About the class:

This year the 5th grade will study the Diaspora; the dispersal of Jews throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean after the Roman siege of Jerusalem (from the Middle Ages to the end of the 15th century). 

We will explore this time period by looking at situations the kids can relate to including relevant current events, then we’ll trace back through history to see how we got to where we are today.  For example: We’ll start by look at what it’s like to be a minority in a dominant culture by thinking about what it’s like to be Jewish during Christmas, then consider what it must be like for Muslim children who are effected by the current travel ban. We’ll then trace back though history to explore what it must have been like for Jews to live in predominantly Muslim countries during the 2nd century. (I know it’s a long way back.) We’ll also look at aspects of Jewish culture that us preserving our strong sense of identity, such as our emphasis on education, and being part of a part of a community.  

I look forward to getting to know your children and engaging them in activities they find meaningful. I welcome your input. You know your kids best.  

Teacher: Karen Forman

Welcome to 5th grade!  My name is Karen Forman. I am a former Folkshul parent and a former teacher. I’m thrilled to have another opportunity to be part of Folkshul.

A little more about me - I am a former special education teacher. I taught in the Boston/Cambridge area until the early 80’s. I then came to Philadelphia to attend Temple’s Beasley School of Law. I spent most of my career as a public interest attorney in the Philadelphia area with a short stint in D.C. I now work for the city of Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations enforcing the city’s civil rights laws. We’re busy, as you can well imagine. I have two kids, now adults, both of whom have a strong Jewish identity, thanks to Folkshul.

Sample Class Notes:

Greetings Folkshul families,

It was wonderful to welcome everyone back to class after our two week break. Once again, students asked to start class with the “Animal Game.”  Each student answered the question:  If you could turn yourself into your favorite animal, what animal would you be; and why? This time I asked each one to identify a trait they saw in themselves and say why they are like that animal. This time we had several cuddly kittens and sleepy dogs, a fast mountain lion and an intelligent otter.

We then dove into our study of the Jewish Diaspora by participating in a refugee simulation exercise. The activity simulates the journey of a family escaping from the dangers of war. We divided into "family" groups of 4 and moved through nine stages of the refugee’s journey. At each stage, the students had to make choices representing some of the real-life dilemmas which many refugees face such as leaving their home and their favorite belongings; choosing what to take with them, losing their belongings; getting injured; separating from their family and not knowing what the future holds. I’ve attached to this e-mail a more detailed description of the activity and the script of the “journey.”

I led one group, our assistant, Ben, led another group and a third assistant, Malachi, led a third group. Each group “moved” through a different corridor (hallway).  You may have seen and/or heard us.  

During the brief time we had to reflect on the activity some students said that they believed a family who had to leave their home country could have experiences like the ones in the simulation. Other students couldn’t imagine that these horrible things could really happen.