Shir Hadash Curriculum
There are two components of the Religious School. Some subjects are studied every year. Instead of covering the same material every year, we use a “spiral” approach to ensure that students gain a deeper understanding over time. The spiral curriculum covers:
- Family Education
- Jews Around the World
Additionally, each grade level addresses a specific subject as described below.
The Kindergarten experience is an introduction to Jewish life beginning with the realm of “Jewish Time.” “Jewish Time” means living by the Jewish calendar. In addition, seeing the world through the eyes of Judaism means: Shabbat, Holidays, celebrations and commemorations. There will be a focus on learning about Shabbat including songs. Prayers, ritual objects home and synagogue observance. Children will learn through stories, of heroes and heroines, arts and crafts, music, dance and cooking.
First graders will begin with her/himself and explore the meaning of Jewish identity. Activities are introduced with stories, music, arts and crafts, and drama. The student’s world expands through the investigation of the Jewish home, family, and the synagogue, which houses both the Torah and the Jewish community. Ritual objects are viewed in light of how they tie into customs and practices. Students also explore Torah stories.
Second graders will explore three aspects of Judaism. They will study the weekly Torah portion as they apply ancient stories and lessons to their lives. They will also participate in a curriculum program made up of Jewish literature that contains the central themes of Jewish identity. This will give the students opportunities to begin to foster a love of Jewish books. Each student will also learn the letters of the Hebrew alphabet as well as the sounds these letters make.
Third graders will study from the Book of Prophets as well as part of the Book of Writings. Developmentally, students are beginning to understand the difference between story and their own personal thoughts. Due to this, new depth can be added to their study of the Tanakh (Torah=Bible, N’vi’im=Prophets, Ketuvim=Writings). In looking at the Prophets and the Book of Writings, the students will be able to delve deeper into the History of the Jewish people. The students will compare our time to Biblical time and discuss what makes the stories still relevant today.
In fourth grade, students will explore the Jewish lifecycle events of birth, naming, and brit milah through the prism of covenant and study of the Book of Genesis. The covenantal relationship, (linking God and the Jewish people), provides a framework for which we can understand Judaism. Covenant is an ancient notion, which has been subject to a variety of interpretations throughout the generations. Each milestone of a Jew’s life; birth, coming of age, adulthood and death is greeted in some meaningful way; by both the individuals directly involved as well as by the surrounding community. In addition to studying the Jewish life cycle, students will study the book of Genesis, the characters, and themes in depth. Students will have an opportunity to express their opinions on the text. The goal is for children to find relevance and meaning in the stories from the Torah. Students will also encounter Midrashim on the book of Genesis and will have opportunities to create their own Midrashim using art, drama, stories, and music.
Fifth graders will study Israel as a complex and multi-layered topic. This year students have an opportunity to study Israel more in-depth then they have in previous years. Students should understand that Israel is a modern Jewish country grappling with Jewish identity both similar and different to the struggles in their own community. Israel is a link to the ancient history and evolution of our people and religion. Israel is a place where modern Jewish struggles are played out. Israel is a modern state based on ancient Jewish values. This year students will also explore their family heritage and their roots, emphasizing the life cycle events of consecration, B’nai Mitzvah, and Confirmation. Students will have an opportunity to discover aspects of their own family histories, heirlooms, stories, recipes, and place of origin. There will be a focus on the late 1800s and the reasons people immigrated to the United States.
The focus of the sixth grade Judaica curriculum is Text study (Talmud Torah). Talmud Torah is an integral part of Jewish religious life. We teach text to understand those that came before us as well as to access their wisdom. We also teach text for students to access God, encounter God, and discover how God reveals God’s self to the Jewish people. By learning Torah and all her texts, it makes us a part of Am Yisrael, the Jewish community. Students will study the book of Sh’mot (Exodus) as well as Middot (Jewish Virtues) — principles we consider to be of central importance — How we act, who we are, what we stand for, how we respond, how we view life and the world around us, our personal qualities, attributes and traits. In this context, students will also learn about the life cycle events of marriage, Judaism by choice, and mourning.
Hebrew School — Kitah Alef through Kitah Dalet
Beginning in third grade, students attend Hebrew School in addition to Religious School. The four-year Hebrew school teaches Prayerbook Hebrew through increasing exposure to letters, vowel sounds prayer vocabulary, and prayer chanting. Students will be asked to translate prayers into literal and metaphorical meanings. The Shir Hadash Hebrew School teaches reading and an understanding of Prayerbook Hebrew. T’fillah is a central part of Hebrew study. Students participate in it weekly and familiarize themselves with Reform Liturgy. For an in-depth listing of concepts and prayers taught in any particular grades, email or phone 408–358–1751, ext. 3.
Hebrew High School is for 7th–9th graders. It meets on Tuesday evenings from 7–9 pm, preceded by an optional dinner social. The Hebrew High curriculum consists of two components: a core class and electives.
Seventh Grade Core: Tikkun Olam. The theme of the seventh grade is Tikkun Olam, which means “repairing the world.” We will study Jewish values such as compassion, dignity, tzedakah, generosity, and commitment, and apply them to social issues that face our community and the world. Students will engage in text study, discussion, and hands-on service learning.
Eighth Grade Core: American Jewish Experience + Ethical Lessons of the Holocaust. In eighth grade, our students explore two topics. During the fall, we will be introduced to 350 years of Jewish life in America and discover how the Jewish community shaped and was shaped by American culture as a whole. During the spring, we will study the tragedies and heroism of the Shoah to better understand our own obligations to our people and to the world today.
Ninth Grade Core: HeartAction + Sacred Choices. The ninth grade will have two very fulfilling experiences as our core class. During the fall, we will partner with Jewish Family Services to develop ongoing relationships between Shir Hadash teens and elders in our community. Students will form new, intergenerational bonds, which is a key element of a healthy community. During the spring semester, we will use the Union for Reform Judaism’s Sacred Choices curriculum, which explores Jewish perspectives on sex and body ethics. Students will develop tools for making responsible, healthy, and holy choices.
Electives: Seventh, eighth, and ninth graders enjoy a variety of nine-week electives. Each class explores a particular aspect of Jewish arts, text, culture, or observance in a creative and experiential way. Some classes include Religion And Ethics, Cooking for Others, Conversational Hebrew, Jewish Humor, Jews in Sports, and Jews on Stage.
Students in the tenth grade meet with Rabbi Aron and Ray Osofsky to explore Jewish issues and formulate their own individual perspectives on ethics and theology. They work with mentors in the Synagogue and create their own Confirmation service. The Confirmation class will take a trip to Sacramento with the PANIM Institute to discover the relationship between Judaism and civic engagement. Confirmation students also participate in Jewish experiences at Shir Hadash as well as in the broader Jewish community, including the Jewish Film Festival, South Bay Institute and Community Yom Hashoah.