“My task is not to debate whether I’m a Jew or not, but to figure out what kind of Jew I am. For me, finding a secular Jewish community with progressive politics fits my version of that identity.”
Our educational program culminates in a collective bar/bat mitzvah ceremony for the 7th grade class. Students spend the year exploring their own Jewish identity through class readings and discussions, field trips, social justice activities and an individual research project. The ceremony is attended by extended family and friends, and is an important event in the fabric of our community.
The unique Shule bar/bat mitzvah is a meaningful alternative to a more traditional ritual. Rather than individually participating in a synagogue service, the students prepare a collective ceremony. The centerpiece of the ceremony is each student’s personal statement on Jewish identity. In a profound and moving coming-of-age ritual, each 13-year old articulates what it means to him/her to embrace this identity. It is a special day for the students, as well as for the many hundreds of family, friends, and members of the Workmen’s Circle community who attend.
Parents also get involved as a shared effort, planning a party together that follows the ceremony.
As part of the 7th grade curriculum each student selects a research project on a topic of his or her choice, producing written, oral, and visual components. Projects are presented to the community in April, and the bar/bat mitzvah follows in May.
Past research project topics have included:
- The Jews of Ireland
- Traditions and Cultures: Jewish and Chinese History
- A Maykhl: A Celebration of Jewish Food in My Family
- Reaching Across the Wall: Children of the Conflict on the Journey to Peace
- Jewish Heroes and Heroines of the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement
- Abel Meeropol: Social Justice Activist and Songwriter
- Yiddish Theater
- The Jewish Community in Egypt
- Jews and the History of Comic Books
- The Life of Elie Weisel
- Changing Clothes: Jewish Women in Fashion
- The Ark of the Covenant
- The Jewish Community of Sosua in the Dominican Republic
- My Grandfather’s Journey to America
- The Adventures of the Brave and Curious Reys
- Children of Terezin: Their Art, Music and Writing
- Ashkenazim and Sephardim: Two Families of the Same Tribe
- The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
- Klezmer Clarinet