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Today's religious school: Torah and Hebrew — but also life skills and community

by Cathy Kaplan, Director of Religious School & Family Programs

When we use the phrase “lifelong learning” we are often referring to educational experiences for adults. Those experiences are important and valuable. But learning begins in childhood, with first words, first steps, and in a Jewish home, first Jewish experiences. At Kramer Religious School, we build on the foundations that parents have already put in place for their children. We are a supplementary school, which means everything we do is designed to be in partnership with family experiences, wherever a family may be on their Jewish journey.

Pre-Kindergarten

One of the first opportunities we offer families is our Yad B’Yad program. This parent-and-me program for pre-kindergarten students offers families a chance to gather monthly for age-appropriate activities centered on Jewish holidays. Not only do the children get to enjoy crafts, music and often yummy snacks, parents also benefit from the connections to other families. This group loves David Melekh Yisrael with all the hand motions and they do it at super-human speed!

Elementary

We connect students to Jewish ritual through classroom activities and weekly age-appropriate tefillah (prayer). As students move through our program, we incorporate ritual life skills so that all students will be able to fully participate in tefillah and celebration, both in the synagogue and in their homes. Our elementary students learn the blessings for Shabbat, Havdalah, and they rock the Four Questions, but hands-on crafts often take center stage. We are grateful for our art closet because it stores everything we need to make Shabbat boxes, Havdalah kits, omer counters, and more. There’s a lot of glitter glue involved.

Middle School

We believe meaningful, deep Jewish education is grounded in the study of Torah. We start with Bible stories and then move to text study in the older grades. Once students are in middle school, they participate in a weekly study of the parsha, facilitated by a rotating group of classroom teachers and congregants. By offering a variety of viewpoints and methods of study, we help students develop a deep connection to Torah. They learn to approach the text in a way that makes it relevant to their daily lives. When parents are asked why they send their children to religious school, a common answer is that they hope their children will develop a strong Jewish identity. Learning about the leaders of our past will help our students become the Jewish leaders of the future.

High School

Jewish education doesn’t stop at b-mitzvah and many students participate in our high school program. While there are options to continue Torah study and dive into a bit of Talmud, students also explore the world of Jewish art and music, learn basic Yiddish, or use creative writing to develop their Jewish identities. The upcoming year will include a leadership course and service opportunities. Many of our amazing high school students work in our school and the younger children love having them around.

Everything we do is interwoven with ethics and mitzvot. We are a supplementary school, but we are first and foremost a community. Our Jewish values guide how we treat each other, how we interact with the larger community, and how we connect with the world.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784