3rd to 5th Grade
The third through fifth grade curricula build on the previous foundation to develop a Jewish identity steeped in tradition, history and culture, and to explore Judaism’s role in the modern world. This is not only done through learning, but also by encouraging student to question traditions.
Kadosh (Holiness): Students engage with the concept of kadosh through examination of Jewish ritual objects, holidays and Jewish traditions. Our students confront questions such as: What makes something sacred or holy? How are holy objects treated differently than everyday objects? Students will have the opportunity to touch, feel, find and create various Jewish ritual objects throughout the year. We then reflect on how we can bring holiness into our modern lives. Our students debate what it means to truly be created in God’s image and think about how we should treat one another and ourselves if we are truly created in the image of God.
Israel: Our fourth graders focus on Israel, learning about the history of the Jewish state, the people who live there and the amazing things that Israel has to offer. Throughout the year, the students create their own relationships with the land of Israel, and begin to gain a deeper understanding of why we have a Jewish state and how we can support it.
Lifecycle Events: As students begin to think about their b’nai mitzvah, we try to contextualize this event within the greater Jewish lifecycle. They’re challenged to think about these Jewish lifecycle moments as one continuum in order to discover how they mark various moments in a Jew’s life and help form a spiritual community.
Tanakh and Other Jewish Texts: While the Torah is Judaism’s most central text, it’s not the only one. Students continue to build on their knowledge of the Torah, while also exploring the other two sections of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), the Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). They continue their textual journal and examine the midrash (stories that explain the Torah), the Mishnah (discussions of rabbinical laws from around 200 C.E.) and the Gemara (further discussions of rabbinical laws from around 400 and 500 C.E.).
In preparation for their b’nai mitzvah, students engage with their parasha (portion of the Torah), from which they will read at their bar or bat mitzvah. Using the Pardes method (a methodic Jewish approach to textual study), they learn their parasha, ask questions and attempt to answer these questions for themselves — to bring deeper meaning to their texts. At the end of the year, students present to their peers and parents. These presentations have included speeches, video projects, songs, artwork, skits and more.
T’filah: Throughout our curriculum, students engage with Jewish prayer, studying the different sections of the prayer service, the prayers we recite and their meaning. They wrestle and discuss what it means to actually pray and try to answer questions such as: How can I participate in prayer if I am not focused on praying? How does prayer change with my mood? What is the difference between individual and communal prayer? How does one balance kavanah(intention) with keva (fixed liturgy)? Students even have the opportunity to create their own prayers. These discussions don’t end in the classroom, but are a major component of weekly t’filah in our main sanctuary.
Hebrew: Our students begin their formal Hebrew studies in third grade. We believe that every child is capable of decoding and fluently reading Hebrew, whether from our prayer book, the Torah, or modern Hebrew texts. Students focus on learning the Hebrew letters and vowels and then graduate to words, phrases and then texts. Students reinforce their Hebrew skills during our weekly t’filah. Those who experience difficulty reading Hebrew receive extra help to ensure they are confident and fluent readers. Throughout our Hebrew program, students learn a basic vocabulary to help them navigate the siddur (prayer book) and create meaning from our tradition.
Stephen Wise Free Synagogue is a 501(c)(3) religious organization (Tax ID #13-1628215) and any donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowable by law.