Posts Tagged ‘LEGO’

Building A Love Of Torah

November 10, 2010

I trained and worked as a teacher of Bible.

My house is filled with LEGO.

I never really thought that these two things had anything to do with one another…until now. Thanks to’s daily “Jewniverse” newsletter that I look forward to waking up and reading on my iPhone every weekday morning, I am now aware of The Brick Testament.

My son is pretty sure that is Dumbledore on Mount Sinai.

The Brick Testament’s creator, The Reverend Brendan Powell Smith (he’s apparently not really a reverend, but just likes the honorific and admits to being “widely regarded as being both highly presumptuous and extremely vain”) has reportedly spend 4 years and in the environs of $10,000 creating a highly detailed LEGO dioramic interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and parts of the New Testament.

Smith claims that everything he used, other than the sky background, is LEGO – and my LEGO-crazed 9 year-old son vouched for that. In fact, my son is pretty sure he recognized the Dumbledore mini-figure head from the LEGO Harry Potter set being used as Moses’s face.

I am especially impressed that Smith did not shy away from the more arcane, archaic and downright bizarre sections of Leviticus (which he refers to as “The Law”). Check out the R-rated scenes in “Sexual Discharges,” “Bestiality,” “Homosexuality,” and “Incest.” And you will not want to miss “When to Stone Your Children,” “When to Marry Your Sister-in-Law,” “When to Stone Your Whole Family,” and “How Long to Hang Someone.”

But lest you think think that The Brick Testament is not for the kids, rest assured that there are plenty of sections that you can look at together with your children at home or use as teaching aids in your religious studies classroom. In fact, this may be a great way to get kids engaged or re-engaged with Bible study. For creative engineering-type kids like my son, this may indeed by the best way to build a love of Torah.

By the way, it looks like I am late to jump on The Brick Testament bandwagon. Click here to read LOTS more about the project.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.



Paths With Puddles

January 15, 2010

Einstein in LEGO. From what I've heard, he wasn't the most conventional of learners.

As the saying goes, every path has its puddle, and I would say that parenthood is a road with a good number of water-filled potholes to navigate. The hard part is figuring out how to gracefully leap over those puddles without getting soaked, or worse yet completely drowning. In a time when we have map apps on our cell phones and GPS navis affixed to our dashboards, you would expect us to also have some kind of gadget to help guide us on this most perilous of journeys. Unfortunately no such such device exists, and we can only make our way with the assistance of the shelves and shelves of parenting books at Borders and the bit of wisdom we hopefully picked up as we watched our parents struggle to raise us.

And to extend this metaphor further, we can look to a helpful Jewish proverb (from where else? – Proverbs [22:6]): Chanoch lana’ar al pi darko, which means that we should teach a child according to his derech, his or her way or path. This bit of parenting advice has come in very handy for me lately as the differences among our three boys in terms of personality, interests and learning styles have come into stark contrast. The road we went down with our older two boys when they were each eight years old is not exactly the same one we need to go down now with our youngest who is now that age.

For example: While our older two were avid readers already in preschool, independently reading fiction chapter books in kindergarten and devouring works by J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket by third grade, our younger son is more of a reader for information. He is far more interested in how and why things happen physically than metaphysically. The geological and astronomical wonders of our real planet fascinate him far more than the wizardry of fictional, fantastical worlds. Bitten by the engineering bug, Son #3 is a serious LEGO builder. Whereas our little guy is completely in his element at the LEGO engineering and robotics classes he takes (not to mention his ecstatic state while on a recent visit to LEGOLAND in Southern California), such activities would have been a big yawn for our other two.
We are blessed with three bright, capable children not faced with any learning disabilities or developmental challenges (tfu, tfu, tfu), but my training as an educator as well my experience as a parent, makes me aware that for all of us, the path to learning is not a uniform one. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory came into vogue when I was studying education in graduate school, and it has served me well over the past twenty or so years. A good teacher is one who takes the time and makes the effort to figure out how to find the derech or drachim (plural of derech) to optimize each of her student’s learning. Gardner made a point of saying that although we all utilize all seven (some have added more) types of intelligences that he describes, there are those of us who are stronger in some than in others, and that some intelligences come to the fore in our thinking and learning in certain situations.

As I have written before, assessing and addressing the drachim in which the needs of children with learning differences and disabilities and developmental disorders can be met, is a subject unto itself and something only now starting to really happen in the world of Jewish education. The puddles facing the parents of these children, and of course the children themselves, are bigger than average size. It is the responsibility of the community to help these families negotiate them.

Debra Chasnoff, Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Groundspark's Executive Director and Senior Producer

Way back in the Stone Age, when I was a novice teacher, and even farther back when I was a student myself, the path of educating and raising adolescents was devoid of the challenge of dealing with gender identity. Of course, gender identity issues were always present, but they were dealt with quietly, privately and individually, and in many cases not at all. We now know that al pi darko, according to his or her way, involves the journey of sexual orientation and gender identity. Gardner identified the tools to support our children and students in this aspect of growing up – interpersonal intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence – so we now need to put them to good use.

Groundspark, is one of the educational organizations on the vanguard of this work. Its mission is to “create visionary films and dynamic educational campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.” A major project at Groundspark focuses on the creation of inclusive, bias-free school and community environments. The organization’s latest production, Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, is about gender and teens: “From girls confronting popular messages about culture and body image to boys who are sexually active just to prove they aren’t gay, the students in Straightlaced illustrate the toll that deeply held stereotypes and rigid gender policing have on all of our lives.”

There is little in Jewish tradition and ancient Jewish texts to guide us in Jewish approaches to helping our children navigate the puddles along this particular path. The liberal Jewish movements have only relatively recently started to take positions and issue teshuvot (legal opinions based on religious law) on LGBT-related matters. There are virtually no resources available for Orthodox educators other than those that simply reinforce biblical prohibitions (though things may be slowly changing). The best we can do is avail ourselves of the support that does exist, let our Judaism inform us in the way that we want it to, provide a safe environment, and be loving parents as we travel the road of life together with our children.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Be Good To Your Mother

October 31, 2009

What a good son won’t do for his mother.

Those of you who have been following my musings know that Halloween poses a dilemma for this Gen X Yiddishe Mamme. I have already told you that my mixed feelings about letting our kids celebrate the holiday have been mitigated somewhat by my middle son’s decision to go trick or treating dressed as SuperJew.

Well, now my youngest, a LEGO building fanatic, has unwittingly further assuaged my guilt by choosing to go around the neighborhood this evening, plastic pumpkin candy bucket in hand, as a LEGO brick. Of course, he hasn’t read my blog (BORING!, he’d say), but somehow he might have just picked up on a vibe telling him that this kind of guise would be a good choice. Here are a couple of pictures of him modeling his creative, mom-approved, homemade costume:

costume 2 costume 1

But then again, he did go to his school Halloween party dressed as a vampire, black bat-like cape on his back and bloody fangs painted on his face. Now, would that count as pagan and ghoulish, or just scary and gross?

© 2009 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.