Shule

Many of us seek a way to provide our children with a solid ethical foundation and a sense of pride in their Jewish heritage – without an explicitly religious context. We can do a lot at home. But here at Boston Workers Circle Center for Jewish Culture and Social Justice, Jewish identity and values deepen through communal rituals and structures that provide our children and families with a feeling of belonging. It’s about having a connection to each other, as well as to a shared history and shared values.

We are proud to be a community where families from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, both Jewish and non-Jewish, feel welcome and participate in all levels of the organization. We are also proud to be an open and affirming community for LGBTQ families.

Whether your children are two, ten, or eighteen years old, there are ways for them to participate.

Our Jewish Cultural Sunday School engages children grades K-7 in an exploration of Jewish identity rooted in Jewish cultural literacy and traditions of social justice. Through an educational experience based on both classroom learning and community building, the Sunday School (Shule in Yiddish) curriculum emphasizes Jewish history, culture and progressive ideals that shape our identity and values as a people.

We are proud to be a school community where families from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, both Jewish and non-Jewish, feel welcome and participate in all levels of the organization. We are also proud to be an open and affirming community for LGBTQ families.

In the 2022-2023 school year. Shule will be meeting in-person following Brookline Public School health protocols.

Are you wondering if the Shule is right for your family and your schedule? We would be happy to answer all of your questions! Contact Education Director Meira Soloff - meira@circleboston.org 

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Parent Participation

Parents are encouraged to join their children during the school year for two family brunches, holiday parties, field trips and in-class projects.

Parents also play an important role running the Shule. Each family is asked to select a job:  you might help organize a holiday party, buy snacks for the kids, or serve as a teaching assistant in the classroom. Don’t worry, we know that you’re busy! Jobs vary in terms of time and content. Your skills and talents will help the Shule run smoothly, and by volunteering you’ll get to know other parents and the Shule staff.

A volunteer parent committee sets Shule policy and oversees Shule governance.

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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.

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 Yiddish 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.

Grade-by-grade curriculum

Kindergarten
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jewish Life through Stories, Drama and Crafts
Social Action Theme: Doing Good Deeds
Jewish Value: Tzedakah and Mitzvot
Beyz (2)
Jewish Literacy Theme: People of the Book: Learning Our Stories
Social Action Theme: Homelessness
Jewish Value: Talmud Torah: Love of learning
Daled (4)
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jews Around the World
Social Action Theme: Diversity
Jewish Value: Ahavat Ger: Identifying the Stranger: “We are strangers in a strange land”
Vov (6)
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
Alef (1)
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jewish Holidays and Practice
Social Action Theme: The Environment
Jewish Value: Baal Tashkhit: Do not destroy the world
Giml (3)
Jewish Literacy Theme: Eastern Europe and the Immigrant Experience
Social Action Theme: Immigration
Jewish Value: Hakhnasat Orhim: Welcoming Guests
Hey (5)
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jews in Social Movements
Social Action Theme: Social Justice
Jewish Value: Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World
Zayen (7)
Jewish Literacy Theme: Jewish Identity: Bar/Bat Mitzvah Year
Social Action Theme: Responsibility
Jewish Value: B’nai mitzvah: assuming responsibility within our community
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Secular B'nai Mitzvah

Please note, due to the nature of the B'nai Mitzvah process for both the students and their families, we do not accept any new students (who have never been to Shule) to the B'nai Mitzvah (7th grade) program year.

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 May, and the bar/bat mitzvah follows in early June.

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

Holidays with Shule

Sukkes / Sukkot

Each year, we celebrate Sukkes in the Sunday School (Shule) with sukkah-building and decorating, a Sukes spieltag (fun day) and other childrens' activities, and a potluck lunch.

Family Purim Carnival

No Purim celebration is complete without a wild and wacky Purim Shpiel, costume finery, and loads of fun and games. Hosted by the Shule 7th grade class, featuring games and prizes for children under 10.

Family Khanike / Chanukah Party

Our family Khanike party features original blessings written by children for each night of Khanike, fun activities for children preschool through age 13, and latkes, latkes, latkes!

The winter holiday season can be challenging to navigate for Jewish and interfaith families. By celebrating Jewish traditions as one of many cultures with special winter holidays - and in a community of shared values - we can strengthen our connection to heritage and identity, and take a break from the consumerism of the season.

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