“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.”
Sunday School (Shule) Curriculum Overview
The Shule curriculum aims to foster a meaningful and proud Jewish identity, rooted in the historical and cultural Jewish experience and in a commitment to building a better world. That identity is expressed through community, learning, creative arts and culture and social action, not through prayer and worship.
As such, the Shule is not a religious school, but a cultural school. We seek to establish an environment where children and their families will feel free to personally explore Jewish identity and practice in ways that feel meaningful. Many of our families identify as secular, while others create their own personal approach to Jewish tradition and spirituality. We welcome you and your children to join us in that exploration.
The curriculum embraces a project-based educational experience that makes learning active and fun. For instance, when the 3rd graders learn about immigration they participate in a simulation of the journey to Ellis Island. And when the 5th graders learn about Jewish immigrants working in the sweatshops, they organize a protest against sweatshops that exist today.
The Shule educational philosophy also involves building community in the classroom and among families. This is accomplished through family brunches, field trips, holiday parties and more.
Each of the classes meets with a music teacher who tailors a curriculum to reinforce what the children are learning. The repertoire mirrors the larger community holiday and social justice repertoire, including Yiddish and Hebrew folk songs, music from Jewish cultures around the world and the anthems of progressive American social justice movements.
Yiddish and Hebrew
The Workmen’s Circle, founded by Eastern European immigrants in 1900, has a treasured history of preserving Yiddish language and culture. We honor that history in the Shule curriculum. At the same time, we recognize that there are many cultural identities within the Jewish world and within each of our individual families. The curriculum celebrates Yiddishkayt and its influence on American Jewish culture and politics, while introducing children to the varied histories, traditions, sounds, and tastes of Jewish cultures from around the world.
The Shule curriculum gives children a “taste” of Yiddish and Hebrew, especially through the music classes, and the children learn the Hebrew alphabet in Grade 3. Our schedule does not allow for a more comprehensive Hebrew or Yiddish language program. By providing exposure to the two languages, it is our hope that students who are motivated to learn more will seek out other opportunities for further study. It is also possible that, with enough interest, the Shule will elect to provide supplemental language instruction at some time in the future.
The following is a brief outline of the grade-by-grade curriculum
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jewish Life through Stories, Drama and Crafts
Social Action Theme: Doing Good Deeds
Jewish Value: Tzedakah and Mitzvot
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jewish Holidays and Practice
Social Action Theme: The Environment
Jewish Value: Baal Tashkhit: Do not destroy the world
Jewish Literacy Theme: People of the Book: Learning Our Stories
Social Action Theme: Homelessness
Jewish Value: Isaiah 58:7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Jewish Literacy Theme: Eastern Europe and the Immigrant Experience
Social Action Theme: Immigration
Jewish Value: L’dor v’dor: From Generation to Generation
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jews Around the World
Social Action Theme: Diversity
Jewish Value: Ahavat Ger: Welcoming the Stranger: “We are strangers in a strange land”
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jews in Social Movements
Social Action Theme: Social Justice
Jewish Value: Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World
Jewish Literacy Theme: The Holocaust and Israel/Palestine
Social Action Theme: Combating Bigotry, Teaching Tolerance
Jewish Value: Al Tamad al dam raecha: Do not stand idly by
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jewish Identity: Bar/Bat Mitzvah Year
Social Action Theme: Responsibility
Jewish Value: B’nai mitzvah: assuming responsibility within our community
A more detailed, description of the grade-by-grade curriculum is available for viewing or downloading at the bottom of this page.