Oakland Steiner School's
third-graders erect a sukkah to
commemorate the Jewish holidays.
JILL DAVIDSON SKLAR STAFF WRITER
n a cold and rainy day in a classroom decorat-
ed with several renditions of the Star of David.,
school children begin the afternoon lesson with
"Shalom Chaverim," sung in rounds.
So excited by the sound of their own voices,
the children beg the teacher, Marin Lipowitz,
to sing it just one more time. The volume of the
song goes up as the children carefully enunci-
ate each Hebrew word.
"Can we do it just one more time?"
asked Abigail Gavulic. "Puh-leeze?"
While this may not appear to be
such an unusual scene at this time
of year in the classrooms of syna-
gogues, temples or day schools, it is
a little different to see such enthusi-
asm for things Jewish in this setting.
The children in this scene are, by
and large, not Jewish; eight of the 11
children in Ms. Lipowitz's class do
not have a Jewish parent. The school,
Oakland Steiner School in Bloom-
field Hills, is part of the worldwide
network of Waldorf schools, a Chris-
tian-based educational system be-
gun in Germany in 1919.
With one-quarter of the students
and nearly half of the teachers being
Jewish, the children spend. part of
the elementary years learning Bible
stories and weaving them into art,
music, language and math classes.
The purpose of studying the stories
and religious traditions is to broad-
Lianna Winkler-Prinis places
en the children's multicultural
a bough on the sukkah.
"Our goal is to try to give the chil-
dren a sense of other religions and other philosophies," said Noemi Schaffa,
the school's principal.
One math lesson, for example, begins with different ways to add numbers
to equal 40. The lesson states, "The Hebrew people wandered in the desert
for 40 days. They stopped in a place called Sukkot."
"In our school, in the third grade, the children learn the Old Testament,
and part of that is to learn about the Jewish traditions," Ms. Lipowitz said.
A few weeks ago, the third-graders began to learn about Rosh Hashanah,
taking one afternoon to dip apples into honey and learn the Hamotzi. Pri-
or to Yom Kippur, the children drew Stars of David and began planning the
This past week, the sukkah began to take shape. Out on the side yard of
Above: Teacher Marin Lipowitz directs
the measuring of the doorway, helped
by Jason Lambert, Maynard Leon and
the school, located at Square
Lake and Squirrel roads, large
tree branches have been tied to-
gether to form the frame.
Boughs will be added to the
sides and the top; a rock path is
planned from the side door of
the small school to the door of
The children have also
worked on several decorations
that will hang from the sukkah's
ceiling and walls. Popcorn
strung in long lengths, paper
chains made from colorful con-
struction paper and banners
decorated with leaf tracings will
be hung this week, weather per-
Abigail Gavulic show off her mitting.
sculpture made of beeswax.
"I understand the holidays a
little better," said Amy Wachler
of Pleasant Ridge. "But Chanukah is still my favorite."
The students are very excited about their creation and the lessons that
have helped them learn more about Jewish life.
"Neither my mom or my dad is Jewish," said Emily Perraut of Bloomfield
Hills. "I taught them what we were doing and sang the songs for them."
Following Sukkot, the children will continue to celebrate other Jewish
holidays this year, including Shavuot, Chanukah, Purim and Passover.
While the third-graders have spent a good portion of their school year
learning about the Jewish holidays, they will also celebrate the European
traditions related to the feast day of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, Valentine's Day,
Halloween and Easter. ❑