Stephen Wise’s Religious School meets once a week, starting with pre-K through our sixth and seventh grade programs. Throughout the year, the synagogue offers Shabbat programs for students to bolster their Jewish knowledge with age-appropriate programming. Each curriculum is designed to engage the student at their level, while also building on Jewish knowledge from the previous year.
We believe to build a strong Jewish identity and belonging to the Judaism, it must be steeped in Jewish values. At the beginning of each year, students, parents/guardians, faculty, madrichim (middle and high school students who help in the classroom), and staff sign a school brit (covenant), which espouses five middot (values) through which we form a caring community steeped in Jewish tradition:
- Kavod (respect and honor)
- Derech Eretz (common decency)
- Achriyut (responsibility)
- Chesed (compassion and kindness)
- Talmud Torah (Jewish study)
Throughout our program we study Torah, which is the central text to Judaism. Our students take a deep dive into the text, reading the stories, discussing the values and relating this ancient text to their modern lives. As the student progress we expand the meaning of Torah to include other sacred texts, such as the midrash, the Mishna, Talmud, and other commentaries.
Almost every time we meet, students participate in a religious school prayer service. Usually led by director of youth education Rabbi Rena Rifkin, we not only pray together, but we explore and discuss the prayers and their meanings. This prepares our students for their bar and bat mitzvah and gives them the foundation to participate in Shabbat and holiday services.
Core to Judaism is our holidays and rituals, where some go back thousands of years and some have developed in the modern times. We mark each holiday within the religious school and in the classroom reinforce previous knowledge. This includes rituals, such as waving the lulav and etrog on Sukkot or dressing up in costumes for Purim.
In some grades we also explore life cycle events such as the brit milah (circumcision), the bar and bat mitzvah and weddings.
While Hebrew is integrated into our curriculum at all levels, beginning in 4th grade, students learn the letters and how to read this ancient language. Students continue to build their skills by playing games, practicing reading prayers and other Jewish texts and other reinforcing activities.
As a Zionist congregation, we incorporate, wherever possible, Israel. We build a relationship to the land and its people, discussing the richness of the culture, Israel’s unique geography and the state’s continuing contribution to the world.
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.