Sep 23, 2013

Celebrating Simchat Torah with Reading - and Sammy Spider!

Reading to children has some amazing benefits. Stories introduce new words and ideas to children, and can help them learn about complex concepts and develop their own imagination. Strong readers are able to participate fully in class, and as a result can develop more confidence as well. Reading is relaxing and a wonderful way for a child to spend quiet time alone or to have one-on-one time with a parent. On Simchat Torah we finish reading the Torah - the Jewish people's favorite story! - and begin again. Just as your little one may have a favorite story that s/he wants you to read over, the Torah plays that role for Jewish people.

What better time to help a child discover their favorite book than during Simchat Torah? If you're looking for a new book, try the Children's Books Guide list of the Top 100 Children's Books of All Time.

Looking for a book for Simchat Torah? Read Sammy Spider's First Simchat Torah!

Sammy Spider crawls down his web to inspect the candy apple Josh has attached to his Simchat Torah flag. When Josh leaves for synagogue, he doesn't notice the spider stuck to his apple! Atop Josh's flag, Sammy joins the Simchat Torah parade, dances with the Torah, and learns about this very special holiday in the Jewish year. Yound readers will learn how Simchat Torah is celebrated, as Jews finish reading their "favorite book," the Torah, and start all over again, just as Josh loves to do with his own books! 

Celebrate Simhat Torah with Josh and Sammy!

From his miniature Torah scroll to making candy apples with his mother, Josh celebrates Simchat Torah many ways. As you read along, you can participate as well!

Make a Miniature Torah Scroll

You will need: rolls of Smarties, colorful paper, ribbon

Cut paper into 4 1/2 x 2 inch strips. Roll two packs of Smarties into the paper and tie with ribbon.

Candy Apples

You will need:
10 small red apples
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup water
8 drops red food coloring
10 small wooder dowels or popsicle sticks
1 sheet of wax paper

Wash and dry apples. Insert dowels or sticks. Mix sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan (deep enough to dip the apples) and bring to a boil. Add food coloring, and boil for 20 minutes. Do not stir. Remove pan from stove. Dip the apples one at a time and place on wax paper to cool.

Color the Israeli Flag

Printable flag available here.

Sep 17, 2013

Thinking of Engineer Ari in Jerusalem

Kar-Ben friend and Engineer Ari fan Kathe recently wrote us about the newly renovated Jerusalem train station. She said it made her think of the Engineer Ari books, and it certainly reminded us of them as well!

The History
On August 27, 1892, the first train steamed into Jerusalem from Jaffa, carrying passengers and cargo. A month later, during the High Holidays, the railway officially opened. The train shortened the trip between the Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem from 3 days to 3 1/2 hours. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, who lived in Jerusalem at the time, coined the word rakevet (train) from the Biblical word for "chariot."

The railway began as a modest operation with three train built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. It was rumored that the trains were originally intended for the first Panama Canal project. When this project failed, the trains were shipped to Jaffa instead. The railway was 55 miles long, made 6 stops between Jaffa and Jerusalem, and rose nearly 2500 feet as it curved up through the Judean mountains.

In 1998, the Jerusalem-Jaffa railway and the Jerusalem Railway Station were closed, and the station lay neglected for many years.

In May 2013, however, the Jerusalem train station was newly renovated, incorporating modern shops, restaurants, and other attractions into the historic site, making the old station into a hub of activity as a cultural and entertainment center.

Engineer Ari
Enigineer Ari has had many different adventures on the railway, but Enigneer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride highlights a particular moment in history - the opening of the railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem - and this particular train station.

In Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride, Engineer Ari has been chosen to drive the very first train from Jaffa to Jerusalem - what an honor! But after boasting to his fellow engineers, he forgets to say good-bye. As he journeys up and down the hills wishing everyone a Happy New Year, he remembers that Rosh Hashanah is a time for turning around and saying you're sorry.

Other Engineer Ari titles include Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap and Engineer Ari and the Sukkah Express, available at

Thank you for the photos, Kathe!

Sep 10, 2013

Helping Young Children Say "I'm Sorry" - Especially on Yom Kipppur

Saying "I'm sorry" can be one of the most difficult lessons to learn. Even as adults, we sometimes struggle with those two simple words, so it's reasonable for this to be just as tough as children, if not more so.

Children should learn to acknowledge when they've done something they shouldn't have or hurt someone, whether it was an accident or on purpose. Yom Kippur is a wonderful time to introduce the idea of saying "I'm sorry" to children; when children are not yet old enough to observe fasting on Yom Kippur, there are still ways to include them in observance of the holiday, such as focusing on the idea of repentance.

Books can be an easy and gentle way to begin a conversation with your child and provide kid-friendly examples of when and how to apologize. These stories explore saying "I'm sorry," and the characters in these books each have a different imeptus for needing to apologize - one is an accident, one comes from misbehaving, and one as a result of thoughtlessly hurting a friend's feelings.

For more about teaching children the importance of a genuine "I'm sorry," see this article from Kveller, which also highlights Tashlich at Turtle Rock.

Tashlich at Turtle Rock
by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman, illustrated by Alex Steele-Morgan

Annie is excited about the Tashlich ceremony on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, when her family will walk to Turtle Rock Creek and throw crumbs into the water, as symbols of mistakes made the past year. As Annie leads her family through the woods stopping at favorite rocks, bridges, and waterfalls in her family's own Tashlich ritual, they think about the good and bad things that happened during the past year, and make plans for a sweeter new year.

The Hardest Word
by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

The Ziz, a wonderful bird who lived long ago, is so big and clumsy he can't keep from bumping into things. When a tree he knocks over destroys the children's garden, he seeks God's help to fix things. "Bring me the hardest word," God intructs him, and the Ziz flies off to search. He brings back words like rhinocerous, rock, and Rumplestiltskin, but none is acceptable, until he makes an important discovery.

I'm Sorry, Grover: A Rosh Hashanah Tale
By Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer, illustrated by Tom Leigh

Brosh can't find his blue cap, and suspects one of his friends has taken it. When Grover returns the lost item, Brosh is glad that the High Holidays offer him a chance to say "I'm sorry."

Sammy Spider's First Yom Kippur
by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

When Josh breaks the rules and plays ball indoors, he finds himself apologizing not only to his parents, but to Sammy Spider as well.