TEACHER FEATURE

GLENN KATZ

One of our newest faces at THB’s Hebrew School, Glenn Katz (Hebrew, grades 5 and 7) is no stranger to THB, Hebrew, or things Jewish!  Glenn began teaching as her husband, Steve Sherman left the Religious School to further his own studies.  Guess Jewish Education is in this family’s blood!  While Glenn now lives in a serene spot in Little Compton with views of the Sakonnet River, she grew up in busy Pittsburgh, attending the same schools as her mom and grandma (Yes, she is a Steelers fan, too…).  She recalls a thriving Jewish community in Pittsburgh, complete with an active JCC pre-school (where she went) and attended the same Reform congregation where she was named, became Bat Mitzvah, and was confirmed. The congregation was considerably larger, but she still favorably recalls intimate dinners and student get-togethers with the Rabbi.  That is when she wasn’t busy studying or practicing rowing on the High School crew team.

Dairy allergies need not apply.  If you like cheese, Glenn is ‘your person’!  While she went to Tufts University planning to prepare for a career in art restoration, she found farming—particularly dairy farming—as her calling.  She’s studied and worked on farms in Italy, Boston, and even Israel.  She currently works at Sweet and Salty Farm in Little Compton making yogurt and cheeses.  You can buy some of these products at East Side Market and Whole Foods.  Glenn loves working with the animals (cows and goats) and thinks cheese-making is a bit like alchemy!  She knows that you can tell a lot about a land’s or a people’s climate and culture through their cheeses.  Her favorite?  Sheep's milk “Primo Sale”.  But a nice sharp cheddar isn’t too far behind that one, though.

Q:  What motivated you to begin teaching at THB?

At the Adamah Farm Fellowship in Falls Village, Connecticut, I taught farming to young adults and really enjoyed it.  I missed the experience and knew I could contribute here.

Q:  What was Religious School like for you, when you were young?  Did you like it?

I really did like it.  I had lots of friends there.  I have to admit though, it wasn’t all studying, we did a bit of goofing off together…


Q:  Do you have a favorite lesson?

Well, I’ve only taught a few lessons, so far.  But I like using games as a teaching technique.  The fifth graders and I played “telephone” to learn the blessings before and after the Torah reading.  That class we also all went up to the actual bima practiced receiving aliyot.  With the 7th graders, we have used “Street wise Hebrew” podcast.  As we listen to it, we identify Hebrew words we recognize.  It’s great to have such an ancient language being used in everyday colloquial speech.

Q:  Sometimes, teaching THB students gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself.  Any lessons?

I am really pleasantly surprised how fun it is and how much fun the students are.  I also have found myself practicing greater intention (‘kavanah’) in my own spirituality as I say the prayers in the Siddur.

Q:  Do you have a special hobby or interest (other than cheese-making)?

I really enjoy weaving.  It’s very meditative, and I own a loom.  I just wish I had more time for it!

Q:  How about a super-power?  If you could have one for 24 hours, what would it be?

That’s easy.  I never have enough time.  And Living in Little Compton is a time-consuming commute to most spots.  I need (Dis)Apparition (non-Harry Potter fans, go look this up!)

Q:  How about any animal for a pet for one week?

That’s easy, too.  I miss goats.  I love dogs also.  Can I have one of each?

Q: You’re stranded on a desert island for a month.  What three items do you bring?

This is SUPER easy!  My stovetop espresso pot, unlimited New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles, and a sharp pencil!

 

BERNICE STONE

In pre-school, kids look at the coathooks and cubbies.  As adults, we look for familiar cars.  If you ever want to know if  our 3rd grade teacher, Bernice Stone is ‘in the THB house’ just look for her signature recumbent bike outside the building!  An avid biker, Bernice has a unique background:  A former trial attorney focusing on immigration and workers compensation for 23 years, Bernice decided there were better, and less stressful, ways to live.  That was about 4 - 5 years ago, when she met our Kindergarten teacher, Sarah Foster.  A few words of encouragement, and there she was, meeting with Linda Levine, our former Education Director.  “Linda would meet with me twice a week to plan lessons … She was so diligent”. Another unique aspect of Bernice:  She is a Ba’al T’shuvah — a Jew who goes from liberal practice of Jewish observance to strict observance.  Just speaking with Bernice, one quickly learns that her observant upbringing and formal education helped build deep spiritual roots.  “But, in my community, girls did not get a Bat Mitzvah ceremony” So, Bernice, inspired by THB’s adult Bat Mitzvah class, received hers this year, deserving a great “Mazel Tov” and “Yasher Koach!"

Q:  What do you do when you are not teaching at THB?  What’s your ‘day job’?

I teach some more.  I teach preschoolers at the Providence Hebrew Day School.

Q: What was Religious School like for you, when you were young?  Did you like it?  Why/Why not?

It was never a question of liking or not liking.  You went. I grew up in Brighton, and my family’s expectation, as well as those of all my friends’ families was you went.  3 times a week plus Sundays!  But I must admit I did like it; all my friends went.

Q:  Do you have a favorite memory of a class or lesson?  Favorite topic to teach?

It may sound a bit corny, but every class is my favorite.  Really.  Kids these days are stronger, more confident and proud of being Jewish.  I enjoy being around them.

Q:  C’mon, that does sound corny.  Give me a lesson you liked.

Well, I do love them all, but a few weeks ago, I was explaining the tradition of welcoming guests in your home (“Hachnasat Orchim”).  Since I don’t drive on the Sabbath, several members of the congregation I attend routinely invite me to stay with them on the Sabbath in order to attend services.  The kids took that concept and thought of ways they could welcome guests — like inviting new students to sit at their lunch table!

Q:  If you could pick any superpower for 24 hours, what would it be?  Why?

I would pick ‘Super-Brain’!  I’d want to be the smartest person in the world for a day. I’d spend it studying.  There is SO MUCH I want to learn!

Q:  If you could have any animal as a pet for 1 week, what would you pick?  Why?

Cows.  I think they’re really cool.  My husband and I bike several routes where we pass farms and plenty of cows.  Sometimes, we just moo at them!  It’s only embarrassing when other bikers/walkers/joggers hear us.  You won’t put that in the newsletter, will you????

Q:  If you could invite any four people, alive or dead, to dinner who would they be?  Why?

Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Lilly Tomlin, and my husband.  We’d never get to dessert — we’d be too busy laughing!

Q:  You’re stranded on a desert island for 1 month.  What three items do you bring?

My husband (is he an item?) The Torah, and my Starbucks Gold Card.  I really do love the Torah, and my husband.  But man, my Starbucks Gold Card ... there are just some things you can’t live without!

 

 

STEPHEN SHERMAN

Really, how can you LEARN about Judaism without getting your hands dirty?

While some may guess this is a metaphorical statement, and others may think it’s a metaphysical statement, THB’s own 5th and 7th grade Hebrew teacher, Stephen Sherman, means this literally!  Stephen has spent most of his young adult life in agricultural and environmental science.  “Just as our own ancestors found meaning in their life by working the land, we too can reinforce our own spirituality and appreciation of Judaism by getting in touch—really in touch—with our land and planet”.

Stephen, a Barrington native and THB Religious School alum, left THB, and BHS behind and attended McGill University in Montreal, entering their agricultural and environmental sciences program.  He loved the program and is a profound advocate of all things organic, green and environmentally conscious.  Steve took a semester off his sophomore year, and spent it in Israel, working on a kibbutz, and learning Hebrew at an ulpan.

Following school, Steve pursued his passion; working with vegetable farmers in Quebec and Alaska, building vegetable gardens here in Barrington, and more.  But he found his unique way to blend his love of the land and Judaism at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut.  There, the focus on the integration of sustainable practices, stewardship of the planet, and Jewish spiritual practice helped solidify Steve’s sense of purpose and sense of Judaism.  He helped build sukkahs (sukkot) on Sukkot, making and affixing mezzuzot, and practiced farming practices as rabbinically ordained, including allowing beds/ fields to lay fallow and at rest every 7 years.  “It was hands on Jewish literacy.  It spoke to me, and I believe that’s how many students can learn best.”  Stephen met his girlfriend, Glenn, at the Center, and they both have since travelled to Israel to learn Hebrew, and to Italy, studying cheese making.  They have made their home in Little Compton, incidentally, close to some of Steve’s family’s ancestors.

Q: Stephen, you’re a Barrington native, and a product of THB’s Religious School yourself.  What was Religious School like for you as a kid? (And don’t let the fact that this interviewer was one of your teachers influence you.  I can smell gratuitous flattery a mile away!)

I really, really, REALLY liked my classes with Rabbi Rosenberg.  I appreciated his sense of humor, and loved his writing assignments.  I really ‘clicked’ with him. 

No offense, Mr. Gordon, but I only have a vague memory of building King Solomon’s temple out of popsicle sticks in your 4th grade class. 

 Q:  What’s changed about the school over the years?  What’s stayed the same?

 As a student, I remember learning modern, conversational Hebrew.  It was difficult, and hard to grasp.  Now, we are teaching Hebrew from the liturgy, so the Siddur is more accessible to students.  I think it’s a better and a more meaningful way, connected to the prayer service. 

What’s the same, though is that it is still hard for students to focus and sit in Hebrew class after a full day of public school.  I work hard to keep classes interactive and interesting.

 Q: What motivated you to begin teaching at THB? 

A few things:  (1) I think Hebrew language is an undervalued resource in the American spiritual landscape.  It’s both ancient and meaningful at the same time.  I am trying to improve Hebrew literacy one student at a time.  (2)  I wanted THB students to have an Religious School/ Hebrew school experience that I would have preferred as a student—tangible, project-based learning.  I want students to develop their appreciation of Hebrew through artistic/ creative practice. 

 Q:  Do you have a favorite memory of a class or lesson?

I do.  Both when I was a student, and as a teacher.  As a student, our field trip to Touro synagogue was a highlight.  As a teacher, I recently used our class’ compost bin to teach a specific portion of our Avodah/Amidah prayer that references decomposition and resurrection (both spiritual and physical).  As the students made the connection, not only could you hear a pin drop, you could hear the worms moving in the compost!

Q: Sometimes, teaching Religious School can be a great way to learn more about your religion, yourself.  What is something you’ve learned about Judaism since you began teaching?

  Well, I have had a lot of advanced Jewish education, but through teaching, I’ve learned more about myself.  I really underestimated the degree and amount of emotional intelligence our students have.  They have so much insight!  It has helped me learn to really tailor my lessons to be more vital.

Q: Have you travelled?  Is a spot you want to visit on vacation, but have not yet been?

Germany.  Each German that I’ve met has such a mature and insightful opinion about the Holocaust.  Germans seem to be more literate and insightful as to the Holocaust than most other people I know.  I think, perhaps because it occurred there, the culture has really reflected on their country’s role.  I’d like to experience it more.

Q:   What are some of your special hobbies or interests?

Aside from my agricultural roots (pun intended), I really love amateur auto mechanics.  I have a motorcycle, and I can fix most of it myself.  When I’m not getting my hands dirty from dirt, oil and grease, I also really enjoy creative writing.

Q:  If you could pick any superpower for 24 hours, what would it be?  Why?

Being completely competent in any endeavor I tried.  Doesn’t matter what it would be—crafting a peace treaty, piloting a helicopter, or a great downhill ski run.  I’ve always respected people who excel at their jobs, regardless of what it is.  I like studying them to learn their techniques.

Q:  On a Saturday night, what do you like to do?  What is your favorite type of music or musical artist?

I do enjoy going out to see a good movie with Glenn.  Leonard Cohen is my favorite artist, but I’m also eclectic. 

 

MATTHEW FLEISCHMANN

Matthew can get happy at some pretty simple things:  “Just pronounce my name correctly, and I’m pretty content.  I’ve heard it barbarized many different ways” (It’s FLY-SH-MAN, by the way).  Matthew (Matt) grew up in Canada.  Yup. The neighboring country with the weird words.  He has fond memories of his hometown Toronto.  He has strong memories of his Jewish life there.  Temples and synagogues of all denominations, Judaica stores and kosher markets were plentiful. His family celebrated Shabbat and all holidays in their unique ways.  In fact, Matt may be one of our congregation’s select few who actually belonged and affiliated with all three main branches of Judaism—starting off in a Reform household, branching off to Conservative and Orthodox synagogues as he approached college.  Matt makes it clear that there are elements of each denomination that he values. He is far from dogmatic—he chooses those practices from each denomination that hold meaning to him.

Matt attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in law and society.  He did some additional honors work at St. Mary’s University, and is now in Roger Williams’ Graduate School studying forensic psychology, in their Masters program.  He graduates this May, and is currently working on his thesis to evaluate a curriculum for police response to persons with mental illness.

Q: Matt, you’re one of the youngest teachers in the religious school.  What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages to your age?   

Well, I am indeed the youngest Sunday School teacher.  The biggest disadvantage is that I have less experience teaching Religious School.  I did some teaching at the university level, but that’s completely different.  As a Religious School instructor, I’m often wondering if I really am smarter than a 5th grader!

That said, I think my greatest advantage due to age is that the students can relate well with me.  I like to do activities, both indoor and outdoor.  The kids do, as well.  I want to let kids learn whichever way they best learn.  That very rarely is sitting in a classroom for 3 hours at a shot.  Recently, one of my students came up to me, unprompted, and said “You are the coolest teacher we’ve ever had”.  I went home with a smile that day.

Q: What motivated you to begin teaching at THB? 

“I’ve always loved teaching, and had a respect for teachers.  I have a sister with autism, and have learning challenges myself, as well.  I love learning, and realize that students learn in different manners”.  Matt has thrived in school settings, but admits to being forced to attend Religious School as a young child.  “It was boring, and I didn’t like it (and that’s being polite)”.  Matt is committed to helping change that experience for THB’s students.  Matt knows religious school does not need to be boring, and thinks technology can play a major role in enhancing students’ learning.  “David (our Education Director/Songleader) is also committed to bringing more technology to the classroom, and that will be a great asset”. 

 Q.  Do you have any favorite memories of any of your classes?

 Well, that day of being labelled ‘Coolest Teacher” was pretty awesome, but I’ll also admit surviving the first day—I was so nervous!

 Q:   Do you have any special hobbies or interests?

 Well, after a 7-year hiatus, I’ve picked up the clarinet again.  Klezmer music, here I come!  I’ve also studied karate for 13 years, and in my downtime, I love binging on crime and police shows on Netflix and Hulu.

 Q:  On a Saturday night, what do you like to do?  What is your favorite type of music or musical artist?

 I like to get together with my friends, go out and relax from the pressures of the week.  When I’m not doing that, I can also appreciate my ‘down time’, chilling and relaxing at home!  For music, I’ll listen to lots of different genres, but Jazz and Country are my favorites!