Teaching Kindness as a Jewish Value
Kindness, or chesed, is mentioned in the Torah more than 200 times, indicating its importance in Judaism. We know what kindness is—what it feels like, what actions we associate with it, why we are drawn to it—but putting the concept into specific words for young children can be difficult.
Our new series Let’s Discover Kindness helps children in grades 1-2 explore kindness and the character traits—including gratitude, empathy, acceptance, and respect—that contribute to it, viewed through a Jewish lens. Each element is explored in its own four-page folder. One of the Big Ideas for the series is that kindness is a choice, something we can all decide to practice every day. Another Big Idea is that kindness makes the world better.
The learning takes place through activities such as role play, art, mindfulness, movement, and personal reflection. Underlying the series is the invitation to children to notice how it feels to be a certain way, and how their feelings and actions manifest and affect themselves and others.
For example, a Mindful Moment activity in the series introduction asks children to close their eyes, take three slow, deep breaths, then wrap their arms around themselves. They imagine they're hugging someone they know, and sending that person a wish, such as "Have a happy day" or "I hope you feel healthy." They they open their eyes and reflect on how they feel. Another activity involves a scenario where children imagine their friend saves the last cookie for them, or that a teacher smiles and says, "Nice to see you." By drawing a picture of how that makes them feel, they begin to consider how actions affect feelings and vice versa.
Each folder introduces a Hebrew word, such as chesed, hakarat hatov, and kavod, reinforcing that Jews have taught and thought about kindness for thousands of year. Using Jewish quotes and highlighting personalities from Jewish history helps students make connections to their heritage.
In the folder called Kindness, students learn about lashon hara (hurtful speech) and how to keep unkindness from spreading, through the following story:
Once there was a man who said mean things. A rabbi told him, "Cut open this feather pillow." Feathers flew everywhere. "Now collect them and stuff them back inside the pillow," the rabbi said. "But that's impossible!" the man protested. "Exactly," said the rabbi.
The Teacher's Edition suggests contrasting the concept of lashon hara with chesed to reinforce the importance of kindness in Jewish tradition.
Click here to learn more about this new folder series. Don't forget — educators receive 5% off on all judaica items and teacher resources.
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