Thursday, November 14, 2019

November 8, 2019 - Crossing Paths youth attend Shabbat Service at Beth Jacob Synagogue

Above: Our Crossing Paths middle schoolers with parents and some of the kids and parents from the shared Shabbat Service and Dinner at Beth Jacob synagogue.  

Last Friday evening was magical--our very first "faith field trip" as part of the yearlong Crossing Paths program. 12 middle schoolers and 9 of us adults/parents trekked the snowy sidewalks to visit, appreciate and learn from our neighbors at Beth Jacob Synagogue. (One family we knew from when they participated in OWL last year!) The youth spent two full workshop sessions learning about Judaism as preparation and we were being welcomed to join in a Friday Shabbat (Hebrew for 'sabbath') Service and Potluck Dinner. Serendipitously, it was a special service, led by the kids and youth and adults of their Hebrew School.
Our UCM youth were so respectful. You all would have been SOOOO proud of them. They were friendly, curious, open minded, willing to engage and listen--really all of the Eight Practices of Welcoming that we've been talking about with them from the start of Crossing Paths in September. I think I speak on behalf of all the adults present that we are so proud of them.
On the walk home in the snow we reflected on many things, including the following thoughts of the kids and parents--I've not captured them all but here are some:

  • how warm and comfortable the space was
  • how delicious the fresh challah bread was
  • how beautiful and ancient Hebrew sounds and looks, and how neat it is to know that Jews around the world have been saying these prayers and words for thousands of years
  • that each Torah is handwritten and part of a long scroll
  • that Jews all over the world follow the calendar readings of the Torah and for the bar/bat mitzvah they read their week
  • that the Torah is all set to tones/music
  • there's a strong element of justice seeking to Judaism as well as Unitarian Universalism
  • kids as both congregations like being part of such a friendly community
  • that kids do a lot of work for their bar/bat mitzvah
  • that each religion has it's metaphors, and it was a good fit for Kara (who helped lead the service) because the metaphors really worked
  • it's neat to start the weekend with a big family/community sacred and celebratory gathering
  • how beautiful the Ugandan prayer song was, and how we don't think of Jews in Uganda when we imagine Jews, but they are really in every country of the world!
  • the visit and the entire unit has been powerful for some people who have Jewish ancestry but haven't dug into that much

Thank you so very much to all who made the visit possible--from parents and youth helping with food prep for the potluck, accompanying us, and just fitting drop-off and pick-up into your evening despite the weather! And of course deep, deep gratitude to our warm hosts at Beth Jacob. We felt so welcomed! And thanks so much to our facilitator team: Cara Robechek, Jeremy Beaudry, Julie Bond, and Nancy Schulz! This Sunday the group begins their study of Christianity, and January will be Islam.

Above: Settling in for the service in their worship space--also called a sanctuary, just like ours! We were told it is considered respectful for both Jews and non-Jews to wear a kippah (Hebrew = cap) or yarmulke (Yiddish). As you enter their synagogue there is a large bowl that people can choose from if they'd like to try out wearing a kippah. Traditionally, only males wear kippahs; however, they say "we're egalitarian and anyone who wants is welcome to wear one." However, it's not required. Many of our youth and adults chose to wear a kippah.

After the service and blessing of the food, while the final potluck preparations were being made,
our youth got to ask questions of the three boys studying for their bar mitzvah this year. Many of
them are peers at school, and it was great to have kids talking questions of faith together--like
'What is your favorite part about being Jewish? What is hard about being Jewish?'
They were fabulous teachers!

Kara Rosenberg showed kids who were curious what was inside the special wooden cabinet that holds the Torah. They actually have three Torahs, and they are beautiful!

Above: The tzedakah (loosely "charity") box where people can put a small charitable donation.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

November 7, 2019 - Practice Session Launch: How to Speak Up When You Hear a Biased Comment

 Last night Lifespan Spiritual Exploration and Central VT Showing Up for Racial Justice launched our second year of collaboration on a series of workshops meant to empower people to speak out when they hear a biased or prejudiced comment.  

This was the first of four Practice Sessions: Interrupting Hate and Addressing Unintended Bias.  

Additional sessions will be: 

Wed. 1/15, 6-8pm
Sun. 2/9, 1:15-3:15pm
Tues. 3/31, 6-8pm

Many people choose to come to multiple sessions to get more practice.  The scenarios for practice change each session.  

The free sessions are open to everyone including the wider community.  No experience is needed. Come to one or all. Lite refreshments provided.

The practice sessions are a combination of whole group time and time in triads to practice different sample responses to real-life scenarios of biased comments.

High School Youth Group Applesauce Making

Many thanks to the youth who spent several hours Sunday morning turning the apples they harvested two weeks ago into applesauce for UCM's Monday Community Lunch.  

They spread good smells AND smiles through the building and the applesauce will be frozen and much appreciated throughout the winter at the Community Lunches!  

Upcoming youth group events:
Sun. Nov. 17rd, 11am: Worship, 12:15pm: Pizza with Rev. Joan in the Bell Tower Room:  Chat about worship over some slices of yumminess.


November 3, 2019 -- Attention through Mindfulness

The preschool - 4th grade Explorers launched November's worship theme of attention by learning some mindfulness activities to tune into our bodies.  Paying attention to our bodies by slowing down, breathing deeply, and listening to our inner selves can help us better understand what we're feeling.

 Below: In small groups, kids practiced mindfulness activities, like this one of visualizing yourself as a mountain, with waves of emotions lapping at your base.

 Kids made "Feelings Octopus" or some other animal of their choice, like this "Feelings Cow."  We used cups that nested.  The bottom cup had different facial expressions connected with different moods.  The top cup had an outline of an animal with the face cut out, so kids could rotate through the various emotions on the cup below: sad, happy, fine, surprised, silly, sleepy...

When kids finished their "Feelings Octopus" (or other animal) they played games that require paying Attention--Spot It, Jenga, Set and more.

Peace is Something We Do

This piece was written in September 2011, shortly after the floods caused by Hurricane Irene.  I could have written it this week.  At the ti...