Here's what classroom life looks like for Elisabeth (6th grade) and Jack (5th) with COVID-19 precautions in place.

September 4, 2020
Volume 17, Issue 1
Candle Lighting: 6:58 p.m.
Parasha: Ki Tavo
Greeting students on Monday morning
by Miriam Kass, Principal

Within the first few minutes of school on Monday morning, it was clear that all the time we spent this summer planning and preparing for in-person school was worthwhile. Our students and teachers were overjoyed to be together, IRL (Google it). 

Throughout the week, they embraced the new protocols with few infractions and even fewer complaints. They demonstrated patience as we struggled with some technology glitches, and even learned to quiet fears of the occasional visiting wasp or yellow jacket during our picnic lunchtimes. 

We continue to be tremendously grateful for our community and this opportunity to be together in person. While we did our best to anticipate and prepare for as much as we could, we know there will be challenges we didn't or couldn't anticipate. We will have many chances to practice being flexible and resilient, and we'll do it together.

Shabbat Shalom!
5th/6th graders have lunch in the park.
School under COVID-19 - For Your Reference
Next Townhall with Health & Safetey Advisory Committee (Sept 8 @ 12:30)
Dvar Torah    
What Is a Good Year?
by Rabbi David Bauman, Head of Judaic Studies and Community Engagement

Each morning in the month of Elul, at the end of Tefillah (prayers), we sound the Shofar as Rambam teaches us to awaken our souls to Teshuvah (repentance). This time of year we also begin to greet each other with the phrase "Shanah Tovah," commonly translated as "Happy New Year." However, the Hebrew word "Shanah - שנה" means "year," while the word "tovah - טובה" means "good." The basis of our Rosh Hashanah prayers is the hope for goodness rather than for personal happiness. Happiness is something that you or I feel, personally, within ourselves. Goodness is a more mature concept of human experience. It extends beyond our personal life and reaches out to the lives of others.

The earliest concept of goodness known to humanity is found in the first chapter of the Torah. It originates from God. God looked out and saw a world that was "void and without form, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." He called out, "Let there be light." And there was light. Suddenly a world that was dark and formless, ugly and chaotic, began to assume a pattern of contrast and order, life, and meaning. What did God say when He saw all this? Did he speak in terms of happiness? Not at all. The Torah says, "And God saw that it was good (tov)." God created something working, the joy of creating is the real good that brings happiness. 

A new year can be a Shanah Tovah only if it results in the creation of something good, something worthwhile, something that benefits not only ourselves but others as well. When we turn to our neighbor and wish him or her a "Shanah Tovah," we wish them much more than food and drink and laughter. We wish them the priceless joy of doing something worthwhile in the New Year, something that will enable him or her to look back at the year and say, "It has been a Shanah Tovah - a good year." If a person can say the year has been a good one it will have brought him or her happiness.

When we are young, we are taught the importance of being good. But Rosh Hashanah tells us it is not enough merely to be good. We must do good. "May you be inscribed for a good year" is a joyful reminder that we must resolve to do good, not only for ourselves but for others. In keeping such a resolution, we shall be living up to the highest ideals of Judaism. 

"May you be inscribed for a good year," is not just a greeting, it is a blessing. There is a vast difference between a greeting and a blessing. A greeting does not imply any particular responsibility on the part of the well-wisher - a blessing does. When the priests in the Temple blessed the people, they raised their hands to symbolize that when we bless our fellows, we must be prepared to lift a helping hand. When we wish our neighbors and friends a good year we, too, must be prepared to help make it a good year. 

As we enter the High Holy Day season by reflecting on this past year, let us not fall into the trap of focusing only on the COVID pandemic and its challenges. Let us reflect on the productive lives before COVID, and the resiliency that we have found within ourselves, our friends, our families, and our communities. By doing so, we truly merit the ability to bless everyone, "Shanah Tovah!" A Good Year! 

Welcome Back, Kindergarten - 8th Grade!

Our Kindergarteners manage to be cute even with masks.
1st/2nd graders in their classroom
A peek into Rabbi M's class
On the first day of the IDL unit on Community, 7th and 8th graders discussed how we define community and then visited our neighborhood by going to the Point. Along the way they did a scavenger hunt of sorts in which students had to learn about each other and what they have in common.
How Do Communities and Individuals Shape Each Other?
by Alicia Chipman, Director of Teaching and Learning

This is our guiding question for the first two weeks of school as the whole grade school takes a deeper look at what it means to be a community 
This unit of study will be built around the novel Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, which tells the story of a community garden. Students will read and discuss the book within their cohorts--developing their close reading skills--as well as explore the various ways of defining and living community within Judaism. 

Then we will work together to plant an indoor community garden, while middle school students work in small groups on self-selected projects designed to articulate who we are as an Akiba community. 

For more about Interdisciplinary Learning and how it will work at Akiba this year, please read our blog post.

Here the 7th/8th graders in the community IDL unit had to stand in line according to their birthdays without talking or writing. They had to figure out a way to communicate non verbally in order to achieve that goal.
5th/6th graders during their IDL community unit outside
In Art, students continued our longstanding tradition of self portraits, only this time with masks!
Recess during the times of COVID-19
On Thursday, preschool families met on the playground and in the park to meet teachers and make new friends. What a great way for our youngest students to get ready to go to school next week.
Mindful Activities and Books for Young Children

Carla put together this list of mindful activities and books to refer to when you or your child are feeling stressed or anxious, angry or unable to name their feelings. These activities can also be helpful during a transition from school to home or from Zoom to home. They can help a child become grounded and available to engage with family or whatever is happening next in the family or at home. 
A big thank you to our PTO who helped get us ready to go back to school by organizing a  school grounds clean-up event, and assembling these healthy kits for staff.
Mazal tov

Bar Mitzvah Yadin Isaacs (8th) and his whole family on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat. Yadin, Natan, Wendy and Gidon Isaacs have just joined the Akiba family, moving here from New Jersey.

Israel Bonds Presents:
Selichot from the Kotel
A Virtual Event with Finance Minster Katz and Mayor Lion
September 15 
7:00 p.m. CDT
More info here and register here.

Dates to Remember
Monday, September 7
Labor Day
No School 

Tuesday, September 8
with Health & Safety Advisory Committee
12:30 - 1:15 p.m.
via Zoom

Tuesday, September 8
First Day of Preschool
Friday, September 18
Erev Rosh Hashana
No School

Monday, September 28
Yom Kippur
No School

Friday, October 2
Erev Sukkot
12:00 noon Dismissal for K-8
2:30 p.m. Dismissal for Preschool

Affiliated with the Associated Talmud Torahs and supported by the Kehillah Jewish Education Fund