At Congregation B'nai Shalom we are very proud of our educational program! The Religious School offers classes from Pre-Kindergarten through grade twelve in such subjects as Holidays, Jewish History, Israel, Bible, Hebrew, Customs and Ceremonies, Life Cycle, Prayer, Holocaust and Reform Judaism. Tuesday or Thursday afternoon Hebrew studies begin in the third grade, however, students begin to learn Hebrew letters and vowels as early as first grade. Students continue attending Religious School during the week and on weekends through the 7th grade and then attend weekly (grades 8 – 10) and bi-weekly (Grades 11 and 12) for our CHAI School Program. Our Midweek program includes both Hebrew and Jewish Studies.
Session One - Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 7 - 8:15 AM - 10:15 AM
Session Two - Kindergarten* - Grade 7 - 10:45 AM - 12:45 PM
*Pre Kindergarten = Children who Will Enroll in Kindergarten for the Next School Year
Tuesday or Thursday Afternoons
Grade 3 - Grade 6 - 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Grade 7 - Grade 10 - Weekly 6:00 PM - 7:25 PM & Mini Modules 7:35 PM – 8:30 PM
Grades 11 & 12 - Bi-weekly 6:00 PM - 7:25 PM
ON THREE THINGS THE WORLD STANDS: ON Torah, ON PRAYER AND ON GEMILUT CHASADIM
The Jewish sages teach that "the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah, and G'milut Hasadim " (Avot 1:2). These pursuits – study, worship and deeds of loving kindness – provide the framework within which Jews build their relationship with God, with one another and with the world. Our congregational community and our school's program of study are based upon these three core Jewish values. Our core curriculum is designed to coincide with the developmental stages of children at each grade level.
In order to enhance student learning, we utilize two nationally recognized programs of study, CHAI and Mitkadem, published by the Union for Reform Judaism. The CHAI program follows an accepted curriculum model known as "backward design." This educational approach and that of the CHAI curriculum is designed so that student learning will go beyond the specific classroom activities and will reach a deeper enduring understanding, establishing the basis for later Jewish learning and living.
Mitkadem, our program of Hebrew language instruction, allows students to make choices within their Hebrew studies thus enhancing their motivation. Over time, the results of Mitkadem have shown diminished discipline issues because each child is engaged and their learning is supported. Bright, motivated students move quickly and expertly through Hebrew studies, while more challenged students are identified early on and can receive the assistance they need in order to be successful. Mitkadem creates an excitement in the classroom that is palatable and comprehensive.
Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten: My Jewish Family - Our youngest students are provided an understanding of basic Jewish holiday customs and ceremonies and commence their study of Torah stories from the Book of Genesis. By learning about Abraham and Sarah, the first Jews, and their descendants, students begin to develop their own connection to Judaism and the Jewish People.
Grade 1: Discovering Myself in the Jewish Story - Grade one begins our core Judaic program - the CHAI Curriculum, published by the Union for Reform Judaism. In addition to learning about Jewish views of God and prayer, students discover how they are a part of the ongoing story of Torah and the Jewish people, how Jewish acts help them discover the beauty and order of sacred time and become a part of the ongoing story of the Jewish People as they perform acts of G'milut Hasadim. Students also begin their study of Hebrew letters and vowels.
Grade 2: I am Part of the Jewish People - In this second year of CHAI, students continue to learn about each of the three strands and the personal significance and influence of Torah, Avodah, and G'milut Hasadim. They focus on the book of Shemot (Exodus) and discover their own power to make the world a better place through their study of G'milut Hasadim. Students also continue their study of Hebrew letters and vowels.
Grade 3: K'dushah (Holiness) - Students refine their own understanding and definition of K'dushah (holiness) and apply that understanding to how ritual objects, symbols, prayer and our behaviors can make moments and places holy. Students focus on the books of Bereshit (Genesis) and Vayikra (Leviticus) in which God teaches how to live a life filled with K'dushah. The Avodah section extends the year-long theme of K'dushah with an exploration of how students can use prayer to make the world more holy. The lessons of G'milut Hasadim teach students responsibility for increasing holiness through their deeds.
In addition to the CHAI Curriculum, students engage in a comprehensive study of the Jewish holidays using an innovative and new curriculum from Torah Aura. Third grade students also continue to learn Hebrew letters and vowels. During the second semester, third graders begin using the Mitkadem Hebrew curriculum. Mitkadem's self-paced and child-centered approach allows each student to achieve according to his/her own ability.
Grade 4: Being Part of the Community – During their weekday sessions, fourth graders learn about the Prophets and Reform Judaism's special relationship to their message. They also begin to understand the role of communal worship, particularly in a synagogue setting and focus on how personal acts of loving kindness relate to their relationships with family, friends and others they encounter in daily life.
In addition to the CHAI Curriculum, Grade four students have a Sunday morning course on the Land and People of Israel and continue their Hebrew studies using the Union for Reform Judaism's Mitkadem program of Hebrew Learning.
Grade 5: Living the Life of a Reform Jew - During their Torah lessons, fifth graders examine the connection between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel in the Torah. During their Avodah lessons, students examine the tension between individual and community in the Amidah, the central prayer of the synagogue service. The concept of community is also vital in G'milut Hasadim where students learn about how community members take care of each other. During their Sunday morning sessions, students study the Jewish Life Cycle and reflect on the deeper meaning of Jewish celebration. Grade five Hebrew students show a rapid growth in skills as they continue with higher levels of the Mitkadem Hebrew Curriculum.
Grade 6: Revelation – The revelation of Torah at Sinai was a defining moment in the life of the Jewish people and is the beginning of a Jew's ongoing relationship with God. In Grade six, students investigate how the collection of stories, poems, and words of wisdom known as Ketuvim (writings) relate to the individual's relationship with God. In their Avodah lessons, students study the components of the Torah service and the role of the sh'liach tzibur (prayer leader). The G'milut Hasadim program helps students integrate Jewish values with universal causes.
In addition to the CHAI curriculum, students also attend a weekday course – An Introduction to Jewish History. This year long survey course traces the development of Jewish community during the major periods of Jewish History. Our journey takes us from the Biblical era to the bloom of Sephardic Jewry in the Middle Ages through the growth of the Ashkenazi community of Eastern Europe, to the immigration of a Diaspora community in the United States and ultimately to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Grade six continues their formal study of Hebrew via the Mitkadem curriculum and by this point students are able to demonstrate fluency in prayer and have a developing Hebrew vocabulary. Students integrate Hebrew with T'fillah and music by attending a Sunday service for students in grades three through seven. Finally, our sixth graders travel to URJ Camp Eisner for a Shabbat experience with their classmates and teachers.
CHAI School (Grades 7 – 12) Program
Our Jewish tradition offers unique insights into the problems confronting young people today. Students and teachers discuss relevant topics and issues they confront as Jewish teens and uncover information they need in order to learn and grow as Jewish young adults. Our CHAI School program blends formal and informal learning opportunities in order to provide a meaningful and safe Jewish environment for our teenagers. CHAI School offers youth the opportunity to investigate the depth and beauty of Judaism and balances the need for Jewish education with an awareness of the numerous activities and responsibilities of today's teens.
Our seventh through tenth grade students come together weekly on Tuesday evenings and our eleventh and twelfth grade students meet on a bi-weekly schedule. From 6:00-6:30 pm we begin with a community dinner followed by the Birkat HaMazon (Blessing after the Meal) and announcements. Students enjoy this opportunity to spend time socializing with their Jewish friends and classmates in an informal setting. From 6:30-7:25 PM, students attend grade-level core courses. Our second hour of programming (7:35-8:30 PM) includes mini modules that are meant to teach Jewish concepts and the arts in a more informal setting. These mini modules vary from year to year, but usually involve text study and interactive discussions and activities. CHAI School offers youth the opportunity to investigate the depth and beauty of Judaism.
Our tenth grade program includes a Confirmation ceremony during Shavuot services and a twelfth grade ceremony honoring our graduates in May. Under the guidance of the rabbis, students create and lead the Confirmation service, offering insights and teachings to the congregation. Photos of all of our Confirmation classes are displayed in the Temple for all to see.
Grade 7: Hineini – Here I Am as an Emerging Jewish Adult - Using the world renowned curriculum created by Facing History and Ourselves, and using the Holocaust as a lens, our seventh grade curriculum links history to ethics by engaging teachers and students in a journey from identity, through the study of particular historical case study, provoking questions that are both particular and universal. Students study traditional Jewish sources focusing on the prophets and their responses to anti-Semitism and difficult historical times. Students also go on with their use of the CHAI Curriculum and continue with their formal study of Hebrew. CHAI focuses on personal reflection and improvement, "Who I am and who I'd like to be," helping each student reach his/her potential. Torah study turns to B'reishit and commentaries as well as a study of the weekly Torah portion with the rabbis in our new course – Rabbi’s Roundtable! Avodah concentrates on the relevance of ritual and living a prayerful life and G'milut Chasadim starts with the individual, tikkun middot and repairing ourselves.
Grade 8: Making Judaism Work for Me! - We present a dual curriculum to our 8th grade students, using the URJ CHAI curriculum designed for their age group. Topics include:
- Social Justice
- Famous Jews and Role Models
- Spirituality, Faith, Belief
- Arts, Culture and Literature
- Food, Ethics, and Health
- Launch into High School
The 8th graders also study comparative religion using the text Apples and Oranges: Judaism and the World Religions by Rabbi David S. Lieb. Students discuss and learn about each of the world's major religions and debate how Judaism is both similar and different from them. Comparative religion is a great way to learn about Judaism. Topics include; "what is a religion", things to remember about Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Students will also discuss how to respond to Christian Missionaries. Jewish Text based activities that further open students' insight into each religion and invite active discussions will complement each session.
A special overnight program including a ropes course and community time will enhance student learning and create opportunities for social interaction. It is our hope that during their eighth grade year, students will discover how our Jewish heritage can help them strengthen family relationships and fulfill their communal responsibilities.
Grade 9: Coming to America - Our ninth graders, using contemporary materials and specifically designed curriculum, explore the political, social, economic, and religious history of the American Jewish community during the Eastern European migration to America. Students travel as a group to New York City and experience their curriculum "first hand" during our Jewish New York Tour.
9th graders also explore ethical and moral issues and learn how to apply Jewish principles and concepts to their everyday lives. Text study, group debate and discussion make up the core of our 9th grade program.
Grade 10: Confirmation - What is God? Is there more than one way to perceive of God? How can we know God? What does God want from us? How does God fit into my life? If there is a God, why do bad things happen in the world? This is a course about God. More specifically, it is a course about ways in which Jews have spoken about and to God through four thousand years of Jewish history. The Rabbi will present a spectrum of theological options that have been explored and affirmed by great Jewish thinkers, ancient and modern, and offer students a solid foundation to begin the exploration of their own concepts of God.
Our 10th graders also participate in a social action program in Washington D.C. in January. They join students from all over the country to experience our nation's capital through Jewish lenses. The 10thgrade year culminates in a Confirmation ceremony on Erev Shavuot. Under the guidance of the rabbis, the tenth grade students create and lead the service, offering their own insights and teachings to the congregation.
Grades 11 and 12: Packing for College – Where Does Judaism Fit? - Our post confirmation program is designed to ensure that our students are ready for the challenges post high school graduation. When they get to college, our students will come into contact and interact with students from all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. When they are talking with their friends and questions come up about what Judaism believes in, this course will assist them with the answers. They will be able to explain Reform Judaism when faced with challenges from their more traditional peers. Students grapple with the importance of the Land of Israel and gain the necessary knowledge in order to comprehend the complexity of the situation.
Educational Trips and Overnights
Grades 4 Overnight Program at JCC Worcester
Grades 5 & 6 Overnight Program at Temple
Grades 7 & 8 Overnight Program at Temple and Ropes Course
Grade 9 Jewish Heritage Trip to NYC
Grade 10 Washington D.C. Social Justice L’Taken Seminar
Sample Electives for Grades 7 – 10
Jewish Arts and Crafts, Eat Your Way through Torah, Jewish Ethics, Jewish Cooking, Jewish Music, Jewish Roots in Christianity, Jewish Women, Sex in the Texts, Teen Choir, Teen Torah Talk, So You Want To Be a Camp Counselor, Trope, The Ethics of South Park and Krusty's Guide to the Ethical. View a full description of the entire program
Over fifty of our students work as assistant teachers in our classrooms on Sunday mornings and during the week. Teens selected to participate in this program are wonderful role models for our younger students and help us keep a low teacher-student ratio in our growing school. Our Madrichim participate in an orientation and ongoing training and development.
Please feel free to email or call him at 508-366-7191 to learn more about our educational programs. We look forward to learning together with you and your family in the years ahead!