Talmud Torah Times Nov/Dec 2023 Newsletter


Love, Light & Latkes

Alumni Highlight

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Dear Families, Alumni, and Friends,

I hope those of you who celebrated Hanukkah did so surrounded by family and friends, in light and love.

Even as we were immersed in the heart and soul of Hanukkah, singing songs and lighting the Hanukkiah, the tragedy of October 7th was, and still is, never far from our thoughts or our hearts.

Talmud Torah Society is one with Israel and the Jewish people. We stand with Israel. Am Yisrael Chai.

Please enjoy the TT Times.

Natalie Soroka, Executive Assistant, TT Society

Message from Noga Vaisblat

President, Talmud Torah Society

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Dear families,

I hope everyone had a great time celebrating Hanukkah! I had the privilege of attending the ELC party and the school assembly. Both events had a fantastic turnout, and it was so lovely to see the community coming together in such a show of strength and mutual support.

Ensuring the security of our school still takes up the majority of our time, and I would like to thank all who have been diligently working on it – the Security committee, the Communication committee, Principal Darin Johnson, the ELC team, and our wonderful parents who volunteer their time. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the fundraising committee and all those who have made monetary contributions to assist with the high cost of security. We have collected just over $15,000 so far which should help pay for security until mid-January. The Society as well as the school have also applied for several federal and provincial grants which, if received, would assist in offsetting security costs. The easiest way to donate to the security campaign is through our website. Any contribution is much appreciated!

In other matters, the Education committee keeps working hard on revamping the Judaic Studies and Hebrew curriculums, and is involved, together with our teachers, in the upcoming curriculum review of these two locally developed courses. The Education committee will soon begin looking at the Bible studies curriculum to determine a vision and goals for this program. In addition, the HR, ELC and Governance committees continue their work in establishing clear policies and procedures and ensure these are well documented in accordance with the Society’s strategic plan. Also in accordance with our strategic plan, the ELC initiated a Hebrew program that we continue to receive wonderful feedback on. The Ivrit B’Yachad program (3-5 year olds) seems to be particularly popular with both children and parents. We are so pleased to see this program succeed and hope it will give all children the opportunity to immerse themselves in Hebrew and arrive prepared for grade one. Finally, the Finance committee reviewed the Society’s assets and investments this past month and recommended no changes should be made to our investment plans. We also continue to work collaboratively with Principal Darin Johnson to ensure the additional funding we provide to the school is used in accordance with our priorities.

I hope things settle down in the near future and we are able to focus mostly on supporting the school, advancing the ELC and developing the services the Society can offer to our families.

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones and enjoy the winter break.

Noga Vaisblat, PhD.

Message from Darin Johnson

Principal, Talmud Torah School

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Dear TT community,

Working in collaboration with the staff, the Talmud Torah Society and our School Council we set our school goals this fall. You can read more about our school plan on this site. Many steps have been taken toward enhancing the learning at our school. Each class has had additional opportunities for inquiry tasks this year. They have taken on roles as creators, ambassadors and designers. An engaging example was our Grade 5 and 6 class having a virtual meeting about Hanukkah traditions with a Grade 5 class from Dunluce school. Having authentic ways to demonstrate their learning has created great learning experiences. 

One of the ways I gather information about the learning at our school is through conversations with students. I regularly ask students what they are learning and how they might use the information or skill in the future. They have great things to share. Recently, I used some (As a …) sentence starters with them. Here are a few examples of what they shared:

  • As a writer I use correct grammar and make my stories interesting by adding cliff hangers and intriguing beginnings.
  • As a writer I am making my stories longer so readers will say, “Whoa! I like this story!”
  • As a mathematician, I learn about division. I’ve used this in a grocery store.
  • As a historian I learn about the past by researching, talking to other people, and looking at books.

Our choir practiced during lunch and recesses and approximately 40 students performed for our community. The running club has been busy practicing for events in the early spring. Our Grade 6 students have been meeting with me weekly to create video announcements. This is one of the ways they provide leadership at Talmud Torah.

We continue to work with others to ensure our school provides a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity. Our students have been demonstrating ways to acknowledge others and show their appreciation. Yes, mistakes are made, but we take the time to listen and talk through conflicts. 

I am looking forward to pre enrolment and new registrations. Please know that the processes begin on February 1 and are open until March 22. Our Kindergarten open house will be February 15.  Pre-enrolment marks a shift to preparations for the next school year for me as an administrator. The rest of the school will keep this year in focus as there is still a lot to learn and discover.

Darin Johnson, Principal 

Darin Johnson, M.Ed.

love, light and latkes

By: Natalie Soroka

Hanukkah is always an exciting and delicious time at TT!

The week leading up to Hanukkah began with the smells of sufganyiot and latkes wafting through the hallways, thanks to our children and educators in the Talmud Torah Early Learning Centre (ELC). They couldn’t wait to dive into the glow of the holiday, using all their senses to embrace Hanukkah in all its glory!

Our brand new ELC Ivrit b’Yachad program – Hebrew Together, targeting our three and four-year-olds, saw the educators focusing on many different activities for Hanukkah. The children participated in an ELC-wide initiative to create a single, massive dreidel, they learned how to pronounce the letter chet, and they focused on words related to Hanukkah, such as sufganiyah – doughnut, sevivon – dreidel, and cad schumann – oil jug. The children delighted in prepared foods related to Hanukkah, including dreidel-shaped cookies, doughnuts, and levivot -latkes. They were very excited to understand that the Hebrew words they were learning related to their classroom activities.

All ELC rooms, from 12 months to 5 years, engaged in a variety of activities. The children learned the story of Hanukkah, the traditions and foods that make it special, and sang songs like I Have a Little Dreidel. They learned that the helper candle, the shamash, lights all the other candles, and they explored a variety of Hanukkiahs, pretending to light each candle. There were discussions on the importance of oil in the story of Hanukkah, that latkes are cooked in oil, and how a small amount of oil miraculously lasted eight days and nights.

Students in the Out of School Care (OSC) program (K-6) loved practicing their Hanukkah songs and dances that they performed with everyone at the “Latkes and Laughter” ELC and OSC Hanukkah Party. They made their own hanukkiahs using wood and bolts, and Magen Davids -Shields of David – using popsicle sticks, paint, glitter and glue. Our youngest students had the opportunity to explore a wooden Hanukkah playset, including gelt – toy money and a dreidel. The children were very curious about all the different pieces and enjoyed moving the items around and trying to fit them together.

Of course, our K-6 students were just as excited to participate in Hanukkah learning and activities. Grade 4 students crafted magnificent stained-glass menorahs, while grade one students created whimsical dancing dreidels that lined the hallways. The ever-popular, giant blow-up Hanukkah bear in the front foyer was a big hit, and many children and their parents could be seen taking pictures with it. The school office and hallways were decked out with Hanukkah banners and Hanukkiahs, while the school’s very large, electric menorah was prominently displayed in the library. Each morning, the whole school, ages 12 months to 12 years, along with staff, teachers and educators, gathered around the library, while different grades “lit” the menorah. Songs of Hanukkah filled the air, and our TT family glowed bright with Jewish pride.

Our TT student choir was once again invited to Chabad of Edmonton’s Hanukkah lighting at the Alberta legislature, where TT’s own Ben Ragosin led them in a performance of Hanukkah songs for everyone in attendance, including politicians, family and friends.

Back at school, Ari the lion, Talmud Torah Society’s mascot, went class to class greeting students, and distributing chocolate gelt, dreidel cookies (courtesy of Bliss Baked Goods) and dreidels! Ari the mascot was very excited to see students’ smiling faces and to receive hugs and high fives. Ari was designed and created by Edmonton-based International Mascot, and was generously donated by Mike Schayer (TT class of ’91) and Ken Soroka (TT class of ’69).

The “Latkes and Laughter” ELC & OSC Hanukkah Party was a big hit! The school kitchen worked overtime as latkes, pasta dishes and salads were prepared throughout the day. Accompanied by doughnuts from Bliss Baked Goods, the food was enjoyed by all! To keep the children busy, a baby play area with balls and an activity centre were available, along with a blocks/manipulative table, photo booth, face painting and tattoo stations, and an arts and craft area. The children and families got a real chuckle out of the video that included songs and dances performed by each ELC and OSC class. Ari the mascot made an appearance, to the delight of many, and enjoyed having pictures taken with kids and parents alike!

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ELC Educators ready to serve
hungry families!
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Gr. 1 performs
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Kindergarten performs
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Grade 4 performs

A school-wide (K-6) assembly rounded out the eight days of Hanukkah. Grade 4 students took the lead starting with a land acknowledgement, and invited all to rise for the singing of Canada’s national anthem. Grade 4 students lit the Hanukkiah at the front of the gym, while the entire school recited the brachot – blessings. With all eight candles shining bright, it was a magical moment of love and light.

The next part of the assembly was very powerful. Five grade 4 students spoke about how Hanukkah this year has been “hard to celebrate”, as there has been much darkness in Israel and around the world. But with all this darkness, they stated, we will rise and “bring the light”. Students then sang a beautiful Hebrew song titled Katan Aleinu, with their teacher Moreh Ari on guitar. Kindergarteners sang, Sevivon Sov Sov Sov, as well as La Bambanukah with their grade 6 buddies.

The classic, Imi Natna Leviva Li and Eight Days of Hanukkah-Eight Happy Nights, were sung proudly by our grade 1 students, while grade 2 sang Omer Toledano. The grade 5/6 class delivered a stellar performance of Ha Nerot Ha Lalu on their ukuleles, and our grade 3 students sang Yesh Bi Ahava. To round out the assembly, our very own TT choir sang several Hanukkah songs and lead the entire school in the meaningful singing of HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem.

Shabbat at TT

As part of our Judaic Studies Program, Talmud Torah Society provides challah and grape juice for the K-6 weekly Shabbat program. Talmud Torah School Council supports this program by organizing parent volunteers who pick up from Bliss Baked Goods and deliver challah to TT each week. This is a big cost savings, and we appreciate all that our families do to support our Shabbat program. Additionally, many of our families, as well as community supporters, make donations to help offset the costs of this program.

We would like to thank the following families and supporters who have donated recently:

Saegert family, Friedman family, Shteinberg/Azulai family, and Jay Cairns of JNF-Edmonton (in honour of Hanukkah 2023). Todah Rabah!

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Alumni Highlight

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Richard (Rick) Ostashower, TT class of ’68. Rick provided me with a wealth of information, both informative and humorous. He lives in Calgary with his wife, Shoo, and their three dogs. Rick has 40+ years in the Canadian Military, achieving the rank of Master Warrant Officer and holding the appointment of Sergeant Major. He worked 12 years as a Firearms Officer, Inspection Officer, Investigation Officers and adjunct Armourer with the Calgary Police Service, and member of 4 Canadian Brigade Group Counter Terrorist Team.

“I think a Jewish education is critical. When I was at TT, starting in grade two, we had a half day of Hebrew, with ½ hour for either French or PT and a half day of English with ½ hour again for either French or PT. This was years before French was even offered at the Jr. High level. We thought this was normal. You go to school to learn. It never occurred to us that we were doing a full day’s curriculum in half a day and then doing it again in Hebrew, along with religious studies. If you’re lucky, you have an atmosphere of support that makes learning all the more enjoyable.

Robbie Burns 2017 with Maccabee and Meatball Talmud Torah Society

The absolute top of the list of staff memories, bar none, were Mike and his wife Lisa, the Caretaker and the Cook. Everyone knew and loved them, and they returned it. I treasure the memories of Lisa coming to see me on macaroni and cheese days because she knew how much I loved the crust. Others probably got it, too, but I remember her coming straight to me. And Mr. Yedlin, who by grade six came up to about my shoulders. He so terrified all of us; “I want it so quiet in here that I can hear A PIN DROP!” but come to him with a question or a concern, and you got his undivided attention. Mr. Chetner, too, was an imposing figure, but approachable.

Rick recounted a memory of meeting up with one of his TT classmates, 50 years later, at the annual Robbie Bernstein Dinner at Beth Tzedec in Calgary. “At one point, a man approached me and, with awe, asked if he could take a picture of me because, in my regalia (Calgary Highlanders formal Mess Dress – kilt, assorted knives, etc.), I was the spitting image of a guy he had gone to school with (Dave Wilkins). I said certainly. He came and stood beside me and mentioned Dave’s name, which took me somewhat by surprise as, to the best of my knowledge, Dave’s not Jewish (I knew him too). I said so, and this guy, much shorter than I am, I was astounded and literally at a loss for words. I asked him what his name was, and he replied, “Mike, Mike Paull”. You could have knocked me over with a feather. We had been in the same group from Kindergarten through grade six, attended all the Bar Mitzvahs together, and then went through different schools. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 50 years, with me leaving so soon after graduation. I looked at Mike and said, “I’m Rick Ostashower.” The range of emotions that went over his face, and I’m sure mine, was staggering. After a few seconds, he stepped closer and hugged me as hard as I’d ever been clutched. I returned the compliment. We spent the next few minutes being dragged around and introduced or re-introduced to people I hadn’t seen as long as or longer than Mike. We wound up being introduced to Maxine Fischbein, who I vaguely remembered as being a classmate of my sister Jane. We wound up with an invitation for a Shabbat Dinner. It was a delightful evening, and we were made to feel most welcome.”

Needless to say, this has been one of the most interesting, fascinating and entertaining TT alumni that I have either spoken to or emailed with. Thanks, Rick, for going down memory lane with us! I wish I could have included all of Rick’s information. For anyone interested in knowing more about Rick’s experiences in the military, or connecting with Rick, you are welcome to email 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.

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Talmud Torah Early Learning Centre

We are excited to announce that, on October 16, 2023, our very own Judaic Studies program began. This program is taught by two of our fluent Hebrew speaking educators for an hour every day, Monday through Thursday. Currently, ELC 3 and 4 year olds have been studying the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, bet, gimel), as well as Hebrew names for our body parts.

If you were to walk the hallways at pick up time you would hear children excited to share the new Hebrew words their educators have taught them, new Hebrew songs, and showing off the art they created.

Kol hakavod! Bravo everyone!

After School Programs

The Society runs a variety of after school programs, depending on interest and availability. The following programs ran between October and December 2023:

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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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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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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

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

Dear Parents,

Hope everyone had a wonderful Hanukkah!

At AJP we took the celebration seriously! Students made unique chanukiyot and played games related to the holiday. They also learned about the history of the Chashmonaim. 

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The Grade 3 cooking club brings learning to life. The students concluded their Social Studies unit on Ukraine and celebrated with a Ukrainian tasting party. Parent volunteers shopped for ingredients, cooked, and served a variety of Ukrainian foods for the students to try including paska bread, borscht, Ukrainian potato salad, and Ukrainian style coleslaw. The students used their senses and applied their knowledge of adjectives to describe each dish. They also recorded their experience and gave each dish a star rating during the tasting. They are looking forward to experiencing the culinary culture and traditions of India as part of the newest Social Studies unit. Please contact Ms. Jessica if you can help.

spotlight on current tt society offers and fundraisers

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Your gift will ensure Talmud Torah students stay safe and protected.

Questions? nataliesoroka@talmudtorahsociety.com

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!

TTS Facility Rentals 4 Talmud Torah Society

Questions? Nataliesoroka@talmudtorahsociety.com

Next TT Times…February 2024

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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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