Talmud Torah Times Jan/Feb 2024 Newsletter


Tu B’Shevat

Natalie Talmud Torah Society
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A significant portion of the bursaries families receive are funded by the annual UJA campaign. Todah Rabah!


Dear Families, Alumni, Supporters and Friends,

I hope the start of 2024 has been good to you. It’s so hard to believe we are at the end of February! Here in Edmonton, we’ve experienced winter in all variations, from -50 °C to +10 °C, and everything in between. It will be interesting to see what March brings us!

Please enjoy the TT Times.

Natalie Soroka, Executive Assistant, TT Society

Message from Noga Vaisblat

President, Talmud Torah Society

cropped Noga Head Shot Talmud Torah Society

Dear families,

I hope you have managed to stay warm the past couple of weeks. The weather seems to have gone a bit crazy this winter.

A lot is going on behind the scenes in our school and all board committees are in full swing. It is only March, but we are already looking towards next year! I am sure you have all received the Society’s registration form. I ask that you please complete it at your earliest convenience, as this will help us plan our resource allocation for next academic year.

On this front, I am very happy to share that the Board is working to bring two bnot sherut (בנות שירות) to the school for the coming year. These are young Israeli women in National Volunteer Service known as Sherut Leumi in Hebrew. Their arrival depends on approval from the Israeli ministry of interior as the program is a recognized alternative to military service. The contribution of the bnot sherut is highly valued in other schools around North America (including Canada). We expect this will be a fantastic addition to our ELC, our school and our community, bringing an injection of enthusiastic Zionistic youth, increasing the usage of Hebrew, and taking on special roles in the school. I would like to thank principal Johnston for his support and guidance as we work to bring this project to fruition. I would also like to thank Rabbi Tal for bringing this option to our attention and to Tanya Ghermezian who connected us with the program coordinators.

Our Prayer and Bible implementation guide, developed by the Education Committee and our curriculum advisor (Nurit Reshef), are now complete. These documents provide concrete and specific details as well as examples to assist teachers in planning part of their Judaic Studies lessons, on top of the very broad objectives at each grade level that are in the EPSB locally developed courses. Next, the committee, together with Nurit, will be focusing on developing student assessments of learning.

The HR Committee and ELC committee continue to develop internal policies and support our employees, and the Finance Committee ensures our budget is on track.

We have been working hard to guarantee security services to the school and were successful in applying for both provincial and federal grants to the tune of $34,000. This, in combination with generous donations from our valued community members and some help from the Jewish Federation, have allowed us to provide continuous security services since the beginning of October. We will keep up our efforts to identify and apply for grants, but I do need to stress that the support of the community is absolutely vital if security is to be maintained, since all the funds gathered so far will have been used by March 8th! If you are able, please consider donating here. Any funds collected for security will be used for this purpose only.

Looking forward to spring!

Noga Vaisblat Talmud Torah Society

Noga Vaisblat, PhD.

Message from Darin Johnson

Principal, Talmud Torah School

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Dear TT community,

It is exciting to share a mid-year learning and school update for all of our community. We continue to work toward our school goals. Each day we see students improving their literacy and numeracy skills as well as their wellness knowledge. We are collecting evidence of our learning on our display boards in the front entrance. Students have effectively used technology to demonstrate their learning in all their subjects including science, Hebrew and Judaic Studies. 

It has been wonderful to see our students all outside once again for recess. We greatly appreciate the support we have received from parents and the community to keep our students safe. Members of the Talmud Torah Society have worked tirelessly to organize the additional safety measures.

Logistically, we are in preparations for the next school year. Our modified calendar, which is based on the published Edmonton Public Schools calendar, has been submitted for approval. We are asking parents to pre-enrol their children for next year by March 22. Our Kindergarten Open House was well attended and demonstrated the partnership we have with Talmud Torah Society.  

As we plan for next year it is important to have feedback. Alberta Education and Edmonton Public Schools both have surveys open for staff, students and parents. If you have not had the chance please add your voice. A link to the survey is provided in SchoolZone (see post from March 5th).

I received a beautiful handwritten thank you card in the mail. In the card a retired teacher explained how one of our students brightened her and her husband’s day with a generous act of kindness. There are many ways our students are supporting their community. Our Tu B’Shevat campaign was a success and a great learning opportunity for our Grade 6 leaders. Many parents have been involved in our School Council which enhances the learning experience for our students. 

Darin Johnson, M.Ed.

Tu B’Shevat at TT

By: Natalie Soroka

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Tu Bishvat is the Jewish holiday of the “new year for trees”. It has its own special set of meaningful and long-standing customs and traditions. Tu Bishvat is considered a ‘minor holiday’ and signifies a reminder of how the Sages make a comparison between humans and trees. It is also a day to show appreciation to the environment and the world.

Learning about and celebrating Tu B’Shevat ט״ו בִּשְׁבָט at Talmud Torah began the week before with a visit from Yifat Bear Millar, Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada’s Education Emissary (National Shlicha). Yifat’s primary objective is to “strengthen Canada’s connection to Israel and to the Israeli people”.

For as long as we can remember, Yifat has visited TT to educate our students about Israel. This year’s visit was even more meaningful and important.

The day started out by kindergarten students taking a fun Trip in Israel, where they had fun driving a remote controlled car to different parts of Israel.

Next, Gr. 3 students participated in Israchute. The class all held a parachute with places in Israel, while answering questions and getting the opportunity to have fun underneath! Yifat presented grades 4,5 and 6 with the fun and interactive program, Water in Jerusalem. Grouped into teams, they alternated getting as many cups of water as possible into a bigger tub of water on the other side of the room. The challenge was increased by having to climb up on chairs and back down again, simulating mountains and water travelling from high to low ground. They learned how Israeli water technology solves issues of getting water to where it’s needed to grow plants and crops.

Gr. 1 learned all about birds and migration during the program presented virtually by Yossi Leshem, the founder and Director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun, Israel. Yifat presented the Gr. 2 class with a hands-on Israel floor map activity, while the 5/6 class also participated in the program, Water in Jerusalem.

One of the leadership opportunities our Gr. 6 students look forward to each year is JNF’s Annual Tu B’Shevat Tree Campaign. With the assistance of Jay Cairns, Executive Director of JNF-Edmonton, and Moreh Ari Sniderman, student tree leaders use their recess time to create a tree campaign they present to classes. As they do each year, tree leaders created an educational and motivational video to encourage tree donations. They visited each classroom to talk about how important trees are to our environment and to Israel specifically. This year, JNF’s Annual Tu B’Shevat School Campaign is about renewal and hope, and each tree donated will be planted in the Be’eri Memorial Forest near Kibbutz Be’eri, in memory of the lives lost on October 7th. “On an environmental level planting trees helps to combat the footprint that each one of us continues to make in the world, a small act of kindness to the planet earth for providing sustenance”, stated Jay Cairns. Tree leaders collected donation envelopes from classrooms, and students who donated had the opportunity to add leaves to JNF’s large tree poster. Each year, our TT community, and beyond, steps up and donates to this important initiative. This year 345 trees have been donated to date. Kol Hakavod!

In addition to these exciting all-school initiatives, individual classes sang songs, learned and celebrated Tu B’Shevat traditions. In Gr. 1 Morah Robin held a Tu B’Shevat Seder with her students. It is customary to eat from shiv’at ha’minim (seven species endemic to the Land of Israel): wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates. The grade 1 students sampled cookies (representing wheat/barley), dates, olives, raisins (representing grapes), figs, pomegranate seeds, as well as other fresh fruit.

Read more about our Tu B’Shevat activities at TT…

Shabbat at TT

TT families support our Shabbat program in different ways, such as sponsoring weekly challah, or volunteering to pick up our weekly challah order from Bliss Baked Goods and deliver to the school. Todah Rabah!

We would like to thank the following individuals and supporters who sponsored challah in Jan/Feb so our K-6 classes can celebrate Shabbat together:

Susan Baram (in honour of her grandchildren Ben and Gabi); Marni and Doug Kondor (in honour of their children Ben and Gabi); Michael Schayer (in honour of 4th generation TT Schayer children Samara and Cole); Rabbi Gila & Ariel Kiel Caine; The Coppens/Muscat family; and Stacy Shaikin of Camp BB.

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TT Babies

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We love new babies!

This little one will be joining the TT family in the Early Learning Centre when she turns 12 months.

Her siblings are so excited that she will be joining them at TT soon, and loves wearing the TT lion baby bib she received as a gift from the TT Society.

Alumni Highlight

Back in early January 2024, I reached out to Dave Lyons, TT Class of ’49, to see if he would be interested in updating the TT community on what he has been up to the past 75+ years. Even though he mentioned he is “quite a busy guy for an alta kuker”, he was generous with his time in providing me with a few TT memories, and a wonderful summary of his education, work and personal life.

“At 85, my memories of TT are a bit dim. I remember taxis to 103 Street where the first building was. I did love school, and with one exception, the teachers. There was one chap who could not abide anything but the strictest self discipline from us. It was some years later that I connected his strictness with the Holocaust. [During recesses] we used to etch a marble course into the sand so we could play marbles. It was quite extensive, like a miniature golf course. I was privileged from time to time to walk the two blocks to the Edmonton Journal printers to get tail end rolls of newsprint for the school. I was allowed to use the gelatine hectograph (old copy machine) which my mother disliked because I sometimes came home with ink on my clothes. When the school moved to just south of Stony Plain Road, it was close enough to our house that I could bike to it, or walk in the winter. When I graduated and went to junior high school I found it strange that it was all in English.”

David Lyons Talmud Torah Society

I studied Electronic Engineering at the U of A and did well my first two years. Summertimes were taken up being in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as an officer cadet. I got to do stuff like jumping out of an airplane. Most of the work was electronic and radar. In my third year I did so badly that I was told never to darken their door again. I spent the next year in the Yukon working for Canadian National Telecommunications (CNT). I begged my way back into the university and did well in my repeated third year.”

The beginning of my fourth year was great, but not for academic reasons. I found myself with a girlfriend, Roberta Sheps, from Calgary. We married after graduation and, 62 years later, we still are. I developed hardware and software skills by working on the first mini computer (DEC PDP8), and then worked at the brand new Bell Canada Research Institute in the computer section. Then there was a three year appointment to the Atomic Energy Research Station (non-military) in the UK.”

Dave and Roberta were blessed with two children; Vivenne was born in 1969 just before they moved from Berkshire to Essex, England. Dave taught the first computer sicence course for undergraduates in the UK. They then adopted their son Tony (after an 18 month search). Dave writes that, as a baby, Tony was considered in those days to be “borderline unadoptable” (being black and having club feet). “He is one terrific kid”, Dave writes, and is an accountant, helping Dave with all the DIY stuff and other things he cannot do, and taking care of Roberta while Dave was in the hospital (having lost his leg). After teaching computer science for 40 years, Dave became heavily involved in theatre doing admin and lighting, while Roberta acted and directed. He became very interested in students with disabilities and became the university’s disability officer. Of course, the disability field became very personal once Vivienne was diagnosed with MS at the age of fifteen. “She was quite a gal; physics PhD, a senior scientific officer, sky diver and rock headbanger.” Tragically, Vivienne passed away in 2021.

At age 60, Dave “became chair of the charity Opportunities through Technology, which operated under the social model of disability: client driven”. For 12 years that the charity existed, Dave writes proudly that they had about 1,500 clients with a 95% success rate. When he retired at age 65, the university made him an honourary fellow and keeps in contact with the department to this day. Of course, Dave cannot be idle, and keeps busy running a small jazz club (Fleece Jazz) in the UK, where he is the “sound guy”. He’s also on the committee of the Suffolk Villages Festival, which “holds concerts of early music, with a professional orchestra, a great choir and world class soloists. The jazz club gets top musicians from the UK, Europe and sometimes the US”.

Thank you, Dave Lyons, for sharing your story with us. Interested in re-connecting with Dave? You are welcome to reach out to Natalie at nataliesoroka@talmudtorahsociety.com.

Our alumni are very important to us!

Please reach out to tell us your TT memories, and what you have been up to since attending TT.

Bulletin Board Showcase

Our bulletin boards are always filled with displays of student learning.

  1. Grade 1 students created their own map of Israel with words of love, hope and peace.
  2. Grade 2 students designed beautiful Wassly Kandinsky-inspired Tu B’Shevat trees.
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Gr. 2 Tu BShevat a Talmud Torah Society

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Talmud Torah Early Learning Centre

Tu B’Shevat (ט״ו בִּשְׁבָט‎) has come and gone for another year. If you walked the hallways you would have seen pictures of blossoming trees, smelled the scent of oranges (תפוזים) and lemons (לימונים) as they were freshly squeezed for juice, and heard the sounds of little ones singing happy birthday to the trees.

Our kinderart program made grass heads as a part of their Tu B’Shevat celebration. The kids were so proud of their creations and could not wait to show them off when other teachers came into the room. Our Jewish Together program hosted a beautiful Seder. The older children recited the blessings as we all enjoyed time together, munching dried fruits and listening to music.

After School Programs

The Society runs a variety of after school programs, depending on interest and availability. The following programs ran between January and February 2024. TT families interested in recommending a potential program can email to nataliesoroka@talmudtorahsociety.com.

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Sportball involves multi-sports for K-6 students that focus on confidence, competence and physical literacy. Students are kept moving and engaged, learning a new skill each class. The program’s methodology is aligned to the age and development of each child and skills are taught in a creative, age-appropriate and fun way.

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Students learn the art of boxing in a safe setting, with boxing coach Alexas Kubicki. Boxing for kids is known to provide many benefits:

  • Helps develop confidence
  • Teaches self-discipline
  • Encourages healthy living
  • Teaches values and ethics
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Rikud Academy’s popular Israeli dance program for our K-6 students runs from October to February. Rikud means “dance” in Hebrew. Dancers have the opportunity to perform in the Aviv Israeli Folk Dance Association’s year-end production — Festival Hatzafon — on March 3, 2024.

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Piano with Liad is a brand new program. Liad is a TT class of 2018 alumnus. He is certified up to Level 8 in both performance and theory and is currently studying for the Level 9 exam. We are thrilled to welcome Liad back to TT!


Ancillary Judaic Program through Kadima Academy

AJP@TT provides an optional after-school Hebrew language and Judaic curriculum from a Modern Orthodox perspective. This is a Society program in partnership with Kadima Academy.

At AJP, education goes beyond the classroom to embrace living Judaism. Recently, the program hosted its first Shabbaton during Parashat Yitro, where children and educators came together to learn, play, sing, and share Shabbat meals. It was a great success! The Shabbaton showcased the essence of living Judaism through practical actions, creating a memorable and enriching experience for all. The positive feedback has inspired plans for future Sabbaths and activities to further enhance the spiritual journey of the children at AJP.

In Rabbi Tal’s class, students completed their first parasha of the year, Parashat Shemot. To celebrate this milestone, the class enjoyed doughnuts, a beloved tradition, and the children impressed with their perfect answers to questions about the parasha, demonstrating their dedication to learning and understanding the teachings.

Our program is committed to fostering a nurturing environment where education extends beyond textbooks, emphasizing the beauty of living Judaism in everyday life. Stay tuned for more inspiring events and educational endeavors at AJP as we continue to grow and learn together.

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tt school council

School council has been working hard this winter, and our pizza lunch program has been very popular.

In the fall, we had 64 students participate in the first session (Sept.-Dec.), and sixty-four students are signed up for the second session (Feb.-June), so there is a steady demand for this School Council program. The net proceeds of pizza lunch orders from Sept. to Dec. 2023 is $10,700! Most of those funds will go towards a school residency program next year. Principal Johnson is scoping options for our consideration and we can’t wait to learn more!

We are still seeking a couple volunteers to help design the yearbook. Let us know when you can help! talmudtorahschoolcouncil@partner.epsb.ca 

Thank you for your support, Cara Greenspan & Ken Lister, Co-Chairs

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spotlight on current tt society offers and fundraisers

Say “Happy Passover” to loved ones!

Our very popular Passover flower fundraiser is back! Send family and friends a beautiful bouquet of flowers, personally delivered to Edmonton area residences.

Proceeds will benefit Judaic programming in our Early Learning Centre.


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Your gift will ensure Talmud Torah students stay safe and protected. To cover security guard expenses to the end of March, we need an additional $6,000.

Our families are very important to us!

We know looking for a space to
hold your child’s birthday party or other special event can be challenging.

We are here for you!

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“Having a pluralistic non-denominational school that ensures immersion in Jewish education and Judaic values is fundamental to the future of our community. Talmud Torah has been a pillar of our community for over 100 years. The Society ensures that the foundations of a strong Jewish identity and involvement in the greater Jewish community are in place."
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