Dear Parents,

Tomorrow is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Around the world many activities will be taking place to recall the tragedy that scarred us as a nation and which we must never forget.  The question we face as educators is: what is truly the best way to ensure that our children "never forget!"  As time moves on and there are less and less Holocaust survivors alive to share their first-hand experiences, this dilemma becomes more real and relevant.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that the key is two-fold: Action and Education.   The Rebbe assumed his position of Jewish communal leadership in 1950, a few short years after the Holocaust.  As the Jewish community grappled with how to recover from such devastation, the Rebbe focused on the importance of good deeds.  Each Mitzvah, each positive action of goodness, kindness and spirituality, transforms the world one bit at a time until collectively we will have transformed the world into a better place as a whole; a place where a horror such as the Holocaust can NEVER happen again.  

In addition to the focus on action, the Rebbe was passionate about education as a means for societal transformation.  Education is where the seeds are planted for the next generations.  For this reason, the Rebbe advocated for schools and educational systems - Jewish and non-Jewish - to instill not only academic knowledge, but to also work to cultivate the importance of compassion, empathy, and moral character in its students.   

Let us also remember that for children growing up in the shadow of a generation of Holocaust survivors and Soviet Union refugees, it is easy for "never forget" to become an exercise in the sad realization that antisemitism and hate is real.  This quote comes to mind: "Where Jewish education is neglected, the whole content of Judaism is reduced to merely an awareness of antisemitism.  Judaism ceases then to be a civilization and becomes a complex."  Jewish education, on the other hand, gives us an opportunity to cultivate positive Jewish identity and a hopeful Jewish future.

At Mazel, this vision drives and inspires us.  We believe that it is our responsibility to teach our students to "never forget" not only intellectually, but also in practice. Each day that we provide our children with an education rooted in positive action and joyful Judaism, we honor the memory of those we lost and invest in the future of our people.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Chani Okonov, Head of School

Table of Contents

  • Preschool Highlights: It All Starts with an Act of Kindness  
  • Lower School Highlights: A Look at Math Instruction 
  • Middle School Highlights: Never Forget
  • Jewish Learning and Literacy: Parsha Inspirations ~ How to be a Nice Person
  • Parent Partnership: 10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth
  • Teacher Feature: Spotlight on Morah Sonya

Upcoming Events

  • Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences: Date varies per class
  • Tu B'Shvat Festival: January 31st
  • MPA Family Book Fair and Pajama Party: February 11th
  • Preschool Open House for Prospective Parents: February 12th
  • President's Day Break: February 16th and 19th ~ SCHOOL CLOSED

It All Starts with an Act of Kindness

In today's hustle and bustle, it is to easy to move through the day disconnected from our capacity as humans to be kind and caring.  Not in Little Mazel.  For each unit taught in our preschool, a Big Idea - a life-long message and lesson - is incorporated as part of the theme.  This month's unit "Our Community" is all about being kind and caring.  It is all about connections and being helpful to each other.  Not only are our children learning "information" about community helpers, they are learning about a "big idea" of what it means to be a part of a community.   

Today, I want to talk about "Our Mazel Community", specifically one of the four year old classes. With the supportive lead from Morahs, our four year olds took upon themselves the project named "Kindness".  This project is expected to encourage and remind all of us of our ability for kindness. The three-dimensional project is expected to help our children shine on with kindness to others, kindness to parents, and to the world. What a challenge it is for ego-centric four year olds!  Do you think it is too much to ask them to be kind to others?  With a great selection of books, storytelling, and observations, we observe our four year olds becoming aware of kind acts. At the end of each day, the children reflect on their acts of kindness that day and celebrate moments of compassion and caring.  At the same time, we are mindful of one important factor:  kindness begins with us adults. Role modeling, mindful observations, and exhibiting our own acts of kindness are very powerful tools. Here are a few conversation starters that can be part of Shabbat table:  

  • How would we know if someone was having a bad day and may need a little extra kindness?

  • What are some safe and simple ways to share kindness with a stranger?

  • What acts of kindness have others shared with you recently? How did they make you feel?

  • Have you ever thought of doing a kind thing for a stranger, but decided not to out of nervousness? 

Shabbat Shalom,

Morah Inna Izman, Early Childhood Director

Making friends with a police officer!

Little ones love to mimic role models.

A moment of kindness <3

Learning about the power of "process"

A Look at Math Instruction

How do you know you have mastered a topic? When the YOU can become the teacher! 

So many exciting things are happening in Math instruction in Lower School.  This week students in Ms. Melamud's 2B class created their own comparative bar models, incorporating what they have learned about measurement as well! Students created their own word problems, showed which bar model is best used to solve the given problem and then solved the problem on their own. 

Students paired up to "teach" their partner how to solve a tricky word problem. "Students" drew correct models are were able to explain their thinking to their "teachers."

Math that is relevant and practical is fun and makes learning purposeful.  2nd graders are in the midst of a measurement unit. They started by learning all about centimeters and how centimeters relate to meters. Here, students explore when it makes sense to measure in meters, and when it makes sense to measure in centimeters.  

Never Forget

Today I held a Middle School Assembly. We discussed the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day tomorrow.

I took this time to share my family's story; specifically my grandmother who was a Holocaust survivor. The story is unique, inspiring and important.

Every one of these stories is important. We must continue to tell anyone we can, especially our children, so they can carry the responsibility of ensuring the world never forgets.

Over the Shabbat table, tell your children your family's Holocaust history.

I look forward to your children sharing the stories with me.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yours in learning,

Dina Freeman, Middle School Principal

Research: Properties, Uses and Minerals

7th graders present their research on the properties, uses, and formation of different minerals

Kinetic Energy

8th graders investigating factors that affect an object’s kinetic and potential energy.

Kindness Makes the World Go Round

At this month's pep rally, middle schoolers explored the "Power of Kindness" with a student created video and game.  Jewish stories of kindness inspired students to look out for others and make others' lives easier even with small acts.  Students worked in teams to design a plan for a Gemach (ask your middle schooler what this means) for small supplies students need each day.  The house challenge is to see which house can run their Gemach through the end of the month!

7th Grader, Ariella, presenting the "Trust Walk" game at our Pep Rally - an exercise in interdependence.

In the "Trust Walk", students try to lead their blindfolded classmates through an obstacle course.

How to be a Nice Person

Excerpted from the "Parsha Family Guide" attached.  Click the link to read more...

There was once a woman who had a very serious
problem. She was 26 years old and as lonely as a
stone in a field. She didn't have a single friend, couldn't get along with anyone, and couldn't maintain a relationship. Why? Because, to put it bluntly, her behavior was obnoxious. She was petty, she was selfish, she was jealous, and she was cruel. She tried desperately to control her negative traits and spent years in every kind of counseling and therapy, without success. When she thought she had reached the end of her rope, she heard that there was a wise, saintly man in Brooklyn who might be able to help her with her problem, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. She came to him and presented him with an eight-page analysis of her problem. The venerable rabbi, known as the Rebbe, gave her some very simple advice. He told her that when she returned to the college campus where she was attending school, she should make it a habit to serve other people during meals.

"Whatever it is that someone else might need," the Rebbe said, "the butter, the sugar, the salt, a glass of water, whatever it is, it should become your habit to bring it to them." The woman was relieved. Instead of analyzing her, the Rebbe had given her something she could actually do. Looking back, she saw it this way: "A selfish, petty, egotistical person came to the Rebbe, and said, `Rebbe, I need advice. I don't know what to do. I'm not a nice person. What should I do?'

"And the Rebbe said, in effect, 'Not nice? So be nice. What's the question? You don't like being not nice? So, who's forcing you? You want to be nice? Good. Then here's how you start: Bring somebody a glass of water.'"

In other words, if you're not a nice person, don't stop and analyze it. Just start thinking, speaking, and acting in a nice manner.


10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth


There’s a common misconception that the best way to encourage children’s creativity is simply to get out of the way and let them be creative. Although it’s certainly true that children are naturally curious and inquisitive, they need support to develop their creative capacities and reach their full creative potential.

Supporting children’s development is always a balancing act: how much structure, how much freedom; when to step in, when to step back; when to show, when to tell, when to ask, when to listen.

Click to Read the rest of "10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth"

This week's Spotlight: Morah Sonya

This week, we proudly share an interview with Morah Sonya Finkel-Levy, our Lower School Principal


BIO: I emigrated from the former Soviet Union when I was almost 4 years old. We moved to an immigrant community in Brooklyn. Both my parents worked full time jobs doing whatever they could to support my younger sister and me. I attended public school for most of my life as yeshivas were not affordable and no assistance existed at the time. I had many wonderful teachers who inspired me. I attended a state university in upstate New York and earned two additional Masters degrees in Education, including a degree in Gifted Education. I’ve lived abroad and traveled a great deal. I am still working on visiting Australia and Africa.

I became a teacher and principal because…  The children give me inspiration. I had some challenging times as a young student due to being the only Russian Jew in my school during the Cold War. I have very vivid memories of how crucial teachers were for me as a student and I had always been motivated to contribute to the betterment of children’s lives in any way I could. I fell into teaching by accident.  However, the minute I walked into the classroom, I knew I had found my calling.

My vision for our children is…  to approach everything in life with faith, confidence and gusto. I hope that our children always believe in themselves, discern right from wrong even in the most trying situations and continue to follow in the path of our people.

I joined Mazel because… I had never encountered a school with the unique qualities that Mazel Day School presented. When I came for my interview, I was blown away by the happiness of the children, the sense of belonging the teachers demonstrated and the overall sense of togetherness. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in many school settings and Mazel stood out in remarkable ways.

My favorite memory from being a student is…  my fourth grade writing class. Mr. Karpf was an excellent teacher. Looking back, I believe his approach to teaching writing was the Workshop Model in its early stages. I remember how different it felt to write in thoughtful and purposeful ways with constant, useful feedback. I took pride and put real effort into my work for the first time ever.

The most difficult part of being a principal is... The priority is always to do what is best for the students, so when difficult times arise, my focus is always guided towards what will benefit the children most.

My best advice to parents is…. to understand and feel reassured that the school is always looking out for the best interests of all the children. Be a partner and continue to have open, honest, respectful conversation and trust the school.

If I could teach my students only one thing, it would be… to live their lives with integrity.

If I would not have become a teacher I would have become…  This is a tough one. I considered a number of careers throughout my formative years. Most prominent in my memory was a desire to care for infants. In high school, I participated in a Doctors of Tomorrow Program at Coney Island Hospital. After hundreds of hours, I qualified to volunteer in Labor and Delivery and fell in love with the nursery.

A trick I used in the classroom was… I don’t know if I would call it a trick. I tried to stay consistent, stuck to my word, tried to make learning as interesting as possible and truly invested in my students.

Outside of school I like to... spend time with my family, be outdoors as much as possible, and find reasons to laugh.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Candle Lighting Time: 4:48 PM

Shabbat Ends: 5:51 PM

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Mazel Day School

2901 Brighton 6th Street

60 West End Avenue