Curriculum: Guiding Principles
Goal #1: To create a sense of positive, strong Jewish self-identity based upon the following guiding questions:
- What is the historical relationship between God and the Jewish people and how does that relationship continue today?
- What are the values set forth through the teachings of our tradition and how do these values guide us in our relationship with others and with our world?
- What tools are essential for living a Jewish life?
- What was the role of the land of Israel in our history and what role does it play in our lives?
Goal #2: To assist students and their families in grappling with the guiding questions in a way that is accessible, relevant, meaningful, and modern.
Goal #3: To foster a connection to “community” that includes their class, the congregation, the Jewish people and all the world.
Community Building — Parents and students come together at crossroad moments including holiday celebrations and inter-generational experiences.
Positive Identity — Building a love for and celebration of learning.
Values Through Stories — Judaism has always valued our written tradition. Age-appropriate Jewish stories are the vehicle used to convey our values.
Holidays — An introduction to Jewish holidays on an elementary level.
“Torah Godly Play” — Play, the senses and stories are the way that Pre-K students learn best. We provide the framework and guidance for families and students to access content. This teaching modality was developed by Hebrew College.
Tot Shabbat — Our most important weekly holiday celebrating the works of creation and our day of rest. Check the calendar for dates of our family Tot Shabbat.
Community Building — By connecting to one another we understand who we are and from where we come.
Values Through Stories — Judaism has always valued our written tradition. Age-appropriate stories are the vehicle used to enhance understanding of Jewish values.
Holidays — The focus is on the cycle of the Jewish year and its joyous celebrations through stories and practice. With the passing of each new year we gain new insights as we celebrate the holiday.
“Torah Godly Play” — Learning the kid-friendly stories of our tradition through words, props and interaction with the narrative including key teachings through the stories of Genesis (Bereshit), the first book of the Torah
Hebrew — The significance of our names, the Alef-Bet and key vocabulary are used as building blocks for future Hebrew learning.
Rites of Passage — Hanukat Banim (the celebration of the commencement of Jewish learning)
1st and 2nd Grade: A two-year revolving curriculum
Community Building: Connecting to one another as a way of understanding who we are through our heritage and in our larger and varied communities.
Year A: Tot Shabbat: Experiencing time as holy and meaningful, celebrating creation & gratitude for our lives
Year B: Family Shabbat Experience: The next level after Tot Shabbat
Values through the book of Exodus
Positive Identity: Exploring age-appropriate ways of being “a good person,” or in Yiddish, a mensch
Holidays: The Jewish year and the joyous celebrations that it is made of with an introduction to the rituals and ritual objects of the holidays in an age- appropriate way. The focus on ritual will be a different in the 2nd year.
Year A: Beginning to decode the Alef-Bet. learn simple rote prayers (Barchu, Shema, etc.)
Year B: Family Hebrew where parents/caregivers learn together with the students.
Torah: Key teachings through the stories of Exodus (Shemot) using various teaching modalities including “Torah Godly Play.”
Rites of Passage: Siyyum HaSefer (Ceremony celebrating students learning of the Alef-Bet)
3rd and 4th Grade: A two-year revolving curriculum
Community Building: Connecting to one another as a way of understanding who we are by heritage and in the world.
Values: Our ancient Torah has teachings still relevant to our lives today.
Positive Identity and Torah: Exploring our relationship with God in the stories of Genesis (Bereshit) using music, song, video and drama.
Holidays: The Jewish year and the joyous celebrations that it is made of with a focus on the rituals of the holidays on an age appropriate level.
Hebrew and Prayer (Tefilah)— Age-appropriate liturgy (prayers) with emphasis on decoding and understanding their relevance, meaning and how they enhance our relationship with God.
Family Shabbat Experiences: Three Shabbat experiences over the year: Kabbalat (welcoming) Shabbat, Shabbat morning and Havdalah (separation from Shabbat)
Rites of Passage: Family Trip (TBD)
5th and 6th Grade: A two-year revolving curriculum
Community Building: Rites of Passage
Year A: Trip to the lower east side of New York City
Year B: Mock life cycle celebrations
Positive Identity: What does Judaism expect of me? What does it mean to be holy?
Holidays “Traditions of Judaism”: Ritual practice, ritual objects and the meaning behind these rituals
Year A: A museum of family stories and artifacts and rituals practices.
Year B: The Jewish Life Cycle and calendar
Hebrew and Prayer (Tefilah): Familiarity with the order, melodies and purpose of the liturgy found in our prayerbook.
Torah: Through the study of the Holiness Code in Leviticus we will explore core Jewish values and how they connect with the words “You shall be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
7th and 8th Grade:
Over the course of the summer representatives from five local synagogues met to create a community based program for our 7th & 8th graders.We are excited to announce the integrated schedule for the coming year.
The days we meet will be a combination of Monday nights and Wednesday nights; off site at times, and on site at Beth El at other times. The involved congregations are: B’nai Torah, Kerem Shalom, Beth Sholom, Beth Am, Beth El, and Or Atid (not all congregations will participate in everything we do.)
For the first part of the year (October thru March), there are three components to the curriculum:
We are partnering with TELEM, a service organization where we will focus on hunger and the Jewish values surrounding it. We will have a combination of learning days and actually perform the act of feeding others at “Pearl Street Café” in Framingham. We will provide transportation to the site from Beth El in the afternoons. Student should arrive at Beth El by 4:00 for a quick early meal (pizza) followed by transport (provided) to Framingham at 4:15 on those days. We prefer to travel together, if possible.
2) S.T.O.P. “Students Together Opposing Prejudice“
Students Together Opposing Prejudice is a seven-week curriculum, targeted to middle school students. The 1 1/2 hour sessions take place in the participating houses of worship. Through short teachings on each faith students learn about the similarities and differences among the faith traditions so they can appreciate and respect the faith of others. The participants learn that racial unity comes about through recognition of the value of every individual and the celebrating of every person’s uniqueness. They also learn to appreciate that every community is enriched by diversity.”
3) Collaborative Socio-Educational Events To help provide the community aspect of the curriculum
High School Program
9th and 10th Grade:
Taught by Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler
Underpinnings of Judaism and Importance of Israel – Then, Now, Always
The desire for true and personal meaning in our lives can give each of us the motivation to study and search for answers. Judaism is a vital system that encourages us to filter our “big” questions through the focus on everyday relationships: how we express our individuality within ourselves and in connection to God, how we understand our place in the larger community and world, and how we explore the critical issues of life and death.
This core class will examine the resources of our classical and contemporary Jewish texts. The teachers of our tradition and our own teachers around the table will guide and challenge us to come closer to whom we really can be as modern Jews.
Taught by Shoni Aronovich, Director of Teen Education and Engagement
First Semester – The Jewish Civilization
Looking at Judaism as a civilization, as opposing to only a religion, means looking at aspects of Jewish life that are happening outside the time and space limitations of the synagogue, or the Hebrew calendar. Together, we will explore all these other areas of life, such as cuisine, education, politics, fashion, arts, humor, which the Jewish people have developed, and continue to develop, a unique version of.
Throughout the semester students conduct guided research, in small groups, of a topic of their choice, and will find a creative way to present it to their classmates. Together, by the end of the semester, students will have a better understanding of how the Jewish civilization have developed, and how they fit into it.
Second Semester – Jewish Communities Around the World
Breaking down the Jewish aspects of life that were discovered in the first semester, students will explore not the common, but the differentiated and unique ways in which Jewish communities around the world are conducting their lives. What does a Bat Mitzvah look like in Germany? What is Yom Kippur like in Israel? How is Rosh Hashanah celebrated in Ethiopia? What do you eat at Hanukkah in China?
Over the semester, students will embark on a virtual journey around the world, “visiting” one Jewish community after the other every week, learning from them, and broadening our horizons and conceptions of Jewish life. We will culminate the year by creating the Universal Jewish Community, which will express our thoughts and beliefs on the ideas we have learned over the course of the year.
Taught by Rabbi Josh Breindel
“How does Judaism influence my life?” “What will my religious life look life after I leave home?” and “What blessings do I have to share with the world?”
Our 12th grade Siyyum class offers our students the opportunity to explore how Jewish life and culture evolved over the generations. Together, we’ll address the powerful questions: “How does Judaism influence my life?” “What will my religious life look life after I leave home?” and “What blessings do I have to share with the world?”
Throughout our time together, we will explore a variety of materials ranging from traditional Jewish texts to modern literature and from classic art to multimedia clips. These sources will be used to stimulate discussion and to inspire engagement in our concluding projects.
The year will culminate with the student completing their siyyum projects – a unique expression of the understanding of their relationship to a Jewish topic of personal interest. The class will also be encouraged to come together to create a unifying group project that will be shared with the community as a whole. Both projects will be undertaken after conversation with the rabbi.
At the conclusion of the Siyyum class, congregants, friends and family will gather for siyyum night – a Shabbat service and graduation ceremony. The students will present their final projects and offer them to the congregation as a lasting part of our community’s archives.
Our 12th graders’ final presentations have been a highlight of our congregation’s life for many years. This is their opportunity to share with the community not only who they are…but also who they hope to become!
Electives are offered each semester to give students a chance to choose their own journeys. BE InSpirEd electives are relevant, engaging, fun and educational. Offerings change frequently so we can make sure to engage everyone in meaningful ways.
Jews in Space: The Strange New World of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction
Taught by Rabbi Breindel
From Batman to Vulcans, from wizards to robots, Jewish authors, artists and actors have shaped every element of American F&SF. More than mere entertainment, many of these works grapple with the deepest questions of personal and religious identity.
We’ll engage with film and television clips, comic excerpts and short stories in search of their Jewish roots and relevance to our personal experiences in the modern day. Students will have the opportunity to do independent reading/viewing of sources (in conversation with the rabbi) that they find personally compelling.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join in a conversation that will be truly out of this world!