On Religion

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Beth Israel Temple

The Beth Israel Center is about five blocks away from our school. When we got there we looked up and saw the words Beth Israel Jewish Center. Pretty normal. But right above them there was a Star of David. A Star of David is a six pointed star DRAWING OF STAR IN TEXT, a sign of Judaism. Above the doorway was a stone plaque with big Hebrew letters. After stopping for a moment to look, we went to the side door where Amy greeted us and led us down a hall to a small bathroom. This was no ordinary bathroom. In it there was a ritual bath, called a Mikvah. A Mikvah is to clean yourself in a spiritual way on special occasions, such as marriage or converting to Judaism. The water is “living water”, part rain collected from the roof. You dunk yourself in three times, getting all your hair wet. You say a blessing. A bride might have a mom or sister say the blessing for her.

This temple is not only for services and prayers, it also has school for children and adults. The children have an after school program, because they just couldn’t get enough kids to participate in a regular hours school. We went through a classroom much like a classroom at Randall. There were white boards, charts, and a clock. But the charts weren’t in English, they were in Hebrew. In Hebrew, you read from right to left. Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet. The clock had numbers in Hebrew as well.

After seeing the classrooms, we met Rabbi Kenneth Katz. He lead us upstairs to a HUGE kitchen, with two sides: dairy and meat. A lot of Jews will not eat any dairy product with meat. It’s not just no cheese on a hamburger, it’s no steak with ice cream for desert! This is called Kosher, which means fit and proper. Most foods now have a mark on food packaging showing that the product is okay for Jews and others who keep a Kosher diet. The mark is called a Hecsher. Jews do not eat pork or shellfish. They kill their meat in a fast, low tech way. They kill the animal with a knife in one stroke, killing it immediately so it doesn’t have to suffer quite as long.

The rabbi told us that about one out of every 4000 persons is Jewish. Something surprising was that the largest group of Jews in the world deny that they are even Jewish. There are three parts to being Jewish.

After exploring the kitchen we went into the temple. It was beautiful, with red seats and carpet and a velvet drape. Services are public, so anyone can attend. We took out the prayer book to page 340. Some of us were confused, because the pages number from right to left, too! We saw Hebrew on one side and English on the other.
In the Jewish religion, anyone can speak to God anytime about anything and in any language, although Hebrew is highly preferred.

Rabbi Katz showed us 12 or so beautiful Torahs, different colors decorated with bells and silver breastplates. These were in memory of the temple that once stood in Jerusalem. The Torah is made of five books, and the pages are parchment, or animal skin. On our way out we met Annabelle Argan TI, and she gave us tootsie rolls. What a treat!


In Beth Israel, not only do people attend synagogue, but they take Hebrew classes and have fun. Both kids and adults are welcome. Kids come after school to learn about their Jewish heritage. An old Jewish tradition is a Mikva (SP?a ritual bath) to spiritually cleanse yourself. You must completely submerge your body and dunk yourself three times.

The kitchen is separated into two parts: a dairy and a meat side. That is because it is a Kosher kitchen. Kosher (which means fit or proper) has three basic rules:
1. There are animals you don’t eat, pork and shellfish.
2. You have to kill the animals you can eat a certain way, with a sharp blade and in one stroke, to cause the least pain. You must hit a major artery and the windpipe. If that takes more than one stroke, it’s not kosher meat.
3. You can’t eat milk and meat together. That is because in order to get meat, you have to kill, and to get milk, you cooperate (WITH THE COW, RIGHT?). THE RABBI SAID, RIGHT? That if you realize this, you are less likely to be cruel.

Being Jewish is an ethnicity—you learn your ways from your parents. It is a religion. And it is a nationality, since 1948 Israel has been a Jewish country. –Zoe

Beth Israel is a Jewish temple. It is not only a place of worship, but a place of learning and community. They teach Hebrew to the young and old and hold community dinners for anyone who wants to come.

In the Jewish culture, on special occasions such as getting married or converting to Judaism, you must take a holy bath. This is not a bath because you’re dirty. It is called a Mitsvah(CHECK SP.) In the Mitsvah you dip your whole body in three times, then say a blessing. The water for the bath is part rain water, because historically the Jewish people would take a Mitsvah in a stream or river, wherever water is moving.

Another Jewish tradition is about being Kosher. When we walked into the kitchen one side was for dairy and the other for meat. To eat kosher you can never mix meat and dairy together. You can’t eat certain animals, such as pork and shellfish. Animals that you are allowed to eat have to be killed in one blow so they don’t suffer.


Ever check your box of Cheerios carefully? Well, if you did you would see this sign: (HANDRAWN SYMBOL). This means the cereal is Kosher. Kosher can be a big part of Jewish tradition. It consists of three basic ideas. 1 is they don’t eat certain animals, like pork AND? The second main idea is that animals have to be killed a certain way. The knife must have no chips or scratches because that would cause the animal to have more pain than needed. And they must kill the animal in one single stroke of the blade. The third idea is you can’t eat milk and meat together. For example, you couldn’t have steak with butter.


Keeping Kosher is a good habit, but inconvenient. There are three rules: one, there are certain animals you don’t eat. The two biggest non-Kosher animals America eats are pigs and shellfish. Two: You can only eat things that have fins and scales from the ocean. The only land animals you can eat must have cloven hooves and chew their cud. These animals also have to be Kosherly(sic!) butchered. This means in a non-cruel low-tech way. The butcher has to have a very special knife. First he examines it to make sure there are no nicks, because that would make the animal suffer even more. Then a blessing is said. The butcher then kills the animal. He must sever the main artery and the windpipe in one blow or the animal is not Kosher. Three: Meat and Dairy must be completely separated. The have different sinks, ovens, dishes, etc. The idea is dairy or milk is gotten cooperatively from the animal, and meat is killing. So these should not be put together. It would be like saying killing is good.


They have classes. They don’t teach Math or normal things like that, they teach Hebrew. Hebrew is the language that Jewish people speak. When they read Hebrew, they read left to right. In the classroom, everything is in Hebrew, like the alphabet and the numbers on the clocks.

–Juan Pablo

We were first shown the Mikvah or cleansing bath that consists partly of rain water collected from the roof. People dip three times into a tub of water saying prayers and blessings completely naked.

Next, we were shown the rooms downstairs in the synagogue for teaching children the ways of Judaism and the Hebrew alphabet. We learned that in traditional Hebrew there are no vowels. Next, Rabbi Kenneth Katz showed us the kitchen. It was basically two kitchens. The reason? Jews believe that milk and meat should never be put together, because if you are milking a cow and killing a cow those two things just don’t go together, so consequently they have separate stoves, separate refrigerators, and separate counters and sinks.

If you eat meat you have to eat Kosher. There are some basic ground rules to Kosher eating: never eat pigs or shellfish, never eat milk and meat together, and all animals have to be killed without technology. They have to be cloven hoofed and they have to chew their cud and they have to be slaughtered as painlessly as possible with one stroke of a knife.


When I first went into the room where they have services, I didn’t see anything special. It looked just like the church that I go to. But there was a red curtain. Someone asked what was behind the curtain. So the rabbi pulled the curtain up. It amazed everyone! There were about 20 scrolls, all with a metal cover over them.


Amy led us down a long, long hallway to a small bathroom. It looked exactly like a regular bathroom, except that there was a hot tub like thing she told us is called a Mikvah in Hebrew. It is a special bath that originally was moving water, like a river or a stream. You dip yourself three times completely under water. The water they use is a combination of rain water and sink water. Amy took us into a classroomwhere they taught Hebrew. In Hebrew, you read from right to left. Here are all the Hebrew letters: HAS DRAWING OF ALPHABET CHARACTERS When we walked into the temple, it looked like a church, with red carpet and wooden benches. But when you walked in farther you could see memoriums on the wall written in Hebrew, menorahs with lightbulbs, books of prayers written in Hebrew, and a skylight with the Star of David upon it. We sat down and looked around this magnificent room. Then Rabbi Katz chanted a prayer for us. If it is a weekday, the prayer will be chanted fast, but if it is a weekend it will be slower. Rabbi Katz showed us his yarmulke or kiepa. It is a small round hat that the Romans made the Jews wear when they took over. They gave each type of people a certain type of clothing to tell them apart. The yarmulke was a disability, but has now become a custom.


Kosher is a Hebrew word that was adopted into the English language. It means fit or proper. In order for meat to be Kosher, it has to be killed a certain way. It can’t be pork or shellfish. When they kill the animal they inspect a special knife to be sure there are no nicks of breaks in the blade. When they kill the animal they have to cut the main artery and the wind pipe at the same time. They do this so that the animal dies as quickly as possible with as little suffering as possible. To keep Kosher, you can’t have meat and milk together. For example, you can’t have roast beef with butter. Not many people do this anymore, mostly because there aren’t many Jews. There is about one Jew for every 400 people. (4000?)


I learned that you can deduct a Jewish year by adding 3.760 years to the common year if it’s before Rosh Hashonna or 3761 if it’s after. It is currently the Jewish year 5762 (OR COMMON ERA?)


Hebrew has three roots: ch, sh,r.


Anyone can lead a prayer. It used to be only rabbis could do it, and then only men, but now men and women can do it as long as they know how.


Holy Notes

The Holy Notes is a band with three women and two men. They play blues and gospel. They really only play gospel, because if you have a saxophone, it really ain’t blues.


The band has been playing together for one year. One of them learned how to play their instrument in fourth grade. One of the members learned how to play the accordion and other instruments before she learned how to play the bass. One of the members decided to play guitar because he heard his friend playing guitar and he thought it sounded good.


Everyone in the band sings. They normally sing religious songs and songs about the blues or happiness. Their music was wonderful, and I want to see them again.


Norway Grove Memorial Lutheran Church

The first Norwegians came to the Townships of Windsor and Vienna in 1844. During the next three years, many settlers came here from Sogn, Norway, to the community lying in the northwestern part of the Town of Windsor and the adjoining portion of the Town of Vienna. This region became known as Norway Grove, with its hills, woods and creeks reminding the immigrants of their homeland.

Shortly after New Year’s of 1847, these Norwegian settlers, together with those of Spring Prairie and Bonnet Prairie, invited J. W. C. Dietrichson, pastor at Koshkonong, to come and conduct services and to baptize their children. In October of 1849 it was decided that the settlers from these three areas would organize a Norwegian Lutheran Congregation.

The site for the first church at Norway Grove is described in the deed of Dec. 15, 1853. It was purchased from Erik Johnson and John J. Johnson for ten dollars, containing one acre and one hundred fifty-two square rods of land, “for church purposes including site for a meeting house, burying or cemetery ground and a way to get thereunto from the east side of said section.”

The first stone church was dedicated in 1861, but by 1902 the congregation had grown so much that a new church had to be built. This second church was completed and dedicated on May 17, 1903.

Adapted from History of the Norway Grove Lutheran Church, 1947


The Madison Gospelaires are an a capella group. A capella means singing without instruments. The Gospelaires sang a few songs for us. They were called “There’s No Secret,” “How Long,” and “Doors of Progress.”

Gospel music is about Jesus and God, meaning it is in the Christian religion. The last song they sang alone was “Lord Remember Me.” Then we sang with them a little bit. We sang, “This Little Light of Mine” and another song. I thought we were good but I think they were better because of course they practice a lot and are doing gospel music all the time.

Sometimes in gospel music you clap your hands. I also saw them tapping their feet to the rhythm once in a while. They had a good sense of rhythm and I doubt they ever get off the beat.


Gospel singing has its roots in singing by Black slaves. Slaves sang the songs when they were picking cotton. But you don’t have to be Black to be a gospel singer.


Indian Lake Chapel

Viola Helt is the great-great-granddaughter of the man who built the chapel. Viola told us that a statue in a house was stolen, an alter was stolen, and a donation box in the chapel was stole. Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! I wonder if they were all stolen by the same person? Viola said the reason her great-great-grandpa built the chapel was because his family was sick from a disease called diphtheria.


Viola Helt told us about the chapel in Indian Lake County Park. It was her great-great Grandpa who built the chapel in 1857. He built the chapel because some people in his family got sick and then got better. At one time the altar at the chapel was stolen. And at one time a donation box to keep the chapel up was stolen. Viola’s class used to walk through fields to get to the chapel twice a year. A statue was once stolen from the chapel, and they got a new statue after it was stolen.


Why would anybody steal something from a chapel?


One day when Viola went to the chapel she prayed for rain. In the next two or three days it rained. Viola goes to the chapel once a year with her son. She is honored to have the chapel in her family’s name.


In the winter the walk to the chapel is dangerous. There are slippery stairs and one long staircase. You need to go up many steps. It is long, but the walk to the chapel is worth it. It is a beautiful, enlightening place, stuck up in the woods.


When you get to the chapel, the chapel will be very small because the chapel is kind of like keeping a secret of god mother and god. In the chapel there are pictures of god and another kind of god mother. Close to the door there’s a board written in German. At the table there were a stature and tall cups. On the edge of the table there were some black notebook. The notebook was there because when you get there you got to write a thank you note to god because he had helped you.


Every year in May and October, St. Martin’s Catholic School does a pilgrimage from the St. Martin Church to the Indian Lake Chapel. On the way up, they say rosaries. It takes several rosaries to get there. Viola said that a rosary takes about fifteen minutes to say. They do this in May and October because one is the month of rosaries and the other is the month of Mary. Viola’s family also goes up to the chapel at least once a year and they are very proud to be a part of the family that built it.


Forest Hill Cemetery

The Forest Hill Cemetery is divided into sections by roads and paths. We started by the Union Soldiers’ Rest, where a lot of the Union soldiers are buried. All the tombstones look alike. A larger headstone is standing in the middle. We all thought it was a general, or someone important, but it was for all those kids whose dads went off to war. We walked down to the Confederate Soldiers’ Rest, and it looked about the same.

In the Jewish part of the cemetery, the headstones had Hebrew inscribed on them. Some had little stones or pebbles on top. Anna’s mom said it is a sign of respect.


Families were buried either under the same stone or really close. I think that is very good and I hope to do that, too. One student commented that it was kind of weird that we were walking over bodies. I found it peaceful. There also were Hmong headstones with beautiful color laser etchings of mountains, lakes, and other scenes from nature on the backs of the stones. There were beautiful flowers around these recent graves. Some had been knocked over by the wind, so we fixed them.


When Forest Hill Cemetery was built it was thought that cemeteries should perform double duty as parks. So Forest Hill is a park, too.


Cemeteries are naturally what we think of as spooky or haunted, scary places where we bury our dead. But almost none of that is true. The part that about a place to bury our dead is right, but a lot of people don’t think of it as burying someone who is dead. Some think the person has moved on, or some people think in terms of reincarnation.

The headstones are very important. Symbols on headstones can mean things. For instance, a hand pointing up means immortality, and there are a lot more symbols where that came from.


I learned that lots of people even use culture when they died. I did not know that people use candles and stars in their culture.

Juan Pablo

Cambodian Buddhist Society

The Buddhist temple took my breath away because I never saw a real Buddhist before, only on movies in Hmong.


At this temple they are Theravadan Buddhists. Thera means elder and vada means vehicle. The Buddha is not a god, he is a teacher. The Buddha is at a level of attainment that is enlightenment. The perfect enlightenment is abandoning all actions that are wrong. The Buddha became enlightened when he meditated under the Bodhi tree.


When we walked into the temple, we were asked to take off our shoes. Then we were told to bow to the statue of the Buddha three times and the monk three times. The three bows represent the three jewels. Ethics are important in Buddhism. For example: If you did a bad deed and got 100 points of bad, and then you did a good deed and got 100 points good, they would not cancel each other out. You must learn a lesson.


Some people go to the temple even if they aren’t Buddhist, just to look at the culture.

Cambodian New Year is in mid April. They have dancing with drums and coin tossing. It lasts for three nights. The monk is not allowed to drive. He is not allowed to eat after 12:00. He has a very strict life. The monk chants most of the time for offering. The chant is quite long.

The Buddha is always wearing a saffron robe. He didn’t want any flashy colors. The primary colors are traditional.