Our Kindergarten curriculum focuses on helping students create connections to one another and to the synagogue that help them to live as a Kehillah Kedoshah (Holy Community). Specifically, our Kindergarten class focuses on what it means to “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself,” discovering the meaning of important Hebrew words such as brit (covenant), kavod (respect/honor), tashlich (cast off) and t’shuvah (repentance). Students also work on identifying other people’s feelings and understanding that thinking about how they would like to be treated helps them in thinking about how to treat others. Students also learn about the chagim (holidays) that take place during the Jewish year and learn about ways that these chagim help us love our neighbors as ourselves. The Kindergarten curriculum creates experiences for students that help them uncover important features of our synagogue, both people and places, and learn how each individual member of our synagogue is connected to our larger synagogue community. To support their learning, students participate in Amanut (Art), Sifri-ah (Library), T’filah (Prayer) and Kehillah (Community Time).
Grade 1 focuses on how students can discover themselves in the Jewish story. This discovery takes place through learning about their Jewish ancestors in the Book of Bereshit (Genesis). Students not only learn the stories of our people, but they explore how those stories are connected to their lives and how they can learn to be better young Jewish people from these stories. Grade 1 also explores the chagim (holidays), focusing on the important ritual items and practices associated with each chag (holiday). Hebrew is integrated into the students’ learning through learning the Hebrew words for classroom objects and reinforcing basic Hebrew terms like Kadosh (Holy), Kehillah (Community) and G’milut Chasadim (Acts of Loving Kindness). Israel is also integrated into the students learning, as they explore the stories of our ancestors, who lived in what is now modern day Israel. To support their learning, students participate in Amanut (Art), Sifri-ah (Library), T’filah (Prayer) and Kehillah (Community Time).
Grade 2 focuses on helping students see themselves as a part of the Jewish people. Students explore the central narrative of the Jewish people, found in the Book of Sh’mot (Exodus). In learning about the Jewish people’s struggle for freedom and how difficult it was for them to learn to live together as a community in the desert, students uncover ways to see God in their world, what it means to be a part of a larger community, and what it means to apply the wisdom of the Torah to their lives. In addition, students explore what it means to be God’s partner in the world and how that shapes our attention to G’milut Chasadim (Acts of Loving Kindness). As they encounter chagim (holidays), students explore how our chagim connect us to the larger Jewish community, including Israel. Formal Hebrew studies begin in Grade 2, as students learn Hebrew letters and vowels, connecting this learning to the words that are already in their Hebrew vocabulary and to the prayers at they are learning in T’filah. To support their learning, students participate in Amanut (Art), Sifri-ah (Library), T’filah (Prayer) and Kehillah (Community Time).
Grade 3 focuses on the concept of Kedushah, Holiness. Utilizing the CHAI Level 3 curriculum, students refine their own understanding and definition of Kedushah and apply that understanding to how ritual objects, symbols, prayer, and our behaviors can make moments and places special, holy, and closer to God. In the G’milut Chasadim curriculum, students grapple with how to balance the needs of others with their own needs and discover how G’milut Chasadim makes our world more Kadosh (Holy). When learning about chagim (holidays), Grade 3 uncovers the uniqueness of the cycles of Jewish time, focusing on chagim as unique moments of sacred time and space. During Grade 3, students further develop their Hebrew skills, learning how to decode simple and compound syllables, learning how to decode basic Shabbat brachot (blessings), and encountering the Sh’ma, not only a piece of Jewish text to decode, but as the primary declaration of faith of the Jewish people. To support their learning, students participate in T’filah (Prayer), Amanut (Art) and Kehillah (Community Time) on Sundays, and are given opportunities to lead T’filah (Prayer) during the week.
Grade 4 continues students’ exploration of their individual place within their immediate classroom community, our synagogue community and the larger Jewish community. Utilizing the CHAI Level 4 G’milut Chasadim curriculum, students consider issues such as how we can make peace between our friends, how we can accept others’ differences and the effects of LaShon Ha’Ra (gossip) from a Jewish perspective. Students also explore the Jewish teaching, “It’s not upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21). In exploring this quote, students discover stories from Jewish history and tradition that are examples for us of how people and groups faced challenges that they could never overcome completely, or tackle by themselves, but that they nevertheless attempted to solve. When celebrating chagim (holidays) together, Grade 4 students seek to identify moments within our chagim that speak to the Pirke Avot quote, focusing on how observing our chagim make us more responsible individuals. Grade 4 also begins to examine the structure of Jewish prayer and the Shabbat morning service. In their Hebrew curriculum, students encounter the Barchu, Yotzer Or, V’ahavta, Mi Chamocha and the Friday evening Kiddush. The Grade 4 Hebrew curriculum strives to provide students with the opportunity to examine these prayers closely, both decoding and chanting, as well as understand the deeper meaning of the prayers and how they relate to our lives. To support their learning, students participate in T’filah (Prayer), Amanut (Art) and Kehillah (Community Time) on Sundays, and are given opportunities to lead T’filah (Prayer) during the week.
In Grade 5, students explore the theme of Reform Judaism and the power of community. Utilizing the CHAI Level 5 curriculum, students uncover how Reform Judaism is based on the message of the Prophets’ call to social action, uncovering how the Prophets serve as leadership models and connecting what we can learn from the Prophets to our understanding of leadership in our lives and in our communities. Students also encounter G’milut Chasadim as it connects to our responsibility to not separate ourselves from our community. In learning about chagim (holidays), Grade 5 students discover narratives of and opportunities for leadership, specifically focusing on the central idea of freedom as it appears in the narrative of the chagim. The Hebrew Curriculum for Grade 5 focuses on developing an understanding of the Amidah, the central prayer in our liturgy. Students learn the order of the Amidah’s brachot (blessings), uncover the deeper meaning of the brachot in the Amidah, and further refine their decoding and chanting skills. To support their learning, students participate in T’filah (Prayer), Amanut (Art) and Kehillah (Community Time) on Sundays, and are given opportunities to lead T’filah (Prayer) during the week.
While Israel is integrated into all units of learning throughout each grade level, Grade 6 students directly explore Israel. In their exploration of the Jewish homeland, students discover the land itself, as well as its inhabitants, uncover Israel’s rich culture and diverse peoples and identify the challenges that face this unique country. Students are also given the opportunity to deepen their personal relationship with Israel and consider the place that Israel currently holds in their life as well as what relationship they hope to have with Israel in the future. The Grade 6 curriculum also focuses on identity formation and accountability. Central to this part of the curriculum is the quote, “Every person has three names: one his or her father and mother give, one others call him or her, and one s/he earns for him or herself” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:1). In this part of the curriculum students explore questions such as, “What is the power of names?”, “How do the choices one makes influence the name that one earns?” and “What name do I wish to earn for myself?” This curriculum also helps students create a connection between our actions and accountability and the type of person that we hope to become. In studying chagim (holidays), students consider how each chag (holiday) provides us with the opportunity to take accountability for our actions and become participants in the Jewish community. The Grade 6 Hebrew curriculum provides an opportunity for students to review the Shabbat morning service, and then focuses specifically on the Torah service. Students learn to decode and chant the blessing recited before putting on a Tallit, the blessings recited before and after the reading of Torah and the blessings recited before and after the reading of Haftarah. Students also practice the choreography of the Torah service and consider what it means to reenact receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai each and every Shabbat. To support their learning, students participate in T’filah (Prayer), Amanut (Art) and Kehillah (Community Time) on Sundays, and are given opportunities to lead T’filah (Prayer) during the week.
For the one half of the year, Grade 7 students focus on exploring Tzedakah, specifically by examining what it means to be obligated to give Tzedakah. The learning centers around Jewish perspective on giving (both time and money) and exposes students to the idea that giving in Judaism is not something that we do to feel good about ourselves, but rather is what we do because it is what God commands us to do to create justice in the world. The culmination of this part of the Grade 7 curriculum is an opportunity for the students to work together to decide on an organization that they feel passionate about and create a Tzedakah Project to meet a need of that organization. During the other half of the year, Grade 7 students build on the identity formation and accountability curriculum from Grade 6. Utilizing the approach of Facing History and Ourselves, students focus on how our understandings of the Individual & Society; We & They; History; Judgment, Memory & Legacy and Choosing to Participate influence our understanding of the Holocaust and create an arc of relevance between the Holocaust and our lives today.
Grade 8 students explore the idea of individual responsibility within a larger community, specifically focusing on their responsibility as new adult members of the Jewish community. Focusing on the tension that exists from living in an individualistic society but belonging to a community based religion, students explore the gifts they bring to our Jewish community and the gifts belonging to the community gives to them. As they uncover concepts such as what creates the foundation of a Jewish community and the power of the collective community, students seek to identify Jewish agencies and resources that encourage and support Jewish communal life and become familiar with these agencies and resources as they have emerged and continue to emerge in the Cleveland Jewish community. In addition to examining Cleveland’s Jewish community, students are given the opportunity to explore the synagogue community, gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to be a member of a synagogue in terms of ownership, oversight and participation.
The Grade 9 curriculum engages students in an exploration of Israel, both as the Jewish homeland and as a modern day country. Students examine the Jewish people’s continuous connection to the land of Israel throughout biblical and modern times and grapple with the contemporary issues and tensions that arise given the shifting dynamics of the Middle East and the inherent challenges of maintaining a democratic Jewish state. In addition to examining history and current events, students encounter culture, language and geography as they strive to unpack the complexities of our beautiful and exciting spiritual home.
As Grade 10 students work towards their Confirmation ceremony in May, their curriculum focuses on cultivating spirituality through personal reflection, developing a deeper connection to Jewish liturgy, and articulating their individual ideas about God and how we, as individuals and as the Jewish people, interact with God. Students gain a more refined understanding of what the Reform movement offers as answers to questions relating to God, spirituality and prayer. Students are also offered a variety of perspectives from outside of the movement, from Rabbinic and modern day scholars, in an effort to help them refine their own beliefs.
The Grade 11/12 curriculum alternates each year between Sacred Choices, a URJ curriculum that focuses on both relationship and sexual ethics, and Packing for College, a URJ curriculum that helps prepare students to live Jewish lives on campus. One goal in exploring the Sacred Choices curriculum is that students feel that the synagogue provides a safe and relevant place to talk about sexuality, being sexual and decision making in general. Students learn about the Reform movement’s perspective on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships and recognize that Jewish values are central to dealing with any and all of our relationships, both sexual and platonic. Through the Sacred Choices curriculum, students gain the tools to help them make informed and responsible decisions about their health and behavior (including their sexuality), friendships and relationships. In addition, students explore topics such as the public vs. private sphere and how to create and maintain healthy boundaries. When exploring the Packing for College curriculum, students gain an understanding of the importance of considering Jewish needs in making college decisions and become familiar with resources to help them evaluate colleges from a Jewish perspective. They also consider how they can bring their spirituality and faith with them to college, as well as become aware of the questions that Reform Jewish college students may encounter from both non-Jews and non-Reform Jews. The Packing for College curriculum also gives Grade 11/12 students the opportunity to raise general concerns about college life within the safety of a Jewish setting.
Senior Seminar – a once a month class for Grade 12 students
Grade 12 students meet once a month with the Rabbi and Education Director to cover a variety of topics, most of which are student generated. Topics generally include:
- Jewish views on drugs and alcohol
- Israel on Campus
- Jewish views on Tattoos and Piercings
- Why are there so many Different Religions? Judaism, Christianity, Islam – are they really all that different? Can a person be half-Jewish, half-Christian?
- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist: Why can’t I just be Jewish?
- The “real” story of Purim
We consider T’filah to be an integral part of our curriculum and we use this time to reinforce the idea that we are a Kehillah Kedoshah (Holy Community), allow students to explore their understanding of God and celebrate holidays and Holy Days through song. T’filah for students in Grades K-2 introduces them to the basic prayers in our service: Modeh Ani, Barchu, Shema, V’ahavtah, Mi Chamocha and the Amidah (Avot v’Imahot). Age appropriate songs are incorporated into the service, which largely remains the same from week to week, to help build a comfort level and familiarity. T’filah for Grades 3-6 on Sunday mornings expands on the basic service, adding Yotzer Or, the G’vurot and the Shabbat morning Kedusah. We chose the Shabbat morning Kedushah to help familiarize our students with the parts of the Amidah that they are most likely to hear. This provides for a fantastic teaching moment, which is discussed during Midweek T’filah. During this time, students learn about the structure of the service, the difference between weekday and Shabbat services, and have the opportunity to help lead prayers.
Parent-Child Hebrew is another option for our families seeking to engage in learning together. Parent-Child Hebrew replaces Midweek Hebrew and takes place on Sunday mornings, following the child’s Judaic class. Parent-Child Hebrew is a combined class with students in Grades 3-6 learning together with their parents. The curriculum rotates each year, allowing all students to encounter all of the Shabbat morning prayers by the time they have graduated from the program in Grade 6. Due to the mixed ages, learning in Parent-Child Hebrew is a collaborative initiative. Children and parents of different decoding abilities help one another in small group and chevrutah activities, overseen by the teacher. The curriculum is a mix of decoding work and spiritual exploration, helping the children and their parents work together to cultivate a more intimate connection to Jewish prayer.