Judaic Studies and Hebrew Language
Knowledge of our traditions is an important part of Jewish identity. Jewish education always stresses learning that leads to action. As the rabbis state, “It is not the learning that is the main purpose, but the action that comes from the learning.” Central to Judaic studies is a meaningful exploration of Jewish ideas and values that will, with G-d’s help, make a lasting impact upon each student’s life. Through the study of Jewish texts, students gain the knowledge, morals, and ethics that they internalize and then apply to good deeds.
Judaic studies is taught as a spiraling curriculum. Therefore, students will revisit subjects several times in his/her school career. The complexity of the topic increases with each visit. New learning is related to the old learning and is presented in that context. The twin goals of the Judaic Studies curriculum are to teach the skills and content of Jewish traditional texts and to nurture a desire to live a meaningful Jewish life.
Students learn to pray to and thank G-d in the Strelitz Early Childhood Center preschool and in kindergarten. Concepts of prayer are discussed, and various prayer songs are taught. One of the highlights of first grade is preparing for the celebratory Siddur (prayer book) Presentation. Students thereafter gain continued familiarity and competence with the Siddur and the traditional prayers.
Parasha (Weekly Torah Reading)
In kindergarten, students are introduced to the basic outline of the parasha and learn about mitzvot (commandments) and values found within that week’s Torah portion. Older students are exposed to a breadth of coverage of the content combined with purposeful selection of key ideas for deeper analysis. They are encouraged to connect issues and lessons from the past to the present day.
Dinim (Jewish Law and Customs)
Stress is placed on learning about Jewish holidays and other calendar observances. In kindergarten, students learn basic information about the Jewish holidays and are introduced to the different mitzvot, customs, history, songs, and prayers associated with each holiday. Our students are prepared to participate, knowledgeably and meaningfully, in the shared religious life of the community and home. In the upper grades, the twin goals are to increase competence in the performance of holiday-related mitzvot and to deepen the attachment of our students to the beliefs and narratives from which our observances derive.
Students are introduced to the formal study of Chumash in the second grade. Midway through the year, students receive their own Chumashim at the celebratory Chumash Presentation. The pedagogical materials designed to teach Chumash are integrated with Hebrew language presented in the Dinim and Ivrit (Hebrew language) components of the program. Students begin to acquire a basic understanding of the Torah’s vocabulary and teachings in the original Biblical +Hebrew. As students learn how to study Torah, they also acquire an age-appropriate understanding of G-d’s expectations of humanity and our responsibility for ethical behavior. Older students are not only expected to closely read and analyze the content matter, but they are also taught to appreciate the relationship between the Biblical text and the Rabbinic interpretive approach. The central themes, such as slavery and freedom/redemption, man’s suffering and G-d’s response, tyrannical authority and individual courage, peoplehood and covenant, are explored in terms of Jewish religious history and the larger framework of human concerns.
Ivrit (Hebrew Language)
The kindergarten program is designed to develop beginning receptive and expressive Hebrew language. The program also develops Hebrew reading readiness skills by teaching the Hebrew letters and associated Hebrew words. The vocabulary presented is taken from both everyday life and from specifically Jewish contexts. Students are encouraged to use Hebrew words and phrases in play, music, art, games, and written materials; this multi-pronged approach is the key to the success of our children as they are introduced to the Hebrew language. The curriculum in the older grades uses a diversity of approaches in order to encourage active Hebrew language acquisition. Students engage in activities which support an emphasis on grammar. Students reap the benefits of an enlarging working vocabulary, have an ear more attuned to Hebrew and command a more advanced grasp of grammar. As students advance, they become more capable of making linguistic connections between the language of sacred text and the language of the present day.
Fourth and fifth graders are provided with a formal study of Jewish history. Emphasis is placed on the historical conditions which influenced the development of modern Zionism and on the unfolding development of the Zionist idea in the current day. This course is designed to give the students a cognitive and affective appreciation of the ongoing relationship between the Jewish people and our homeland, thereby strengthening their connection to the Land. The focus of historical study is the period of the nineteenth century aliyah to the present. The struggle for peace and security is a significant part of the narrative, but in conjunction with Hebrew language curricular objectives, students also learn about the culture and diverse make-up of the Israeli people.