Students start a sweet new month with Rosh Chodesh program


Photos by David Stuck

A student picks up a dough ball and transfers it to an oil-lined sheet pan. The dough will proof for about 15 minutes. Photo by David Stuck.

As dough spins around in a giant industrial mixer, kids peer over the edge of the large bowl. They’ve already pulled on plastic aprons and are eager to make sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts for Chanukah.

Fourteen students from Leo Bernstein Jewish Academy of Fine Arts in the Kemp Mill neighborhood of Silver Spring are here at Kosher Pastry Oven as part of the Orthodox-run school’s new Rosh Chodesh program. At the start of each Hebrew month, the students take a field trip to do a hands-on educational activity.

“They love it. They’re actually learning and they’re having fun,” says Fruma Esther Frost, an English and writing teacher. “It’s tactile learning.”

The students get to work with materials and recall their experiences learning about how to create something. The first program was making pizza. At the second they learned how to make egg rolls.

“We should celebrate Rosh Chodesh with joy,” says Principal Helen Goldberg. The school has 17 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. With the program, Goldberg hopes “to make them aware this is a special time.”

When possible, the program relates to a holiday in the new month. Chanukah falls in the month of Kislev. It will begin at sundown on Dec. 22 — the 25th of Kislev.

Assistant baker Lior Weisman explains the dough-making and proofing processes to the kids.

Lior Weisman fills the fried sufganiyot with raspberry jelly. Photo by David Stuck.

He adds more ingredients to the mixer and chats with the students about the settings on the machine. When the dough is mixing, he quizzes them: Do they remember the essential ingredients for dough? “Flour! Water! Sugar! Salt!” they shout out.

One kid says, “I just love eating dough because it’s so yummy.” Another responds, “I like cookie dough.” They chatter and mill about the kitchen while they wait for the dough to rest and proof.

“Now you just gotta be patient and wait,” Weisman tells them.

Eventually, after turning it into two large portions, Weisman puts the flattened dough into a machine. It turns one portion into 24 perfectly round balls. “Whoa!” the kids — and teachers — exclaim.

After the doughnuts are fried (by adults, so the kids don’t get burned by hot oil), Weisman stabs each one with a pastry bag filled with raspberry jelly. “It’s like you’re murdering them,” one kid laughs. But then the children take turns covering sufganiyot with powdered sugar, and can’t wait to taste them.

Student watch as one of their classmates covers some sufganiyot with powdered sugar. Photo by David stuck.

Goldberg says mixing the grades on a field trip like this is nice because all the students have to learn to get along.

“The big ones model for the little ones, and the little ones look up to the big ones,” she says.

Frost adds, “It helps develop all types of interpersonal [relationships].”

Two students enjoy their sufganiyot with milk. Photo by David Stuck.

Anonymous donors help the school cover the costs of the Rosh Chodesh program, says Goldberg. Field trips generally cost between $10 and $15 per student. Goldberg says the students come away from their trips with knowledge and appreciation.

“Until you see it done, you never know how something is made. You just take it for granted,” Goldberg says. “And once you do it, you don’t take things for granted.”

As they eat their sufganiyot with glasses of milk, students describe the doughnuts as “fluffy” and “yummy.” A few ask if they can have seconds (they can’t).

One student says, “I don’t want to go back to school.” But they pile back into the teachers’ cars and head down the street, resuming classes after their excursion.

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Twitter: @jacqbh58

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