Monday, July 23, 2012

Saying Good Bye

What I forgot to tell you. In the midst of all of the tumult described in my last post, trips, mourning, new exciting plans for the future, and everything that came in between, I have wrapped up my year as a JSC Fellow in Israel.

At both of the moadoniyot where I worked, I have been blessed to meet a staff with hearts as big as the breadth of their smiles. These are warm, passionate, dedicated, hardworking, caring people who truly make a difference in the young lives of children who so desperately need them. For my part, this year was one where the old cliche rang true- I learned much more from those little people than they learned from me. I tutored many in ESL and math. I worked with all of them on their emotional awareness, coping skills, and future interactions. I opened their eyes to the history, people, and techniques that bring color to the world through art. Together, we worked hard, fought, laughed, yelled, went crazy, fell asleep, got squeezed into heart stopping hugs, and created beautiful things that made the world a bit brighter. And throughout the process, I learned more about my capabilities, instinct to help and learn and grow, and made many friends along the way.

The Festivities Begin

The end of the year was full of celebrations, parties, ceremonies, tears, laughter, emotion, pride, and the most important part, the fruits of the year's labor. It was incredible to watch parents and children's faces alike when they walked around together to view the completed artwork at each of the art exhibits that I helped to organize. The first was in Haifa, organized by the Museum of Art in Haifa where the program originated. They celebrated their success this year with a large ceremony with the families of 15 moadoniyot throughout Haifa and invited many public and municipality leaders and officials. There were presentations and speeches, refreshments, and a beautiful display of the work of every moadonit. I was taken completely by surprise when suddenly I was presented with a gift in front of the entire crowd thanking me for all of my help and hard work. It is a beautifully framed piece of artwork created by one of the children in the program. It now is proudly displayed in my apartment.

A patchwork of all of the monochrome color studies from 15 moadoniyot in Haifa

Still Life Color Studies

Pop Art work with complementary colors

A proud teacher

With Adi, who I worked with closely to write the art lessons

Back in Jerusalem to celebrate our work together, at both moadoniyot where I worked, I created a gallery of student work and also partook in their end of year ceremonies. Below are some pictures and videos that highlight how we celebrated together. I hope that they will warm you and touch you just as deeply as they touched me.

Moadonit Afikim
Bakka, Jerusalem
Our Last Lesson

To wrap up the year, I led the children in a culminating activity where they thought back to all of the techniques and schools of art they had learned throughout the year and chose their favorite in order to decorate a large mural to be permanantly hung on the premisice. Here is the process and the beautiful results.

Getting set up

Reviewing the different techniques we can use (Yup, that's my teacher face)

These boys decided to focus on line.

These girls chose to use the techniques they learned about color, collage, and spot.

Here you can see monochrome color study, pointilism, and still life

A finished section

Another example of pointillism

The finished product!

Moadonit Afikim
Bakka, Jerusalem
End of Year Celebration

Part of the art gallery show of student work.

The children danced, sang, played violin, and made many a presentation, all in front of their parents' proud gaze from the audience. We made a booklet of each child's exquisite artwork and a display gallery of choice pieces for all to see. All in all, it was an emotional evening to remember.

The books of student artwork that we prepared for each child.

O. looking at her year's artwork

A dance some of the girls prepared

Another section of the gallery display

One of my favorite pieces. Girl, 8 years old.

Another cute piece.

The whole group

One of the counselors at the moadonit
With the incredible staff at Afikim

Moadonit TalPaz
Talpiot Mizrach, Jerusalem
End of Year Celebration

During their summer camp, I worked with the children to deepen their skills and understanding of English. Often there is a large dip in learning over the summer, and I took advantage of my time with them to work on oral language, vocabulary, sentence structure, and reading comprehension by creating an all English play based on the book "The Rainbow Fish" by Marcus Pfister. The children participated 100% in the creation of the stage scenery, costumes, and play, which they proudly presented to their parents during our year end celebration. All the decorations were created using the techniques the children had learned throughout the year.

The book and vocabulary card
The stage all set up! (Everything you see was prepared by the children)

The Wise Octopus's cave home

The starfish waiting to give advice

The Rainbow Fish: each scale was created by one child, using the techniques they most enjoyed from this year. You can see use of spot, texture, line, color, and shape. During the play, the each scale was pulled off from their velcro attachments and handed out to the child who made it.

The Little Blue Fish

With the fantastic staff of TalPaz before the show

The first day we read the book both in English and Hebrew, learned essential vocabulary, and over the next few days, had book discussions to delve deeper into the main idea and lesson of the book. We had an interactive forum where children built on one another's ideas and deepened our understanding of the story. 

Then, over the next few weeks, we worked on vocabulary, sentence structure, and presentation skills for the stage to get the play ready. The results were a beautiful play that was both impressive and adorable. I ended up making a gift for each child of a DVD of the play and a slideshow of their art from all the lessons I taught. It made me feel like a proud mom. In addition, I also displayed their artwork from throughout the year in a beautiful gallery that children pulled their parents by the arm to see. It was a lovely afternoon that I will not forget!

Presenting a section of the gallery of student artwork from the year!

A proud teacher, as always

Parents looking with their children at the beautiful work they created!

Preparing for the Rainbow Fish Show
Some short presentations (the gift they gave me was a guide to Jerusalem, hoping that I'll remain in Israel)

Another view of the artwork
 To see the finished Rainbow Fish play, feel free to write me an e-mail and I will be happy to share! It was fantastic!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Hero

With my Saba, age 8
Tonight I lost a piece of me. My beloved Saba, the man who was stitched into the fabric of my being, passed away. Such is the cycle of life and such is its folly- I know that today was just an ordinary day like every other; he must have woken and eaten breakfast, listened to the news, gone around the kibbutz on his kalnoeet, and maybe he worked on his book. I know that he spoke to my Ima and my brother, I know that my cousin and her young daughter saw him and waved to him from afar. And now confusedly, bizarrely, he is gone. I was going to visit him this weekend to celebrate my birthday. I was going to make the same journey that I've made so much this year from Jerusalem to the kibbutz to spend Shabbat with him. There was so much still to say. There was so much still to do. But the important things were said every time we talked and he knew how very much I loved him and I know how very much he loved me.

I sit here writing in shock with waves of memories sweeping around me and all of the things I thought I would still get to share with him hugging themselves around me and making it hard for me to breath. The title of this blog is "The Way Back Home." There are many interpretations of it and they are all true, but the thing that was most true is that he was my home. He and my Savta. They are the ones, more than any others, who shaped who I am and shaded in my picture book of life. I hope they have met in a valley somewhere,  surrounded by shining fields of wild flowers and a young happy sun tipping its brilliant light over them and warming their faces. I hope they are together and that they can feel my bursting love.

My Saba grew up in Shavli, Lithuania and devoted his life to the Zionist dream. He survived the inferno of the Holocaust and together with my Savta was one of those that fought to establish the Jewish State, built up a kibbutz, and started a loving family. His pursuits in education were widespread and far-reaching, first with his brilliance as teacher and principal of the kibbutz school and later on as creator of a new progressive high school and then as Head of Pedagogy in the Ministry of Education. He was a diplomat and a PhD in Yiddish Literature. He was the head of the kibbutz. He helped shape and lead a Zionist youth movement. He was the author of ten books. He established hundreds of ulpanesque schools in the former USSR and helped Russian Immigrants prepare for aliyah. But most of all he was the warmest, most caring, most eloquent, thoughtful, and insightful husband and father and grandfather a person could have. He was brilliant and had that spark of a true leader who in his heyday commanded the room through his charisma. If I manage to be even a tenth of the educator, leader, writer, speaker, and role model that he was I will have accomplished my goals. He was simply one of a kind.

But a tribute to my Saba and all that he was would take up all of the spaces between the words that I write. He had so much wisdom and knowledge and every moment with him was an opportunity to be a little more enlightened. I came to Israel this year for so many reasons, but the most important one was to be with him. I thankfully knew what a blessing each conversation was and I tried to live up to my word and see him as much as I could. We would sit in my Savta's garden with her roses hovering over us and talk. We would eat piles of fruit and he would always wonder why I wasn't eating more. We would discuss literature and history and politics and education and of course, the Holocaust. And I am so very grateful that he was able to see me this year. I think he re-met me. I am so lucky to have had this time.

He was all "meydeleh, meydelehs" and "heh, heh, hehs" when he laughed, he was all sparkling eyes that lit up when you got him going about something that excited him. He was all fascinating trinkets of history and deep thoughts and ideas. His life story and that of my Savta was the stuff of legends. I was lucky enough to hear that story every year of my life. Every year, whether we visited them or they came to us I would sit on his lap and hear their story. And it shaped me through and through. I am a proud, devoted, passionate member of Am Yisrael because of them and I know how precious family is.

It is two in the morning and he has been gone not even three hours. I feel cold and hollow without him. I do not yet feel warmed. I can't believe he is gone. I simply am numb with denial. But there is the spark that was this year. The collection of my moments with my Saba are so bright with love and adoration that they threaten to blind me. I so wish I could turn back the hand of time and muster some more. Time is so precious. Go share of yourselves with the ones you love and try to learn everything you can from them. Tell them how special they are to you every time you talk. And as tribute to my Saba tonight, I wish you all the beauty of that precious moment with the ones that you love.

I love you so, so, so much Saba of mine. You and Savta were the apex of my world in so many ways. I will so miss your warm kisses and laughter and the brilliant shine of your wise eyes and the many special moments we shared. I am so grateful for them. You were the stuff of epic poems and the hero of so many. I promise to make you proud. I will carry on your legacy and you will live on through me.