The spiral curriculum below outlines the Judaic curriculum by grade. Students also learn Hebrew, participate in prayer and engage in joyous activities designed to build bonds of friendship and connections with our Jewish community.
Kindergarten / Gan
Students learn about Judaism’s basic concept of mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) -how to interact kindly with other people, how to create a kehillah kedosha, holy community, how ritual can enrich one’s life- as they share in a joyous celebration of Jewish holidays and daily life. Kindergarten weaves together music, hands-on activities and fun to create a strong foundation for our students’ Jewish identity.
First grade students are introduced to Torah through art, stories, music, games, movement. Students experience the Torah as a guidebook that is alive in their daily lives and that contains the family history of the Jewish people, our rules and laws and our celebrations. Students are introduced to Hebrew by learning food and holiday brachot, blessings, and songs. Students begin to learn about the Mitzvah /commandment of Tzedakah.
In second grade, students hear, enact, re-tell and discuss our foundational Torah stories. Stories are chosen which give examples of such basic Jewish values as honesty, responsibility, justice and helping other people. With puppets, art, music, acting, games and discussion, students begin to connect the Torah with their own lives. Second graders build on their Hebrew vocabulary through hearing conversational Hebrew, by naming objects found at home and in the classroom, and by practicing their greetings in class.
Third grade is a pivotal year for our students. It marks the beginning of the study of Hebrew. Students learn to read and write the alef-bet, the Hebrew alphabet, and learn to read syllables and simple words in Hebrew. The exploration and personal experience of the mitzvah of gemilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness is the central theme of third grade. In third grade, the Judaic curriculum centers on the Jewish calendar. Students learn blessings for Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and deepen their understanding of the customs, prayers, songs and significance of the Jewish calendar. This year provides the basis for cultivating thankfulness and gratitude for the many blessings in our world.
Fourth graders learn that the Torah is constantly being interpreted, changing and evolving to make it relevant to our Jewish lives. Fourth grade students also learn about the Jewish life cycle, as it connects them to their Judaism, their community, and their individual relationship with God. Fourth graders begin to see their membership in the Jewish community as an agreement with God, encompassing the Torah, the mitzvot, and the land of israel. In the fourth grade, students join the upper grades as active participants in the BHS Religious School prayer community.
Through the study of Jewish history, the fifth grade students examine how the choices Jews have made throughout history keep Judaism alive and relevant. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, the course moves chronologically from Biblical Israel through Napoleonic times. By exploring their shared history, fifth graders will be able to situate themselves within the Jewish narrative and build an awareness of Jewish peoplehood.
In their Judaic studies, sixth graders focus on American Jewish history as their own personal legacy and how it frames their own Jewish identity. They study the Shoah, Holocaust, in an age-appropriate way; struggling as a community with its unanswerable questions. As a way to process these struggles and to help them gain confidence as service leaders, sixth graders create a Yom HaShoah memorial service for the fourth and fifth graders and their parents. In preparation for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, sixth graders continue their study of Hebrew reading and prayer.
To prepare for Bar/Bat Mitzvah, seventh graders combine group and individualized instruction. They study Torah, Hebrew, prayer and Cantillation. Seventh graders study Torah through an array of approaches to the text, including students’ own reflections alongside rabbinic commentary, history, sociology, mysticism, literary metaphor, and parable to explore how these foundational stories can be personally meaningful in their lives. In Hebrew, students become more familiar with the order and significance of the Shabbat morning service, and forge a deeper personal connection with the prayers. The seventh graders study Cantillation for the Torah and Haftarah. Through listening, chanting, reading, and playing interactive games, students learn a skill that they can use for the rest of their lives as leaders at their B’nei Mitzvah, their Hillel and their future home congregations as Jewish adults.
During the final months of their individualized B’nei Mitzvah preparation (which will often continue on into 8th Grade), students have weekly individual tutoring sessions with the Cantor, and study with the Rabbi to prepare their service and D’var Torah, words of Torah.
Eighth graders begin a two-year program of study about Israel, in preparation for their trip to Israel at the completion of ninth grade. Eighth graders review Jewish history beginning with our foundation myths; wrestling with our Torah text using a sophisticated and critical perspective and continue through a special unit on the Shoah, Holocaust. The goal of the year is to create context for and integrate past learning with their Israel studies.
Ninth graders continue their two-year study of Israel in preparation for their week-long trip in the spring of the ninth grade year (over Memorial Day Weekend). They study the history of Zionism, and the culture and political system of the modern state of Israel. They are exposed to conversational Hebrew words and phrases, Israeli culture and current events as they form a relationship with our shinshin, a specially-trained Israeli teen emissary. Their trip, with the Rabbi and their teachers parallels their curriculum and serves as a capstone for their studies at BHS. It is an amazing adventure which includes reflecting on how their trip aligns with their studies, and experiencing the profound effect a visit to Israel has on strengthening their Jewish identity.
10th Grade / Confirmation
Our 10th graders prepare as individuals and as a group for their Confirmation, the ceremony affirming their dedication to the Jewish people and the importance of their Jewish identity. With Rabbi Lippe, Confirmands study World Religions & Jewish Thought. Through film, discussion and research, students consider how other religions understand and explain the world and our place in it. Students visit the local church and mosque, and speak with their religious leaders. In the late winter we begin our study of Jewish thought on topics such as Belief in God, Free Will, Choseness, and Freedom versus Authority. The students lead their Confirmation service around the holiday of Shavuot, and each Confirmand makes a personal statement of his or her commitment to Judaism.
11th & 12th Grades
Students meet bi-weekly with Rabbi Lippe for dinner at his home. They engage in an informal, free-ranging discussion of current topics as seen through a Jewish lens. The topics are informed by the interests of the students in the group.