Religious School Academics

Al shlosha d’varim ha-olam omed (Pirke Avot 1:2)

The ancient sages taught that the world stands on three pillars: on Torah—our sacred text(s) and study; on avodah—prayer and a connection to God and the people Israel; and on gemilut hasadimon good deeds and a commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world. At Stephen Wise Temple Religious School, families and students engage in study and experiential learning on all three pillars. In each grade, we are committed to providing our students with a joyful, safe, and meaningful Jewish experience—while providing a foundation of Jewish and Hebrew knowledge to foster Jewish identity and participation for bat/bat mitzvah and at Stephen Wise Temple and beyond.

Some curricular highlights include:

Kindergarten: In a warm and loving environment, our Kindergarten students are provided an in-depth, age-appropriate understanding of Jewish holidays, and begin to learn introductory stories and lessons from the Torah. The year culminates with our Kabbalat Torah (receiving Torah) ceremony. This endearing rite of passage is a time for family and friends to join their kindergartener in celebration of their formal entry into Jewish learning. Enrollment in Religious School at this time is a meaningful sign to children that parents value their religious and moral education as much as their secular one.

Because the holiday curriculum spirals, students learn something new about the each holiday every year. Each Grade has its own specific focus.

Grade 1 – The book of Bereshit (Genesis) tells the story about the first Jewish family. With a focus on Biblical characters, our Grade 1 students learn these basics of Jewish identity and age-appropriate tools for text study. In addition to learning about Genesis, students will also continue their learning of of the Jewish calendar.

Grade 2 – Grade 2 begins the core Judaic program called the Chai Curriculum, published by the Union for Reform Judaism. In this introductory year, students begin to learn about Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim—in the texts and traditions of Judaism and in their own lives. With a focus on the book of Shemot (Exodus), students begin to explore significant stories of Jewish history, basic questions about and connections to God, and their own power to make the world a better place.

Grade 3 – In Grade 3 students focus on the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) in which God teaches how to live a life filled with K’dushah-holiness. Building on the foundations of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim, the Grade 3 year emphasizes the role of prayer in their lives and in the world.  In addition to the Chai Curriculum and the ongoing study of holidays, Grade 3 students begin to learn Hebrew letters and vowels. This introduction focuses on letter recognition and pre-reading skills. In Grade 3, families have the option of enrolling in the Hebrew Head Start program (Sundays, 11:30-12:30).

Grade 4 – The exploration of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim continues in Grade 4 with a focus on community, from the micro (home, family, synagogue) to the macro (city, country, world). Beginning to understand their membership in am Yisrael (the Jewish people), our Grade 4 students  examine the connection between the am Yisrael (the Jewish people) and the Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), particularly through the lens of Brit (covenant) found in the last two books of the Torah, Bamidbar (Numbers), and Dvarim (Deuteronomy).

Grade 4 students begin their Hebrew studies in earnest, mastering the letters and vowels of the aleph-bet and learn to decode them. By the end of the year students can connect letters with their sounds and are able to read. In Grade 4, students choose between mulitple Hebrew enrichment options: Sunday (11:30-12:30), Tuesday (4-5:30), or our two online options.

Grade 5 – The Grade 5 focus is on the Prophets and Reform Judaism’s special relationship to their message—again through the lens of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim. Grade 5 Hebrew students show a rapid growth in skills as they move beyond letter recognition and decoding to prayer fluency. Students focus on the Shema and the blessings surrounding it. An understanding of the rudimentary construction of Hebrew language including roots, pronouns, prefixes, and suffixes will be introduced.

Grade 6 – Grade 6 is the final year of the Chai Curriculum. In Grade 6, students investigate how the collection of stories, poems, and words of wisdom known as Ketuvim (writings) relate to the individual’s relationship with Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim.  Grade 6 is the final year of the formal Hebrew program of the Religious School. By this point students are able to demonstrate fluency in decoding, familiarity with central prayers, and have a small modern Hebrew vocabulary. Our 6th grade year culminates in the Aliyah ceremony, where student demonstrate their skills and learning by leading the community in prayer, celebrating their passage from Religious School into our Wise Temple Youth (WTY) community.