As we enter a second school year of pandemic-induced uncertainty, children have shown their resilience time and again.

We can all learn and practice such skills. Character traits such as resilience, kindness, and courage lie at the core of Jewish values, requiring us to make conscious choices about our actions. Here are some ways to teach and develop character traits and values.

Grades 3-5

This is an age when children are thinking critically about right and wrong and the importance of the choices they make. Here is an activity from A Kids Mensch Handbook about the value of sh'lom bayit, peace in the home. 

Start by asking children to complete the following sentence in their heads or on paper: "My favorite family memories are_____" Allow some to share with the whole group. Ask them what made those memories or events special. How were members of the family treating one another then? 

Then tell the story of Joseph. Point out that Joseph chose to tell his dream to his family. Ask: "How did Joseph's choice affect his family?" "What could his brothers have done to preserve family peace?" " What could Jacob, Joseph's father, have done to prevent he conflict?" Encourage children to use the words kindness and respect in their answers. 

Using simple materials such as construction paper, scissors, markers and staplers, have children cut the paper into several strips, write their name on one strip of paper, then write the names of close family members on other strips, one strip for each person. Then have them write positive adjectives that describe each person on the strip, and one thing they can do to be kinder to that person. Have them staple their strips into chains, and ask volunteers to share with the whole group.   

Grades 4-5

Give children role models and inspire them to be their best selves.

Inspired by a groundbreaking exhibition at the Tel Aviv-based ANU - Museum of the Jewish People (formerly Beit Hatfutsot) The Hero in Me is a multi-access values course that showcases inspirational people and how they embody Jewish values.

The curriculum’s goal is to build character traits such as fairness, kindness, and curiosity in children, using storytelling as the vehicle.

For example, here is a sample lesson on kindness that compares and contrasts the kind acts of two Jewish heroes, Dona Gracia Nasi and Aaron Feuerstein. Learners then explore how to bring more kindness into their own lives.

Kindness student lesson 

Kindness teacher material 

Additional resources are available at the Behrman House: The Hero in Me website and at Beit Hatfutsot: Heroes and Trailblazers.

Tweens and Teens

It’s hard for adults - much less tweens and teens - to be kind to ourselves.

The Failure Book offers a way to help young people learn that skill, by exploring short biographies of famous people who each faced challenges and false-starts on their paths to success. 

Discover how failure can actually serve as a tool that helps foster the growth that can ultimately lead to success. Drawing prompts, thought questions, and other engagement activities after each profile encourage children to apply the lessons of extraordinary people to their own challenges and everyday experiences.

One way to teach self-care ties with this season of renewal: Connect the idea of growing from mistakes with t'shuvah, the Jewish process of getting ourselves back on track and committing to making better choices. T'shuvah is all about giving ourselves permission to acknowledge our humanity, our lack of perfection. It's humbling and honest, and the essence of being kind to ourselves.  

Download a sample activity page.



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