Congregation Beth Shalom Religious School


Summer has been busy as I have been planning for school this year. Time has been carefully taken to reflect on what we can do, what we do well and where we can improve.  Every year there is a desire to raise achievement bar a little higher and sometimes we can miss the mark.  If it takes a community to raise a Jewish child then I hope we embark on this new year together. The Religious School is designated as a supplemental school; that is a great little phrase but what does it mean? The Religious/Hebrew School accounts for just 1-2% of our children’s awake time over a year. In that small amount of time, through regular attendance the outcome goals are to build a foundation of Jewish knowledge and together we nurture their Jewish identity. In our homes, each of us observes or practices being Jewish in our own way. The synagogue is our Jewish communal place of worship and study, where we celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and family life cycle events. The religious school covers a broad-spectrum Torah, tefilah, avodah and gimilut hasadim through the study of holidays, rituals, language, prayers, customs, history, ethics, values, relationships and Israel. At home, each family likely nurtures one or some of these more than others and together we raise a Jewish child.

This summer I have worked with my peer professionals, the Board, attended webinars and listened to your feedback in my planning.  I have also worked with teachers who are in town and others who are at camps.  Most of the teachers have spent their summer working at Jewish camps and will enrich our program with their new experiences. Parents, grandparents and congregants are invited and encouraged to join the teaching staff too. Please let me know if you wish to teach a grade, Hebrew, substitute or even teach a specific topic. Thank you to Jenn Book Haselswerdt for stepping up to teach monthly projects and to Emily Fuller for returning to the classroom as her daughter joins the preschool class.

One of the big differences this year is changing the class schedule so it is not broken up into 20 to 30-minute blocks.  This will allow more project based learning activities that can also include digital learning, presentations, debates and sharing. This will also allow for better classroom management, discussions and enduring learning of topics. There will be some family learning activities such as Shabbat in the home workshop or holidays. An aspect of Hebrew will include lessons on making tefilah more meaningful in today’s world. In Hebrew, we will be doing knowledge assessments several times a semester. I also envision an Erev Shabbat that is family led along with a pot luck. Each month we will try to focus on a Tikkun Olam project.  During the months of August and September please bring an item of food for the food bank and contribute tzedkah funds to the food bank and Mazon when you come to the synagogue. Kelly Durante has graciously accepted the role of parent liaison for the youth group. Together with the youth and advisors they will increase their tikkun olam activities. If there is a parent interested in a similar role with the junior youth group or elementary grades please contact me.

Snacks/Bagels - We grow in our relationships with each other when we share a meal.  This also provides students with the opportunity to practice the brakhah. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered in the past to bring snacks. There has also been times I have needed to leave and go buy snacks. This of course takes away from supervision.  Scott Joffe has kindly volunteered to spear head having bagels on Sunday morning for snacks.  Parents would sign up and prepay for bagels for the school year. They would be fresh bagels from B&B every Sunday.  The form is attached and due on the first day of school.  If you are not interested in bagels you can send your child with a snack. I could be wrong but I think some students eat lunch pretty early in the day at school during the week, they are hungry on Sunday morning.

The religious school is subsidized by the Congregation’s general fund and so it is necessary to be a member of the congregation or the grandparent can be the member for a student to attend the school.  Please send in your pledge forms before the first day of school.  You do not actually have to send in your pledge money at that time but if you can – great.  School fees have not increased this year. There is a line on the registration form if you need tuition or if you wish to contribute for those who need assistance.

We live in a very digital world.  Our children and our teachers likely do not know of a world without cell phones.  I am asking everyone, teachers and students to put their phones on do not disturb mode during school hours. In the event of an emergency a second phone call will disrupt the do not disturb mode. Every classroom will have a walkie talkie to be able to communicate with me as needed in real time.  Each building will be equipped with a wifi enabled television that can be used for teaching.  I am donating two tablets to be used and if anyone has a tablet, ipad or laptop they can donate – please consider a donation.

Sisterhood Ice Cream social and welcome back will be on August 20th at 2 pm and many of the teachers will be there.  The first day of classes is Sunday August 27th at 9:30.

Please do not forget the garage sale – we need your help in time and donations.

I look forward to an exciting year.  Please contact me with any questions.

Debbie Kaplan

Congregation Beth Shalom

Religious School Director