Below, you'll find the most recent posts for this class. This class blog allows our teachers to post a recap of the lesson notes for each week. Additionally, they can post notices about upcoming events.

Posted by folkshul on Sunday, November 5, 2017 - 6:11pm
Sunday, February 11, 2018 - 12:42pm
About the class:
In 7 th grade we explore the different branches of Judaism, including our own Secular Judaism. We will talk about the differences and similarities among them, and we will also meet with Jews who belong to other branches for learning and dialogue.
Throughout the year, we will think about our own identity and what it means to each one of us and to our families to be Secular Jews. This is a year with many conversations, and we hope that our conversations in the classroom will enrich your conversations at home and vice versa.
We will also be attending all of the class B’nai Mitzvahs as a class. They too will help us learn from each other through the aspects of Judaism our B’nai Mitzvah have chosen to explore in greater depth.
Corey Shdaimah will be teaching the majority of classes this year at Jewish Children’s Folkshul. Due to obligations that will take Corey out of the classroom, Leah Siemiarowski Wright will step in as a co-teacher. We will teach the first and last classes as a team, but otherwise only one of us will present. This co-teaching model will provide the 7 th grade class with continuity, consistency, and the diversity of two reative and dedicated teachers!
As some of you know, Corey is the parent of Folkshuler Sagi (8 th grade), and Folkshul alumni Cliel and Elad. This is Corey’s 16 th year t eaching at Folkshul and she loves working with our wonderful children and families! During the week, Corey is a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work where she teaches social policy and qualitative research.
Leah is a Folkshul alumna, former Folkshul teacher, and Sunday Funday parent - all in all she has been a part of the Folkshul community in  ne capacity or another for 27 years. She has her M.Ed. and has taught 7th grade previously but currently teaches 2nd grade at Caskey Torah Academy.
Sample Class Notes:
Dear seventh, eight, and ninth grade families
We had a wonderful potluck hosted by the Kolodner family yesterday. In addition to the good food and good fellowship that makes these potlucks a wonderful way to build and sustain community among families with children in the same classrooms, they are also fantastic intergenerational learning opportunities. 
Our community theme for the year is Jewish literature and literacy, which we introduced at the potluck. At our potluck, we spoke about the first piece of Jewish literature, which is the Torah. We discussed what it is, when it is read, and why the Jewish people first began to read it aloud publicly. Our wide-ranging conversation, in which parents and students participated, led us to discuss what Jewish knowledge do/should we teach at Folkshul and how should we teach it and how do secular humanists relate to the Torah, Torah reading, and other Jewish practices. We also explored the connections among history, tradition, values, belonging, knowledge, and community building. We had some very good suggestions for making our classrooms engaging. These included the need to balance the transmission of information with allowing for fruitful digressions that make Jewish learning relevant, and our priorities for using the precious classroom time we have together.
We also had good suggestions about how we can better supplement what goes on in the classroom with conversation within families and in the broader community. Some ideas included reviving our youth group and choosing short Jewish readings that could be made available to the whole community as a point of shared discussion and to increase familiarity with classics of Jewish literature. I’ve attached some pictures (thank you Jen!).
I attended our joint potluck as both a parent and a teacher, and I can tell you that the respectful and thought provoking conversation reinforced so many of the things that I love about Folkshul.
Thank you all and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday November 5th when we have regular class and parent visitation.
Shavuah tov/שבוע טוב 
Have a good week
Dear Families of Seventh Graders
 We had a wonderful opening day today at Folkshul. We wished everyone “ברוכים הביאם” (Bruchim HaBaim) or welcome, which in our case was a welcome back as we had all returning students and teachers in our class. As we noted in our introduction letter, this year we will explore different kinds of Jewish identity, especially our own. We began by interviewing each other about how we identified ourselves, when we feel most Jewish, what makes us think about being Jewish or about Judaism, and what else we want to know about Judaism. You can see your children’s answers in the screen shots that we’ve attached to this email (although you probably will have to use the “zoom in” function). We found some common themes, and often other people’s answers resonated or gave us an “aha” moment.  A number of people noted that being at Jewish events or holidays made them feel Jewish. Some of us feel Jewish when we are reminded of our difference from others like during Christmas, when we are the only Jewish person in a group, or when we experience anti-Semitism. Many in the class connected to their Judaism through spending time with family and food.
 You can see from our list of what we want to know, that there is an interest in our history, ancestry, and families. So please be prepared to share stories with your students. You may also want to talk about what makes you feel Jewish with your children. 
 We hope to see you all on Thursday at the community Rosh HaShannah celebration.
L’shanah tovah and bruchim habaim to another year at Folkshul!
Corey and Leah

Posted by glusmanpennock on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 4:17pm
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 4:17pm

Hag Sameach and Gmar Hatima Tovah,


This week at Folkshul we discussed symbols and rituals. You can see I’ve attached whiteboard screen shots of our definitions and examples. We then discussed symbols and rituals related to Jewish celebrations of Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. We focused on the Lulav and the Etrog, exploring different explanations for the meanings of these symbols and how these explanations changed depending on the geographic location of Jewish communities and local and world events. The class then divided into three groups, and each group came up with their own meanings which they will share at our Sukkot Celebration on Sunday October 15th at Fort Washington Park.


Class Potlucks are coming up! Our class is scheduled to meet from 10-12 on Sunday October 30th. The potluck is in lieu of class, so do not come to Springside. As a teacher and a parent, we are happy to volunteer our home in Ardmore PA for the potluck. If this is too far for too many of you, feel free to volunteer an alternative location.





Posted by glusmanpennock on Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:39pm
Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:39pm

Dear Wonderful Parents of Wonderful Children,

We got off to a great start on Sunday and I am thrilled to be your children’s (and my child’s) teacher. As I noted in my introduction letter, this year we explore different kinds of Jewish identity, especially our own. This week we started off by talking about how we describe ourselves. I had each student interview another student and present what they shared. I’ve attached a picture from our whiteboard discussion. In doing this exercise, we also paid attention to how we felt when someone described us in ways that we did not choose, underscoring that we don’t always choose how other people see and describe us.


We then talked about Jewish identity. I asked the students three questions: What makes them feel Jewish? What do they like about being Jewish? What don’t they like about being Jewish? You can see the sum of their answers in the second picture. Interestingly most of what they didn’t like had to do with other people’s assumptions and expectations about their Jewish identity.


Please feel free to talk with your children about these questions- often family stories come up in class and they always enrich our discussion.



Posted by glusmanpennock on Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:34pm
Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:34pm


Dear all

What a wonderful field trip! Our host, Tom Bilotta, taught us about hydroponics and aquaponics, answered our many excellent questions (from students and parents), and showed us the fishtanks, plants, and lighting systems that they are experimenting with at Temple’s Ambler campus. What we learned included the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics, how the fish and the plants provide nutrients for each other, how to dispose of any waste that is produced that is not absorbed by the systems (less waste if you add shrimp), and whether these systems are in fact energy efficient and good for the environment (it depends), what kind of fish work best in these systems.

Thanks to those of you who came out on a very rainy day (although it was inside), and we will share some knowledge with  those of you who were unable to attend as we put together our display for the sustainability fair.

Parents: if you took photos please share them with me. I’d like for us to select some photos to add to our display





Dear all

Apologies for the delayed posting! It has been a few weeks, so let me start with Mazal Tov to Arden and his family. We had the joy of witnessing Arden become a Bar Mitzvah and learning from him. Although many people may think that religion and science are incompatible, we learned that they are not necessarily so. Arden shared how his own thinking has evolved in his learning from others’ perspectives and his own reflections. In describing our sustainability project to our host for Sunday, I told him about Arden’s Bar Mitzvah and how it made me think about how our Jewish values of repairing the world and bal tischit inform our desire to develop, promote, and support sustainable communities  and how our learning about hydroponics and aquaponics is part of understanding how science can be used to further these values.

Last week we finished making our Jewish identity bags- while we worked we talked about the different elements that they incorporated, and why these elements were important to each person. We also revisited a list of questions that students filled out in the beginning of the year about how they describe their Jewish identity and what activities connect them most to being/feeling Jewish, their memories from Folkshul, and more.

On Sunday we will meet at Temple University’s Ambler campus. Our guide, Tom Bilotta, will be waiting for us in the parking lot off Loop Road.  The address to put in mapquest or a GPS or phone is 580 Meetinghouse Road. If you are on Meeting House Road you will come up to Loop Road (it will be left or right depending on the direction you are coming from- Tom said you should see it easily from Meeting House Road. Turn onto Loop Road. You will pass some gardens and the green house on your right. You'll pass one or two more turn-ins but keep going. There will be a big parking lot on the right with a gate that is always open on the weekend. Park there and Tom will meet us there.

If you need to reach me my cell phone is 610-662-6797.

If for some reason your plans have changed, please let me know. As of now, confirmed attendees are: Hannah, Alex, Mose, Lia, and Arden. Elie and Evan are unable to attend. Siblings and parents are welcome.

There has been some talk of a very special pizza lunch nearby for anyone who wants to go…

See you soon




Greetings Folkshulers,

Last week we were privileged to witness Mose becoming a Bar Mitzvah, and to learn from him about the Jews of Ethiophia. He shared their history from Ancient times to the present. We learned about their origins, traditions, struggles against anti-Semitism and harsh government, and how they have fared in Israel society. He also taught us about the incredible story of how Israel, through diplomacy, audacity, secrecy, bribery, and persuasion, successfully rescued tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews. Mose then provided us with food for thought- drawing parallels between the experience of Beta Israel and other Jewish diasporas. The timing of his presentation was particularly appropriate as we come upon Passover, another story of rescue of Jews from Africa. One of the lessons of Passover asks of us to do something similar to what Mose challenged us to do, which is to identify with rather than distance ourselves from oppressed people, particularly refugees.

On a more mundane note, we reviewed our plan for the Sustainability Fair. We came up with suggestions for a title, planned out our tri-fold presentation board, and divvied up responsibility for the different aspects of the presentation. Please check with your children to see if they volunteered to bring a laptop to look up information for next week.

We look forward to celebrating with Arden and his family next week


Posted by glusmanpennock on Friday, March 18, 2016 - 10:25pm
Friday, March 18, 2016 - 10:25pm

Dear all

Last Sunday we had the honor of attending Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah. We learned about Holocaust era artists Hannah Senesh, Roman Vishniac, and Josef Nassy, each of whom followed their values and lived with integrity. Their art bore witness to the truths and tragedies that they experienced and saw, and moved others for decades to come. Thank you Hannah for your sharing your engaging presentation and your insights with the Folkshul community and Mazal Tov to you and your family!

Before attending Hannah’s ceremony, the class began to explore what role Israel has in the different strands of collective Jewish identity. We discussed why Israel might matter to Jews and to each of us as individuals, and some of the factors that impacted the creation of modern Israel. We tied these in to what we’ve been learning about Jewish responses to changes that were happening particularly in Eastern Europe as we saw in Fiddler on the Roof and how Zionism might sit alongside what became Reform and Conservative Movements, Hasidism, Orthodox, and secular Jewish intellectuals.  This will be the final strand of Jewish identity that we will explore in the coming weeks.

See you tomorrow!


Posted by glusmanpennock on Saturday, March 5, 2016 - 12:16am
Saturday, March 5, 2016 - 12:17am


This past Sunday we spoke with our visitor Rabbi Yitzhok Gurevitz. He shared his own personal story with us, and told us about Orthodox Judaism. While he does not like labels, the one he would prefer to be identified with if someone really needs to label him is an observant Jew. The students asked a lot of good question, and he noted his appreciation for their thoughtful questions and what he has learned about Folkshul as a visitor through the years and having attended one Bat Mitzvah. Impressions from the class is that he was interesting, and not quite what they expected - probably the same could be said of everyone, and it’s nice when your wonderful, open-minded and curious children recognize that no one is the sum total of whatever stereotypes that others may attribute to them.

I have also heard from most of you, and the overwhelmingly preferred day for our visit to Temple University’s Ambler campus (and the only one for which our host is available) will be May 1st. He and I will be finalizing the plan in the course of the next week or two, but we are going to meet during Folkshul time, 10-12:30. Pam suggested the possibility of a pizza social following the visit so if that’s something any or all of you are interested in feel free to coordinate.



Posted by glusmanpennock on Sunday, February 28, 2016 - 10:05pm
Sunday, February 28, 2016 - 10:05pm

Dear all

Last week we had a somewhat eclectic mix. In preparation for our visitor tomorrow (Habad Rabbi Itzhok Gurevitz) and in connection to our Word of the Week (shtetl) we returned to our discussion of Judaism. We watched further into Fiddler on the Roof, and discussed how the different characters in the movie represented different responses to changes in Shtetl life. Which ones kept their traditions (Tevye), which ones incorporated new ideas into traditional life (Motel), which ones rejected all traditions and sought a secular existence (Pertshuk) (so far, there will be more if we watch for longer). We then discussed how the different strains of Judaism that we have discussed and will continue to discuss were responses to all of these, and were the ways that different groups of Jews sought to grapple with openings created by the enlightenment and increased opportunities that were presented simultaneously (at least in Eastern Europe) with anti-Semitism and poverty.


We also spent time delving further into our sustainability project on water conservation. We read an article provided by Hannah’s mom interviewing Seth Siegel, author of the book Let There Be Water. He talked about why and how in Israel water is a collective good and how that allows Israel not to be water deprived even when they have limited water. Here’s a link to the book:

We also read some articles provided by our Social Action Committee Richard Frankel. Richard has done some outreach for us and put us in touch with the director of Temple University’s aquaponic program. I am trying to plan a class trip to visit the Ambler campus. Possible dates we are now looking at are May 1st or May 7th or 8th. Please let me know your thoughts/availability on these dates.

Shavua Tov,


Posted by glusmanpennock on Saturday, February 20, 2016 - 11:07am
Saturday, February 20, 2016 - 11:07am

Greetings seventh grade families

On Sunday we continued our discussion of a Daily Beast article (Mindy sent this out a few weeks ago- to explore how people define and identify whether others (in this case Bernie Sanders) are Jewish. What does a secular humanist Jew look like to someone from the outside? We read the article in small groups, and students underlined the parts that they thought were relevant. Interestingly some students read the article as taking a critical or negative stance; others viewed the article as positive and proud of this kind of Jews and Jewishness. Still others read the article as neutral- whether the reader thinks that Bernie Sanders is a “good Jew” will depend on what the reader thinks of secular humanism as a legitimate way of being Jewish. 

We also folk-danced and sang- while we were not officially scheduled for music, when Art walked past us to go to the sixth grade it was like the Pied Piper- the whole class asked to join music and so we did! 

Looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday

Shabbat Shalom,


Posted by glusmanpennock on Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 9:57am
Sunday, February 14, 2016 - 9:57am

Shalom Seventh Grade Folkshul Families

I hope that our Souper Sunday event left you with some inner warmth for these cold days! This past Sunday before the community event, we spent some time talking about soup kitchens, how they originated, and how they are similar and different from food pantries. We also discussed the different ways that they have been involved with Souper Sunday activities and how much more we learn when we see the full process than just little parts of it.

In terms of curricular content, the students shared what they have learned from our visitors as a group. Our last visitor was Reconstructionist Rabbi Nehama Benmosche. We have also hosted Reform Rabbi Shoshanah King-Tornberg, and our own Bnai Mitzvah coordinator Kate Forest who talked about the larger secular humanist Jewish community. Some of the things that stood out for the class were the individual journeys that our speakers have taken in figuring out their Jewish identities. They noted the importance of “aha” moments as well as slower forms of change that come from the way peoples’ feelings and thinking evolve over time. They also noted how important values and a sense of belonging and community seem to be to all of our guests. We look forward to continuing these conversations with our future visitors and thinking about them as we see classmates share what they have learned through their becoming Bnai Mitzvah.

I have been working with Richard Frankel from the Social Action Committee to develop some of the ideas that we discussed around ecological water use and conservation and hydroponics, including the way that these have been developed in Israel. We would like to visit a site in the Philadelphia area that uses this. If any parent is interested in helping to coordinate this (mostly around communicating and helping to find a good date/time for a visit) please let me know. I hope to be able to share some possible dates with you in the coming weeks as we figure out if places are open on Sundays (and what time). If you know of anyone who is doing this kind of work also please let me know.

See you Sunday!


Posted by glusmanpennock on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 7:17pm
Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 7:17pm

Greetings Seventh Grade Folkshul Families

I apologize that I have not been consistent with emailing you all and posting our blog. It has been a busy and exciting few weeks for our Seventh Grade Class. Mazal Tov to Alex and his family on a wonderful Bar Mitzvah! We learned a lot from Alex that really helps us as a class to explore our own Jewish identity, and how (whether) Judaism shapes us and our values. I hope that everyone in the class will ask the kinds of questions that Alex asked - not only in seventh grade but as you all move through your life journey- and that you will find communities that nurture learning, curiosity, and self-reflection.

Just before our Thanksgiving break, we prepared Thanksgiving baskets for families in need of food in our area. Thanks to all of the students who decorated and the families who contributed food and money and delivered baskets! While preparing the baskets, we talked about why as a secular humanist Jewish school we celebrate Thanksgiving in this way. The class came up with quite a few secular humanist values that informed this project such as responsibility, mutual support, tzedakah, and tikkun olam.

In between special activities and holiday celebrations and breaks, we have begun to talk about the historical evolution of modern Jewish denominations or groups. We watched the beginning of Fiddler on the Roof, and talked about the song Tradition. We discussed what tradition is and does and how it shapes people’s roles, sense of community, values, and choices. We also talked about the way Jewish communities are nested within larger communities, and some of the impact this has. Next week we will continue this discussion. We will also continue our Hannukah celebration with Dreidel games and latkes.

Enjoy your week and I look forward to seeing you Sunday

Hag Hannukah Sameach!

חג חנוכה שמח!