OVERVIEW (scroll down for specifics)
We are very proud of our curriculum! It was thoughtfully crafted over several years, by a team of parents and faculty, with the support of a NESS (National Excellence in Synagogue Schools) grant administered through Jewish Learning Works. Our curriculum consists of several components:
Jewish Values – Each grade focuses on a core set of 3 to 5 Jewish values. Our students study the texts, stories, prayers and history of Judaism through the lens of these values. Mishpacha (family) days focus on one of the core values for the grade. Each grade also engages in a social action chesed (kindness) project that connects to the values they are studying.
Torah and Talmud – Each grade studies several stories or texts, through the lens of core Jewish values.
Ahavat Tsiyon (Love of Israel) is integral to who we are and how we study.
Prayers – We study the prayers as expressions of our Jewish values.
Hebrew language – Knowledge of Hebrew connects us to Jewish communities of past, present and future generations. It is the language of Torah, Jewish prayer and the State of Israel, and through it we develop our sense of pride and Jewish identity. Our goal is reading fluency, comfort with the main prayers of a Shabbat service, and understanding of key words that express our values.
6th AND 7th GRADERS are treated to an extraordinary set of offerings. Each of these classes meets one hour a week, and is a mandatory part of our Monday/Wednesday program:
- “Mitzvot” with Rabbi Nat Ezray. Our senior rabbi teaches a weekly 7th grade class exploring mitzvot as obligations of kindness in real life. Students visit Second Harvest Food Bank and the Peninsula Humane Society. They learn CPR. Each student forms a relationship with an elder in the congregation. Most important is the relationships the students form with the rabbi himself.
- “Meaningful Prayer” with Bill Futornick. Every student loves our ritual director, Bill Futornick! Bill tutors the students one-on-one for their bnei-mitzvah, but he first begins to form relationships with them through his weekly 6th grade class.
- “Trope” aka Cantillation with Cantor Barbara Powell. Students meet the cantor in small groups, during religious school hours, organized around their Bar/Bat-mitzvah dates. These sessions cover the skills for learning a Torah portion and the Haftarah blessings. At the end of their sessions, students should have knowledge of the basic trope (cantillation) for reading Torah.
- “Sichot” with Sooze Protter. The dynamic Sooze Protter, experienced teacher, therapist and life coach, creates a safe, confidential space where students can ask tough questions and grapple with real-world issues in a Jewish context. Topics include: What does it mean to be handicapped? Why is gossip SO tempting? Do animals have souls?
- “Modern Jewish History” with Ilona Shechter. No one tells a story like Ilona Shechter! Our 7th graders get to spend an entire year diving into the story of Ashkenazi jewry, from shtetl to Holocaust to the Jewish state.
- “Tefilah Workshop” with Robin Feuchtwang, Erez Saldinger, and John Poole (fall only). 6th and 7th graders learn to lead the evening service, finding their own connections to the prayers. Half the class period is spent in small workgroups, preparing a slideshow about the prayers. Half the class period is spent praying, with student groups rotating as leaders, their slide shows projected on the screen behind them as they lead.
- “Everyday-Judaism Electives” (spring only). We are offering three electives this spring: (i) Modern Jewish Hall of Fame, with Erez Saldinger. Students will create their own entries for a national online museum of Jewish trailblazers. (ii) Cooking with Hebrew with Robin Feuchtwang. First some language decoding, then roll up your sleeves and get in the kitchen! Yum! (iii) Girls Group with Dori Ben-David Johnston. The girls in this group never want it to end!
- Hebrew workshop with Riva Jacobs. 6th graders work each at his our her own level, with an individualized plan constructed for them by Morah Riva.
3rd, 4th AND 5th GRADERS
Every Monday and Wednesday, these grades get 45 minutes to focus on Hebrew skills, and one hour to focus more broadly on Torah, history, Israel and prayer through the lens of Jewish values. This year, September through January our Hebrew skills classes will meet as grade level groupings. 3rd grade polishes their reading fluency, 4th grade uses the shma as their central text, and 5th grade uses the Amidah as theirs. Advanced and beginner students will work in pull-out groups. February through May, 4th and 5th graders will be invited to participate in Hebrew electives. They will practice their Hebrew skills through art projects, performing a Hebrew play, or creating games.
New this year is Tradition Together, a project led by Morah Esti BenDavid to give parents opportunity to share their life lessons with our students.
Also new this year is Project Sandwich, to prepare lunches for Samaritan House once a month during religious school hours. The list of ongoing social action (chesed) projects is long, and engagement with these projects is an essential piece of our values-based curriculum,
Junior Congregation is essential during these years. During the week our students study the prayers, but on Shabbat they learn how to do them.
Kindergarten, 1st AND 2nd GRADERS
Kindergarteners learn about the Torah’s creation story, and focus on the two mitzvot that emerge from it: Shabbat and protecting our planet. First graders learn about Noah’s ark, and the mitzvah of protecting animals. Second graders learn about Abaraham and Sarah, who welcomed guests into their tent. All three grades enjoy exploring the holidays, learning the aleph-bet, and, by the end of 1st grade, beginning to decode words. Our youngest grades meet on Wednesdays, plus an optional Shabbat program. These are the years to build the routines of community and commitment.