In Kindergarten there will be two main themes. The first theme will be “Let’s Discover the Holidays” a curriculum written by Sarah Feldman. This curriculum will introduce young children to holidays with lively artwork, playful activities, and clear text students can understand, even if they can’t yet read! The simple retelling of each holiday story, the introduction of key holiday objects, rituals, and vocabulary, and delightful activities reinforce new concepts and engage the young child. The holidays that will be covered are; Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simhat Torah, Shabbat, Hannukkah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Passover, Yom Hatzmaut, and Shavuot.
The second theme is “Let’s Discover God.” This curriculum is packed with simple poems, full color photographs, inventive activities, and discussion questions vividly bringing to life the wonder and variety of God’s world. At the same time, children learn basic prayers and blessings we recite to communicate with God in our everyday life, including the Motzi, Sh’ma, Sheheheyanu, Modeh Ani, and the blessings over Shabbat candles.
In addition to these curriculums our Kindergarten class is always busy with music and stories.
The thematic thread of Level 1 is “Discovering myself in the Jewish story.” Many of the lessons in this level utilize the stories of the individuals and the families found in B’reishit/Genesis as an entry point for student understanding about what it means to be part of the Jewish people. In the Torah strand, the students will journey through these stories and will identify qualities and attributes of our biblical role models that they themselves can emulate. The focus of the stories of the Book of Genesis in Level 1 is paralleled in the Level 7 Torah strand, as the students stand on the threshold of Jewish adulthood. The Avodah strand focuses on holiday experiences and how participating in them connect us to the story of our people. Finally, the G’milut Chasadim strand introduces students to the concept of G’milut Chasadim. They will learn fundamental Jewish values and connect their own behavior with their Jewish identity.
The theme for Level 2 is “I am part of the Jewish people.” During the course of the school year, students will explore their relationship with the Jewish community and with God through the important lenses of Torah, Avodah, and G’milut Chasadim. The Torah strand draws upon the lessons in the Book of Sh’mot (Exodus) that describe the transformation of the Israelites from slaves into a people eternally connected to each other and to God. The Avodah strand addresses fundamental questions about our relationship with God and finding connections to God in Jewish ways. In the G’milut Chasadim strand, the students will learn about the Jewish concept of g’milut chasadim and how performing personal acts of loving-kindness connect us to our community.
The theme of the Level 3 is “Learning for Jewish Life.” The goal of the Torah strand of the CHAI Curriculum Core is to enable students to draw direct connections between Torah study and their lives. This Torah curriculum is not based on the telling of Bible stories. Rather, it is designed to allow students to engage, at an age-appropriate level, with the treasures that Torah holds for the (and our) lives. We are less concerned with students’ ability to retell a particular Torah story than with a student’s ability to ground an understanding, decision, or behavior in his or her study of the text.
The primary goal of the lessons in the Level 3 Torah strand is to introduce the children to the notion of holy living or living a life filled with k’dushah/holiness. The mitzvoth/commandments that are the core of Leviticus/Vayikra are rules that are designed to help us feel God in all aspects of our lives, even the seemingly mundane.
The Enduring Understandings at the heart of all the Avodah lessons are: Avodah is the work we do to find sacred connections to God, community, and self. Engaging in the work of avodah can bring order, beauty, meaning, and insight to our lives. Through avodah we can make our lives and the world more kadosh/holy.
Several of the lessons focus on understanding God and our relationship with God. Where can we find God? What kinds of people, places, ideas, and rituals can help us? What do we do when we have questions about God? In addition, some lessons look more closely at specific texts (Torah texts and prayers). Those lessons derive messages from texts that can help us connect to God and can guide our behavior. Students are also introduced to specific prayers that they can incorporate into their lives.
The Level 3 G’milut Chasadim lessons explore the idea that we each have the power to make the world more holy/kadosh. In particular, students learn how to apply the messages of our texts to our actions. Throughout Level 3, students study in depth how they might perceive the world and God’s relationship to themselves in a holy way, how their decisions and perspective can bring holiness into their lives and the lives of others. In this strand, lessons focus specifically on our behaviors and how even the smallest of them can tip the balance toward a holier world community.
The level 4 Torah strand looks at three concepts found in the last two books of the Torah, Numbers/B’midbar and Deuteronomy/D’varim. The book of Numbers/B’midbar takes its English name from the census that is taken within this book. B’midbar comes from the Hebrew meaning “in the desert.” This book chronicles the many years that the Israelites wander in the desert. Deuteronomy comes from the Greek meaning “second telling.” D’varim in Hebrew means “things.” The name is taken from the beginning of the book when Moses is recounting for the Israelites all of the “things” that have happened in their history. In this book, Moses reminds the Israelites of their history and their legacy. The three concepts focused on in this level are the Jewish people/Am Yisrael, the Land of Israel/Eretz Yisrael, and the covenant/b’rit between Am Yisrael and God. These concepts are essential for understanding how our behaviors affect others in our community, the overall theme of the Level 4 Curriculum Core.
The Level 4 Avodah lessons begin to shift the students from a highly personal experience of worship to an understanding of formal Jewish prayer, especially (though not exclusively) within the synagogue setting. The goal is to complement the prayer competency training the students will be receiving in their Hebrew language studies with an understanding of our basic prayers and their meaning for us as individuals and as a faith community. In addition, the Level 4 lessons address the major themes of keva and kavanah in Jewish prayer.
- Kavanah, the proper intention and emotional focus that enable us to connect with God during prayer; the proper concentration in order to open our hearts and minds to connect with God during prayer in our worship experiences.
- Keva, the fixed order of the worship service; the practice it takes to feel comfortable using the traditional words of prayer.
These lessons introduce students to the Jewish value of g’milut chasadim—personal acts of loving kindness—as it relates to their family and friends and people they encounter in their daily lives. At the end of these lessons the children should have a basic understanding of some of the ways in which their relationships with others involve acts of g’milut chasadim. The students will be aware that they can learn about g’milut chasadim from the Torah and other Jewish sources and that they can take an active role in performing g’milut chasadim in their everyday lives.
Fourth grade is the start to our formal Hebrew program. During the fall semester our fourth graders will work to increase their Hebrew reading fluidity. Then in the spring semester the fourth graders will transition into the self guided Hineni prayer booklets and begin to learn prayers for their bar/bat mitzvah. Go to our Hebrew page where you can find audio files and text.
Reform Judaism and the power of community are the themes for Level 5. The lessons address such questions as: How is Reform Judaism based on the messages of the prophets? What is the role of the individual in a community? How has our movement dealt with the prayers in the siddur? How can we reach out to those in our community? The primary focus of the Torah strand for this level is N/vi’-im and prophecy; for Avodah, the focus is prayer as a connection between self and community; the focus of the G’milut Chasadim strand is reaching out into the community.
The Books of the Prophets were chosen as the subject for the Level 5 Torah strand to coincide with the students’ ability to examine the world critically. The Torah strand asks students to extrapolate their learning from the text and apply it to their everyday lives. We will ask the students to look at the world as God and the prophets did and to suggest ways to correct the injustices they see around them. During the lessons students will learn about problems during the times of the prophets and will be asked to use the same critical eye to look at our world today.
The Level 5 Avodah strand focuses on prayer as practice, a spiritual endeavor that, with learning and effort, can and should change the way we act in everyday life. With this level we continue the study of blessing units, this year focusing on the Amidah, the Aleinu, Israel prayers and blessings, and the Kaddish prayer. A primary goal of the curriculum for this level is to help students discover the relationship between the regular practice of prayer and our actions in the everyday world. As Rabbi Harvey Fields says, “Jewish prayer is meant to turn our attention to the needs, problems and concerns of others.” The lessons in Level 5 encourage students to see the connection between prayer as a regular practice and the behaviors we choose.
In level 5, the G’milut Chasadim lessons focus on different aspects of the Jewish community. We want to develop within the students a positive attitude toward, and an appreciation of, the Jewish community in which they live. We hope that our children will come to understand that the Jewish community is a central force in the lives of individual Jews and plays a vital role in assuring Jewish continuity.
The Hebrew curriculum is a continuation of the Hebrew curriculum from fourth grade. Our fifth graders will continue to use the Hineni Prayer Packets to prepare prayers they will need for their bar/bat mitzvahs. In these prayer packets our students will learn key words in each prayer, the core theme of each prayer, basic grammatical rules, and artistically interpret each prayer. Go to our Hebrew page to listen to audio files and look at the text.
The thematic thread for Level 6 is Revelation. In Jewish terms, Revelation refers to the experience at Mount Sinai, when we as a free people accepted the Torah and agreed to live in a covenantal relationship with the Divine: “Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of Adonai has commanded we will do!” (Exodus 24:3)
What is the meaning of Revelation in our world today? Liberal Jews understand Revelation to be ongoing; that is, each person in every generation has an opportunity to bring one’s self to the process. A goal of our Level 6 Torah, Avodah, and G’milut Chasadim lessons will be to help our students, as they stand on the threshold of young adulthood, explore their own personal role—and power—in the ongoing process of Revelation.
The strand will review the three sections of the Tanach and give the students and overview of what types of literature are found within the K’tuvim section. The students will also have the opportunity to begin to explore the idea of God’s ongoing Revelation as expressed in the writings section of the Tanach.
The thematic thread for Level 6 is Revelation, and in preparation for the students’ b’nei mitzvah year, the focus in the Avodah strand is on the Torah service (seder k’riyat haTorah). A primary goal of this year’s work will be to help the students understand that Revelation—God’s interaction with us as individuals and as a community—is ongoing, and that each student has the opportunity to experience that interaction in his or her own life. The Torah service is itself a reenactment of the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, according to some scholars, and throughout the unit the students will be asked to consider the implications of that encounter in their lives today.
As our students approach adolescence, their understanding of the world begins to expand. No longer is their world centered only on their family, friends, neighborhood, or community. With their growing maturity, they are ready to explore the world beyond their own experience. They welcome opportunities to explore “the big questions” in life, questions whose answers can best be comprehended within the context of faith and religion. At this stage of their faith development, students are beginning to define their own image of God and explore a personal relationship with God. Some students may even be questioning their belief in God. In this lesson, and throughout this unit, we hope to provide them with multiple opportunities in which they might experience God’s presence in the world, and perhaps help them in their search.
Through the lens of g’milut chasadim, we will introduce the students to the Jewish concepts of covenant and Revelation. We will investigate some of the problems that exist in our world and encourage the students to take an active role in healing the world.
The Hebrew curriculum in sixth grade is designed by our teacher Marcia. During the year students will fine tune prayers they already know in preparation for their bar/t Mitzvah as well as look at Torah text to begin to identify key words used in the Torah. Go to our Hebrew page to listen to the audio files and see the hebrew text.
The thematic thread of Level 7 is “Hineini—here I am,” a response that appears several times in the Torah, implying a sense of being present in the fullest possible manner. As students reach the age of becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, they should be encouraged to reflect on their lives as young Jewish adults. The period of their lives in which they were taught Jewish values is coming to an end. From here on they must find meaning in Torah for themselves, without the guidance of structured lessons. Students should be assuming responsibility for g’milut chasadim and making our world a better place without the supervision of an adult.
Our students need to be able to say “Hineini—here I am” when called upon or when they recognize an opportunity to perform tikkun olam. We are preparing them to step forward for themselves and find their own wisdom and meaning in the Torah. CHAI Level 7 utilizes this theme to help students transition to adulthood. Each lesson allows students to recognize their role as Jewish individuals in our world; they challenge the students to stand up and be counted.
The Torah strand examines the Book of Genesis and utilizes the Hineini theme to help students understand the dynamics of family and interpersonal relationships. In the Avodah strand, students utilize texts from our liturgy and other sources to explore questions of Jewish identity and to consider the boundaries that define us as Jews. The G’milut Chasadim focuses on middot, the personal Jewish values that cause us to behave in ways that make the world a better, and holier, place.
In addition to the Chai Curriculim our seventh graders participate in a number of family learning days where they focus on the meaning of prayer, and their bnei mitzvah projects. Additionally our seventh graders will continue to pray together as a class, strengthening their comfort with leading prayer and exploring different ways to pray.