsight is 20/20. There are times in our lives when we experience something but do not fully grasp the magnitude of what we just experienced until later in life. A look back gives us a different vantage point to fully understand what took place and the underlying meaning of it.

As the Jews were enslaved in Egypt for so long, it was difficult for them to truly see and understand the hand of Hashem when the miracles and plagues happened in Egypt. Now that they were finally at the end of their slavery and fully redeemed, they were able to step back and take everything in that occurred during the past year. They now fully understood what happened in Egypt. The hand of Hashem was guiding them and leading them into a new world ahead.

As we look back at this past calendar year of 2020, we are still struggling to fully understand all that has happened in our world and the messages that are being sent to us. The key is for us to continue looking back and focus on what we can learn from this experience. In the moment, our vision may not always be that clear.

However, hopefully, in the coming months we will be looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. As our vision gets clearer, let us grasp what we can from all that we experienced, whether it be the moments spent together with our families, the realization of not taking everyday activities for granted, reflecting on our spiritual growth during this time and/or strengthening our commitment to revere and respect our shuls and synagogues from which we were separated.

Do not run away from 2020. Instead, let us look back and take some greater understanding and commitment moving forward.

ATT & JCC Chicago Partner for Summer 2021

We are excited to announce that the Nathan & Shirley Rothner ATT Summer Program is teaming up with JCC Chicago Apachi Rogers Park Day Camp to provide the best of both worlds to our families this summer!

Located at Bernard Horwich JCC, Apachi Rogers Park has long provided a variety of exciting activities, all in a Torah-rich environment! Summers at Apachi are as enriching and meaningful as the school year for campers and counselors alike.

Through a range of electives, the Nathan & Shirley Rothner ATT Summer Program has provided campers countless avenues to learn and grow. When looking for a new home and wanting to expand offerings to families, the J was the natural choice. We are thrilled to announce this partnership and excited to share programming details in the coming weeks!

An Amazing Variety of Activities to Choose from This Summer! ATT families will recognize a diverse array of activities they have come to love and expect from their summers in the Nathan & Shirley Rothner ATT Summer Program. On top of Apachi’s swim lessons, sports, arts, music and other traditions, campers will be able to select activity tracks, such as self-defense, fashion design, cooking, gymnastics, archery, rocketry and more!

Fantastic Facilities! Campers will also enjoy all the benefits that a summer at Apachi Rogers Park has to offer! Bernard Horwich JCC’s five-lane indoor pool provides the perfect venue for swim lessons and free swim fun. Campers as young as two years learn to swim from expert instructors, while older campers continue to build confidence through water sports and games. The J’s spacious, air-conditioned indoor activity spaces, full-size gymnasium and basketball court, and outdoor athletic fields and playgrounds set the stage for an active and social summer for campers age two through counselors-in-training entering high school.

Safety & COVID PrecautionsChildren need camp now more than ever. Last summer Apachi Rogers Park adhered to COVID safety protocols that kept our campers, counselors, and their families safe all summer. With our proven track record of a safe and successful summer and zero COVID transmissions over the course of five weeks, the JCC is ready and prepared to keep your child safe while providing a fun, active, and social summer, regardless of what the coming months hold. More information on our approach to camp last summer can be found online, and feel free to reach out to Camp Director, Matt Steinberg, for more information:

Questions? Join us for one of our upcoming Zoom Info Sessions for more information!
Tuesday, January 26 at 8pm: Register Here!
Tuesday, February 2 at 8pm: Register Here!

Special Introductory Pricing! Now through February 28, ATT families are eligible for special introductory pricing! Sign your child up for an incredible summer and save up to $350 per camper for eight weeks of memories that matter more than ever. Scholarship support is available for qualified families. Visit our website for more information, including pricing and registration details!

We hope to see you at the JCC this summer!

Shelley Stopek and Susan Feuer, Nathan & Shirley Rothner ATT Summer Program Coordinators
Rabbi Mordechai Raizman, Chief Executive Officer, Associated Talmud Torahs
Matt Steinberg, Camp Director, JCC Chicago Apachi Rogers Park

Knowing the difference between sight vs. visual processing

When it comes to learning, visual processing can affect how a student performs. The ATT in collaboration with Walder Education offered an informative and practical professional development session on Visual Processing, presented by Dr. Neil Margolis, O.D., a board-certified developmental optometrist. 

Dr. Margolis defined and described the different visual processing skills and their application to learning. Sight refers to seeing clearly while visual processing refers to the brain’s ability to use and interpret visual information. Students whose academic performance does not meet aptitude predictions may have visual processing weaknesses. 

Dr. Margolis explained that vision is the understanding and interpretation of what one sees. A person’s vision cannot be measured like eyesight because vision itself is cortical, using the whole brain. When efficient, vision is thought to account for up to 80 percent of learning. 

When inefficient, it interferes with learning.

Visual processing skills

There are many areas of learning where visual processing skills come into play. Some of these areas include learning to read, reading to learn and copying information accurately.  

Specific examples of visual processing skills include: 

  • Recognizing known words correctly when reading
  • Navigating the page accurately when tracking
  • Checking copying accuracy
  • Judging spacing 
  • Layout as well as remembering and visualizing what one sees

Poor tracking causes a student to lose his or her place, skip words when reading, and misread known words. Teachers can raise awareness by observing a child’s posture, horizontal head turn, vertical head tilt, and blinking or winking. 

Visual-spatial skills affect the navigation aspect of tracking, organizing spacing when copying, direction of letters and words, and lining up columns. This will affect a student who is struggling with this skill in the following ways:

  • Determining where to go next on the page
  • Spacing between letters and words and size of letters and words
  • Finding the correct spot when looking back and forth
  • Discriminating between the letters “b” and “d”, was and saw, numbers 13 and 31
  • Understanding math diagrams & graphs

Support for visual processing

Fortunately, many of the activities to build visual processing skills can be fun and enjoyable for students. Puzzles and games are great ways to help students strengthen their visual spatial skills. As students self-regulate their learning, they need visual discrimination. This includes noticing differences between similar words and letters as well as noticing errors of copying.

Students can learn to check their work and start to notice directional differences. The students reading accuracy may be affected by misreading similar-looking words. Visual discrimination requires noticing differences based on size, color, shape, internal detail, orientation, pattern, internal or external features. 

Teachers and parents can help students improve visual discrimination by using tools and techniques. Matching objects based on criteria of color, shape, size can be helpful, especially for younger children. Matching pictures, patterns, or word searches is a useful technique.  

Using multiple criteria, having them spot the difference or correct an error can help them develop skills. It’s also beneficial to have students sort objects in a hands-on approach with sorting coins to build visual discrimination skills. Students can also list words having the same beginning or ending sounds. 

Helpful accommodations 

A teacher can help by circling differences the student may not have noticed in copying. By highlighting the beginning or ending of words before reading, teachers can provide extra support for the student to gain skills independently. 

There are many helpful accommodations to make the lesson more accommodating to students with visual processing disorders. Some of these include: 

  • Use highlighters
  • Use different colors
  • Increase white space on the page or increase the spacing between lines
  • Cover non-relevant components
  • Put less on the page
  • Use bigger print
  • Stand against a plain background
  • Read slower
  • Use text to speech software
  • Specifically point at a figure or word or have the student use his or her finger on the page to keep track

Dr. Margolis stressed the importance of the appropriate classroom accommodations that can be used to support students having visual processing difficulties. Because visual processing affects classroom performance, it’s important to address correctable visual skills. 

One way to do this is to help students notice what is relevant to the task or situation. This will ultimately build student self-esteem and confidence as the child uses effective effort and practice to achieve better outcomes in learning.

Visual memory also influences learning. This type of memory includes working memory (both short and long-term) affecting recall and recognition of letters, words, and sight word vocabulary. Often there is visualization through verbalization. This helps a child visualize objects, words, sentences, and paragraphs of information to aid in learning as visual memory is necessary for recall and comprehension.

By recognizing the difference between sight and visual processing, educators will be better equipped to help students thrive in learning by giving them the support they need.  

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Bo

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

The Sefer HaChinuch (Book of Initiation) was written during the 14th century by an anonymous author. Many attribute it to Rabbi Ahron HaLevi of Barcelona, a student of the Ramban-Nachmonides. The sefer was written to enumerate the 613 mitzvos of the Torah following the order of the parshiyot. Each mitzvah is listed and then the following format is used to explicate it. First, a general description is given, followed by some technical background for each mitzvah, then the author proposes a rationale for the mitzvah, and concludes with the conditions in which the mitzvah is observed.

Parshas Bo has a large cluster of mitvos dealing with the rituals of Pesach. The various details of the Korban Pesach, the prohibition of chametz, the mitzva of matzah, etc. The Sefer HaChinuch discusses each of these in turn. After explaining several prohibitions relating to the Korban Pesach such as not eating it unless it is properly roasted, not to take the meat out of the room where it is being eaten, and not to break the bones to extract the marrow, the author gives an uncharacteristically long comment about the common rationale of these prohibitions. He explains that the purpose of eating the Korban Pesach on the Seder night is so that we relive the feeling of freedom which we experienced as we left Egypt. This feeling is enhanced by high living and good cuisine. If one does not prepare the meat well, runs around with it while he eats it, breaks the bones to scrape out the marrow, he is not acting royally and like a free person. Rather, he is acting like a desperate starving beggar and that is not the ambience that we are trying to create with this ceremony.

The Chinuch then turns its attention to a general philosophy about practical mitzvos. If one thinks that commemorating the great gift of freedom that Hashem gave us when we left Egypt is best accomplished by meditation and focusing on the theme instead of physical and mechanical acts, he is mistaken. If we follow the rituals and mitzvos of the Torah, it will have a far greater impact on our attitudes than simply focusing and thinking about the Torah values. “The heart follows the physical actions,” declares the Sefer HaChinuch, telling us that this is an important principle in leading a Jewish life. If a person has wonderful attitudes and ideas of love of Hashem, but he does not fulfill the practical dictates of the Torah, he is falling very short and will eventually lose his positive beliefs as well. Hashem created the practical mitzvos because he understands the human condition much better than we do, and this is the path to success that he has laid out for us.

Ritual is a central part of our Torah. While we are taught hundreds of mitzvos with myriads of technical details on how to fulfill them, we are also warned not to become ritualistic, following the mechanical requirements and forgetting the attitudes which these mitzvos are supposed to instill in us. Even so, we must remain balanced and still have a strong affinity to the practical fulfillment of mitzvos, “בכל פרטיה ודקדוקיה – with all of the attending details and nuances,” to be considered true servants of Hashem. This way we will reap the complete benefits of the mitzvos and become transformed into Torah true personalities.