Ants In the Pants

Young children are a blast to teach.  I am having a great time at a school who asked me to come in and teach till the end of the year because their music teacher left.

I have a very different style of teaching than my predecessor. I use my guitar mostly and sometimes my Ipod which will give me even more freedom at times for hand motion; and at times I will do things acapella.  I like to teach the kids poems sometimes and they really enjoy it, and I am famous for singing books.

Last week, I did the Allard’s piece, “Ants In the Pants.”  I started out with saying that I had a problem.  Of course the kids asked me what kind of problem, and I answered that I had ants in my pants and I needed help. 99% of the class started giggling, but this little girl asked me very seriously if she could see my ants in my pants.  I told her that I could not show them to her, so I began the song.  She did participate.  The class had a great time with the song.  They loved the movements and of course I am playing guitar and doing the movements with them.  When I was done with the song, I told the kids that I know longer had the ants in my pants. The little girl asked me if I could show her how they left and if she could see them.  She was so serious and so concerned!  Not scared, just concerned.  Her teacher and I got such a kick out of it!

With students in general I find that quirkiness really captures them and I am that type of person so it is easy.  It makes classes more fun and at times unpredictable in a positive way.  Even when I am teaching other subjects, it is good to be a little unpredictable, quirky, and fun.  

So, lets go out there teaching with Ants In the Pants!






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A New Chapter, Is It Me?

On Saturday morning I led my first Jewish Meditation Service.

It was a compilation of readings, chants, breathing, and visuals. What was exciting about this experience was that I wrote some of it, gathered some of the service from different sources, read, watched Shefa Gold’s You Tube Video, and wrote two of the chants which seemed to be well received.

I practiced my deliverance of the service for a week so it would come across naturally.

Upon being asked to do this, I quickly answered, “Yes,” then asked myself if I really agreed to do this!  It is not me!  I have noticed changes in how I do not get as much satisfaction from services like I use to.  I would rather study, have a shorter service, and schmooze.  The funny thing is, I still love leading services. 

The experience of pulling the Meditation Service together was an exciting experience.  Upon telling a friend of mine who leads them, she was surprised because she even said that I did not seem like the type of person to do this. 

Something kept pulling me closer and closer to the idea, and it just seemed so natural for me.  The reading of Shefa Gold’s book was of great assistance, and playing with her chants on my keyboard helped me to write two with little hesitation.  They just poured out of me!

The day of the service, I was a little anxious for a little while, then a calm came over me.  I believe I had around a dozen people.  From the time the service began, it just flowed.  Upon looking at the participants from time to time, some had their eyes closed; upon telling them to breath, I could hear their breaths, I saw a couple watching me, and their singing voices were beautiful!

I believe this is a new chapter in my life that I hope is a long one, and I hope more doors open for me.  I got as much out of it as the participants.

I was offered a job for the next school year that I do not know if I want.  It is what I love to do, but it is where.  I really enjoy the school, but there are other areas I would rather concentrate on.  I told the director that I would let her know soon after Passover. She said that it is OK. 

Like I said, a new chapter and I found out a little more about ME.




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Coming and Going

It has been such a long time since I blogged!  So much has been going on, I don’t even know where to begin! I guess I will start from where I lost my incentive to write due to loosing one of my favorite teaching positions as of the first of the year because of budget cutbacks.  It took me a while to get through the mourning process.  It was made more difficult when I saw my replacement (the Cantor of the synagogue) coming in to work with the children so the transition would be made easier for them.  I also had to see how I was going to replace the monies I lost to help us continue to pay the bills, which was nerve-racking being it was in the middle of a school year.  So many people have been supportive: parents,colleagues,friends, and especially Ron (my husband).  Upon my being told about being laid off, I knew I would have to most likely recreate myself again. Many, many synagogue ECCs are laying off or minimally using music specialists.  I have had a couple of interviews; one position in particular I really would like to get, but I do not get my hopes up because I do not want to be sad any more.  I have experienced a lot of sadness the past 5 years or so.  I have registered with a few Hebrew Day Schools for substitution work and have been called, which covers the days I do not work.  I am ready to move on and meet new challenges! 

We all know that life is full of surprises and my life is certainly no different! I was asked by Rabbi Michael Gold if I would like to lead a Meditation Service. I surprisingly said yes! I really was shocked at myself, because that was never my kind of scene before. I guess age, maturity (yes, I am somewhat mature), and experience has brought me to the point where I am somewhat comfortable with this. It will take place Shabbat morning, March 8th at 9:30 at Temple Beth Torah in Tamarac. It will be approximately a one hour service with recitations, chanting and breathing. All are welcome! I wrote and compiled a booklet for myself, and everyone will get a song/reading sheet. I am hoping to write a couple of melodies for the chants. I am very excited about this opportunity. I would like to conduct this service at other synagogues/chavurot as well.

I know that people have changed over the past several years regarding how we connect to God. Although, Temple Beth Torah and other synagogues get good turnouts for Shabbat services, many, many do not. I observe that people in my age group and older frequent services more than younger people. People do not want to be within the four walls for traditional services. Clergy and lay leaders keep seeking ways to get people in the Four Walls. Eventually, at least at Temple Beth Torah, I would like to see this take off monthly, and maybe do it outside (before it gets too hot!) I know that other synagogues and groups are conducting meditation services quite successfully. Join me on March 8th! If anybody reading this has any suggestions and ideas, please share!

Regarding my all ready existing work, everything is going well. My busiest day and most rewarding day is Fridays where I can get to conduct 5 to 6 Shabbat servies for people from infancy to 120 depending on the Friday. Last week, in one of the schools I go to, after saying the blessing over the wine, I heard a 5 year old little girl say to one of her fellow students, “you have take a sip or it will be an empty blessing!” The little girl wanted to save her grape juice for when she eats her challah. She took a sip after her friend told her she had to take a least a tiny sip. I was so impressed and proud of her!

I have been trying to give my students and congregants visuals to assist them in their prayer experiences. I told a story that an educational director I work for told a class and me. She is in her 60s and lost her Father when she was eight years old. Every Friday night when her Father took her to services, upon singing L’cha Dodi, he told her to look the for Shabbat Bride to come flying in the door in her flowing white bridal gown. Till today, the Religious School Director hears her Father telling her the little Midrash (legend), and she sees the visual. I now do as well. Upon telling my congregants this yesterday, one of my congregants said she started getting all teary eyed. I was quite moved at the reaction. I think visuals are important in the prayer experience, words are notalways enough. One of my Rabbis from up North told me years ago why he bows in three different directions during the Barchu, Alaynu and other prayers. When he bows to the left, he is bowing toward God’s right hand; when he bows to the right, he is bowing toward God’s left hand; and when he bows toward the middle he is bowing to all of God’s Divine Presence. When I bow in this fashion, I feel a sense of security and shalem (peacefulness). I feel a closeness with God. I share this with students and others who ask why I bow the way I do. I do not want to just tell them that it was the way I was taught. Some of my students have began to bow like this because of the visual they now have.

Today was a day for me to spend much more time with my hubby and get some sun. I needed to feel the warmth and listen to the sounds of nature, and not be cooped up in four walls. I finally am able to write while Ron is making us some lunch. This is my Shabbat today.

Be well.

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The Best Of All Worlds

I am one of those fortunate people that enjoys my job.  Why?

Depending on the day, I get to work with people of all ages from Early Childhood through Seniors.  For example, I wake up on Friday mornings, co-conduct Tot Shabbat at Temple Beth Orr; go to Cambridge Preschool and teach two Jewish Tradition classes which includes Tot Shabbats; go to Harbor Chase Memory Care Facility and conduct a mini musical Shabbat Service; twice a month, go to Five Star Premier Residences of Pompano Beach (I condcuted High Ho++liday Services there as well); then I go to the Court At Palm Aire.  I was there two Friday nights a month and holidays.  I will now be there every Friday night.  I am so excited about the new opportunities that have come my way. 

On Tuesdays, I get to work with Early Childhood at Temple Beth Orr and then go to Temple Beth Torah for Religious School working with Primary grades through Tweens and Teens. 

I love it!  I get to sing, play instruments, teach, play, and more!  I get to celebrate Shabbat and holidays with people of all ages!  It keeps me on my toes!

This Sunday I will be at Religious School at Temple Beth Torah, working with the kids, then co-conduct a Sukkot program for people from 21 through 40.  Teaching, singing and story telling.  I was honored I was asked.

I learn from everyone.  When talking about Rosh Hashana with my 4/5 year olds, I asked what are some of the things we do during the holiday which celebrates the birthday of the world?  One of the students said that we give presents to God.  How beautiful!  Then we spoke about what kind of presents we can give like good behavior, performing mitzvot, etc., because God created the world for us.  It became an awesome discussion, with ECC students!  Yes, it is possible!  These little people really do think about things.

I have written about Harbor Chases Memory Care Facility a couple of times, but the longer I am there, the more I see very positive results.  The residents that come to my service are singing more and more.  Sometimes I also have family that may be visiting a parent or other relation coming to the service.  I conducted a Rosh Hashana/Shabbat Service and a mother and her daughter came.  The daughter seemed very upset due to an incident that took place.  I always invite people to clap, tap their feet, even get up and dance.  That day, the mother asked her mother to dance with her.  The daughter broke down in tears while dancing.  It was beautiful!  Those are moments that will forever be a picture in the daughter’s mind.  It will forever be in my mind.  The daughter was singing as well with us and when I blew Shofar…  she was elated as well as the residences.  I still have the husband and wife coming to the service.  They very much look forward to it, especially the husband.  We always say the caregivers, which can include children and spouses, need assistance and attention with the “long goodbye,” alzheimers.  I will be speaking to Harbor Chase about possibly opening up the services to the families of the residences.  It seems to be healing especially at the end when I sing Debbie Friedman’s M’sheberach and another piece called, “Guide My Steps.”  Those are wonderful songs/prayers that assist with healing and asking to feel God’s shelter of peace.  The latter always helps me to picture God’s arms wrapped around me and guide me to where I am suppose to go and what I should be doing, or just feel God’s presence.  The daughter that attended the service had her eyes closed and taking in the words to the music.  Yes it was good for her.  I could not have been there at a better time.  I felt good that I was of some comfort that day.

Last night I did a Sukkot program for Early Childhood and Primary Grades that included a little teaching, singing, shaking, story telling, and then of course sitting and eating in the Sukkah.  It was awesome.  Even the parents and staff participated!  We had fun and that is the way it should be!

My seven year old grandson, Ethan went to services with me at the Court At Palm Aire.  He sat on the Bima and helped me lead doing the Sh’ma, Kidish and Motzei.  Everybody loved him and Ethan asked to go back, so tomorrow night, he is going with me again. 

Well, this is my life and a good one it is! 







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Waking Up and Hearing

I know it has been several weeks since I wrote anything. 

A lot has happened the past several weeks. 

Our youngest son and family made Aliyah in July and are living in Ma-alot.  They recently moved into their apartment and are busy getting everything set up to make it their home. 

I was able to go Home in July participating in a wonderful seminar offered by the Central Agency for Jewish Education and Mofet.  The theme was Education and Leadership.  I was hesitant about going, but upon looking at the itinerary, I saw that there were a couple of places I have never experienced, and the places I would get to repeat, hopefully I would learn something new.  I definitely made the right decision.  With the assistance of some wonderful people, I got to go.  I learned soooo much!    Even the sights and places I have been to several times I learned new information.  A couple of things really effected me.  The participants went to a couple of cemeteries.  Yes, I have been to them before, but we were taken through the them extensively and the information that was given to us woke me up in a way that I haven’t been woken up before.  We all study history.  We all study about our ancestors, the history of our countries, the people that made all things possible for us.   This time it was different.  The tour guide/teacher who taught us made me open my mind and heart.  I heard our silent leaders.  I heard the freedoms they fought for, I heard their philosophies, I heard their love for their state/country through song and poetry.  Now I feel my job is to open up the ears of my students and others.  I need to wake people up to the history of our Home land. 

I also learned how we look at our “secular” brothers and sisters at Home and here in the states.  For the most part, Israelis are not secular in same way we are in the diaspora.  I have statistics and information that back up what I learned this summer.  I will be talking about this during the High Holidays with a sermon called The Jewish Community in Israel vs. The Jewish Community in the Diaspora.  The diaspora meaning the US.

Because I have been blessed to go Home several times.  I didn’t have the need to take pictures of the places I previously visited which allowed me to take in more information.  When we tour a state/country with a tour guide, we are so anxious to take pictures and do not hear a lot of the information.  This time I was able to listen closely.  It helped tremendously, so, yes, definitely visit places more than once if you are able.

I spent time with our youngest son and family during my second Shabbat in Jerusalem.  There is nothing like Shabbat in in our holy city.  We went to the Kotel on Sunday and I watched my granddaughter put a note in a hole.  I even got a picture of it!  Something that will stay in my mind and heart forever.  I know the Wall is a retaining wall from our Temple, but  there is something very special about it.  It has so much history!  It talks to me about what my ancestors did 2000 years ago!  I feel God probably the same way my ancestors did when we had the Temple. 

I got to study at Fuchsberg for a day and met a special friend there.  The summer of 2008 I got to study there and upon walking in there at the end of July, it felt like I never left!  I pray to be able to spend another summer there one day.  The text study there is just the way I like it, challenging and very participative.  I learned so much in just the one visit.

The two and a half weeks I spent Home was  not enough.  It is never enough, but I feel blessed that I was able to go.  It woke me up, I heard things I never heard before, and I am rearing to go for this coming school year.

I look forward to sharing a lot with you.






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A Proud Bubie

When I was going through my journey of becoming a Jewish Educator and Cantor, my dream was that I wanted my children and grandchildren to see me on the bima. Well, not only have my children seen me on the bima, so have my grandchildren. In fact, they have been on the bima with me. It is a feeling that is almost indescribable. It is a feeling of joy and being proud of the legacy that is still being molded. I guess I just described it!

During my grandson, Danny’s Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the indescribable feeling was almost overwhelming while listening him conduct much of the service and read Torah.

This past Friday night, Danny conducted services with me. We took turns leading Kabalat Shabbat. It was beautiful! What a way to begin Shabbat!

During Passover, one of our other grandchildren, Ethan, read pratically the children’s Hagadah the first night, and read the adult Hagadah the second night as well as another young boy that joined us. Listening to the children read, listening to them discuss our history, reminded me of what my goal is, which is to assure our future as a religion and a culture.

I am looking forward to doing this with my other grandchildren. When they use the skills they were taught and are still being taught, I know that Judaism will continue through the next generation.

L’dor vador, from generation to generation.

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Renewal and Rejuvination

Of course preparation for Passover is a crazy time of year as is many holidays. Yet, there is something very special about it. Yes, there is a week without bread and other foods we refrain from eating, and for many, it is difficult; but after cleaning out homes and cars; experience our Passover seders, there is a sense of renewal, reJEWvination, and reunification. I feel all of this with my communities and within myself. I feel a high.

I officiated and co-officiated eight seders containing participants from two years old through seniors. Of course each was different depending on age, school, community and our own seder. I felt so blessed to be sharing the holiday with so many people. Out of curiosity, I estimated how many people I was with for the holiday and it was approximately, 500 people. Many of these include children who may not have experienced a seder at home or with any family; many of them seniors who would not have experienced a seder with their own families.

I so enjoy the music of Passover. I am not into the parodies so much, but the classic musical pieces like B’chol Dor vaDor, V’nomar l’Fanav, Ha Lachma, Dayenu, Let My People Go; and some of today’s contemporary pieces, I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to sharing them with others. I want my students to learn yesterday’s and today’s, and I love to listen to the seniors sing yesterday’s. At the Relgious School I teach at V’nomar lFanav, Let My People Go, and Crossing At the Sea by the Allards became big hits this year. Watching the kids sing AND dance, just made my day with them!

Our seders at home are very musical. I have been getting a little restless with our seders, so I tried something new. I put 25 small items in a bag, for example: toy ambulance, calculator, rubber glove, miniature toy frog, caluclator, sun glasses, and more. Everybody had to blindly pull an item out of the bag and relate it to the Passover story humorously or seriously. It was great! At first, people seemed a little intimidated, but by the third person or so, it was great. We will se what next year brings.

I got to chant chapter 4 of Shir haShirim this past Shabbat. Not only is the trope so beautiful, but Song of Songs, is one of the most beautiful books of the Tanach (Bible). Whether you believe it is a love story that King Solomon wrote about his or another man’s lust for a woman, or if it is about our love for Israel, it is so richly written. The melody and text helps me with my rejuvenation.

Spring Break is almost over. How fortunate it was that we had off from Public and Private Schools during Passover this year. I can go back to work this week and feel renewed and feel fortunate that new people are coming back into my life or coming into my life for the first time as private students and to give a new baby her Hebrew name.

I hope you feel the sense of renewal and rejuvination I feel with spring finally here. God in the Torah tells us that the month of Nisan (Aviv in the Torah) is the first month of the year. I understand why. We celebrate our freedom and coming together as a Jewish nation. As we celebrate these things, please do not forget them so quickly as to keep us together we need to remind our children and grandchildren of what originally unified us so we can continue to be a people. Also, take time to experience the renewal outside with the spring flowers blooming, the trees, the grass greening up and so much more.

Moadim l’Simchah.

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The Journey Continues!

What an amazing few days!
Model Seders, Bar Mitzvah ceremonies, services at the senior centers, and more to come!
Last week at Harbor Chase, I had a wild crowd! When I told the residents it was time to clap, tap their toes, get up and dance, it was amazing! I actually had a couple of people who danced! It was awesome! What a way to bring in Shabbat! We had a great time!
It is so amazing how our brains work. For example, the residents may not remember what happens five minutes ago, but they remember the prayers.
Friday night one of my classes had their class Shabbat. I co-conducted Shabbat services as well. I had such a blast! I love mixing the tradition tastefully with some of the contemporary music. My class did so well with the music we prepared, and they had a great time as well, which is what I encourage. I tell my classes, they do not have to stand like soldiers on bima, they are to have fun with what they are doing, and most of the them do. One of the students played guitar with me for one of the pieces, and for another song, the teacher played percussion. What a great evening.
I played the music for a women’s seder last week and it was beautiful. What I really liked about it was that there was a nice balance between tradition and contemporary. It was not the least feminist. Everybody left on high note. One of the attendees asked for the music I did so she can enhance her seder.
Now for the Bar Mitzvah ceremony I officiated this past Shabbat. It was just beautiful. My student is autistic. He is very musical and memorizes very well. He wants to make sure that he does everything well. I designed the Saturday morning with different melodies than I would normally use. I made it as kosher a service as possible while keeping it short enough for my student’s tolerance level. He recited three verses of Torah and 6 verses of the Haftarah as well as several of the prayers. I had chills a lot through the service, and blessing him was just an awesome experience for me. The love you see and feel in the family is so beautiful! His brother is next! We had the service at the facility I conduct Friday night services. The residents were invited and some did come, and the ceremony was the talk of the place while they were hanging out waiting for lunch!
More to come and the journey continues!

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It’s A Journey

What a couple of weeks!

Our grandson, Danny, had his Bar Mitzvah Ceremony February 23rd, then we went right in Purim. It was a wonderful few days with family, friends, celebration, joy, and some tears. I was very proud of myself that I only cried, a little, twice during the ceremony. Once when talking to Danny and the guests while giving him his certificate, then when I blessed him. So, I did OK!

Then of course, as Purim is approaching, many of us start thinking about Passover, then when Purim is over, we REALLY start thinking about Passover. Now, we are really into planning Passover and doing some cleaning at the same time. We will have our annual second night seder with plenty of family, friends, and acquaintances.

At the schools that I teach at the music goes anywhere from Frogs to Debbie Friedman’s “Journey Song.” I have an awesome board book called “Dayenu” by Miriam Latimer that can be sung to the original melody and my 15 month olds today started singing the “Da” from the chorus! What a way to start the week! That certainly put a smile on my face. And, when my two year olds left me Friday, they were singing it down the school halls going back to class. How beautiful!

Today I wanted to teach my middle school and high schoolers the Journey Song, and posed the question, “What are the Seder Nights Suppose to be?” “What are they all about?” What a discussion we had in both classes about the Seders! We spoke about experiencing our lives as slaves and getting to the Promise Land, we spoke about food and how we wait to eat the meal just like the slaves most probably had to wait for food, we spoke about how we use our five senses to experience what our ancestors went through and so much more. Then of course we sang the song. Upon finishing we spoke about the lyrics, how our lives are journeys and how the answers change every hour, every day, every year. What a deep song Debbie wrote.

Yesterday I did the music for a Women’s Seder at Temple Beth Torah in Tamarac. We sang that song, and I was looking around the room asking myself about all the different journeys each of the 40 women have been on and are going on right now. It was such an awesome experience from the beginning to the end.

As those of us who celebrate Passover prepare, think about our Journey; where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. The Journey never ends.

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Double Mitzvah

I have been having one of the most rewarding opportunities preparing an autistic young man for his Bar Mitzvah ceremony. He is extremely musical and has a very nice voice so I decided to have a very musical service with many of his prayers in melodies that he would identify with quickly, and he did. The booklet is made, we are in rehearsal mode and it is coming up quickly. The ceremony is at The Court at Palm Aire where I conduct Shabbat and High Holiday Services.

The family has been wonderful in the fact that they work with him at home. He has a folder in Dropbox where I have put all his material and he listens. Even the parents have learned or relearned much of the material.

The honoree will be reading Torah and a portion of a Haftarah. Because he is not able to learn Hebrew, he is doing his service in Heblish (Hebrew written in English). The service will be around 40 minutes. In this time we will be reciting the morning brachot (blessings), the Barchu (invitation to worship) Sh’ma, a portion of the Amidah, Torah service, Kaddish, Adon Olam, and a few more prayers are included. My Torah scroll will be there opened to his portion.

It has been a mitzvah for me as well as for this young man and family. He is a joy to be around. It will also be a mitzvah for the residents at The Court.

He came to the Court last Shabbat. Came right on the bima (stage) and sang Ma Yafeh HaYom, right into the mike and then did the Sh’ma. The residents were all smiles. I was relieved he felt so comfortable. He will be coming this Shabbat as well to make sure he is acclimated and comfortable before his big day.

What a wonderful experience for all!

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