We welcome you to our congregation and your children to Kehilah!
Kehilah is the Hebrew word for community. We call what used to be our Religious School Kehilah because we believe that Jewish identity comes from learning AND experiencing being part of a community of peers. We find that kids are far more interested in coming to temple to be with their Kehilah, than they are for more school. We believe that our kids form and develop their Jewish identity through relationships – with peers, teachers, parents and all of the wide variety of people in our community – our congregational kehilah!
At B’nai Israel, we changed much more than a name when we started referring to our religious school as Kehilah. The name change was to remind us that we were not coming to more school (which is like a job for kids). We come together to be with our friends – the ones we already have and the ones we are just getting to know. Our job is making connections – with other kids, adults, ideas and traditions. And we do it by having fun and getting to know one another!
Experiential learning techniques and Jewish values are how we make the Kehilah experience different from Religious School. Here we learn by doing, by learning how to make decisions based on Jewish values and our individual and family priorities. Our curriculum is organized around those Jewish values. Our teachers have been training in experiential techniques and meeting the social, emotional and spiritual needs of the kids in Kehilah – our learners.
While we have been learning new pedagogical skills to engage our kids we know that there has to be an element of joy in everything we do. And part of that is having a group of peers that we connect with to have fun and discover the beauty of what it means to be Jewish. Our days are filled with exploring Judaism through art, music, games and story telling. We rely on our community – our Kehilah to share our joy and create deep connections with each other.
When Should I Enroll My Kids?
Right Now! Jewish identity is something that is developed, not something that is slipped over your head like a T-shirt. All of the research tells us that the earlier a child is introduced to Jewish education, the more likely he or she is to take on the values and to feel a sense of connection. We urge families to begin their child’s journey through Jewish learning in Gan (Kindergarten), but will welcome them at any point along the way.
When Do We Meet?
Our Gan – Kitah Gimel (K – 3rd grade) learners meet Sunday mornings from 9:30 a.m. –12:00 p.m.
Our Kitot Daled – Vav (4th – 6th grade) learners meet on Sundays from 9:30 – 12:00 p.m. and Thursday afternoons from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Our Kitot Zayin and Chet (7th & 8th grade) learners meet on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Merkaz, the Community High School for Jewish Studies, serves Kitot Tet – Yud Bet (9th – 12th grade). These teens are joined at B’nai Israel by teens from other congregations in the community. Merkaz meets Tuesday evenings from 6:50 – 8:50 p.m. Sophomores from B’nai Israel are enrolled automatically in the Confirmation class taught by Rabbi Schultz.
Who Teaches Our Kids?
Our Morim (teachers) are warm, loving and professional. Nearly all of them are members of our congregation and have (or have had) children of their own in our school. They are professional in their approach to Jewish learning because they care deeply about sharing their love of Jewish living and their connection to Congregation B’nai Israel and the Jewish people. They bring not only their long personal commitment to our Jewish community but a vast array of skills and talents.
In our classroom, our Morim create a positive learning environment that is both engaging and enjoyable. Outside of the classroom, our Morim regularly attend workshops and conferences that enhance their skills to help our students create personal meaning of their Jewish heritage within their daily lives and the world outside.
On Sundays, our Morim are joined by members of our Hadrakhah (Leadership) team. Our Hadrakhahniks are all high school students who have dedicated themselves to making sure the younger learners have an even more exciting experience than they themselves had at that age. They serve as role models, teaching assistants and a bit like older siblings to our Gan – Kitah Vav (K – 6th ) kids.
What about Learners with Special Needs?
At B’nai Israel we understand that learners have many different styles and needs. We believe that there are many ways to be smart. Sitting and learning quietly is just one of those ways, and we do not want to limit ourselves to just one. We are committed to meeting the needs of all learners. Please visit our Special Needs page for more information.
What Will Our Kids Learn?
The usual stuff. And a whole lot more. Our curriculum revision is nearly complete and being implemented for the fall of 2021/5782. We have reframed it around Jewish Values – things like Community, Respect, Menschlichkeit, World Repair and a love of Israel (for example) – rather than content areas like History, Holidays and Hebrew. We will certainly learn about those and other content areas. We do it by using values as our context, rather than trying to implicitly teach values when we learn the fact-based material. We believe that values better help our kids get a sense of what kind of person and Jew they want to be than simply absorbing knowledge. We also believe that focusing on Jewish Values give us a greater opportunity to create experiences – both in and out of the classroom – which create learning that is deeper and longer lasting.
How Will Our Kids learn?
Our faculty has been learning and working over the past five years to shift how pedagogy happens. There are two approaches worth mentioning as we have invested a great deal of time and effort into them.
Feel free to email our Director of Education, Alexa Cohen, or call him at (203) 335-5058.