July 12, 2020 |

Curriculum

Temple Israel supports students in deepening their relationship with each other, Temple Israel, the Jewish people, the State of Israel, God, prayer, and our sacred texts.

In Kitah Gan/Pre-K and Kindergarten, students begin to form a community that will travel together for many years to come. Jewish memories are created as students celebrate Jewish holidays, experience Jewish culture, learn to recognize Hebrew letters and are introduced to stories about family and friendship from the Jewish tradition, mainly Genesis. Each content area may be explored through play, drama, food, music, prayer, art, and “field trips” around the Temple Israel building. Every Sunday morning students spend time singing with Cantor Ken, focusing on songs from tefilah and holiday songs, and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary. A highlight of the Kitah Gan year is Kabbalat Torah, a ceremony in which we welcome students to the beginning of their Jewish education.

In Kitah Alef/Grade 1, students continue to explore the idea of community. Their Torah curriculum focuses on stories from the book of Exodus, in which the Jewish people become a community. Being part of a community means showing caring for others and in Kitah Alef students explore values such as giving tzedakah to those in need, hachnasat orchim/welcoming others, bikur holim/taking care of the sick, and hidur p’nai zaken/honoring the elderly. Celebrating Jewish holidays and life cycle events is a key part of the year as communities celebrate together. In Kitah Alef Hebrew letters and vowels are reinforced and students become secure in their recognition of Hebrew letters and vowels. At the end of Kitah Alef, some students are able to decode one syllable Hebrew words. Every Sunday morning students spend time singing with Cantor Ken, focusing on songs from tefilah and holiday songs, and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary.

In Kitah Bet/Grade 2, a highlight of the year is Kabbalat Siddur, which occurs in the springtime. At Kabbalat Siddur, each student receives their very own siddur and a wimpel designed with their parents. (A wimpel is a long sash used as a binding for the Sefer Torah. Traditionally, it was made from the cloth used to swaddle a baby boy at his brit milah, uniting the communal world of the synagogue with the individual’s own life cycle. Each student’s wimpel is used when they become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Temple Israel and at other Jewish life cycle events.) During Kitah Bet, students spend time learning about their names – why their name was chosen, what their name means, who they were named for (if anyone), and about biblical and historical figures that share their name. Through this exploration, students begin to understand their connection to their family and Jewish tradition. Storytelling (and acting out stories) is a highlight in Kitah Bet and by the end of the year the students are able to decode any Hebrew word and have a vocabulary of basic Hebrew words. Every week students spend time singing with Cantor Ken, focusing on songs from tefilah and holiday songs, and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary.

In Kitah Gimel/Grade 3, Israel is a focus of the year. Stories from the Torah highlight Eretz Yisrael/Land of Israel and core Jewish values. With our Shinshin/Israel Emissary, students learn about Medinat Yisrael/The Modern State of Israel and all its beauty, wonders, and complexities, and about Am Yisrael/The People of Israel, both living in Israel and in the Diaspora. The holiday curriculum in Kitah Gimel highlights how Jews in different parts of the world celebrate holidays and life cycle events. (A reason for the focus on Israel is that in grade 3, families are invited to sign up for Passport to Israel, a program in which an account is set up for each student so that when the student is in high school money is available for a trip to Israel. The student’s family, Temple Israel, and CJP contribute yearly to the fund. This is a voluntary program.) In third grade students participate in a program called Hebrew Through Movement in which Hebrew vocabulary is introduced. Each week students practice tefilah in the sanctuary and by the end of Kitah Gimel/Grade 3 students have a mastery of the morning blessings meaning that they are confident in singing the morning blessings and have an understanding of what the morning blessings are about. A few times during the year the 3rd-5th graders participate in an elective program in which all students study the same topic and then explore it through different modalities that may include: sign language, art, drama, legos, cooking, or technology. Every week our students spend time in tefilah and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary.

In Kitah Dalet/Grade 4, one of the foci is on spirituality and God. The 4th-grade curriculum includes mastery of Ashrei as well as the Amidah and its many blessings. Examples of the conceptual themes of the Amidah that students explore include heroes, peace, healing, forgiveness, connecting generations, freedom, gratitude, and Jerusalem. These themes are accessed during the study of Jewish holidays and Torah stories. In studying the Amidah, discussion about God abounds, and through the year, students face questions such as: How do we know there is a God? Does God care who wins the Super Bowl? Does God punish? Can praying make someone well? In Kitah Dalet/Grade 4, students are invited to develop and articulate a personal theology. Fourth graders also delve into biblical stories from the later part of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. As students read and discuss these stories, they consider (1) God’s role in the story and (2) the values that story is teaching, and (3) how they can apply that to their lives today. A few times during the year the 3rd-5th graders participate in an elective program in which all students study the same topic and then explore it through different modalities that may include: sign language, art, drama, legos, cooking, or technology. Every week our students spend time in tefilah and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary.

In Kitah Hey/Grade 5, events in Jewish history (post-Biblical to modern times) are highlighted through the study of historical events, famous people and the use of artifacts and primary sources. During the year students will have the opportunity to interview relatives as a means of learning about their family’s history. The grade 5 tefilah/prayer curriculum focuses on the Torah service and by the end of the year students will be comfortable leading the Torah service with partners. The choreography of the service, as well as the meaning of the prayers, are part of the study as well. During the year, grade 5 families participate in the first of a two-part series on tefillin. A few times during the year the 3rd-5th graders participate in an elective program in which all students study the same topic and then explore it through different modalities that may include: sign language, art, drama, legos, cooking, or technology. Every week our students spend time in tefilah and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary.

In Kitah Vav/Grade 6, the theme of social justice and human dignity touches many aspects of the curriculum. The prophets from which the Haftarot are taken are studied through a social justice lens. Students are also introduced to issues that affect our community and spend time focusing on issues such as homelessness, refugees, literacy, the environment, the elderly, and inclusion. Each unit culminates with a service project that addresses a need in our community. At the end of the year students meet with a local elected leader and share what they have learned and about the Jewish value associated with the issue. Another focus of the year is Israel and specifically the city of Haifa, Boston’s sister city in Israel. Temple Israel’s Kitah Vav/Grade 6 students are lucky to have a partner school in Haifa, Beit Sefer Habonim, which is an experiential school. Students and Temple Israel’s Shinshin participate in a cultural exchange via letters, reports, and when available, virtual meetings. The tefilah curriculum focuses on learning Torah and Haftarah trope with Cantor Ken and a study of the differences between the kaddishes. Over the course of the year, students and parents participate in a series of b’nai mitzvah programs led by Rabbi Liben, Cantor Ken and Robin Kahn. During the year, students and parents continue to learn about tefillin and students and parents work together to create a tallit and tie tzitzit.

In Kitah Zayin/Grade 7, students focus on the Jewish life cycle, Jewish history, and social justice through a Jewish lens and are exposed to modern Hebrew. Through the exploration of biblical and contemporary texts as well as pop culture, students learn about the Jewish life cycle and the origins of Jewish observances. The question that frames the Jewish history lessons loop (from ancient to modern times) is, “How have Jews responded to the secular influences in the communities in which they lived?” Through this lens, students have the opportunity to relate Jewish history to their lives as Jews living in America. Throughout the year, students participate in service-learning projects with local groups, including HebrewLife and Jewish Family Services. Every week students spend time in tefilah and learning about Israel with our Shinshin/Israel Emissary. The year culminates in a Siyum, a celebration of learning in which the students share with family members and the religious school community their learning, reflections, and hopes for how they will continue their Jewish education beyond religious school.