A Tale of Two Strudels

Dessert and Other German Adventures

Posts tagged Chagim

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Last Sunday, Bambinim celebrated Tu Bishvat — twice!  

Our first event that day was led in Hebrew and in conjunction with an Israeli family center in Berlin, Kumsitz.  The space was beautiful and about 40 children attended!  You can imagine the mayhem that resulted, but hopefully my pictures will also give you an idea of what beautiful activities we had that day.  First, the kids sang a few Tu Bishvat songs and heard a Tu Bishvat story, and then after a short fruit snack break, we got started on the arts and crafts.  First the kids made cookies, which we put on skewers before we baked; then they decorated flower pots; then they put a cupcake in the flowerpot, stuck their skewered cookie in the cupcake, and decorated their baked goods!  As pretty as a flower but better-tasting!  They also did a fair amount of coloring, decorated wooden tree figures, and used different kinds of fruit to make faces on oranges, kind of like Mr. Potato Head with real produce.  

A little later, the Bambinim team held a second event, this time at a different family center in East Berlin and with the (wo)man power of a few Bambinim moms, who had volunteered to help plan the event.  It was great for us to be able to engage families who live far away and for whom it is difficult to get to Bambinim with their children, and it seemed like they were about as excited to be there as we were.  This event was smaller in numbers, but not lesser in enthusiasm, and it was lovely to see how quickly a warm environment developed.  First, the kids painted flower pots, which we set to dry for later, before we moved on to a story about Tu Bishvat and then to a tree-decorating activity.  Then, we did a little bit of singing and dancing before clearing the table for our Tu Bishvat Seder.  We went through it with the children, explaining the significance of the different cups of wine/grape juice and fruits on the table.  Then, we sat down to a meal to which each family had contributed something - we had pastries, hummus, couscous salad, and more.  There were even waffles with powdered sugar for dessert!  Then, before the kids left, we took out the flower pots they had painted and repotted some pretty flowers into them for the families to take home.

Although I had a great time at both events, I was pretty Tu Bishvat’ed-out after.  I have noticed since, though, that the weather has gotten a little more pleasant and that my mind has been focused more on the coming few months, and all these little things are coming together to make it feel like spring really on its way.

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Our third Hanukkah event was in the north part of the city and it was during Hanukkah - on Christmas day, actually!  There were many new faces, a festive atmosphere, and we got to light candles together!  It was a great way to spend Christmas/Hanukkah.

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Hanukkah with the (Bambinim) Fam

This year for Hanukkah, Bambinim collaborated with the Jewish Community of Berlin to put together a family program that would be accessible to everyone.  As soon as the High Holidays were over, the first planning meetings took place.  The result was really amazing – three events in three different neighborhoods, with a puppet show, music, playing, food, and socializing.  It was really great!

The first event we had was in Kreuzberg, a neighborhood to the east, where our target audience was families for whom the Bambinim space is a little too far west but who are still interested in our programs.  It was fantastic.

The afternoon opened with a some singing, led by the beautiful puppet Judy, the Hanukkah Fairy. 

Next, Sandra, the moderator, invited Professor Steinein onto the stage – Professor Steinein was an original stone from the walls of the Temple, so he told the children how things really happened back in the days of the Maccabees. 

After Professor Steinein left the stage, Sandra said, “On my way here, I saw the strangest thing – a flying suitcase!  Did any of you see it?”  And with that, Keren the Puppet (with the help of Razia) flew onto the stage in her suitcase.  Keren is a little girl from Jerusalem, and she told the children that she lived in Antiochusland in Jerusalem.  She ended up here when she was trying to run away from her Greek teacher, who told her that she couldn’t believe in the Jewish God anymore or speak Hebrew and that her new name was Katharina.  She told him she wasn’t changing her name and ran off and jumped into this suitcase and when she came out she was in Berlin! 

When Keren finished telling the kids her story, she noticed something in the suitcase – an empty jar of oil, escaped from the desecrated Temple, avoiding Antiochus’ soldiers!  The suitcase takes the two of them to outer space, where they visit the Sun and learn that she is sick because the Menorah in Jerusalem is going out. 

Keren and the jug take it upon themselves to find a way to relight the Menorah and heal the sun.  A treasure map made out of dried flecks of oil on the jug tells them that the solution is in Berlin.  

Back in Berlin, Keren and the jug interact with the audience as they look for the treasure.  When they find it, it is a chest full of light.  They fill the jug with the light and fly back to Jerusalem, where Judah Maccabee is lamenting the lack of oil in the Temple.  Keren gives him the jug and he lights the Menorah and just like that the day is saved!  Light is brought back and conquers the darkness, the sun is healed, and the kids are sent off to eat Sufganiot!

After a short break, Sandra and the children completed a big puzzle together – a puzzle of Judah Maccabee lighting the Menorah! 

Then we used a lottery to give out a few prizes – a book, a handmade Hanukkiah, and a tree donated by KKL, who also collaborated on the event.  Children who did not get prizes got Hanukkah Geld and then we sent them off to paint their own Hanukkiot!


It was really a beautiful event and the kids were totally engaged.  They loved the puppets and were so excited to touch them and interact with them. The first event was about two weeks before Hanukkah and yet the holiday spirit was very quick to take over.  It was great to be part of the event and very exciting to see both old and new faces in a new space!

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This week at Shabbat Playgroup, we changed things up for Hanukkah.  We told the children that Safta Yocheved was visiting her family in Israel, so instead Razia put on a little puppet show for the kids - “The Searching Sufganiya,” about a little sufganiya looking for a holiday that suits her.  Afterwards, each of the kids made a little sufganiya puppet and then we let candles and decorated (and ate) real sufganiyot!

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Simchat Torah at Bambinim!

…was all about the letter Bet.  There is a story that before the Torah was written, all of the letters came before God to make the case for why they should be the first letter in the Torah.  Alas, God found one to be too haughty, and another was the start of a negative word, and so on and so forth.  That is, until it was Bet’s turn.  Because of Bet’s humility, and because it is the beginning of the word Beracha, or blessing, it is Bet’s privilege to open the Torah for us with the word Bereshit.

This is the story we opened our Simchat Torah event with for our families this past Friday.

The letters argued viciously (and in German) as we thought about what good and bad words began with each, until we got to Bet.

Then we took out the Torah to look at this Bet and to talk about the Torah as a book that we are so excited to start again as soon as we finish!  

But enough talk - what Simchat Torah is really about is dancing with the Torah, right? We did that as well, but you will have to imagine it since I couldn’t take any pictures just then.

Since this was also a Friday afternoon, we went off to the kitchen then to bake Challah for Shabbat…

…and then we made little accordion books into Bereshit, the story of creation!  Each child was given an accordion books and some materials with which to decorate each page - black and white stripes for the first day and the separation of light and dark, little fishes and wings for the fifth day with the fishes and the fowls, and so on - and the result was really great!  The best part is that since these were accordion books, the last page and the first page could be connected, just like we do with the Torah when we finish it and start it again!

This was a really fun event but a short one - it went by so fast that it was hard to remember until after that this is the last of the fall holidays and that we won’t have another one until Hanukkah!  So strange!  We’ve had nothing but holidays for a whole month, and while I’m glad for the change of pace, part of me already misses the constant special occasions.  

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Sukkot at Bambinim, Take 2

Last Wednesday morning, we had 12 children from a local Jewish kindergarten over at Bambinim to come celebrate Sukkot with us!  We did a similar program to the one we held on Sunday for Sukkot and we had a great time.  This is a slightly different service than the one Bambinim usually provides, as it is through a partnership with a school rather than with our usual group of families, and I was so excited to see us work with the community in a different way.

The first thing we did was make name-tag buttons.  This is not very Sukkot-themed - we were just excited to have been lent a button machine for two weeks and we wanted to use it!  Note the little Bambinim logos on the buttons, though.

As with Sunday, we learned how to shake the Lulav and got to smell the Etrog…

…and then it was off to the kitchen to make some celebratory date cakes.  After that, Razia, Ariella, and Keren the Puppet from Jerusalem brought us the story of Keren’s search for a beautiful Etrog and the adventures that this search sparks.

After, we made flags with the Arba Minim on them…

…and decorated the Sukkah with potato stamps and paint!

Afterwards, we danced around the Sukkah with the Arba Minim flags!

After a few more Sukkot songs, we ate the date cakes, and then it was time to say goodbye (unfortunately).  I like to think that they went home and said to themselves (or their parents!), “Yeah, that was totally a fun field trip!”  I know I had a great time and that I’d love to participate in more events like this, where we work with kids through the framework of a school or kindergarten.

Next up: Simchat Torah!

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Sukkot at Bambinim, Take 1

This past Sunday, we had a large group of families come to celebrate Sukkot with us, and even though we are all tired from the streak of Jewish holidays that is just finishing to pass by, this event really cheered me up and made me excited to be here for Sukkot.

When the kids first came in, we sang some songs together and learned each other’s names.  Then, Razia and Flora spoke to the kids about the Arba Minim, the Lulav, Etrog, Arava, and Hadas.  

We talked about these four plants from Israel that we use in our holiday celebration and about the idea that each of them corresponds to a body part.  ”Did you know,” Flora asked the kids, “that each person has a spine?  Where is the spine?  And do you know what body part the Lulav looks like?”

After this lesson, we learned to shake the Lulav together.  With the aid of Flora’s guitar we were able to sing the directions to shake in and dance with the Lulav and Etrog.

Next, we made colorful chains together to hang in our Sukkah!

After, we connected all of our little chains to make one really long chain and processed to the Sukkah to hang it up!  Some playtime in the decorated Sukkah ensued.

Then, we baked little rolled up date cakes, since the Lulav is leaves of the date palm, which the kids got very excited about once they were able to verify that the date paste was indeed made of dates and not some mysterious substance.

Razia and her puppet Keren from Jerusalem then put on a little play for the kids with the help of Ariella.  

In this story, Keren’s mother asks her to go to the Shuk to buy a beautiful Etrog with the 500 Shekels she has saved up.  On the way to the Shuk, Keren finds a group of people who are very sad because their favorite bakery has a broken oven and the owner does not have enough money to fix it.  Keren knows she has enough money and must decide between buying a beautiful Etrog and making her mother happy and giving the store owner money to fix the oven and making the people of Jerusalem happy.  Never fear, though - in the end, all is well with both the baked goods and the Etrogim.

Then, the older kids went to make little Sukkot out of sticks, while the younger kids went to make more chains (with me!).

The little Sukkot were beautifully decorated, with feathers and pipe cleaners and tiny wire flowers; in the end, the children made little hearts out of clay to put under their Sukkot.  (This is also the point at which my camera battery died.)

After a little more song singing, we brought out the cakes and had a light Kiddush together.  We would have had it in the Sukkah, but, sadly, it is a child-sized Sukkah.

I love Sukkot because it is a holiday that really engages the senses.  Each holiday has its particular tastes, sounds, smells, sights, and textures, but this is very apparent on Sukkot.  The smells of the Etrog and the Hadasim are wonderful; we still eat apples with honey and, I learned at Bambinim, dates too; the Sukkah is already a beautiful structure which we are to make even more beautiful with our decorations; there are a lot of wonderful Sukkot songs and the unmistakeable sound of a shaking Lulav; and of course, between the Sukkah and the four Minim, there is no shortage on touching and textures on Sukkot either, especially if you shake the Lulav or help build a Sukkah.  This immediacy of Sukkot makes it a wonderful holiday to experience with children, and I’ve really felt this element of Sukkot jumping out at me as I get the chance to plan and celebrate Sukkot at Bambinim.

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This past Thursday, during our Spielcafé, we had some families over to help us decorate the Bambinim Sukkah.  We used paintbrushes and stamps made out of potatoes.  We all had a great time - there was a big pile of toys and children in the Sukkah for a while afterwards.

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Yom Kippur at Bambinim

A lovely group of families joined us on Sunday to celebrate Yom Kippur at Baminim.  It was a belated celebration but nevertheless enthusiastic.

After some singing in a circle, we explained that Yom Kippur is a time to think about what you have done this year that you would like to change for next year and what you have done this year that you are proud of and would like to continue.  We had a model scale with a black plate and a white plate and we asked the kids to draw a good thing or a bad thing that they did this past year and put their card on the scale.  Turns out we are a community of very good people – the scale was definitely heavier on the good side!  Our kids did all kinds of nice things, like make a new friend at Kindergarten, or bake a cake with mom, or share a toy with little brother, or be nice to the cat, in 5771.  This is all behavior, we have been assured, that we should expect to see continue in 5772.


Then, we baked sugar cookies in the shape of keys with the kids.  We did some creative work with the cookie cutter selection and as a result we had some very interestingly shaped but nevertheless delicious key cookies at the end of the day.  The keys are, of course, the keys to the gates of heaven which close after Yom Kippur!


Then, Razia and her puppet Keren from Jerusalem introduced us to the Tree of Life and we learned together about where prayers come from.  After the play, the kids made Chamsot out of play-dough (which I made in the Bambinim kitchen all by myself!) by making a handprint in the dough and decorating it with beads.  When the Chamsot dry, the kids will be able to hang them in their homes!

 After the activity, we recreated the Tashlich ritual for the kids with a ceramic basin painted and shaped to look like a river (even with a little fish in the middle!), which we filled with water.  We had the kids throw cornflakes into the water (we had no breadcrumbs) to symbolize the things about themselves that they wanted to get rid of for next year (although I suspect that the simple fun of throwing cornflakes into a basin of water rather than remorse accounts for most of the breadcrumbs in our river).  As always, some snacks and songs and a handing out of the baked goods to their creators rounded off the event. 

But I don’t want to dwell too much on Yom Kippur – our Sukkot event is on Sunday and we are focusing on that now!

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