Keeping The Promise

Let's Talk About the Story

  1. When does this story take place?
  2. Jews refer to World War II as the Holocaust. What is the meaning of the word "Holocaust" and what images come to mind?
  3. Adolf Hitler was responsible for creating the Holocaust. What were his followers called?
  4. There have been many anti-semites (people who hate Jews) over the centuries. What was different about Hitler and the Nazis?
  5. There are 3 heroes in this book. Who are they? Why is each one a hero? What is the connection between each one and the title of the book?
  6. The Jews in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp always felt that their lives were being threatened. Why did Rabbi Dasberg and Joachim take the risk of holding a Bar-Mitzvah ceremony?
  7. What about Joachim's mother? Is she also a hero? If you think so, please explain.


Let's Talk About the Torah Scroll

  1. The Torah is composed of the Five Books of Moses. Name each book.
  2. When and where do we read the Torah from a scroll?
  3. Here's some Torah scroll background: A Torah scroll is written on sheets of parchment. The parchment usually comes from a cow, although other kosher animals can be used. Parchment is made by placing the animal's skin in limewater and then stretching it over a wooden frame to dry. Once the skin is dry and all the animal hairs have been removed, it is cut into rectangles. A Sefer Torah can use as many as 80 skins!
    Now for the big question: What do you call the person who writes the Sefer Torah? What does he write the letters with?
  4. Which holiday celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people?
  5. Which holiday celebrates the completion of reading the Torah and what do you do in the synagogue to have a good time?
  6. What's the connection between the size of the Torah scroll in "KEEPING THE PROMISE" and Simhat Torah?

Q & A for Older Children and/or Those with a Strong Jewish Background

Q: How long does it take to write a whole Torah scroll?
A: About 6 months!

Q: What is the difference between the letters in the Torah scroll and in the
Hebrew prayer book?
A: In a Torah scroll there are little "crowns" above many of the letters.

Q: Today we use books instead of scrolls to learn Torah. Why?
A: It's very hard to jump from one section to another if you're reading from
a scroll since you have to constantly roll it.

Q: What happens when we find a mistake or a letter that can't be read in the
Torah scroll, while reading it in the synagogue?
A: The scroll is closed, a new one taken out, and we continue reading from
that point. Later in the week, the scroll is given to the scribe for fixing the
error.

Let's Talk About a Bar Mitzvah

  1. What do the words Bar Mitzvah literally mean?
  2. Describe a Bar Mitzvah ceremony.
  3. How old is a Bar Mitzvah boy?
  4. A girl has a Bat Mitzvah. How old is she when she celebrates this event?
  5. Why the difference in age between boys and girls?

Let's Talk About the Jews of Holland

  1. The Jews first settled in Holland during the Spanish Inquisition. What is the connection between the Inquisition and the Holocaust?
  2. The most famous book written during the Holocaust was a diary written by a young Jewish girl. What was her name?
  3. Anne Frank and her family were also sent to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Is there a connection between Anne's writing a diary and
    Joachim's retelling of his story?

Let's Talk About Ilan Ramon

  1. Who was Ilan Ramon and why was he so important?
  2. Was Ilan Ramon a hero even before he became an astronaut?
  3. Ilan Ramon was a very proud Jew. In addition to taking the little Torah scroll into outer space with him, he also took other important items relating to his Jewish identity. What were they?
  4. What kind of food did Ilan Ramon eat when he was in outer space?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Let your students pretend they are Torah scribes. Buy onion paper, quill pens and ink. Hand them out and let your students copy the first paragraph of Genesis.
  2. Space Shuttle "Show & Tell": Ilan Ramon took the little Torah scroll and other Judaica objects into outer space with him and showed them off to the world. Have your students pretend they are astronauts. Tell them to bring 2-3 Judaica objects from home and explain why these items are so important.
  3. Turn the book "Keeping the Promise" into a class play. You'll find that you can use several students as narrators, plus there's lots of dialog. Other students can make the background props. With enough rehearsal time, you can turn it into a school performance.
  4. Prepare a classroom exhibition for Holocaust Remembrance Day based on "Keeping the Promise." Make Holland and the fate of its Jewish community the focus. Here's a link for information on Dutch Jewry: www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/netherlands.html#toward Find out what happened to the Dutch Jews that survived. Did they go back to Holland? Settle in Israel? Where in Israel? Use Joachim Joseph as an example of a Dutch Jew who settled in Israel. Find out if there are Holocaust memorials in Holland.