12/14/2017 05:17 PM Posted by: David Cohen Poster Avatar
Mikeitz – After [Two Years] - Genesis 44:1:1−44:17
"At the end of two years’ time, Pharaoh had a dream …"

The True Miracle of Light:

Some would say that after everything Joseph went through in his life – being sold into slavery by his brothers, being imprisoned during his early days in Egypt – that to end up as an adviser to the Pharaoh was a miracle.  Some would say that to be able to re-unite with his brothers – and eventually his father – was also a miracle.  

This week’s Parasha, Mikeitz, has lessons for any family looking to examine their inner workings and trying to find models for reconciliation.  As with most of our stories, there is also trickery, pent up resentment, surprise, anger, and eventually joy.  With all of that, some would say it is also a miracle that we learn of the sons of Joseph, Menasseh and Ephraim - two brothers that our texts use as models for brotherly love.  To this day there are priestly benedictions that wish upon you the same love that existed between Menasseh and Ephraim, two people in the Torah known for getting along swimmingly well.  The contrast with the other brothers in this saga is remarkable.

It is fitting then that Chanukah – a time when we remember miracles and celebrate light – falls at the time of this Parasha.  In resources emailed home earlier this week, I provided a link to Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman’s piece on a new way to look at miracles during Chanukah.  The concept of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days was a fairly recent addition to our Chanukah commemoration; the rededication of the Temple and lighting the menorah were always at the core of the story.  So according to Hoffman, light itself is enough of a miracle - on its own merit.

He speaks of the light of warmth, peace, joy, happiness and freedom.  These are concepts even the youngest children can embrace.  For Hoffman, light represents hope, wisdom, and understanding: noble traits anyone would be proud to embrace.  

The light we know from science is the fastest element known to humankind.  According to Hoffman, even without the miracle of eight days – which our children will question us about when they get older - light gives us an almost unending array of special themes to focus on with our children - themes that are connected to Jewish values, themes that are all about attributes we want our children to cherish, and themes that can help them make the world a better place – today!

Additional Torah Study Resources:

Categorized under:  Torah

12/13/2017 08:21 PM Posted by: Poster Avatar

Dear Shlenker Community,

Almost fourteen months ago, Ricki Komiss announced her plan to retire at the end of the 2017-2018 school year following twenty years of visionary leadership and devoted service as Shlenker’s Head of School. The search for Ricki’s successor began immediately and culminated Monday evening at a special meeting of the Board of Trustees. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, it is with much excitement that I announce Shlenker’s next Head of School, Michelle Barton. Her tenure will begin in July of 2018.

Michelle joins us from the Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy ("Pressman”) in Los Angeles where she currently serves as the Elementary School Principal overseeing both general and Judaic studies faculty. Pressman is a conservative Jewish day school that is affiliated with Temple Beth Am and which enrolls approximately 475 students in early childhood through eighth grade. Prior to her appointment as Principal, Michelle served for five years as Lead Teacher in third grade and for one year as Literacy Coordinator.

Michelle received her B.A. cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and earned Dean’s Honor’s List. Michelle is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Education in the Educational Leadership Program at UCLA and expects to receive her degree during the summer of 2018. Additionally, she is fluent in Hebrew.

In addition to her impeccable educational background, Michelle furthered her preparation for Jewish Day School education and leadership through the Reform Movement, at Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute for Religion (HUC-JIR), where she was a Day School Leadership through Teaching (DeLeT) Fellow. She currently serves as a guest lecturer and course instructor.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to express our sincere gratitude to all of you for your interest, support and enthusiasm as we journeyed through this search process together. Your eagerness to engage in our efforts was especially important as we sought to identify a strong, innovative leader who would embrace Shlenker’s culture and values into the future.

While Michelle and her husband, Brandon, will not arrive permanently in Houston until this summer, she will visit the Shlenker campus this spring to aid in a smooth transition, a process that already is underway. I hope that each and every one of you will join me in welcoming Michelle and Brandon to the Shlenker School and the greater Houston communities. I have the utmost confidence that with Michelle’s inspiration, warmth and collaboration, Shlenker will continue to Ignite a Spark in every child.

With appreciation,

Leslie Margolis
Chair, Board of Trustees

12/07/2017 04:41 PM Posted by: David Cohen Poster Avatar
Vayeishev - [Jacob] Settled
Genesis 37:1−40:23
"Jacob now settled ... in the land of Canaan."

As with the story of Jacob's dream, his wrestling with the emissary of God, and the imagery of the iconic ladder to the heavens - this week's portion also contains some of the most memorable narratives in the Torah. We not only read about the continuing sagas of the many wives and all the children of Jacob, but also, we are presented with the famous story of Joseph and his brothers.  

Joseph is so important a figure in our history because he is all at once our link to Egypt, our link to the return of the Jewish people to the promised land, and our link to our earliest example of what it means for an Israelite to succeed in the midst of a foreign culture only to see his descendants marginalized by that same culture.  We read all of this and more through the story of Joseph, so it only makes sense to take a look at how his story actually began.

In so many stories from our tradition we look at human flaws and learn how those flaws relate to our own lives.  We don't even see a momentous story of liberation and slavery unless we first read about a group of brothers - the sons of Jacob - who turned on each other.  They were ripe with jealousy for a brother they felt held the favor of their father - and a brother who seemingly did not let them forget it.

This theme of sibling rivalry is so relevant to the work we do as educators and parents, not only because it does happen but because of where it came from in this story.  There is no question that Jacob favored Joseph and his mother over the other siblings and their mother.  We read about why in previous passages, but there is no evaluation of it's outcome until we get to this portion.  Veyeishev tells us about the outgrowth of jealousy, favoritism and boastful pride.

The learning in this portion of course comes from the opposite values from those just listed.  Contentment, fairness, and humility are at the core of what it means to be a decent person.  We all can fall into those negative traits on occasion, as we are once again presented with a cautionary tale in our weekly teaching.  One way to better understand the more positive course of action for this family is to look at the Kabbalistic teachings of the Omer - the reflective process we use just after Passover on our way to Shavuot. When we count the Omer we are presented with 7 different human attributes to examine and we are to ask ourselves how in balance are we with them all.

For example, love is an amazing attribute, but when Jacob shows too much love for Joseph, that creates an unfair situation for the whole family - an imbalance - and we can see the damage that can cause.  Who would have thought one could love too much?  This is a story that shows us how powerful love is and how careful we need to be when putting it on display.

So, one could look at this as a story of sibling rivalry, or one could look at it as a story about the immense power of love.  One could look at it as a story about Joseph's amazing power of seeing the future, or one could look at it as a story about staying modest, even when one has an amazing gift.

Whichever way you choose to see the family of Jacob, see both their amazing role in our history and their role in teaching us valuable lessons about life, family, and personal growth.
Useful resources on the weekly parsha:

Categorized under:  Torah

Blog Search


1Elementary Education
Elementary Education (43)
Preschool (37)
Torah (31)


April 2019 (1)
November 2018 (1)
October 2018 (4)
September 2018 (4)
August 2018 (2)
May 2018 (4)
April 2018 (4)
March 2018 (4)
February 2018 (4)
January 2018 (3)
December 2017 (3)
April 2017 (1)
March 2017 (1)
February 2017 (2)
January 2017 (1)
April 2016 (1)
May 2015 (1)
March 2015 (1)
February 2015 (1)
January 2015 (1)
December 2014 (2)
September 2014 (1)
August 2014 (1)
May 2014 (2)
December 2013 (1)
October 2013 (3)
August 2013 (1)
May 2013 (3)
April 2013 (4)
March 2013 (10)
December 2012 (1)
October 2012 (1)
September 2012 (2)
September 2011 (1)
March 2011 (1)
January 2011 (1)
December 2010 (1)
November 2010 (1)
October 2010 (2)
September 2010 (2)
August 2010 (2)
July 2010 (1)