5B Class Information


Teacher: Leah McNeil

Madrichim: Sam and Hayley

Contact Information: 952.836.5262, leahmcneil@brandeis.edu 


Hi BJEP 5B families! My name is Leah McNeil and I’m a student at Brandeis, majoring in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies and minoring in Anthropology. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, I worked as a teacher’s assistant at my synagogue for three years, and as a special needs advocate with Sha’arim, a Jewish special needs inclusion organization, for two years. I’m also proud to be serving on the Brandeis Hillel board, engaging my peers and promoting pluralism! I am so excited to get to know you and to work with your children. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns, or suggestions!

Class #1, September 20, 2015

Today in class we learned about world Jewry, the four cities where we will be learning about Jewish traditions this year. We talked about Istanbul, Jerusalem, New York City, and Paris. Some questions you can ask your child is which city did you advertise? What did you learn about the city? Hoping to see you back in a few weeks!

Check out this link for more info on what we did today https://www.world-jewry.org/

Upcoming Important Dates: Next week 9/27 we are at the Farm.

Class #2, October 4, 2015

Today in class we learned about Israel. We discussed Israel as a state, a people, and a land, and what the differences are between each. We then learned about the history of Israel beginning from the 600s to pre-state 1947. We unpacked Zionism, aliyot, and how Israel is made up of many different peoples and religions and when this means for its politics. We will surely be delving into these topics more this year. You can ask your child about why the Zionists created the Jewish state and why they chose to create the Jewish state in Israel.

Looking forward to hopefully joining your kids at the zoo next week! We’ll see you back at Brandeis in 2 weeks.

If you want to learn more about what we did today, I suggest checking out the following link: http://reframingisrael.org/2015/07/historical-overview/

Upcoming Important Dates: We will be going to the zoo next Sunday 10/11!

Class #4 October 25, 2015

Today we continued learning about the history of Israel. We started by playing a game where students would discuss their views on a given statement by going to one side of the room if they agreed with it and another side of the room if we disagreed with it. It was so interesting to hear the students’ perspectives on the material they are learning in class. After, we learned about Israel from 1948 to the present. A big chunk of history! The students got pretty into it and raised their hands often to ask questions or assess the information they were learning and give an opinion.It will be really fascinating for you to ask your child what they think about the Jews settling Eretz Yisrael to escape anti-semitism! Their opinions were all over the place, so we had a really interested discussion about it in class.

If you want to learn more about what we did today, check out the following link:


Class #5 November 1, 2015

Today we reviewed what we learned thus far about the history of Israel. We compared the maps of the transition from Palestine to Israel to the greater context of Israel’s size in the Middle East. We also discussed the meaning of Zionism and learned about the nuanced Hatikvah. After our lesson, we watched this video called Conflict in Israel and Palestine: Crash Course World History 223. The students were so fascinated by the history of the conflict that we discussed the experience of the draft to the Israeli Defense Forces. You can ask you child about what Zionism means to them and whether or not they think they identify with it.

If you want to learn more about what we did today, check out the following link:


Class #6 November 8, 2015

Today in Judaics we learned about the holy city of Jerusalem! We started off our program with slide show that showed off all of the greatest and most famous attractions in Jerusalem. We learned about the Old City, different holy sites for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, also discussed the Shuk and Israel Museum. After the slideshow, each student created a postcard about their imaginary vacation in Israel. They chose a site (or a few) that we talked about to draw on one side of the postcard, and on the other side, they wrote about their experience. They answered questions such as their favorite part, what they say, what they found most interesting, and if there was anything they did not like. They were also able to address the postcard to anyone they wanted. However, I introduced to the class that we would be writing to a penpal named Ella, who lives in Israel, so they had the option of writing to her and asking her questions. You can ask their child if they were given the opportunity to go to Jerusalem, where they would go first and why. You can also ask why they think Jerusalem is the holy city and what makes it special.

If you want to learn more about what we did today, check out the following link:


Class #7 November 15, 2015

Today we had our family program! Rabbi Ari Lev led a thought provoking activity and discussion on Jewish values that both the students and their parents had the opportunity of participating in. We also have a new madricha in our class! Her name is Hayley, and she is a senior in high school. We’re so excited to welcome her as a new member of our class! If you were unable to make it today and would like to gain a better understanding of the family program, I’d suggest calling or emailing Rabbi Ari Lev.

Class #7 November 15, 2015

Today in Judaics, we wrapped up our Israeli-Palestinian conflict curriculum. We first watched a film, created by YaLa         Young Leaders, and we then discussed it through answering the following questions:

  1. How does conflict make you feel?
  2. How would you define coexistence?
  3. How do you think you can contribute to peacemaking?
  4. As a young Jew living in America, how do you feel involved in Israeli and Palestinian affairs?

The students each wrote down/drew their answers to each of the questions, and once they had answers to all of them, we held a class discussion, where each student got a chance to share their answer. Happy Hanukkah to you and your families! We can’t wait for our celebration next week.


January 17th, 2016

Today was a wonderful day at BJEP! We spent a lot of time focusing on classroom community and expectations, introducing ourselves and creating a classroom B’rit (contract) for behavior expectations, which all the students signed. We discussed our topic for this semester which is World Jewry. We will be focusing on Jewish communities in Paris, Istanbul, Jerusalem and New York. The students were asked to talk with parents about their ancestor’s history and experiences of being Jewish. Tikkun Olam Day challenged us to think about our role as Jews in improving the world, beginning with a play about Sojourner Truth and a class debriefing about issues they feel passionate about making a difference in. We had a great day learning together and I can’t wait to work with 5B this semester.

January 24th, 2016

Today was a busy day in 5B! During our Classroom Community time at the beginning of the day, we talked about the Diaspora and what it means for the Jewish people. The kids then went to Hebrew and chose an elective to visit and “try out!” They will begin their chosen electives next week. After electives, we had snack together and listened to some Maccabeats and Israeli songs to get the kids excited and having fun. During Judaics, we shared our the birthplaces of our grandparents and ancestors with an interactive map and presented skits about our World Jewry focus cities: New York, Paris, Jerusalem, and Istanbul. We are continuing to work on creating a fun, safe and joyous environment in 5B and raising behavioral expectations.

January 31st, 2016

We had a great day today! We began our day with Classroom Community; going over the schedule and our electives and playing the game “Museum!” The kids then went to Hebrew and their Electives (which should be online for you to see). We enjoyed apples and challah for snack and continued our new tradition of watching the Maccabeats during snack. The kids really like their music and I think their videos portray very positive messages about using Judaism as motivation to perform acts of lovingkindness. It’s also just plain fun! During Judaics, we had a serious discussion about anti-Semitism historically and today, and used “agree/disagree” statements to talk about anti-Semitic experiences of our own or of our ancestors. We learned about the Spanish Inquisition and the three eidot (Sephardic, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews) and watched a video portraying one Jewish woman’s experiences living in Turkey. Finally, we brainstormed questions for our guest speaker next week: Joel Hemsi, a Turkish Jew who is a student at Brandeis.

February 7th, 2016

Today was very busy in 5B! We began the day with Classroom Community time, sharing our plans for break and playing the game “Museum!” During Hebrew, we continued preparing for the Friday night service we’ll be leading in April. After Electives, we enjoyed apples and challah together. Judaics was very exciting today, because we had a guest speaker: Joel Hemsi, a Turkish Jew who is studying at Brandeis. She talked about Turkish culture, food, sports and her experience moving from Turkey to Boston. She also shared some powerful stories about anti-Semitism in Turkey, including an al-Qaeda bombing of two Turkish synagogues. The kids were very engaged and asked Joel tons of good questions! After Judaics, we went to Dance and then it was time to clean up the classroom and head out! Have a good February break! If you have questions or concerns, contact me over break at leahmcneil@brandeis.edu or at 952-836-5262.

February 28th, 2016

Today was very busy! We played Museum during Classroom Community time, and continued working on Lecha Dodi with our Hebrew teachers. After our Elective, we had a snack of apples and challah and played outside for a few minutes. During Judaics, we talked about the history of French Jewry, including Napoleon Bonaparte and the Dreyfus Affair. We also discussed assimilation and modern anti-Semitism in France, and watched some (appropriate) videos of anti-Jewish demonstrations in France. Finally, we looked at this website, which includes French-Jewish recipes and music: http://www.traditionsandrecipes.com/ We ended the day by reading a letter from our Israeli penpal, Ella, and brainstorming questions to ask her in response. I’m excited for another great week at BJEP!

March 6th, 2016

During Classroom Community, we talked about the Purim carnival and went over the daily schedule. After Hebrew and Electives, we enjoyed challah and apples and played tag outside. During Judaics, we learned about New York City, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We shared family stories of immigration to New York through Ellis Island and analyzed Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” which is engraved below the Statue of Liberty. We looked at pictures of tenements and of New York Jewry today, as well as an interactive map of United States Jewry put out by Brandeis University. Finally, we watched a video about the creators of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and had twenty minutes of Music with Leah Sherin, singing Hinei Mah Tov and Oseh Shalom. See you next week!

March 20th, 2016

During Classroom Community, we talked about our favorite hamantaschen and played Museum. We went to the Purim Shpiel (which was so fun!) and learned the Purim story. During Judaics, we played Purim Jeopardy and watched Animated Bible Stories: Esther (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUFSk5BEVRE) Then, we went to the Purim Carnival! Thanks to all the parent volunteers for helping make this day happen! See you in two weeks :)

April 10th, 2016

Today was another fun-filled day at BJEP! During Classroom Community time, we talked about Rube Goldberg machines and played Alibi. Hebrew teacher David Schwartz was sick today, so we had Judaics right away in the morning and talked about the history of Jerusalem, the three major monotheistic religions and their holy sites in Jerusalem (the Kotel, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and the four quarters of Jerusalem (Armenian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish). After Electives, we had snack and then saw the Rabbi of Oz! We ended the day with Passover-themed hangman games. See you next week for our last day in the classroom!

April 17th, 2016

Today was fun! During Classroom Community we talked about our summer plans and played Museum. After Hebrew and Electives, we watched Passover videos and played a review Jeopardy game for everything we’ve learned this semester. We ended with a 5th grade party and closing circle in the Quad. Thanks for a great semester at BJEP!