What's Your Story?

I love getting to experience and share the learning that our students engage with in order to access our sacred texts and its themes in different ways. Our younger students learn about the stories in the Torah by learning about the characters, acting out scenes, and engaging with parallel stories. Our elementary-age students begin to engage with the text in its original form and begin going deeper into the themes and connections in the text through writing and artwork. Our middle school students learn to respond to the text through writing their own divrei Torah, leading group discussions, and creating original artwork and media. In fact, some of our 7-8 students have embarked on a contest to complete a work of art, podcast episode, or other creative expression for every parasha in the book of Shemot! 

The opportunities that our students have to learn from each other are incredibly inspiring and we are incredibly lucky to have access to amazing teachers from within our community and visitors as well. Today, our preschool and 1-2 class got a very special visit from Dr. Ruth Behar, a cultural anthropologist and author who came to share her book, Tia Fortuna’s New Home, a story about the importance of family and Sephardic and Cuban Jewish Heritage. Students loved getting to hear Ruth read and share about her book and also participated in activities like creating a memory key for their home and choosing items to fill a suitcase of memories. 

In this week’s parasha, Vaera, Moses receives his next instructions for how he will inform Pharaoh of their upcoming departure and make his demands. He experiences another of his moments of self doubt, but also has his brother, Aaron with him as a support. This time, God speaks to Moses and Aaron together in preparation for their next steps with Pharaoh. What immediately follows this interaction is a listing of the heads of the clans of the tribes of Reuben, Shimon, and Levi, ultimately focusing on the clans within the tribe of Levi and in particular, as the text says, “the very same Moses and Aaron to whom God has spoken.”

There are a number of reasons for why the text may have chosen this moment to include these generations and clans, but what struck me today is that God wants Moses and Aaron to know that the task at hand is not just about them. It is about their past and it is about their future, and it is about their family. At the same time, their role in the present is of ultimate importance and it all comes down to what they are about to accomplish. 

The commonalities between this story of a family (becoming a nation) leaving home and the one that our students heard Dr. Ruth Behar read today are a reminder of the importance of us sharing our own stories and backgrounds. It is also a reminder of the similarities and stories in common that we share as a community, but also the importance of highlighting and sharing the differences in our stories. As the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven is in the middle of its Celebration of Jewish Latin and Ladino Life, I encourage our Ezra community to continue sharing the stories and experiences from our own family in celebration of all the things that make our community diverse and unique. 

Wishing you and your loved ones a restful weekend and a Shabbat Shalom, 


Tani Cohen-Fraade

For more information on Ruth Behar and Tia Fortuna’s New Home, click HERE.