“A Judaism children will grow into, rather than a Judaism children will outgrow.”
Children may be bored in supplementary religious schools if the course content is beneath their intellectual capacities. We have chosen to err on the side of challenging students intellectually rather than making the work easy for them. We begin teaching elements of Hebrew grammar in Kita Gimmel. We expose students to texts and ideas that require them to think. (Our third/fourth grade class will spend the entire year studying Mishnah.)
Our Shabbat and Festival celebrations for children take them away from the adults for only a portion of the service. We want our children to know that praying is something adults do, not something adults watch children do.
We are very proud of our Hebrew School and its highly qualified faculty. As one measure of its stature, we have received grants from CAJE (The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education) and the FJE (Fund for Jewish Education) to help us further develop our curriculum and expand our Hebrew school programs.
Hebrew School Curriculum
Children in Kitah Aleph are in grades K and 1. This class introduces them to the pleasures of learning Hebrew language and basic prayers.
In Kitah Aleph children learn their Hebrew letters and sing the Aleph Bet song. They learn to read Hebrew words.
They also learn basic prayers: Candle blessings for
Shabbat and Chanukah, Sh’ma, the Four Questions of Passover and
blessings for meals.
Children in Kitah Bet are in grades 1, 2, and 3. They develop as readers of Hebrew and are introduced to Hebrew writing. They learn to use Hebrew prayers in their families and in congregational prayer.
Some of the prayers and songs that they study — by
reading, discussing, transcribing in script and singing — are: Hine Ma
V’Ahavta, Shalom Aleichem, and The Four Questions in Hebrew.
Children in Kitah Gimel are in grades 3 and 4. Their Hebrew reading and writing cover more complex texts from the Siddur and the Torah. They start working with the Hebrew-English dictionary and they start learning basic Hebrew grammar (especially noun structures). In the words of our successful grant application, starting the study of the Hebrew dictionary early “gives children access to an infinite vocabulary.”
While they work on Hebrew reading fluency, they add to
their repertory of daily and festival prayers. They study the meaning of
and learn to chant the Ten Commandments. To learn the stories that lead up
to the giving of the Commandments, they read sections of Genesis and
Exodus in English.
Children in Kitah Daled are in grades 3, 4, and 5. The class meets twice a week.
The main theme of this class is the Wisdom of the Mishnah. To study these important rabbinic texts the students study more complex grammatical structures and work intensively with the dictionary.
Class sessions involve students in the rabbinical
arguments and the tradition of law contained in Written Torah/Oral Torah.
Students present their own interpretations of Mishnah as part of
their class work.
Children in Kitah Hey are in grades 4, 5, and 6. The class meets twice a week.
The course focuses on Jewish History, from Abraham to the Expulsion from Spain. Students read excerpts of Biblical texts, the Mishnah and Talmud, as well as other primary sources: the Koran, the New Testament, Maimonides, and the Roman historians. Some of the Hebrew language sources are the focus of intensive Hebrew language translation and interpretation.
The course challenges students to relate history to
their own lives and gives them a sense of how Jewish history and world
Children in Kitah Vav are in grades 5 and 6. The class meets twice a week.
This class focuses on the Hebrew prayerbook and encourages the children to bring Jewish prayer into their lives. They study the Siddur historically and interpret the prayers as literature and as religious expression.
The students work with their dictionaries and with
more complex grammatical structures to make their own translations of
central Siddur prayers.
The Children's Kabbalat Shabbat classes meet once a month, when Beth Am has its early Shabbat service with dinner.
There are two groups of children: 3½ - 5 year olds and 6-8 year olds. The children learn to make a community of prayer with one another and with their parents and other adults who are worshiping in the sanctuary.
Activities include music, storytelling, Jewish crafts, and discussions of the weekly Torah reading.
6:00 - 6:30: Children and adults together for
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NOTE from the Webmaster: This listing has been updated to introduce our new Hebrew School principal, but we are still in the process of hiring new teachers for this year. Information will be added as it is available.
Vlad Golender is the new Hebrew School Principal, effective with the fall term, 2001. This is the biographical statement he supplied.
I come to your school from Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, where I worked as the Assistant Principal of the Religious School. At Brooklyn Heights, I learned how to be an effective educator: how to manage a school, how to supervise a faculty, how to create an inspiring program of Jewish education, and so much more. I hope to take these lessons with me into my new endeavors here at your school.
First, a little about my background. I was born and grew up in a small town near Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. I studied for a Ph.D. at the State University of Moscow and became a History Professor at the University of Yaroslavl. In 1992, after glasnost and the breakup of the Soviet Union, I left my teaching job to go work for the Jewish Agency for Israel in Moscow. During that time, as I became more aware of my own Jewish background and learned more about Judaism, I decided to emigrate with my family to America so I could devote my life to the study and practice of Judaism.
Upon arriving in this country in 1995, I spent two years at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion studying for a Masters Degree in Jewish Education. I was very fortunate there. I learned a tremendous amount and had wonderful experiences at HUC. During that time, I also taught in a few different religious schools.
My first visit to Beth Am was in the fall of 2000, at the invitation of your Educator, Lena Schwartz, a classmate of mine at HUC. From the moment I set foot into your school, I felt the enthusiasm for and support of Jewish learning. I was so impressed with the educational ideas of the curriculum. Little did I know that one day I would have the opportunity to run your school, especially during this important transitional year as Beth Am combines its program with Hebrew Tabernacle.Now, I look forward to working with all the children and to bringing the joys of Judaism to every student of the school. I welcome parents to call me or stop by the synagogue to schedule an appointment with me. I want to answer your questions and hear your ideas.
-- Vlad Golender
Audrey Shore, Kabbalat Shabbat, grew up in Massachusetts and is a third year student in the List Program, a joint five-year undergraduate program of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. Her major subjects are Bible and Literature/Writing. She has taught Hebrew School at the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn.
John Brady, Kabbalat Shabbat, is an honors graduate of the List Program (see previous paragraph) and is an administrator and financial analyst at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. He has taught Hebrew School at Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown.
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Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation: Assuming an Adult Role in the Community
By the time of the student’s bar/bat mitzvah, he/she will be able to:
Translate his/her Torah portion (and, if it is narrative, the haftarah as well);
Lead the Morning service (davening in Hebrew);
Chant the Torah portion;
Chant the haftarah;
Give a D’var Torah from which even learned adults will benefit.
In weekly meetings with the rabbi, each student will translate his/her parasha and haftarah and study commentaries on the verses he/she has selected to be the focus of his/her D’var Torah. Each student will write (and rewrite, and rewrite, and rehearse) his/her D’var Torah under the rabbi’s supervision.
Accompanied by a parent, each student will attend Shabbat and Yom Tov morning services every week for a year, in diverse synagogues around the city. Students will keep logs of their observations and questions about those synagogue services to discuss with the rabbi while, at the same time, studying the siddur. Students will study Torah and Haftarah trop and the nusach (melodies) for the Shabbat morning service with a tutor. Students will undertake a tzedakah project of their choice.
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In the summer of 2000 we received the following lovely letter from Jennifer Kopelman, who taught kita aleph and bet in our Hebrew School in 1998-2000.
I am writing to thank you for the experience I have had working with your community these last two years. I guess you are probably used to college students leaving after a few years working with you, but even so, I couldn't just disappear without telling you all how amazing your community is, especially your Hebrew School.
I have worked in several Hebrew Schools in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, and I was forced to attend even more when I was younger. Never have I come across a more impressive curriculum, more enthusiastic parents, or more dedicated students. Let me expand: The other schools I have been involved in stressed holidays and tradition. Not a bad thing to stress, but after attending a Hebrew School two or three times a week since first grade or kindergarten, I think that by seventh grade a student should walk away with more than the knowledge that you eat matzah on Passover and light the menorah on Chanukah.
It's not easy to implement a program that gives students more than this, however, if you do not have someone who is willing to really work on a good overall curriculum. If a synagogue hires college students and says, "Here's your fourth grade class; have fun!" and leaves it at that, of course, you are going to have teachers who do the easy stuff. On that note, I want to thank Rabbi Wenig for her amazing curriculum. The depth of the curriculum for all the grades incorporated into a structure that gives the students an amazing grasp on the core elements of our religion while still allowing teachers to have fun and be innovative is an incredible accomplishment. It ought to be published and sent to Hebrew Schools all over the country.
But even with such a fine curriculum, a Hebrew School is nothing without parental support. That is what really distinguishes Beth Am from everywhere else. Most Jewish parents today send their children to Hebrew School because it is what they are supposed to do. Maybe because the grandparents want the kids to go, maybe because they need some kind of daycare on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
I remember one kid who was in Hebrew School with me when I was a kid. His parents sent him because his grandparents told them if he went they would pay for his college. This kid kind-of got into the whole Judaism thing, and joined a youth group, started keeping kosher, and going to synagogue on a regular basis. He even started leading the Junior Congregation after his Bar Mitzvah. Instead of being supportive, his parents were threatened and upset by his behavior. When he was in tenth grade, he went to live with his grandparents, so that he could live according to his beliefs. I cannot imagine anything like this ever happening at Beth Am. The parents of the children in your Hebrew School are dedicated to their children's Jewish education. It is amazing what some of the students in my classes have achieved: Parents learning with their children every week and starting to read Hebrew themselves! Regular Torah study at home! Nightly prayer at home! Shabbat!
When you are a teacher, you come in contact with the parents as much as you do with your students. Every time you are with your students, the attitudes of the parents show through. If you would prefer your child to be at soccer practice, if you never have time to sit down and work with your child on his/her homework, it all shows. It shows in the quality of the work and in your child's attitude towards what they are doing. Beth Am's parents work with their children every week, actively participate in services and in holiday celebrations, volunteer, CARE. It has been wonderful to work with a community that actually takes the time to think about and prioritize the things that I as a Jew and as a Hebrew School teacher also find important.
Lastly, I want to comment on the students involved in Beth Am's Hebrew School. This will be very short. The students of Beth Am's Hebrew School are AWESOME. AMAZING. SO WONDERFUL. I wish you could hear me say this in person, because I don't know if you can read the enthusiasm that I hear in my head while I type these words. I can't praise them enough.
And, so, I again thank you for the experiences you have given me in the last two years. After working and celebrating and praying with you, I now must hold every other synagogue to a higher set of standards. Of all the Jewish experiences I take with me from New York City, Beth Am is by far my favorite.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Copyright © 2001 Beth Am. Last updated 7.4.2001.