Congregation Agudath Achim’s Religious School, located at the Jewish Community House (JCH) at 133 High Street in Taunton, provides a comprehensive curriculum for children from early childhood through high school in small classes with credentialed lead teachers.
The mission of our Religious School is to develop Jewish adults who are able to develop a relationship with God and who can demonstrate love and pride in their Jewish heritage. Our students develop a strong understanding of Judaism to enable them to build their lives around its ethics, history and practices with an appreciation of, and basic skills in, the Hebrew language and for our spiritual homeland, Israel.
Our school year mirrors that of secular schools, with a start date right after Labor Day and concluding around Memorial Day, with appropriate breaks for secular and Jewish holidays.
Classes for Grades 1 to 7 are held on Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30 AM and on Thursday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:30 PM. Our class sizes are small – at most 10 students per classroom, frequently with an adult or teen teacher aide participating in class lessons.
Our educational programming for children younger than first grade and the adults in their lives is described in the section entitled “Shalom and Boker Tov” found on pages 28-31.
Our educational and social programming for teens past B’nai Mitzvah is described in the section entitled “JTeens – Making a Difference” found on pages 26-27.
B’nai Mitzvah: Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation is arranged in consultation with Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath. We currently have two to seven B’nai Mitzvah celebrations per year. In order to foster class community and mutual learning, we schedule B’nai Mitzvah celebrations in either May or June, at the end of seventh grade, rather than immediately after a student’s 13th birthday.
7th Grade B’nai Mitzvah students work with Rabbi Heath on Sunday mornings from 10:50 to 11:30 AM (the regular end of Religious School) and then stay for a special preparation session from 11:30 AM to 12:15 PM. On Thursday afternoons, Nancy Marin works with the 7th grade B’nai Mitzvah students using a curriculum with a significant focus on planning and implementing their mitzvah projects.
Grades 1 to 7 – Judaics: The CHAI curriculum, developed for synagogue religious schools by the educational leadership team at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and used in both Reform and Conservative religious schools, is based on three vital threads of Judaism: Torah (study) Avodah (worship), and Gemilut Hasadim (behaving righteously). The enduring understandings for each of these threads may be summarized as follows:
Torah is an ongoing dialogue between the text and the students
Torah is real in our daily lives; it goes with us wherever we are
Developing the skills to study Torah is essential to integrating Torah into our daily lives
- Avodah (Worship)
Avodah is the work we do to find sacred connections to God, community and self
Engaging in the work of Avodah can bring order, beauty, meaning and insight into our lives and our community
- Gemilut Hasadim (Behaving Righteously)
We have a personal responsibility to perform acts of Gemilut Hasadim in order to make the world a better and holier place
Grades 1 to 7 – Hebrew: We are becoming, first and foremost, a “Hebrew Through Movement” school. Hebrew Through Movement is a language acquisition strategy in which students learn Hebrew by hearing and responding to Hebrew commands. Hebrew Through Movement is an adaptation of James J. Asher’s Total Physical Response (TPR) (as fully described in his book Learning a Second Language Through Actions, 7th edition 2009). While TPR was designed by Asher as the foundation of a full language program, it has also been effective in situations such as ours with limited language goals.
We are using the version of TPR for part-time Jewish educational settings developed by faculty at Siegal College of Judaic Studies through courses and community workshops and developed into a full curriculum for complementary (afterschool) Hebrew schools by the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. Hebrew TPR has been used in Jewish day schools, camps and supplementary schools, but generally with the goal of introducing Hebrew as a modern, spoken language. The curriculum guide for Hebrew Through Movement starts with a foundation in modern, spoken Hebrew but has as its goal making the prayers in our siddur, as well as synagogue and Jewish vocabulary, more easily accessible to those with limited learning time.
As with other TPR curricula, it introduces Hebrew in a playful and meaningful way, creating a positive first link between children and Hebrew. Hebrew Through Movement is supported by the latest brain research on learning, providing an aural foundation for Hebrew that opens the door to more facile Hebrew decoding and reading.