experiments, instruments & measurement book

The Lemon Story & Why It Matters


By Susie Tessel

People feel disconnected. But a community is only built with lots of connections.

Reinforced concrete has steel running through it. This reinforcement distributes any load placed on it throughout the adjoining steel and concrete members. The result is greater strength, because burdens are shared by the whole.

So it is with a community. By communicating frequently with personal and pointed observations, we can reinforce our connections to share the burdens of community members and thereby create lasting relationships. The importance of reinforcing these connections cannot be overstated. Many important steps are required, but all include the slow and methodical intermediate steps.

The most important of those steps is taking the time to share an insight, vignette or observation personally observed.

One of the best examples I knpen-blank-paperow of this was when I was teaching a sixth grade class. It was the beginning of the academic year, and the Jewish holidays fell similarly to the way they do this year. I wondered how to frame the idea of the etrog and lulav, and their meaning. What do they represent? To introduce this concept, I asked my class “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?” and “If the Jewish people were a fruit what fruit would we be?” One of the most impulsive students in my class was David. To control him better and to have better access to him, I put him near me. When I asked this question he started waving his hands wildly in the air and calling out “Pick me! Pick me!” Because he was waving his hand right in my face, I was distracted and inadvertently called on him. David answered, “If the Jewish people were a fruit, they would be a lemon.” My heart sunk. Making light conversation, I asked him “Why do you say that?” He answered, “Everyone knows that by itself, a lemon is really sour, but if you add a little sugar and water you get lemonade – and that’s really something special. That’s like the Jewish people. Without God we are nothing, but with God’s help we are really something special.” I was floored. It was so brilliant and beautiful. So I sent his parents a “Nachus Note” in the mail in which I described the assignment, and what David had said.

The impact it had on their family was unbelievable. His mother actually came to class at the beginning of the next session. She ran into the class, hugged me, as she said, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe my son said this,” waving the “Nachas Note” in her hand. “I’ve never heard such nice things about him before in Hebrew school. Thank you so much… ” She did not stop talking, thanking and making the most effusive comments about me and my class!

And, from that moment onward, everything was so much easier, and so much more enjoyable both with her family and with her son.

You too can send “Nachus Notes”! A nachus note is a postcard sent to the home of each of the  students in class several times during the year.  The content begins, this nachus note is sent to share with you… extolling and describing a commendable action or contribution the child made to our class. Look around look for nice things that you see people doing. Prolong these incredible but fleeting moments- they are all too rare. Take advantage of these opportunities. When you see something commendable, share it! This makes it more permanent than a phone call that a distracted parent may not focus on at that particular moment, but can savor when things are quiet. That is why I sent the “Nachus Note” via snail mail – but an email may have worked just as well.

Communicate the good, share insights and observations and connect and reconnect. You will forge friendships that foster growth and learning, and help create a community with lasting bonds.


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