At the Rabbi Sidney and Shirley Steiman Religious School of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, the curriculum is carefully designed to build upon past knowledge each year and encourage exploration of Judaism from various angles. The dedicated teachers strive to foster a deep understanding of what it means to be a part of the Jewish people and faith tradition, as well as a member of the Beth-El Zedeck community. Blending Hebrew and Judaic learning through text, technology, music, movement, art, and personalized instruction, our curriculum equips students with the tools and knowledge for a lifelong connection to Jewish prayer, community, and peoplehood.
The journey of Jewish education begins at a young age for our students, where they are introduced to synagogue life, prayer, Jewish culture, and history. The Mechinah cohort, as a group, will have a weekly tefillah, using song and story to become comfortable with the prayers and rituals of synagogue services.
Throughout this course, students will be introduced to a wide range of Jewish values, prayers, and stories. They will gain a deep understanding of the significance of Israel, the synagogue, and the important roles played by the Rabbis and Cantors. Using song, art, and ritual, they will celebrate the various seasons of the Jewish calendar. In addition, students will begin to learn the Hebrew language through a variety of experiences and will be taught how to use Hebrew effectively in the classroom while familiarizing themselves with the letters of the Alef-Bet.
Students at Beth-El Zedeck will be introduced to our Biblical narrative, which includes the Godly Play technique. This technique was designed in the Episcopal Church and adapted for Jewish schools, and it invites students to explore their ideas about our foundational stories. Through children’s literature, they will learn about Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, and will also get to explore the Holy Days. The Hebrew lessons will focus on practicing simple words for reading and building a holiday and prayer vocabulary.
In second grade, the curriculum is designed to introduce young students to various Jewish themes through storytelling. The goal is to help them understand how Judaism is relevant to their lives. They will also be introduced to discussions about God, learn about the meanings of familiar prayers, and study the values that are central to each holiday. To extend what is learned in class to their homes, students will take turns each week taking home a Shabbat box. They will be encouraged to share what they learned with the class by journaling about their experience. Additionally, the Hebrew language lessons will focus on connecting what they have already learned with special attention given to the prayers of the Shabbat home rituals.
During the Kadima years, students undergo preparation for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and leading services at their simcha. As a part of this preparation, each week they will participate in a student-led tefillah experience, which includes a minute of Torah. This experience helps them to understand Hebrew in the context of prayer. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to engage in small group learning for both dedicated Judaics and Hebrew time.
As part of the overall classroom experience, the class will learn about the teachings of the early prophets, with a focus on justice. The concept of justice will be integrated into lessons on prayer and holidays, demonstrating how it is woven into many aspects of Jewish practice. Students will have the opportunity to learn Hebrew, including how to read and write Hebrew letters. They will also practice reading and learning a variety of blessings, especially for holiday rituals.
In this class, we delve into the values (middot) of our tradition and their relevance to our modern lives. We explore questions such as why we pray, who we pray to, and what happens when our prayers go unanswered. In the Hebrew portion of the class, we will focus on mastering the prayers of the Friday evening Shabbat service and home rituals, as well as continuing to learn and use important Modern Hebrew language for communication in the synagogue, classroom, and personal interactions.
As part of their course, students will explore the world of Rabbinic Judaism as well as the post-Temple era. They will learn about the evolution of the holy days that we observe today and gain an in-depth understanding of the Jewish life cycle. A mock Jewish wedding will be held in class, and students will have the opportunity to visit a Jewish mortuary to learn about traditional mourning practices. In addition, students will focus on the Shabbat morning service and the Hebrew used during holidays and lifecycle events. Modern Hebrew will also be practiced in class.
In Dor l’Dor, students will receive detailed education on the structure and significance of synagogue services. This will equip them with the skills required for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah and beyond. They will also have access to a Tefillah laboratory where they can practice the prayers they will chant during services, in a fun and engaging manner.
In this class, students will have the opportunity to explore the vast diversity of Jewish thought and practice. They will learn about the different modern movements, as well as the ancient practices described in the Tanakh (Bible). During the second semester, students will also have the chance to study the religions of their non-Jewish friends and neighbors. Field trips will be a part of the class experience. The Hebrew portion of the class will focus primarily on the Torah service and concluding prayers, providing students with the opportunity to practice reading and leading the service in preparation for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Additionally, students will explore modern Hebrew with an emphasis on Israel.nts will explore modern Hebrew with an emphasis on Israel.
Throughout the course, students will continue to develop their Hebrew proficiency, with a particular focus on acquiring the necessary skills to conduct Shabbat services for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah and beyond. Additionally, students will delve into the historical roots of European Anti-Semitism, tracing its origins from the Middle Ages all the way through to the Shoah (Holocaust). Finally, students will examine the modern state of Israel and its significance to the Jewish people, as well as its place within the broader community of nations.
Our post-Bar and Bat Mitzvah students in grades 8-10 will have the chance to delve into a wide range of topics and issues that are significant to them as they grow older. The Hebrew curriculum will be heavily focused on Modern Hebrew as a living language, and will include the use of Israeli pop culture, films, and music to explore the language. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to practice conversational Hebrew in real-life settings such as Israeli streets, restaurants, and homes.
Judaism and Life Choices and Israel as a Modern Nation & a Jewish Home
The topic of life and death issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, medical ethics, and capital punishment, will be explored from a Jewish perspective. Additionally, we will discuss the modern Israeli political landscape, with a focus on the current challenges facing Israel and its position in the world. Students will also gain an understanding of how Jews living outside of Israel connect with the country.
Making Choices and Making a Difference
This course is designed for students who want to explore how Judaism can guide them in making wise choices in their daily lives. The class is tailored to the needs of young adults, so students will have the opportunity to shape the discussion and examine issues that are most relevant to them. In addition, students will also participate in social action programs to learn how they can make a positive impact both locally and globally.
For Grades 8 and 9, we offer two different programs: Shevet Achim for boys and Rosh Hodesh for girls. These programs take place once a month and provide students with a chance to explore topics of interest through engaging activities that challenge them and help to build important life skills and self-esteem. Based on research, these programs are tailored to issues that may be gender-specific or easier to discuss in single-gender groups.
What a Contemporary Jew Believes
The Confirmation year is designed to help our youth gain a mature understanding of Judaism. Each session will delve into Jewish texts, commentaries, and debates to develop their personal connection to Judaism. Through exploring different perspectives on key concepts like “God,” “Torah,” and “Israel,” students will be encouraged to define their own understanding of these central ideas. After completing the Confirmation program, students will have a deeper understanding of their own beliefs and a stronger connection to their Jewish heritage.
Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Beth-El Zedeck is one of the most meaningful lifecycle events for our families. Students study for years in Religious School and then continue with private lessons with the Cantor and a Trope Instructor in the year prior to their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. During these lessons, they learn their parashah, and accompanying blessings, as well as how to lead Erev Shabbat and Shaharit services.