Opening Minds, Bridging Differences, Living Jewish Values.

Middle School Moments

The Giant and the Grasshoppers

A long, long, time ago, in a land far, far away, a weary group of travelers made camp in the desert. Each night in their tents they would speculate about the journey ahead to Israel. The children would ask their elders endless questions: when we get to Israel what will we eat? Will we need to hike? Will there be other people there? What will the weather be like? Will we still be organized by tribes or can we sit with other friends? Will there be a strict dress code? Unfortunately, the elders did not have all of the answers.

So, the weary travelers sent spies out on a reconnaissance mission, to visit the land of Israel and to see what the future held.

The spies visited the land and toured its length and breadth for forty days. They collected fruit, and returned to their desert encampment, excited to tell their stories. "It is a land flowing with milk and honey! There's also lots of schwarma and good felafel" they said. "We can definitely make it there," said two of the spies, Yehoshua and Caleb. "Absolutely not!" said the ten other spies. "There are giants in the land, and we saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that's how we *looked* to them! There is no way this is going to work." So, God punished the ten spies for their negative attitudes.

״ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם״

"We saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that's how we *looked* to them..."

The essence of the story of the spies is that how you as a group see yourselves is how others are likely to perceive you. If you see yourselves as grasshoppers, others will perceive you in this way too. So don't! I want you to know, eighth graders, that you are stronger than you think. *You* may think you're the most challenging class we've ever had (not true!). *You* may think you get into trouble all of the time (not so!). But really, here's the real truth: you have incredible strengths and incredible accomplishments. For example, you were the first class to do a Rube Goldberg project in the seventh grade, and to date, the only class to succeed at the task! You were the first class to put "Twelfth Night" on stage. You were the first class to do a kindergarten-seventh grade buddy program, and those kindergarteners loved you--even though you didn't always see it. You have shown incredible dramatic and musical talent, as well as the technical skills to manage the stage from behind the scenes. You have shown an ability to write poetry and prose, and to make analytical arguments. You have excelled in every subject of study, and in every sport and athletic pursuit. There are also many moments when you have been an exceptionally cooperative group. I felt this way while we were preparing for the Tekes and you needed less time than usual to rehearse. I felt this way on the seventh grade trip, and again on the eighth grade trip. You were always ready on time, prepared for the day, and with minimal fuss and complaining. You are excellent travelers.

Now, speaking of insects and our trip to Israel, let's flash back to seven weeks ago, motzei Shabbat on Kibbutz Ketura. Suddenly, the noisy chaos of packing our bags is pierced by the sound of screaming. Several girls are outside of their room in a tizzy. One of the chaperones rushes into and then out of the girls' room looking a bit shaken. "It's really big," she says. "Maybe it's a scorpion, but it went under the cabinet and it won't come out. *I* wouldn't want to sleep in there." We run to the front desk in the lobby and are blessed to find David there. David is one of the Kibbutz Ketura staff members who loves us, despite our noisiness and flaws. He loves that we have hundreds of questions about kibbutz life, and he loves that we appreciate his sense of humor.

Somehow, David coaxes the insect out from under the cabinet, and he comes out of the room holding a handkerchief with something large and squirmy inside. We make a big circle around David and cautiously eye whatever he is holding in his hand--presumably a large and scary possible-scorpion. He speaks loudly and tells us that this insect, scary as it may seem, does no harm to humans, and in fact, eats scorpions. David releases the insect, which is called a giant camel spider--a scorpion eating insect--and it goes on its merry way.

So the spies see themselves as grasshoppers, and therefore, the giants view the group that way too--highlighting the problems of a negative group self-image. But what if, instead of grasshoppers, they had seen themselves as giant camel spiders? They would have still highlighted the size difference between themselves and the giants, but they probably would have felt--and seemed to the giants and themselves--much stronger and more confident. If only they had chosen to compare themselves to the more intimidating bug... Let's try this out:

Parshat shelach, version 2.0: The spies visit the land of Israel and tour the length and breadth of the land. They collect fruit, and return to their desert encampment, excited to tell their stories. "It is a land flowing with milk and honey and chumus!" "We can definitely make it there," say Yehoshua and Caleb." The other ten spies laugh in a lighthearted way. "There are giants in the land, but we imagined ourselves to be giants as well--giant camel spiders--and that's how we *looked* to them! And you know what, the other giants ran away in a panic!"

Eighth graders, no matter how you see yourselves, we--the giants in *your* lives, your parents, grandparents, and teachers--see you as bright, energetic, inquisitive, creative, talented children and students. We are grateful that you have revealed your true selves to us, and we want you to know that even if some teenagers out there look scary to some adults, *you* don't scare *us*! That's because we know you, we appreciate you, and we love you. You have considerable strengths, and we all know that you are going to use them to create incredible futures for yourselves. We will miss you--and yes your shenanigans--more than you know. Mazel tov! Mazel tov!


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Our week began on Fifth Avenue, marching in support of Israel and The Heschel School. Many thanks to the students, parents, and teachers who joined us for this festive event!

At school this week our sixth graders continued to discuss the various novels they are reading in small groups. Books include Brown Girl Dreaming, The DaVinci Code, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Seventh graders continued with their sex education program, and also participated in special programming about body image (girls) and masculinity and identity (boys). The students will continue to explore these themes in eighth grade and beyond. Eighth graders made much progress rehearsing for their Moving Up Ceremony, and also wrapping up the various units of study in each class.

This week we also celebrated the in-school Bat Mitzvah of Talia Namdar-Cohen. Mazel tov to Talia and her family!

Please note the following calendar items:

Wednesday, June 14 - Hesed programming for 7th grade students

Thursday, June 15 - Hesed programming for sixth grade students; 8th grade Moving Up Ceremony, 4:00 p.m. in the 8th Floor Gym

Friday, June 16 - Last day of school - noon dismissal

Here is a link to next week's schedule: Schedule


Shabbat Shalom!

Lori Skopp

Middle School Head

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Heschel students, parents, and faculty gathered together to celebrate Israel, marching down 5th Avenue. Members of the community donned shirts designed by 11th graders, danced down the avenue, and waved Israeli flags in support of the State of Israel.
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On Wednesday morning we walked into the school atrium and entered the walls of Jerusalem--a beautiful scene created by our colleagues in the Lower School! As the morning continued, sixth grade parents joined us in the Roanna Shorofsky Theater for the sixth grade Hebrew play, which was based on the Yehonatan Geffen book, HaKeves HaShisha Asar, a series of humorous children's poems that were set to music. Working with their Hebrew teachers over several weeks, our students wrote much of the script, which was delivered in nearly-flawless Hebrew, interspersed with music. Kol hakavod to our Hebrew teachers and our sixth grade students on this beautiful production. Later that afternoon the entire Middle School divided into advisory groups to learn more about Jerusalem and the Six Day War.

This week eighth graders met with medical doctors in separate-sex groups, as a culmination of their sex ed program. Seventh grader began their sex education unit this week. Parents attended a Hallways workshop on drug and alcohol abuse prevention. Please click here for some useful resources for parents.

This week we also celebrated the in-school Bnot Mitzvah of Esther Shoshan, Tamar Shoshan, and Esther Mellul, and the Bar Mitzvah of Lucien Sadykov-Peposhi. Mazel tov to Esther, Tamar, Esther, Lucien, and their families!

Please note the following calendar items:

Monday, May 29 - Memorial Day Observed - NO SCHOOL

Tuesday, May 30 - Erev Shavuot - NO SCHOOL

Wednesday, May 31 - Shavuot - NO SCHOOL

Thursday, June 1 - Shavuot - NO SCHOOL

Friday, June 2 - School in session!!! 8th grade dismisses at 2:10 for Moving Up rehearsal.

Here is a link to next week's student schedule: Schedule

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Lori Skopp
Middle School Head

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The 6th Grade performed their Hebrew play on Wednesday morning. The play, titled "Growing Up", was based on the students' stories and inspired by songs from "The Sixteenth Lamb".

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