10 Nov How our Hebrew School is Different
How is our Hebrew School Different?
When my family goes out for ice cream, we go to a frozen yogurt shop down the street that has a great variety of flavors and toppings. Aliza always gets anything pink with blue gummy sharks, Daniel gets Superman ice cream, and Hannah gets Rocky Road with hot fudge.
If an ice cream parlor opened up that only served Neapolitan, would you go there?
Have you ever actually bought Neapolitan? I mean, if you like it, good for you, but I’d rather have some options!
That is the situation with Hebrew School. We offer one size fits all Judaism. Prayer, history, Torah on Sunday mornings.
No wonder 89% of Jewish kids in our area are not involved in Jewish education. They do soccer, karate, singing, and dancing. My own son loves singing and dancing; he tried soccer and hated it. It’s like an ice cream parlor that only serves Neapolitan—how many customers would they get, no matter how good it is?
Kol HaLev is different.
1. A La Carte Jewish Education
What is a la carte Judaics? We offer Torah through Drama, text based classes such as Mitzvah class and “Torah and Today.” We are planning to offer mitzvah missions, music, ulpan, prayer through movement, and more. We don’t just offer Hebrew School; we offer a wonderful menu of Jewish education for bright, creative, fun kids who want to love being Jewish.
2. Not Dumbing it Down
Traditional Hebrew School is repetitive. How many times can you learn the same history of the same Holidays, re-learn Hebrew. Kids are bored.
Kol HaLev is different. We believe kids actually want substantive learning. In our text based classes, we look directly at the Torah and discuss its meaning; we learn Midrashic and Talmudic passages which are relevant and accessible, but which go beyond the pediatric Judaism so often presented in Hebrew Schools. We create educated Jews.
3. It’s not about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
At Kol HaLev, we do incredibly creative, individualized Bar/Bat mitzvahs. We teach prayers and Torah (if families want), but we also teach Jewish philosophy or ethics, or a kid can do a mitzvah project. They can lead a Shabbat service, or they can lead a roleplay or a mitzvah project.
But our school is not about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Traditional Hebrew schools design their curriculum around training children to perform at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. Hours are spent on Hebrew and prayers, skills that most of the children will happily abandon soon after the ceremony. Because of this focus, they do not have the time to focus on actually being a Jew: living a life filled with mitzvot, informed by Torah, having a deep Jewish spiritual practice.
As a pulpit rabbi, I have witnessed firsthand the result of such an education: most of the kids dislike Judaism, dislike Jewish prayer, and have no sense of any deeper meaning of Torah or Judaism. Ask them to name a mitzvah, they will respond “to pray?” They don’t know what it is to have Jewish heads, Jewish hearts, and Jewish hands.
Kol HaLev is different. Our classes are not about bar/bat mitzvah preparation. Our classes are about Torah, Mitzvot, Jewish spirituality, and Jewish life. Our classes are about preparing children for a life of passionate Jewish involvement, by developing Jewish heads, Jewish hearts, and Jewish hands.
4. Less focus on Hebrew, more focus on Torah
I remember one bar mitzvah student who I worked with. I asked him what being bar mitzvah meant, and it said he was responsible for doing mitzvot. I asked him to name some mitzvot, and he said “don’t push an old woman in front of a bus, and if a Torah falls down you fast for 40 days.” He knew how to chant Ashrey, but he disnt know how to be a Jew.
Did you know that halachically, you can davven in English? Sure, it looks great for a child to go on the binah and davven in Hebrew, it gives everyone that feeling of relief that “she really is Jewish and knows it.” But would you rather your child develop a deep, authentic Jewish spiritual practice, or know how to chant Ashrey?
At Kol HaLev, we focus on a meaningful engagement with Torah and Jewish prayer. We recognize that our students for the most part don’t understand Hebrew, so we do in depth, deep Torah study in English.
5. Teaching Hebrew Effectively
We consulted with experts around country, and the feedback consistently was that smaller groups lead to better results. Our tutors work with groups of 2 children or one-on-one, so that we can pay close attention to each student’s learning needs, and use instructional time effectively.
6. Education which is Compelling
We want kids to love learning. Families tell us that their kids love learning which is active and substantive, from teachers who have something to impart. Many Hebrew Schools try to be fun, so they teach the same trifecta of holidays, prayers, and Hebrew every year; kids walk away feeling its a waste of time, and getting the impression that Jewish education is a waste of time. If kids feel it is a waste of time, we don’t do it. If we think its a waste of time, we don’t do it.
We believe that Jewish learning is about hearing the Torah’s message for my life. It should be compelling and relevant. We choose topics that are directly connected to our students lives, so they develop Jewish heads, hearts, and hands, knowing about Torah, feeling love for Torah, Israel, and their fellow Jew and human, and a sense of how to actualize that love through mitzvot.
7. Education which is Convenient
Modern parents too often feel like chauffers, and don’t need another stop to drive their children to. We design and redesign our classes around the needs of families. By offering virtual classes after school, we require no schlep time, and families still have their weekends.
8. Education which is Creative
Who says learning has to be stiff? We utilize drama, arts, and activities while teaching substantive material.
It is good pedagogy: in our “Torah through Drama” class, children learn about Abraham’s hospitality by roleplaying Abraham serving the guests; they remember the lesson far more than just through reading or listening. We are constantly researching
and developing active approaches to engaging kids in Jewish learning, sometimes without them even knowing they are learning.
9. Expert Teachers
We don’t compromise when it comes to teachers in our Hebrew School. We search nationally for teachers who are experts in their subjects, effective teachers, and mensches. Our staff includes rabbis and a professional actress, people who really have something to impart to children.
Remembering the goal of Jewish Education
Jewish education is not just about Hebrew. It’s not about the bar/bat mitzvah. It’s about developing Jewish heads-heads filled with rich stories and teachings of our tradition; Jewish hearts-hearts which love God, and care for the Jewish people and their fellow and planet; and Jewish hands, ready to do a mitzvah.
Please, when you make the choice of how to educate your child, do what is best for them. Find a school which will light up their Jewish passion, their neshamah (soul). Don’t make them do something they hate, it will backfire. Don’t force them to go to a Hebrew School just because that’s what it seems like you are supposed to do, or “to have Jewish friends”; fill their life with positive Jewish experiences, including awesome classes, which will speak to their neshamah.
At Kol HaLev, we offer these enriching experiences. We offer meaningful, creative education to develop Jewish heads, hearts, and hands; we offer wonderful holiday celebrations; and we offer joyful Shabbat gatherings filled with songs, stories, and friendship. We hope you join us.