Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Roman Holiday Custom for the Month of Elul

I hope you’ve all had a relaxing summer. We have returned to Israel and I’m back on track with new Jewish holiday customs that you can adapt to your school curriculum.

It’s the month of Elul and school is about to begin. Elul is a time for “Kheshbon Nefesh” -- a spiritual inventory of all that went right and wrong over the past year. It’s pretty heavy stuff to lay on kids, but the right trick can get them thinking. A custom practiced by the Jews of Rome may be just the thing. Vacationing at the Italian seaside resort of S. Marinella, Roman Jews mark the month of Elul by gathering together on the last morning of their vacation to hear the blowing of the shofar, eat a meal of thanks (and we know how yummy Italian food can be), and then distribute charity to the needy.

So here’s what I’m thinking: how about marking the beginning of your school year with a pizza lunch that starts with a blowing of the shofar. Tell your students about the Jews of Rome – how old the community is, how it can trace its origins back to the time of the First Temple, and how they follow age-old traditions. Then turn the pizza into food for thought. It’s fun to munch and think about Rosh Hashana resolutions dealing with how to help the needy. Let each student come up with his or her own idea, then transform the resolution into a year-long project that includes a chart and an individual student report given once a year to the entire class. Don’t be shy about tooting your own shofar. Share your students’ ideas with fellow teachers and turn a Jewish-Roman holiday tradition into an annual classroom custom.

I’ll be back soon with another Rosh Hashana custom.
Until then,

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