We do not use the label “Hebrew school” to refer to what we do here. “BE InSpirEd” is the name of our education programs. It stands for: “Beth El Innovative, Spiritual Education.” This more closely reflects what we want to be: a program that strives to have participants authentically want to be a part of it. We believe that education should be fun, engaging and a source of wonder and natural inquiry to our learners. This draws us full circle to the “BE InSpirEd” Jewish journey model of education. It reflects the idea that learning never completes, and that there are certain milestones along the way.
We are partnering with the service organization TELEM and will focus on hunger and the Jewish values surrounding it. We will have a combination of learning days and perform the act of feeding others at Pearl Street Café in Framingham.
Students Together Opposing Prejudice is a seven-week curriculum targeted to middle school students. The 90-minute sessions take place in participating houses of worship. Through short teachings on each faith, students learn about the similarities and differences among the faith traditions so they can appreciate and respect the faith of others. The participants learn that racial unity comes about through recognition of the value of every individual and the celebrating of every person’s uniqueness. They also learn to appreciate that every community is enriched by diversity.
These events help provide the community aspect of the curriculum.
The desire for true and personal meaning in our lives can give each of us the motivation to study and search for answers. Judaism is a vital system that encourages us to filter our “big” questions through the focus on everyday relationships: how we express our individuality within ourselves and in connection to God, how we understand our place in the larger community and world, and how we explore the critical issues of life and death.
This core class will examine the resources of our classical and contemporary Jewish texts. The teachers of our tradition and our own teachers around the table will guide and challenge us to come closer to who we really can be as modern Jews.
Looking at Judaism as a civilization, as opposed to only a religion, means looking at aspects of Jewish life that are happening outside the time and space limitations of the synagogue or Hebrew calendar. Together, we will explore all these other areas of life, such as cuisine, education, politics, fashion, arts and humor, which the Jewish people have developed and continue to develop unique versions of.
Throughout the semester, students conduct guided research in small groups on a topic of their choice and will find a creative way to present it to their classmates. Together, by the end of the semester, students will have a better understanding of how the Jewish civilization has developed and how they fit into it.
Breaking down the Jewish aspects of life that were discovered in the first semester, students will explore not the common but the differentiated and unique ways in which Jewish communities around the world are conducting their lives. What does a bat mitzvah look like in Germany? What is Yom Kippur like in Israel? How is Rosh Hashanah celebrated in Ethiopia? What do you eat at Hanukkah in China?
Over the semester, students will embark on a virtual journey around the world, “visiting” one Jewish community after the other every week, learning from them and broadening their horizons and conceptions of Jewish life. We will culminate the year by creating the “universal Jewish community,” which will express our thoughts and beliefs on the ideas we have learned over the course of the year.
Our 12th-grade Siyyum class offers our students the opportunity to explore how Jewish life and culture evolved over the generations. Together, we’ll address powerful questions: How does Judaism influence my life? What will my religious life look like after I leave home? What blessings do I have to share with the world?
Throughout our time together, we will explore a variety of materials ranging from traditional Jewish texts to modern literature and from classic art to multimedia clips. These sources will be used to stimulate discussion and inspire engagement in our concluding projects.
The year will culminate with students completing their Siyyum projects—unique expressions of the understanding of their relationship to Jewish topics of personal interest. The class will also be encouraged to come together to create a unifying group project that will be shared with the community as a whole. Both projects will be undertaken after conversation with the rabbi.
At the conclusion of the Siyyum class, congregants, friends and family will gather for Siyyum night—a Shabbat service and graduation ceremony. The students will present their final projects and offer them to the congregation as a lasting part of our community’s archives. Our 12th-graders’ final presentations have been a highlight of our congregation’s life for many years. This is their opportunity to share with the community not only who they are but also who they hope to become.