Blog - Jewish Day School

The new JDS Buddy Bench has arrived!

We are proud to announce the arrival of the JDS Buddy Bench!

When our second grade teachers, Linda Feldman, Tina Novick and Irit Silver read about The Buddy Bench, a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground, they wanted to create something like that for our students. The three of them decided they would provide an incentive for people to donate to this project at the JDS Auction.  Their $250 match challenge was met!  And with the craftsmanship of 2nd grade parent, Chad Wicklund (pictured below with his son Levi), the dream became a reality this week.  The kids carved their names into the bench and were involved in various aspects of building and placement. 



Providing Meals for Tent City 4 at TBT

For the next couple of months, our neighbor, Temple b'nai Torah (TBT), is hosting Tent City 4 which provides temporary housing for homeless men entering the workforce.  As part of this effort, they are looking for groups or families who would be able to provide meals. JDS has done this in previous years when the encampment occurred during the school year but, as our students will be out for summer break, we want to spread the word to families or others who might like to help.  If you're interested, contact information is at the bottom of this FAQ which has been provided by TBT.





You sign up, assemble a group of friends, plan a menu, shop for the food, cook the meal, and serve it. You’ll be cooking the meal at home and bringing it to Tent City hot and ready to serve. Some groups enjoy cooking together; others find it easiest to assign each person to make one dish.

The meal doesn't need to be fancy. Aim for a balanced, tasty meal with lots of servings. Try to include a protein, starch, vegetable/salad, and drinks (2 gallons of milk and 2-3 gallons of juice for 50 people, or else 5 gallons of water). Fruit or dessert is always appreciated but not necessary. Also try to bring paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic cutlery.

Tent City has a refrigerator, and leftovers will be stored there and eaten quickly. If possible, please bring plastic containers that leftovers can be stored in. If you need your containers returned, label them with your name and ask the Tent City kitchen coordinator to keep them for you.

Plan to serve the meal at 6:00 p.m. Please arrive at least half an hour early to begin set-up. On Wednesdays, there is an all-camp meeting at 7:30 p.m., so please make a special effort to have the meal ready on time.

Many residents will arrive at 6:00 for the meal, but others will come later as they arrive from work and school. Hosts usually stay until at least 6:30, but if you need to leave sooner, that’s fine. When you’re ready to leave, just ask to kitchen coordinator to help you transfer food out of any dishes you need to take home. After that, you’re welcome to go.

You are encouraged to join the residents for dinner.


At present, plan for about 50 people, plus your own group. Tent City is expected to grow over the coming weeks, so please email Rob Schatz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. a few days before your scheduled meal to get an accurate count of the number of residents currently in camp. This is the only full hot meal that most residents will have all day, so please plan on generous serving sizes. The leftovers will be eaten quickly, and it’s better to have a little bit extra rather than run out.

Be prepared to pool pots, pans, and serving dishes with your friends. When a few people get together, they can usually find enough cookware.


We’ve been told that it usually costs about $250 to serve 100 people. When there are only 50 residents in camp, $125 might be enough. It all depends on your menu and the price of ingredients. If you find grocery stores, farmers' markets, bakeries, restaurants, etc. that are willing to discount your purchase or donate ingredients, please tell us.

The more people in your serving group, the less the impact on any one person. Invite your friends over for a cooking party. It’s fun to cook with a big group!


Possibly, but this can be tricky. If you just need to reheat food, Tent City has a microwave and one small electric crock pot. You are welcome to bring your own electric hot plate, crock pot, etc. to Tent City – although the power supply can only handle one appliance at a time.

If you want to use the Temple kitchen, please call the Temple office at least 2 days in advance to confirm that the kitchen won’t be needed for other purposes and that the Temple will be open when you want to cook. The Temple office is open Monday through Thursday 9-4 and Friday 9-3 and can be reached at 425-603-9677.

If you do use the kitchen, please clean it afterwards until it looks exactly like it did before you used it. Thanks!

We’re sorry that we can’t make the Temple kitchen more accessible. We would if we could!


June, July, and August. Meals are tracked with an online calendar at Once a day is reserved, it takes several days for that to show up on the calendar, so check with Rob Schatz for open dates.


Contact Rob Schatz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


No need to worry! It will take a few days for your name to show up on the calendar. As long as you reserved a date with Rob Schatz or Kelly Fine, we know you’re coming.


For a main course, casseroles, tacos, soup, chili, lasagna, spaghetti, hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken have worked well in the past. Residents also appreciate healthy options and love all salads and vegetable side dishes. If you don’t have time to cook dinner, you can always order pizza. For more information, see “What is involved in serving a meal to TC4 residents?” above.


At present, the vast majority of the residents have no dietary restrictions. A few are diabetic. The residents aren’t picky, and whatever you offer will be gratefully accepted.


Yes! You can visit Tent City anytime with food donations. These donations won’t go toward dinner, which is cooked off-site by volunteers, but toward other meals and snacks, which the residents prepare individually. Tent City has a fridge and a microwave but no stove or oven. Perishable food is fine, but if your donation requires cooking, make sure that it can be cooked in a microwave. The residents are especially happy to receive donations of fruit, drinks (water is great), breakfast and lunch items, and anything that’s nutritious but easy to prepare.

To visit Tent City 4 this summer, come to Temple B’nai Torah at 15727 NE 4th Street, Bellevue, WA 98008. When you’re facing the main entrance to the Temple, look for a blue tent to the right. Head toward that tent and you’ll find the entrance to Tent City.



We welcome questions. Most questions can be answered by Rob Schatz, who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Rob is the Temple B'nai Torah coordinator for Tent City 4. The meals coordinator for Tent City 4 (not affiliated with the Temple) is Mandi Hayes, and she can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . You can reach the Temple B'nai Torah office at 425-603-9677. The direct line into the Tent City 4 camp is 206-618-3901. Thank you so much for your support!

Shavuot and JDS

by Beth Fine

Shavuot is known by four different names, just like the other two festivals, Sukkot and Pesach. Each of the names echoes in a JDS - June way for me.

  • Chag HaBikurim - the festival of the first fruits - I hear our first fruits ripening and sweetening as Kita Alef practices for the Siddur Ceremony on June 18th and the Kindergarten prepares for the Growing on Ceremony on June 19th
  • Chag HaKatzir - the harvest festival - I watched a harvest of student learning as Kita Hey presented their learning about ancient Greek drama and Kita Bet shared their learning in Judaics with the Torah Ceremony and in Hebrew with a musical review.
  • Chag Matan Torah - the festival of the giving of the Torah - Kita Dalet presented their new skill in chanting Torah with trope, showing connection to the text and competence, while Kita Chet returned from a happy and meaningful trip to Israel. We look forward to receiving our graduating eighth graders "Torah" or take on their learning at JDS Graduation.

Chag HaShavuot - the festival of weeks - as we complete the countdown between Pesach and Shavuot, we also enter the countdown of the last precious weeks of school this year, and look forward to a wonderful summer.



Join us for #GiveBIG on May 6th!

The Jewish Day School is pleased to be a participant in the Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG day of charitable giving on May 6th.  Make a gift to JDS through the Seattle Foundation's website on that day and a portion of the donation will be matched by the foundation and its GiveBIG sponsors.  Join us and GiveBIG on Tuesday, May 6th.  If you have any questions, please contact our Development Department at 425-460-0242 or email Risa Coleman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .   Click here for the JDS GiveBIG webpage.


From First Friday Assemblies to Mifgashim

An Opportunity for Sharing your Perspective

By Beth Fine, JDS Judaics Coordinator

As in any dynamic, creative and responsive organization, JDS has debated, tried, scrapped and transformed various parts of our program over the years. We have made a commitment to thinking deeply about the mission and vision of the school in general and the goals of specific programs in particular when we reflect on our students’ experiences and make decisions for the future. We strive to inform ourselves about current research and thinking in the field of education as well as the needs of our students, families and faculty. I would like to share with you our decision making process in regard to assemblies this year, and ask for your thoughtful ideas as we begin planning for next year.

Last spring, as Maria prepared for her own retirement and Rabbi Light’s move to California, she decided to eliminate one administrative position and to instead create a teaching position of Judaics coordinator and instructional coach, which I took on beginning in June of 2013. My position is focused on teaching and supporting teachers and students, and does not include leading Judaic programming. In late June the faculty gathered to think about assemblies, as we no longer had an administrator to create and execute these programs. The faculty saw this as an opportunity to reflect on goals for this important piece of our program and to tweak the program so as to meet those goals, with the execution happening by teacher committee.

The faculty identified 3 main goals for these programs – building and celebrating our community, celebrating Shabbat and holidays and sharing our students’ learning.  And from these goals came the three programs we have enjoyed this year:

  1. Mifgash Kehillah or Community Gathering – These gatherings happen in the GAC, and include community singing and classes presenting their learning.
  2. Mifgash Shabbat or Shabbat Gathering – These gatherings occur at TBT. Fifth grade leads a program of welcoming Shabbat with songs and stories.
  3. Mifgash Chavurot or Sharing Gathering – These gatherings happen in individual classrooms. Students from the chavurah or grouping come to the gathering with a piece of learning to share. The students share their work and appreciations with each other.

At this point of the year, we have one more mifgash chavurot (on May 2nd) and mifgash kehillah (on April 4th) as well as a closing assembly in mid June. As a faculty, we have been reflecting on these new programs and considering what has worked well and what needs more attention. Here are the results of our review:

On Mifgash Kehillah: we have valued the opportunity to come together and to appreciate each others’ presentations. We are thrilled to have been able to celebrate with so many parents. Our middle schoolers had not participated in our past First Friday Assemblies, which this program resembles, and have found the program less compelling than the elementary students.

On Mifgash Shabbat: We have found the mifgash Shabbat to meet a long standing desire of bringing our community together to celebrate and enjoy Shabbat. We are proud of the fifth grade leadership at this program. Middle schoolers have participated less actively, though this improved at our last mifgash, when middle school students sat with younger students. Some of us have noticed that parents do not seem as comfortable participating in this program.

On Mifgash Chavurot: we felt that this has met all of the goals we had defined at the start. Every student has had the opportunity to speak in front of a group and to respond to other students’ work. Students choose work that makes them feel proud and describe their learning process. 100% of students have the chance to shine, as opposed to the small numbers who shine at a Mifgash Kehillah. We have noticed that a relatively small number of parents come to this program, though the parents who do attend have spoken highly of the experience.

We have also heard from some parents that they miss coming together once a month for First Friday Assemblies as in past year, and from others that they miss seeing their child in front of the entire assembly.

So that we may have a better picture of what parents hope for in these celebratory experiences, we would like to hear from you and include your perspectives in our planning for next year.

Mike and I would like to invite you to attend our final Mifgash Chavurot, Sharing Assembly on Friday May 2nd in classrooms around the school.  After the student sharing sessions, please join us in the FAR to reflect on the various assemblies this year following the mifgash at 9:15. We are very interested to hear your thoughts and to answer any questions you may have.



6th Graders Taking Action to Help Oso

JDS Head of School Mike Downs and Assistant Head of School Suzanne Messinger received a visit this week from the 6th grade students.  The children were requesting permission to launch a community service or "taking action" project to raise money to help the Washington community of Oso which was hit by a tragic landslide on the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River last month.  More than two dozen died in the slide and many are still missing today.  Here’s a summary of what some of the students had to say:


We chose this Taking Action project because we thought that it would be extremely nice and helpful to all of those poor people and animals that were the victims of the Oso mudslide. Originally, we wanted to volunteer, but we learned that it wasn’t allowed.  Please support our idea. We believe that this is the best solution because currently the only civilians are allowed to go there are immediate family members of the victims.  Our class is really eager to help…

In order to determine which organization to work with and how we could help…

We have spent lots of time on the researching trying to find the best way to help… We went on the web and found different organizations that would accept help for the Oso mudslide. We considered going to the site to volunteer as helpers but were told this was unadvised... The organizations that we decided [to work with] are the Cascade Valley Hospital and Everett Animal Shelter. So we would be helping people and animals. We also learned that donating to the hospitals would be helpful because they are getting many patients… These organizations only accepted money. That led us to doing a bake sale.


Having a bake-sale is involving the school because their own money is used to help people and animals in need. We will also give an option to for those who participated to sign [a letter] to show the empathy, compassion and thought that went into it.  This is an extremely large leadership opportunity for the 6th grade to help our community. We will take a big role by baking home-made baked goods to help. We also completely dropped our previous Taking Action project to make a difference in for current natural disaster. 


This is a part of our learning. This relates to our unit of inquiry because we were studying about erosion. This is a perfect example of when erosion occurs, and we need to help.  JDS has taught us over the years to take action, and this our way of doing that. This would be helping the injured, the families of the injured, and the animals that got stuck in the mud. People would get a chance to help, and to feel good about themselves. Also, it’s a fun snack!

~The 6th Grade Class



Gala & Auction Thank You!

Our largest community event of the year, our Gala & Auction - Inquiry and Imagination, was inspiring. It raised important funds for our inquiry based program.  Our Interim Head of School Mike Downs said it beautifully during the event. 

"After over 20 years working for excellent independent schools in the Midwest, I was drawn to JDS because of a powerful idea: that the 21st century model of Inquiry-based learning is a perfect match for a Jewish Day School.  My question for you: Have you any idea what you actually have here? How revolutionary and forward-looking this model really is? How, years from now, you will be able to look back, when many schools will have finally embraced this model, and say, I was there when JDS led the way?  Like any great learning system, it is at once deeply complex ...and profoundly simple. Complex in that it has a deep structure and requires huge amounts of time to plan, develop and perfect. And simple because at its core is the engine of human curiosity, with the question as the spring at its center." 

Just as taking action is an essential part of student inquiry learning at JDS, our community also took action and showed incredible support of our school. We raised more than $400K for the school including nearly a quarter of a million dollars in our Fund-a-Need.  Thank you to everyone who helped make this event such a tremendous success including those who may have procured items, volunteered, purchased raffle tickets or attended.  A special thanks to our co-chairs Pamela Love and Ida Wickland, our gracious honorees Marc and Gina Gonchar and of course our Development Team of Risa Coleman, Abby Hoffman and Julie Chivo.  Visit the JDS Flickr photostream for pictures from the evening and the Fund-a-Need video is on our homepage.

5th Graders are Taking Action

Our 5th graders have been working hard on their Taking Action project - Spreading Happiness. Some of the 5th grade students decided to make cards and signs of encouragement for Bike Riders of Obliteride which is the cycling benefit for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center ( for more information). Some of the students created Good-bag Project Kits for children who are patients at Children's Hospital.  Wonderful job to all of our JDS 5th Graders for such wonderful work!

7th & 8th Graders Meet Ela Stein Weissberger

Middle School teacher Nance Adler explains a recent Middle School trip to meet Ela Stein Weissberger:


Recently, the 7th and 8th graders all joined middle school and high schoolers from all of the Jewish Schools in the Greater Seattle area at the JCC. This first gathering of Seattle's Jewish day schools was organized by Northwest Yeshiva High School in honor of a visit to Seattle by Ela Stein Weissberger. It was supported by Music of Remembrance, the Jewish Federation and SAMIS. It was great to see a full room of Jewish young people in the new theater space at the JCC. 

Ela was here for the performances at Seattle Children's Theater for Brundibar - a children's opera, originally written and performed in Czech, about the power of friends to help you overcome bullies. This play - an open parody of Hitler - was performed by Jewish children in a concentration camp 55 times!  

Ela was a young girl of 11 when she played the Cat in all 55 performances of Brundibar in Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp in 1942-44. Ela is the last remaining cast member to have been in every performance and spends her time traveling to tell her story and the story of her friends who did not survive. Ela shared about her experience in Terezin, her life in Israel after the end of the war and her memories of being part of the Brundibar family in Terezin. In addition to Ela speaking, a video of a segment from 60 Minutes from 1972 about how the performance was used to fool the Red Cross was also shown. You can find this clip at The Red Cross visited Terezin in 1944 after the Nazis had fixed it up to look like a model village for Jews. Seeing children performing a play that showed triumph over a bully was part of their plan to convince the Red Cross that they were not harming Jews. Ela spoke about the kids being aware of the importance of this particular performance and how much was riding on it for the Jews of Terezin.  

Ela, who is now in her 80's, is a spunky lady with a wonderful way of telling her stories. This room of teenagers was silent for the duration of her talk. She also shared some artifacts - the Yellow Star that she wore, a cousin's identity card from Terezin and a piece of art that she made at Terezin for her mother and still has. It was inspiring to see Ela and to hear her story and to learn about her friends. Her request at the end of the talk was that we never forget her friends who didn't survive. Thanks to her sharing her story, their memories will carry on. 


We're celebrating Purim next week!

Purim officially falls on Saturday night March 15th and Sunday March 16th, and will be celebrated at JDS next Friday, March 14th.  School activities include a costume parade, megillah reading, and the Kita Hey Purim Shpeil.  Students will have the opportunity to fulfill all of the four mitzvot of Purim:
  1. Mishloach Manot - sending gifts
  2. Matanot L'evyonim - giving gifts to those who are in need
  3. Megilat Ester - the reading of the Megillah
  4. Seudat Purim - the festive Purim meal
More on Purim from Judaics Coordinator Beth Fine: 
 It takes  imagination to take a story of state - sponsored Anti-Semitism and near escape from annihilation and turn it into a day of celebration. This is the beauty of Purim, embodied in the Hebrew term ונהפוך הוא  (v'nahafoch hu - topsy turvy or opposite day.) Our tradition takes a moment of fear and powerlessness and turns it into a moment of triumph and joy. We recall the poor decision making of King Ahashverosh, the baseless hatred of Haman, the courage of Mordechai. We remember as Esther transforms from fearful girl to assertive woman, the fate of her people in her hands. Purim is a holiday when we remember our past and define our hopes for the future. The megillah says "the Jewish people had light and happiness, joy and glory." Our tradition took this quote and placed it in the Havdalah  service which ends Shabbat and begins each work week -  "the Jewish people had light and happiness, joy and glory, may we have those as well." We begin each week with an awareness of the past and a focus on the exciting possibilities to come. This connection between the past and the future is at the core of our work here at JDS, as students master our history and traditions while creating their own path into an undefined future. May we all find our personal and communal lives filled with light and happiness, joy and glory.