Jewish Identity Formation in Israel and the Diaspora

Jewish Identity Formation in Israel and the Diaspora

“.בית הספר הקונסרבטיבי הנפלא ״סולומון שכטר״ בניו יורק. כמה אהבת הארץ, כמה אהבת יהדות”

We sang Hatikva together- all of our students, K through 8, teachers, and some school leaders, along with a member of the cabinet of the government of the State of Israel. As we finished, Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, turned to our students and said that wherever they are in their lives or in the world, they should know that they have a Jewish country, the State of Israel, that cares about them. It was a powerful moment that I believe strengthened our students’ connection to Israel. At the same time, it seems that Minister Bennett’s visit to Schechter Manhattan had a positive impact on him as well.

Minister Bennett told me that he came to Schechter Manhattan on Tuesday morning to learn from us. He said that his priority is strengthening the connections between Jews around the world to each other and to their shared Jewish heritage, and that he thinks he can learn from what we do at Schechter Manhattan to nurture positive Jewish identity in our students. So, when he was here he asked a lot of questions. He asked our students how they felt about learning Hebrew, when they speak about Israel, and what it is like to study Jewish texts. Their responses should be a source of pride for all of us. They made an effort to speak with the minister in Hebrew, reflecting a school cultural norm to speak in Hebrew with those who can. They talked about the various aspects of their Jewish studies, and when Minister Bennett asked what they were studying in Talmud, one eighth grade student responded as we would expect, by identifying the main topic of the section she and her classmates are working on now, conspiring witnesses. Minister Bennett paused a moment- he looked around the room and commented that he had never met an eighth grader who was studying the complex section about conspiring witnesses. And coming from a context where girls don’t all study Talmud, he was especially impressed to hear about this from one our girls. We were especially proud to highlight our commitment to egalitarian Judaism.  

Minister Bennett continued asking questions of a group of parents and school leaders. He told us about the organization he had started in order to promote Jewish identity formation around the world, and he wondered what he might do to spread the type of joyous participation in Jewish living and learning that we have at Schechter Manhattan throughout the Jewish world, in and out of Israel. We responded by pointing to an important character of the Schechter Manhattan Jewish educational approach, respect for the diversity of Jewish expression within our community. We explained that at Schechter Manhattan we live a vibrant Judaism, marked by commitment to serious engagement and joyous expression; grounded in our holy texts and practices and also situated firmly in the modern world. At the same time, we respect the diverse Jewish backgrounds, choices, and practices that are represented in the families in our community. We believe that the combination of the knowledge and experiences that students are afforded at Schechter Manhattan with the deep respect for each student’s relationship with his or her Jewish identity empowers students to find the Jewish commitments that will be most meaningful to them. One parent shared an example from her child’s Schechter Manhattan experiences- a first grader with doubts about God was engaged by her teachers in open dialogue about her beliefs while still encouraged to participate in daily tefilah. The parent told Minister Bennett that she is so pleased how at Schechter Manhattan we make an effort to meet students where they are religiously and help them grow from there. This powerful approach creates a safe space for students and families to join our shared efforts of strengthening our Jewish commitments.  

Minister Bennett seemed intrigued by our approach to Jewish education, that embraces the pluralism of the Jewish community. And as he tweeted later that morning, it was clear to him that Schechter Manhattan is full of love for Judaism and Israel. Minister Bennett is the leader of a religious party in Israel, where liberal denominations of Judaism are often disregarded when it comes to dialogue about Jewish education. I am pleased that Minister Bennett sees the immense value in how we nurture Jewish identity at Schechter Manhattan. I am encouraged by the idea that our respect for pluralism and success at creating meaningful Jewish experiences for a diverse community of learners could be used as a model for enhancing Jewish educational efforts in Israel. I commend Minister Bennett for seeking to learn from and with different types of Jews and I am proud of what Schechter Manhattan represents to the larger Jewish world, a committed community of Jews that is enriched and strengthened by our differences.





Benjamin Mann


Author’s Chair


This week we are featuring work by some of our students in Kitah Gan, Kitah Bet, Kitah Dalet, Kitah Vav, and Kitah Chet.


Kitah Gan wrote about their weekends and how they felt about them.

Me DoDe Git HANOKI thNhGS. (My Daddy got Hanukkah things)

— Arielle


SDDD (Excited)



YiStrDaI PlelDCarits AND I Watto ABOChr AND IWanttoH SPrMrkt (Yesterday I peeled carrots and I went to a butcher and I went to a supermarket)

–Ethan B.


ISRTAT hoM (I stayed home)



Kitah Bet reflected on their “just right” reading spots at home.

My just right reading spot is a red couch thats a little fuzzy and next to a lamp with 4 pillows and across from my timer.



My just right reading spot is in the corner of my cawch. I like to make a small tent with pillos and blindktis and a glass of woter. I scrunch up in a small ball with a snack and snugll and finuly read!!



I sit on my berown kowch and I have somthing to drink. I get piyeret booty to eat. My kowch is so komfy.



My moms bed. It is very cosy and cumfterbul. It has gree (green) pretty much evry thing. 1 blancit is wite. it has a brown thing war are heds are. and i like a datl (bottle) of water next to me. I do it at nihgt and lie dawn on my bely. I like it dark and only a little lite on dim.





Students in Kitah Dalet have begun to brainstorm the seeds of ideas that they will develop into personal narratives.

Going to My Grandpas’s House

Every couple months or weeks I go to my grandpas house. At my grandpa’s house I sometimes see my cousins and uncle. I bring my Ipad and play on it sometimes and sometimes use toys there and mostly play outside. I play with my cousins when they come and we play outside and indoors.



Snow Blower

My favorite thing when it was snowing was scooping snow with a snow blower and snow fights but that’s not this story. Well basicly you just press a button and walk up and down ourr alley it was fun.



In Israel, most of my family lives there. We meet a lot when we go there. We go to restaurants together. We go to pools together and we also just spend time together. A lot of my family there has dogs and I got to walk them and take them out. Sometimes we meet at our parents, aunts and uncles to say hi and see each other. In my mom’s aunt’s house, they have a coffee machine and we play with our cousins that come there and make coffee for the adults. Also, they have a basketball hoop outside and we meet a lot of my mom’s cousins and family there.



My Trip to Maine

This is a time were my family went to Maine each year. Each time was different. 1 time we took a trip on snow and the snow was taller than me!! 1 time we made a sledd and we were slideing down the snow.




The students of Kitah Vav have been working on the steps of the scientific method. They were asked to complete a data collection project using the steps of the scientific method for their final project.

Inquiry– Which soda will make a taller explosion if I put mentos in them diet coke, coke with sugar, or sprite?
Hypothesis– I think the diet coke will make a taller explosion because of some different chemicals that are in it.
Materials– Diet coke, Regular coke, sprite, and mint mentos

1. Prepare video
2. Open mentos and diet coke
3. Put mentos into coke and move away.
4. Repeat for other sodas

Data– Sprite went about 2 to 3 inches off of the bottle. Regular coke went about 5 inches off of the bottle. The diet coke went about a foot off of the bottle.

Observations/Analysis: The diet coke went higher. The sprite went super low.

Conclusion– My Hypothesis was right, the Diet coke went the highest. One error I had was I did not efficiently put in the mentos. Not all of them would go in so there would be a different amount in each bottle. This means that you should use diet coke for soda and mentos.



Inquiry: How far can you roll a marble without hitting the wall?
Hypothesis: Most people will not roll further than the middle of the 5th grade bulletin board
Materials: Marble, paper, pencil
Procedure: Stand in front of the ulam door. Roll the marble and see how far it goes. Use Goal Line Technology to see where they hit the marble. Record Data.

Ziv – Just passed bathroom
Jeremy – Science room
Joshua – Gan bulletin board
Jacob – Last locker
Lucien – Science room
Lev – 5th grade bulletin board
Ittai – Science room
Jake – Gan bulletin board
Sarah – beginning of bathroom

Most people hit it between the science room and pantry

1.Our hypothesis was right because most people hit it where we thought.
2.One time avitals foot blocked a marble
3.This shows us that most people in are class aren’t the most accurate at bowling.

–Ittai and Lev


Inquiry: Is it more accurate to kick a soccer ball with the inside of your dominant foot or to use the laces of your dominant foot.
Hypothesis: If you kick with the inside of your dominant foot than your shot will be more accurate.
Materials: Cones, soccer ball

  • I will set down 1 “gate”.
  • I will place the ball in a specific spot.
  • A person will kick the ball through each of the cones, once with their laces and once with the inside of his foot.

1: Inside: miss Laces: in
2: Inside: miss Laces: hit the cone (miss)
3: Inside: in Laces: in
4: Inside: in Laces: in
5: Inside: hit cone Laces: over cone
6: Inside: in Laces: miss
7: Inside: miss Laces: in

Three sevenths of the people kicked the ball inside the cones with the inside of their foot. Four sevenths of the people kicked the ball in the cones with their laces. In conclusion more people were more accurate kicking the ball with their laces.

Hypothesis: Incorrect
Errors: No errors at all.
Real world application: Now soccer coaches should tell their soccer players to kick the ball with their laces.



The students of Kitah Chet have been working on lab reports for their final projects in the Plate Tectonics unit. They were asked to design an experiment based on the rock cycle, earthquakes, or volcanoes. 


Hannah Saiger and Stella Cohen

Inquiry: Which model volcanic eruption will do more damage to a paper town, a shield or strato volcanic eruption?
Specifications: Which eruption will knock down the most paper houses?
Hypothesis: The shield lava will knock down the most houses. Most of the Strato lava will get stuck on the volcano, and when it reaches the town, there will be less force to cause damage. The shield lava will spread more easily and cause more damage.
Independent Variable: The type of volcano and lava
Dependent variable: How many houses get knocked over.

Shield- milk (not very viscous) mixed with baking soda
Strato- honey (more viscous) mixed with baking soda
1 strato paper mache and plaster volcano
6 tbs of vinegar times 2
1 shield paper mache and plaster volcano
red food coloring
1 tbs of baking soda times 2

Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1/4 cup milk and red food coloring.
Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1/4 cup honey and red food coloring.
Insert each mixture into correct model volcano.
Pour 6 tablespoons of vinegar in each volcano.
Watch the destruction

What we ended up doing:
1. Prepare beakers with: 4 tbs vinegar for both
Strato: remainder of the beaker of honey
Shield:Remainder of the beaker of milk
2. Pour both into volcanoes
3. pour 1tbs of baking soda into each
4. See what happens

Strato Volcano – 3 houses destroyed
Shield Volcano – 3 houses destroyed

This experiment was somewhat inconclusive. Our strato volcano barely erupted, but after we added more lava, we determined that a strato volcano would cause more destruction because the magma gets blocked up and when it eventually erupts, a lot of force has built up under it. The forceful viscous lava causes a lot of damage. On a shield volcano, the less viscous lava flows without much force, and sometimes blocks up at the bottom of the volcano. The less viscous lava would not reach the volcano with as much force as the lava from the strato volcano, and would therefore cause less destruction.

Both explosions did not really keep going for long enough to really cause destruction. We had to keep adding lava. 
When the baking soda went into the vinegar and milk mixture it had an interesting reaction. It became a foam. This was interesting to find out, but it wasn’t very realistic because it wasn’t at all similar to a substance in an actual volcano. In the strato volcano, the baking soda did not mix thoroughly with the milk and vinegar, so the reaction was small and also not very realistic.


Science Experiment: Testing Viscosity
Molly Voit, Olivia , Noa Libchaber

Will changing the level of viscosity affect the lava lamp?

If we use anything other than vegetable oil, then the lava lamp will not function.

Plastic Bottle
Vegetable Oil/Honey/Fluff
Food Coloring
Alka Seltzer

Pour water into the plastic bottle (with a funnel) until it is around one quarter full

Pour in vegetable oil until the bottle is nearly full.
Wait until the oil and water have separated.
Add around a dozen drops of food coloring to the bottle.
Watch as the food coloring falls through the oil and mixes with the water.
Cut an Alka-Seltzer tablet into smaller pieces (around 5 or 6) and drop one of them into the bottle, things should start getting a little crazy, just like a real lava lamp!
When the bubbling stops, add another piece of Alka-Seltzer

Collect Data and Observations:
The vegetable oil and water: the water separated from the oil and stayed separated.  Did not overflow.
The honey and water: The water stayed above the honey and when the tablets were put in, they stayed above the honey.  Overflowed after two tablets.  
The fluff and water: Was not able to put in enough fluff because it was so high in viscosity and did not fit through bottle opening.  Eventually, the fluff and water intertwined and fluff became lower in viscosity.  Overflowed after two tablets.    

The hypothesis, if we use anything other than vegetable oil, then the lava lamp will not function, was correct.  The vegetable oil and water lava lamp was the only lamp that stayed constant and that worked as anticipated. The other two trials did not function as the water and the fluff/honey did not separate correctly and both of them overflowed.  In addition, there was an error in the fluff and water lamp when the amount of fluff that was put into the lamp was lessened because the high level of viscosity made it difficult to put it in the small opening to the bottle.  This information can help someone decide what to cook with when baking a cake; to make the cake thicker use the fluff and to make it not as thick use the vegetable oil.



Viscosity Experiment – Final Project
Noah Phillips and Jonah Schwab

Project Description: We will test the distance that the lava flows from two different Stratovolcanoes. One of the volcanoes will contain a test tube filled with Coca-Cola  and crushed Mentos. The other volcanoes will contain a test tube filled with baking soda and vinegar.

Inquiry:Which concoction flows further, soda and mentos or baking soda and vinegar?
Hypothesis: We both concur that soda and mentos will reach the base of the volcano first thus having a lower viscosity.
2 stratovolcanoes
1 can of Coca-Cola
1 pack of mentos
1 package of baking soda
1 package of vinegar
2 test tubes
1 ruler
1 timer

Gather all of the materials aforementioned
Set the two volcanoes side by side
Place the test tube inside on of the volcanoes
Crush the mentos and place it inside the test tube up to the 5 milliliter mark
Pour the soda into the same test tube until the concoction has reached the 13 milliliter mark
Quickly back away from the volcano
Once the entire eruption has ended completely end the timer
Record the data in a prepared chart
Place the second test tube into the second volcano
Pour 6 milliliters of vinegar into the test tube
Pour 7 milliliters of baking soda in back away from the volcano
Once the entire eruption has ended promptly stop the timer
Record data into the prepared chart

Soda and Mentos: 3.5 seconds
Baking Soda and Vingegar: 5.5 seconds

Observations and Analysis
From the data, we see that our hypothesis was proven correct as the soda and mentos have alower viscosity. After the first mento was dropped into the vial of soda, it took less than a second for the concoction to erupt out of the volcano. One may wonder why the soda took 3.5 seconds to reach the base if it shot out of the volcano, this is because the concoction shot into the air and reached a height of approximately 3 feet before it began to come down. In contrast, the baking soda and vinegar took much longer, about 2.5 seconds before it started to erupt. Even though the liquid reached a much smaller height in the air, the time spent bubbling inside the volcano delayed the eruption greatly.

From the data we see that our hypothesis was proven correct as the soda and mentos had a lower viscosity than the baking soda and vinegar. The soda and mentos reached the base of the volcano in a stunning 3.5 seconds while the baking soda and vinegar took approximately 5.5 seconds.


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