Religious School: Curriculum

3rd Grade Cursive Art

Junior Kindergarten • Being Jewish: An Overview   

We welcome four-year-olds to our Religious School! The curriculum is holiday-based and children are exposed to ceremonial objects and rituals associated with each holiday. Our connection to Klal Yisrael (peoplehood) through the State of Israel begins. Some brachot (blessings) dealing with food and Shabbat candles and the Shema and the Shehechiyanu are taught. Students also begin an oral Hebrew language program emphasizing phrases associated with self-identity, family, home, and holidays. Positive Jewish identity and the Jewish values of Derech Eretz (way of the land), Talmud Torah (study of Torah), and tzedakah are central to this grade. Music, Israeli dance, art, and drama specialties fill out the program. 

Senior Kindergarten • Introduction to Jewish Learning: God, Mitzvot and Shabbat

We explore what it means to lead a Jewish life through a focus on Torah study, Jewish music and Jewish holiday observance, with Shabbat and its rituals as a core. An oral Hebrew language program is provided. Children are introduced to a number of important brachot (blessings) and tefillot (prayers). They have opportunities to do and share mitzvot, adding them each week to the class "Mitzvah Leaf Tree." Art, Drama, and Israeli Dance round out the experience. Music, Israeli dance, art and drama specialties continue.  

1st Grade • The Synagogue and Synagogue-Based Holidays

In 1st grade, students learn about the qualities and traditions which are unique to the Jewish community. A unit on the synagogue explores the “geography” of synagogues and the people who make them work. An age-appropriate interpretation of the weekly Torah portion is discussed, and a mitzvah module is given as a connector between the school and the home. We explore the synagogue-based holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Purim, Shavuot, and Tisha B’Av. Tefillot (prayers) used in congregational services are taught. Students also begin learning to recognize the Hebrew letters. Music, Israeli dance, art and drama specialties add depth and variety to the experience.  

2nd Grade • Genesis, Exodus, Home-Based Holidays, Aleph Bet

2nd grade is an exciting year during which children begin to feel more comfortable with their abilities to read and to participate meaningfully in discussions. Students examine the book of Bereshet (Genesis), beginning with Creation and continue into Shemot (Exodus) to the ten plagues in Egypt. The home-based holidays -- Hanukkah, Tu B’Shevat, and Pesach -- are studied with emphasis on understanding why we celebrate and observe. Students study Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its relation to us. Students continue with Hebrew reading readiness, familiarizing themselves with the letters of the Aleph Bet. Music, Israeli dance, art and drama specialties continue, but grow in sophistication as the students move forward.    

3rd Grade • Exodus, Hebrew Reading and Writings

Beginning in 3rd grade, students attend classes on Thursday afternoons in addition to Sunday mornings. Formal Hebrew reading instruction continues. They learn to recognize and write Hebrew script, read phonetically, and follow along with tefillot (prayers).  They begin to identify recurring words in the text and the siddur. The Shabbat table blessings, including the long form of the Friday evening Kiddush, are learned. The weekly Torah portion is discussed at the celebrated Thursday “Shabbat Party,” and prayers from the Friday evenings service are introduced. Extra individual Hebrew reading practice occurs in the Hebrew computer lab. Music, art, Israeli dance, and drama continue on Sundays, but with less frequency than in the younger grades.  

4th Grade • Searching for Meaning

With their Torah study as well as with their study of tefillot (prayers), students search for the lessons, morals and repeated themes found in the words we read. The students’ relationship with God is another focus of study.  Students explore Jewish life cycle rituals, including naming ceremonies, brit milah, consecration, Bar/Bat mitzvah, marriage, the Jewish home, death and mourning. Hebrew instruction focuses on the siddur (prayerbook), building their shorashim (root words) vocabulary and working to achieve fluency. Students and families learn the Havdallah ceremony. Weekly one-on-one Hebrew reading and prayer practice begins with the madrikh Hebrew Tutor Core. Beginning in 4th grade, students have the opportunity to select their own special activities, choosing from Hebrew Sports & Games, Art, and Drama.  

5th Grade • Comparisons:  Building on our Foundations, Prophets

In the 5th grade, students use drama as a springboard to examine what it means to live with Jewish values, with texts from Pirkei Avot as a guide. They examine newspapers each week and learn to “see the news as Jews,” discussing the articles and then exploring their reactions through art. Hebrew study centers on tefillot (prayers), with an emphasis on the Shabbat Morning Service, leading ultimately to co-leading a synagogue Shabbat Morning Service along with the 6th grade. Students learn the Ashrei, the opening sections of the Shmoneh Esrei (Amidah) and the Baruch Sheamar. Units on kashrut, tzedakah, and the prophets and their messages round out the experience. Weekly one-on-one Hebrew reading and prayer practice with the madrikh Hebrew Tutor Core continues. 

6th Grade • Approaching Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Torah Service, Ethics 

On Sundays, as our students begin to look towards their B’nai Mitzvah, their studies turn to familiarity with and understanding of the tefillot of the Torah service, including the trope (cantillations) which are used in the chanting of both Torah and Haftarah. They explore the structure and content of the Prophets, the origin of their B’nai Mitzvah haftarot. Students also participate in electives, including Hebrew Immersion Sports, Jewish Cooking, Film, and Tikkun Olam.

On Thursdays, in a joint 6th and 7th grade experience, students explore contemporary Jewish topics through project-based learning, facilitated by guest clergy and experts.  An engaging and musical Kabbalat Shabbat learning service and celebration concludes the afternoon.  

During J2M (Journey to Mitzvot), 6th grade families learn together on six special Sunday mornings, exploring prayer, Jewish texts, social justice, and the significance of becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  

7th Grade • Jewish Literacy and Jewish Identity

If a friend asks you what Judaism is about, how would you answer? On Sundays, students track the evolution of the Jewish narrative through the stories, vision, and philosophies of key Jewish personalities and thinkers over time. They explore Jewish & Ethical Identity through Prose, Poetry, and film, leading to an exploration of their personal Jewish identity. Which of these perspectives do I identify with? What does it mean to me to be Jewish? And an introduction to rabbinic Jewish law brings it all down to the ground, as students test their own sense of justice against the principles found in the Mishnah. Students then have a choice between Jewish Film, Hebrew Immersion Sports, Social Justice, and Jewish Cooking electives.

On Thursdays, in a joint 6th and 7th grade experience, students explore contemporary Jewish topics through project-based learning, facilitated by guest clergy and experts. An engaging and musical Kabbalat Shabbat learning service and celebration concludes the afternoon.  

8th Grade • The Jewish Community

In our 8th grade modular experience, students explore their place in the Jewish Community through several independent but intersecting tracks: How we fit in, by learning how Judaism compares in philosophy and practice to other world faiths; the place of Israel in our lives, by exploring the history of the Jewish state, including Israeli geography and government structure*; and our obligations as role models, by mentoring younger students in the Religious School as madrikhim in training.  Five special Sundays are set aside for joint experiences with their 8th grade peers from the Lakeview neighborhood, where they visit each other's synagogues and learn about the different denominations of . 

*This component will prepare students to participate in the optional Ta’am Yisrael citywide eighth grade trip.