According to latest statistics, Hebrew schools are the venue of choice for 60 percent of American children who receive a Jewish education – and more than 80 percent of non-Orthodox children. Hebrew schools can play a very important role in the shaping of our children’s Jewish identity, and therefore as parents of Bar Mitzvah children it is a good idea to choose a school wisely to guarantee your child’s success. At YJS, we have done some research and have provided some invaluable tools to help you.
Hebrew school/Sunday school/religious school?
The first Hebrew school was founded in 1818 in Philadelphia as a means of providing Jewish Education to students who otherwise lacked religious grounding in Jewish traditions and history or lacked the financial means necessary to attend such a school, it was based on the Christian education program and was therefore called Sunday School. Today, Hebrew School is typically taught on Sunday and on one day of the week. Education starts in kindergarten and culminates in the tenth grade. The term “religious school” is often used as it encompasses a broader approach to Jewish learning and living.
What will my kids learn?
Generally in kindergarten and first grade students, students are taught the basics of the Jewish holidays and Hebrew language. Learning is often based on hands-on activities such as crafts, music, cooking, storytelling, puzzles and other fun activities. These skills are developed in 2-5th grade, and pupils are taught Jewish prayer, blessings, mitzvot like tzedakah (charity), rituals, customs, Jewish History and the land of Israel.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah programs
In the 6th and 7th grade, students begin their Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparations. Instructors help them learn their Torah portion, and in many schools have developed excellent programs and projects to help the Bnei Mitzvah to integrate the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood into their lives, and to inspire them at the beginning of their Jewish journey to adulthood.
Some advice in choosing your kids Hebrew School, from Sara Shapiro-Plevan, Coordinator of Congregational Education for the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York:
Making the Decision – as Sara says “at the end of the day, choosing a Hebrew school is a commitment spiritually as well as financially. For the relationship to be successful, both parents and school leaders must be partners in the child’s education and commit to that partnership from the moment the child enters the school until he or she graduates. The entire undertaking is, however, a very personal one, and should be reflective of who you are, and who your child is, and the dreams and aspirations you have for your family.”
Sections of this article were taken from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Life_Stages/Jewish_Education/Trends/Religious_Schools/Choosing_a_School.shtml