Feb 27, 2015

Perfect Purim Crafts and Activites for 2015!

Purim is a wonderful holiday to celebrate with children. Costumes, groggers, and hamantaschen afford many opportunities for creativity, imagination, and fun. Below we have some fun takes on these traditional activities, as well as some new crafts to celebrate at home or in the classroom!

Make Some Noise with Sammy Spider
This simple grogger is made using a paper plate, and is the same one in one of our favorite Purim books - Sammy Spider's First Purim! Get ready for the Megillah reading with this fun and easy craft for all ages. Instructions here.


Send a Hamantaschen Card
This cute cards fold up to look like hamantaschen, and unfold to reveal well-wishes for Purim! This simple craft, which requires paper, scissors, and markers, is great for at home or in the classroom. Find instructions here.


Jewish Heroes Project
Discuss the heroes of the Purim story. Students select and research their own Jewish hero, notable for his/her impact on Jewish/greater society. On Purim, organize a "living museum": students dress up as their heroes. The students should be able to give basic biographical information about their hero, in addition to discussing their impact. Each student has to interview another hero (hint: use the 5 W's to focus the students). Publish/hang up hero interviews. More educational ideas here.

From www.Lookstein.org.

Easy Purim Masks Complement Any Costume
With a little help, any kid can create their own costume using this simple DIY Purim mask! A perfect Purim craft for the classroom, or to accent an almost-complete costume, this masks allows kids to add their own artistic flair. Instructions here.

From Here We Are Together.

Beaded Crowns for Older Kids
If you kids are a little old for paper masks, or would enjoy more of a challenge, try these beaded crowns! They'll also last longer than paper masks, so could potentially be used in years to come. Different colors of beads can be used to complement different costumes, and instructions include both a "Queen's Crown" and a "King's Crown." Instructions here.

From Chadis Crafts Fun Pages.

Put on a Purim Puppet Show
Make your own puppets to put on a Purim play! These instructions and templates from JewishKids.org make it a fun and simple way to let everyone participate in telling the story of Purim. Instructions here


Test How Much You Really Know!
This fun and interactive Jeopardy-style quiz lets two people compete to answer Purim questions. Test your knowledge on your own, challenge a friend, or set up a family or classroom-sized competition to see who knows the most! Take the quiz here.

From Quia.com.

Make Your Own Megillah Scroll
Color the pictures on this page, then cut them out into two strips. Tape the strips together and tape the end to an empty paper towel roll cut to size. Roll up your Megillah and fasten with a ribbon or rubber band. Now you have your very own Megillah scroll that tells the story of Purim!





Learn More About Purim with a Good Book!
Children's books about Purim are a great way to enrich the holiday celebration. From learning all about Purim traditions with Sammy Spider to animals putting on a Purim play, these stories offer fun and interesting additions to any Purim celebration. These and other Purim books available on the Kar-Ben website!

Barnyard Purim
Purim is a topsy-turvy time, even on the farm. The animals decide to stage a Purim play, and Chicken assigns the parts. Blushing Duck is Queen Esther, Silly Horse is Ahashuerus, and Bearded Goat is Mordechai. But when they try to transform Shy Little Sheep into mean-looking Haman, something unexpected happens.

Sammy Spider's First Purim
Sammy Spider wants to help Josh get ready for Purim. Instead, he gets stuck inside a grogger. How will he escape?







The Queen Who Saved Her People
The Purim story has never been more fun! This lavishly rhyming tale is a wonderful read-aloud book, and its color-coded dialogue is perfect for Reader's Theater performances.



The Purim Superhero
Nate loves aliens and he really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes and he wants to fit in. What will he do? With the help of his two dads he makes a surprising decision.

Jan 23, 2015

Congratulations to the National Jewish Book Award Winners!

This week, we're celebrating The Patchwork Torah, winner of the 2014 National Jewish Book Award! Congratulations to author Allison Ofanansky and illustrator Elsa Oriol on the wonderful news! This very special book tells the story of David who, as a child, watches his grandfather, a Torah scribe or sofer, finish a Torah scroll for the synagogue. "A Torah is not something to be thrown away," his Grandfather explains. David's grandfather carefully stores the old Torah his new one has replaced in his cabinet, hoping to one day repair the letters so the Torah can be used again.

David grows up and becomes a sofer just like his grandfather. Through the years, people bring him damaged Torahs they have saved from danger and disaster - one damaged by Nazi soldiers during World War II, one damaged in a fire in a synagogue, and one in flooding during Hurricane Katrina. David stores each of these precious Torahs in his cabinet, until his granddaughter Leah gives him the idea to make a recycled Torah from the salvaged Torah scrolls.


Below, watch the book trailer and read a guest post from author Allison Ofanansky about her inspiration for this very special story. You can get a copy of The Patchwork Torah here.



"The story of the Patchwork Torah was inspired by a real Torah put together from rescued and repaired remnants of old and damaged scrolls. Like the scroll that David puts together in the story, this Torah contains sections that were written by a number of soferim (scribes) that lived in different times and places. We don’t know the stories behind the sections in this Torah. The stories of the scrolls that David collects in the book are made up, though some are based on real historic events (the Holocaust, Hurricane Katrina).

A real patchwork Torah was purchased by my community in Tzfat, Israel in 2009. There are many Torah scrolls in synagogues in the city of Tzfat, but these are strictly Orthodox and women can’t come up for an aliyah or read from the Torah or dance with it on holidays. So a group of friends decided to buy a Torah to which women could have access.

We held an auction to raise money. People donated things to be auctioned off. (I donated some of the books in the Nature in Israel series.) Then we bid to buy each others’ donations (I bought a funny wax sculpture). We raised a fair amount of money at the auction, but not enough for a new Torah scroll, which costs between $15,000 and $30,000. Then we heard about a ‘recycled’ Torah which had been put together with parts of several damaged scrolls to make a whole, kosher Torah. We had enough money to buy it!

Once we got this Torah, we realized how special and beautiful it is. Throughout the year, as we read through the scroll, we can see the distinctive calligraphy of seven soferim who wrote various parts (three large sections and four small ones). Some wrote simple letters, others added fancy decorations. Even though there are strict laws for writing a kosher Torah, and each letter must be perfect, there is still room for soferim to express their individual styles. This Torah suits our community, because we also come from many different places, with our own individual styles, and together make something new.

We have enjoyed celebrating with this Torah over the past few years. My daughter Aravah (whose pictures you may have seen in my Nature in Israel books) read from it at her bat mitzvah. All four of her grandparents came up for an aliyah. On Simchat Torah, women and girls dance with the scroll. I’ve seen women who never had a chance before to touch a Torah scroll cradling it like a baby, with tears in their eyes.

I’d like to imagine that David’s granddaughter, who gives him the idea to make the recycled Torah, will read from their patchwork Torah at her bat mitzvah—maybe even become a sofer herself! (On women scribes-- soferot -- see http://www.womenstorah.com/)"

Aravah reading from the real ‘patchwork Torah’ at her bat mitzvah, with both her grandmothers beside her.


Aravah holding the Torah at her bat mitzvah.
Photographs by Eliyhu Alpern, 2012

We'd also like to congratulate author Jennifer Elvgren and illustrator Fabio Santomauro on The Whispering Town, named as one of two finalists for the National Jewish Book Award! The Whispering Town is available here.


Dec 16, 2014

Eight Activities for Eight Nights!

Hanukkah is here! Of course, reading a good book is one of our favorite holiday activities, but below we've put together a list of eight more for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah!

Make Your Own Menorah from Joyful Jewish

Let even the youngest children participate in the lighting of the menorah with this pretty homemade menorah with paper "flames" that kids can safely use!

You'll need: paint, construction paper, toilet paper or other cardboard tubes, and popsicle sticks

Follow the instructions here.

Milk Carton Dreidel from Spoonful

Make recycling a part of your Hanukkah season with this nifty dreidel made from a milk carton!

You'll need: empty 8oz milk carton, craft knife, unsharpened pencil, blue masking tape, and a paint pen


Follow the instructions here.

Hanukkah Gelt Cookies from More Quiche, Please

Now you have your homemade dreidel and so much Hanukkah gelt you're not sure what to do with it all. Turns out they're a perfect way to dress up some holiday cookies!

You'll need: peanut butter, margarine, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda, vanilla, and 3 bags of Hanukkah gelt

Follow the instructions here.

Hanukkah Door Decoration from DLTK's Home

Decorate your door with this colorful Hanukkah wreath that needs just a few materials that you're sure to find around the house!

You'll need: wire coat hanger, toilet paper rolls, paint, paper, tape, glue, scissors

Instructions available here.

Learn about the Maccabees with these Activities

Help children learn and remember the story of Hanukkah with these fun coloring and maze activities from Kar-Ben!

You'll need: printed activity pages and colored pencils, crayons, or markers

Download the Maccabee color-by-number here, the Maccabee shield here, and the Torch Relay Maze here.


Homemade Hanukkah Cards from Scrumdilly-do

Help children learn the importance of showing they care with these sweet handmade Hanukkah cards, which are much more unique than store-bought cards.


You'll need: tinfoil, glue, cardboard, scissors, colored tissue paper, thread, and glitter

Follow the instructions here.

Decorate Your Home from Enchanted Learning and She Knows Parenting

Kids will love to help decorate with these unique tin and felt designs that they can make themselves!




Metal Star of David
You'll need: disposable pie plate or roasting pan, a marker, scissors, a nail, and string or yarn
Follow the instructions here.

Felt Dreidels
You'll need: assorted colors of felt, pen, scissors, glue, string, and tape
Follow the instructions here. The page also includes a popsicle stick Star of David craft.

Still looking for last-minute Hanukkah gifts? Check out the Kar-Ben website for great deals and new Hanukkah books like Latke, the Lucky Dog!

Dec 11, 2014

Our Favorite New Hanukkah Pup

This week's blog features a guest post from Ellen Fischer, author of Latke, the Lucky Dog, a sweet story about a fuzzy puppy named Latke who is rescued from an animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah. Although he has trouble learning the house rules and gets into all sorts of hijinks, he is one Lucky Dog! Told from the pup’s point of view, this sweet Hanukkah story for little ones is a great addition to Kar-Ben’s Hanukkah collection and our December Book of the Month!

Latke, the Lucky Dog is available at your local Judaica store, or online here.

Read about where Ellen got her inspiration for Latke below:

“Where does your inspiration come from?”  It’s a frequent question I’m asked. And the easy answer is “life.”  The more satisfying answer is, “ family, students, friends, nature, books.  If you observe and listen, inspiration is everywhere.”

For Latke, the Lucky Dog, the inspiration was right at home.  Our own shaggy haired, medium sized, golden brown Jazzie gave us14 years of laughter, fun and challenges.

When Jazzie arrived at our home, she was an adorable, fluffy puppy.  Being the diligent “parent,” I enrolled the two of us in “Puppy Pre-school.”  Jazzie quickly became the star of the class.  “Wow!” I thought.  “This training will be a piece of cake.”  Of course, once we were home, it was a different story.  As I walked in the kitchen one morning, there on the floor was a book with all the corners chewed to bits.  I recognized the book immediately. How to Train Your Puppy. This was certainly my first sign as to just who was really in charge.

Our Jazzie, just like Latke, really did chew up one of the kids’s favorite dreidels.  Our Jazzie really did tear open Hanukkah presents.  (see photos below)  And our Jazzie, just like Latke, eventually learned the rules. (Well, most of them anyway)  Given the opportunity she would eat the sufganiyot, no matter what the rules were!  And like Latke, my children always came to Jazzie’s defense.  They loved her no matter what.

Anyone who’s had a pet, knows they are more than animals.  They are family members.   And of course, we all know exactly what they would be saying if they could talk. 

So when I got ready to write a story with a dog as “the star,” I had all the material I needed.  I thought it would be really fun to use voice of Latke. (Because they do talk, right?)  Mostly, Latke, the Lucky Dog is a story of unconditional love.  Just as Jazzie gave us, just as we gave her.
 

Nov 3, 2014

A Truly Remarkable Bat Mitzvah!

Our November Book of the Month is Bubbe's Belated Bat Mitzvah, written by Isabel Pinson and illustrated by Valeria Cis. When Naomi convinces her 95-year-old great-grandmother that it’s not too late to become a Bat Mitzvah, all the cousins pitch in to help Bubbe celebrate her big day. While usually it’s the grandmother that teaches the child, in this story the tables are turned and Naomi realizes that she has something very special to teach her great-grandmother.

We love the intergenerational aspect of this story. Naomi and her grandmother have a lot to teach one another, and Naomi's cousins all help Bubbe prepare as well. Bubbe also tells Naomi about the evolution of bat mitzvahs, adding an incredible and fascinating historical aspect to their story. Overall, we cannot recommend this book enough. It's a sweet, touching way to honor and appreciate Bat Mitzvahs and family members of every age.

In celebration of Bubbe's Belated Bat Mitzvah, we've included a book trailer and guest post from the author below! Pick up a copy for your family here or at your local Judaica store!


"I never intended to write a children’s book – it happened quite by accident. 

My mother, Esther Silverman, at the age of 95 was studying to become a Bat Mitzvah when I was asked if I would write a children’s story about the event.  My “instructions” were to include a multi-generational theme and of course the Bat Mitzvah itself.  I am a preschool librarian and I’ve read hundreds of picture books over the years and I can sense when a story will entice and engage.  Keeping those story elements in mind, I decided to give it a try.

The first draft was very sentimental – no, that wouldn’t do.  I rewrote it and asked a Middle School English teacher for her thoughts; it still wasn’t right.  I went back to the keyboard for another rewrite and this time I asked an established author for her opinion. She was very direct, but I was not comfortable with her writing style criticisms.  After thinking about the story again, I suddenly found my own voice.  Yes, I would write the story from a young girl’s point of view, in this case a great-granddaughter.  Let Bubbe explain the “evolution” of Bat Mitzvah of the women in the child’s family!  Let the child dream about this event for Bubbe!  Let Bubbe imagine herself as a Bat Mitzvah!   And of course, let all the great-grandchildren take part!  The illustrator, Valeria Cis, captured all these scenes in vibrant, expressive illustrations.

My mother, on the other hand, has a different story to tell of her Bat Mitzvah experience.  While reluctant at first to even consider such an idea, she pondered it and she decided to give it a try.  The studying, at the very least, would keep her mind sharp.  She was, in the end, pleasantly surprised.  She was affected by the remarkable young women in her class.  Many were Jews by Choice, all juggling family and professional obligations at the same time. They came with a curiosity, a modern world outlook and an intense spirituality. Esther came to the group with all the values of a traditional Jewish upbringing, living a full, rich, Jewish life.   She tenderly imparted so much to the group – her Jewish knowledge, her hands-on “recipe” for Jewish living, and the wisdom of her years.  She was a wonderful role model for each and every woman in the class.  On their Bat Mitzvah day, not only did these women prove their Jewish learning to all their family and friends, but they gracefully showed their respect for each other.  What a wonderful example for Bubbe’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren to emulate! 
Mazal Tov to Bubbe and to the b’not mitzvah on this milestone!"

Oct 15, 2014

7 Activities for Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah is just a few days away, and this year a very special book has us incredibly excited for the holiday - The Patchwork Torah. You can read more about it and see a book trailer below. We've also put together a handful of kid-friendly activities to help you celebrate at home or in the classroom!

Candy Torah Scrolls
A sweet (literally!) and easy way for children to make their own miniature Torah scrolls, this activity is great for the classroom as children can manage it without much help. When they've paraded with their scrolls, they'll have a treat to enjoy as well! From Challah Crumbs.

A Torah Poster
This poster can be used year-round, or just on Simchat Torah, to remind children of all the stories the Torah contains. Putting the poster together on Simchat Torah is a great way to commemorate the past year of Torah readings, or it can be used to review and preview what will be read in the coming year!

Felt Torahs
Another sweet way for children to make their own miniature Torahs to celebrate with, these felt Torahs are more durable and lasting than the candy Torah scrolls. From JewishKids.org





Torah Blintzes or Sandwich Rolls
Celebrate Simchat Torah with a quick and fun snack - there are a slew of recipes on the Internet, including this one for blintzes with pretzel sticks, and this one, for turkey sandwich rolls with carrot sticks.

Candy Apples
Remember how sweet it is to learn the Torah with candy apples! Prepared ahead of time, they can even be used to top children's miniature flags for Simchat Torah celebrations. Try traditional candy apples, or try caramel apples for a just as sweet but less sticky treat.

Color the Israeli Flag
Israeli flags are also an important part of Simchat Torah celebrations. Use this printable flag and have children color their own to carry.

Read a Good Book!
Simchat Torah celebrates the Torah, the Jewish people's favorite story to read again and again - so what better holiday to celebrate with a good book? Our October Book of the Month is The Patchwork Torah. Take a look at the book trailer below, featuring beautiful art by Elsa Oriol, and find it on the Kar-Ben website.
 
 
You can also celebrate Simchat Torah with everyone's favorite spider in Sammy Spider's First Simchat Torah. Learn along with Sammy as he watches Josh Shapiro get ready with his own flag and candy apple, and learns about why the Torah is the Jewish people's favorite story.

Oct 8, 2014

The Story Behind the Patchwork Torah

Our October book of the month is The Patchwork Torah, by Allison Ofanansky. There are so many things we love about this book! It has warm, beautiful illustrations that accompany a touching and unique intergenerational story. Books for Simchat Torah aren't that easy to come by, but this is a great one, as it features two celebrations of the holiday. A message about recycling means that this book is a good fit for the spring and Earth Day as well. Below, watch the book trailer and read a guest post from author Allison Ofanansky about her inspiration for this very special story!



"The story of the Patchwork Torah was inspired by a real Torah put together from rescued and repaired remnants of old and damaged scrolls. Like the scroll that David puts together in the story, this Torah contains sections that were written by a number of soferim (scribes) that lived in different times and places. We don’t know the stories behind the sections in this Torah. The stories of the scrolls that David collects in the book are made up, though some are based on real historic events (the Holocaust, Hurricane Katrina).

A real patchwork Torah was purchased by my community in Tzfat, Israel in 2009. There are many Torah scrolls in synagogues in the city of Tzfat, but these are strictly Orthodox and women can’t come up for an aliyah or read from the Torah or dance with it on holidays. So a group of friends decided to buy a Torah to which women could have access.

We held an auction to raise money. People donated things to be auctioned off. (I donated some of the books in the Nature in Israel series.) Then we bid to buy each others’ donations (I bought a funny wax sculpture). We raised a fair amount of money at the auction, but not enough for a new Torah scroll, which costs between $15,000 and $30,000. Then we heard about a ‘recycled’ Torah which had been put together with parts of several damaged scrolls to make a whole, kosher Torah. We had enough money to buy it!

Once we got this Torah, we realized how special and beautiful it is. Throughout the year, as we read through the scroll, we can see the distinctive calligraphy of seven soferim who wrote various parts (three large sections and four small ones). Some wrote simple letters, others added fancy decorations. Even though there are strict laws for writing a kosher Torah, and each letter must be perfect, there is still room for soferim to express their individual styles. This Torah suits our community, because we also come from many different places, with our own individual styles, and together make something new.

We have enjoyed celebrating with this Torah over the past few years. My daughter Aravah (whose pictures you may have seen in my Nature in Israel books) read from it at her bat mitzvah. All four of her grandparents came up for an aliyah. On Simchat Torah, women and girls dance with the scroll. I’ve seen women who never had a chance before to touch a Torah scroll cradling it like a baby, with tears in their eyes.

I’d like to imagine that David’s granddaughter, who gives him the idea to make the recycled Torah, will read from their patchwork Torah at her bat mitzvah—maybe even become a sofer herself! (On women scribes-- soferot -- see http://www.womenstorah.com/)"
Aravah reading from the real ‘patchwork Torah’ at her bat mitzvah, with both her grandmothers beside her.
Aravah holding the Torah at her bat mitzvah.
Photographs by Eliyhu Alpern, 2012