Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Our Temple education staff demonstrate a dedication not only to Jewish education itself, but also to making this education an enjoyable, memorable, and life-enhancing experience for both children and adults. Our staff provide a diverse mix of ages, talents, and knowledge. Several of our staff have taught Hebrew professionally for over 20 years. Our younger teachers and aides typically have received their Hebrew and religious education at Am Shalom.
We welcome children ages kindergarten through 8th grade into our classes. Bar and Bat Mitzvah instruction is undertaken with our interested Hebrew School students one year before the event.
Our youth education programs stress hands-on activities, small class sizes, and needs-based adaptations. Our team approach and integrated programming help our children assimilate what they’ve learned in class, practice what they have learned in real-life situations, and stay involved with the Temple. Our goal is for the children to understand, and be able to intelligently commit to, Judaism’s traditions and values.
- Participation in education programs or activities is contingent upon Temple membership.
- Separate fees are assessed for enrollment in the education programs and for one-on-one instruction services.
Pre-School (Ages 3-4)
Pre-School students meet 2-3 times a month to learn about the Jewish holidays. Pre-School classes are offered based on member enrollment numbers.
Sunday School (Kindergarten – 6th Grade)
The morning begins with an assembly that introduces students to the religious service and prayers in both English and Hebrew. The class then divides into smaller, multi-level groups. Typical Sunday School activities include a model Shabbat, Tu B’Shevat and Passover seders, Sukkot decorating, Purim carnival, tzedakah-oriented events, holiday baking, crafts, field trips, and retreats.
Hebrew School (3rd – 7th Grades)
September–May, Wednesdays at 4:30–6:00pm
Our small class size of 4–8 students allows for a flexible curriculum based on individual student needs. Our teaching staff believes that every child is capable of becoming proficient in prayerbook Hebrew, and should be familiar with basic conversational Hebrew as well. Hebrew school students participate in family services to help prepare them to assume leadership roles during Shabbat and High Holiday services.
Student Aides Program
Students who successfully complete both Sunday School and Hebrew School are eligible to train and apply for our Student Aides Program. The student aides assist education faculty and staff in running the education programs and in tutoring students one-on-one to help meet the children’s particular needs.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Instruction with Spiritual Leader Renee Blau begins at age 12. Torah study, prayer service mastery, and speech preparation are stressed. This instruction is available to members’ children who are enrolled in Hebrew School.
Shabbaton/Confirmation (7th – 8th Grades)
Our Junior High program includes activities designed to help teens become more aware of others, and to personalize their Judaism as a meaningful spiritual and cultural choice. Each May, our Shabbaton students embark on a structured field trip to Jewish centers and points of interest to learn more about the role of Judaism in the US. Past trips have taken the class to Chicago, Toronto, and Detroit. A confirmation ceremony held during Shavuot marks the completion of the Shabbaton program.
Shabbaton (Confirmation) studies traditionally begin right after the student’s bar/bat mitzvah, and is comprised of a three-year program of active study. The following components are required:
- A minimum of 25 hours of volunteer work and/or community service within or outside the Temple (the Education Director(s) must verify and sign-off on these hours)
- Attendance at a minimum of 12 Youth Group leadership/community service events.
- Completion of at least four “Jewish Merit Badges” from among the following categories:
- Making a Shabbat dinner and leading the ritual service
- Leading a Shabbat service at the Temple both in English and Hebrew
- Leading a Passover Seder
- Leading a Hanukkah celebration (food, candle blessing, gifts, dreidel game)
- Chanting a Torah portion during a Shabbat/High Holidays service
- Blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah
- Building a Sukkah home with appropriate blessings, decoration, and food
- A minimum verified attendance of 35 Temple services over the course of Shabbaton (*Teacher Aides can use up to 20 Sunday School mornings to satisfy this requirement)
- A final written essay of 3–5 pages for Confirmation services that summarizes and reflects upon their experiences in Shabbaton (e.g., “What being Jewish means to me”)
Children ages 12–18 are warmly invited into our Youth Group. Youth Group program activities aim to bring the children’s Judaism out of the Temple and into their world. The program brings them closer to other Jewish teens while also fostering a sense of social consciousness through leadership training, tzedakah projects, and Temple and public service. Each year, among other activities, Youth Group students plan and participate in a Purim carnival for the younger students and a Purim Spiel for the adult congregation; raise money for the Temple through a Haunted Hay Ride at Lake Farm Park; and hold highly a successful High Holiday food drive to benefit local charities. Youth Group students conduct a number of Shabbat services at Am Shalom throughout the year.
- A membership fee of $100 per youth per year is required to participate.
For our adult members, Adult Education seminars are held frequently throughout the year, based on member requests, suggestions, and interests.
Adult Conversion Instruction with our spiritual leadership is available to all interested adults. This study usually takes about 1 year to complete. Separate fees are assessed.
Retreats are held by Spiritual Leadership in conjunction with staff from the URJ Retreat Institute, and range in length from a one-day several hour program to a 48-hour weekend program. These retreats address a broad range of informational and spiritual themes designed to explore Jewish perspectives on topics relevant to the diverse situations of our members’ lives. The Cuyahoga Valley Education Center, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and Camp Wise are among the locations that have been used for these retreats, as well as congregants’ private homes. Camp Grants for Reform Movement Camps have been successfully petitioned over the years (more than 10 of our past students have attended the Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Indiana because of this grant). Special funding grants sponsored by the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC) have also been successfully obtained.