by Sam Spinrad, Education Director
On Erev Simchat Torah, which fell on October 20 this year, we celebrated the beginning of our first-grade students’ Jewish education (consecration). This phrase—Jewish education—evokes a different image to everyone. Some may picture learning about Shabbat and holidays. Others may recollect intense hours of studying Hebrew or Torah trope in preparation for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Still others might think of Israel, lifecycle events like bris or weddings, or maybe Torah study.
Since literally anything can be seen through a Jewish lens and because we’re dealing with several thousand years’ worth of history, it’s an immense challenge to choose a curriculum for religious school. Fifteen grade levels, from K’tanim through Grade 12, sounds like many years to work with—until you consider the content. Sure, Jewish movements (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc.) are covered in Grade 2, but if we don’t also cover them in the upper grade levels, our students don’t get a formal education in the history of the movements or study the differences in the way we pray.
This is one reason it’s so important for students to continue their formal Jewish education beyond Bar/Bat Mitzvah year: this is their opportunity to finally study some of these subjects at the adult (or near adult) level. They get opportunities to learn the “true” story of Hannukah, to learn ethics from Talmud and not just Tanach, and to think “Jewishly” for themselves. Imagine what they would miss if they ceased their day school education after seventh grade.
At Consecration, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Confirmation services (read more here), we remind students that they have not reached the “finish line” of their Jewish education, but rather, a milestone. Beyond graduation, as life gives them new perspectives, we hope our students will continue to examine the aspects of Judaism that appeal to them. Our religious school aims to give them the tools to do so.
Image by Thomas Galler via Unsplash