Religious School

school kids school kids school kids

The world exists only because of the breath of young students at school. (Shabbat 119b)

Download the Dorshei Tzedek School Flyer (PDF).

The Religious School of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek strives to connect students to the joy of Jewish living and learning through an innovative curriculum that emphasizes creativity and experiential learning. As Reconstructionist educators, we emphasize Jewish peoplehood and community and are committed to making Judaism relevant and meaningful for our students and their parents.

Note: The Religious School and office are located in the First Unitarian Society of Newton, 1326 Washington Street, at the corner of Highland Street, just one block down the hill from our main location at 60 Highland Street (directions).

A Not-So-Hidden Gem: CDT’s Religious School

Read a moving account of the CDT Religious School by founding member Cindy Shulak-Rome.

Our School In The News

Read the article “Method is not merely child’s play: students have fun as they learn about God” in The Jewish Advocate

5774 School Registration (Fall 2013)

School Registration Packets for the 5774 (2013-14) school year are now available for new and returning students.

“No-membership” trial year option: Families whose children enter Nitzanim, Gan, Kitah Alef, Kitah Bet or Kitah Gimmel (Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade) may participate in our educational program as non-members for one year. After that, they are expected to formally become members of our community.

Our Religious School Program

We have four divisions to our school program, reflecting the differing needs (educational and social) of students at different ages.

  • Shabbat B’Yachad- Our program for our youngest students, Pre-K and K.
  • Shabbat LO”X (Learning Outside of the boX)- Our program for our 1st-3rd graders.
  • Beit Midrash- Our program for older children and tweens, Grades 4-6.
  • Mifgash No’ar- Our program for teens, Grades 7 and above.

Our children study Torah through drama and stories as well as text study, the celebration of Shabbat and the other Jewish holidays, and acts of gemilut hasadim (loving kindness) and tikkun olam (social justice). They learn Hebrew, both as a skill to enhance their participation in Jewish ritual life and as a connection to modern Israel. Students are taught Jewish prayer, not just how to read and chant, but how to engage with the meaning of our prayers and to develop a spiritual practice that will grow with them as they move towards adulthood.

Each of the four programs is described more fully below.

Shabbat B’Yachad (Shabbat Together)

Nitzanim (Pre-K), Gan (K)
Meets Shabbat mornings 10 am - noon once per month

As the name “Shabbat B’Yachad” suggests, our program for our youngest students centers on celebrating Shabbat together. Students, parents and teachers begin the morning b’yachad, together, with “mini-minyan”, an informal, joyful, family-friendly celebration of Shabbat. Siblings, grandparents and others are welcome to join us. Mini-minyan lasts about 30 minutes, after which we have kiddush, and then students go to class.

Parents also meet periodically during class time for our parents’ study group, which includes a lively discussion of topics of interest to parents of Jewish children.

In Nitzanim (“buds”, Pre-K), our youngest students, ages 3 and 4 explore their Jewish world, including elements of the Jewish family and home, holidays and celebrations, as well as an introduction to the synagogue. It is a two year looping curriculum, which students can begin in either year. (Please note: Nitzanim students must be toilet-trained.)

In Gan (kindergarten), students encounter their world through the framework of the brachot (blessings). Students learn to develop an awareness of the many things with which they are blessed and a way to express gratitude for them, as well as learning that Judaism has something to teach us about all aspects of our lives.

Shabbat LO”X (Learning Outside the boX)

Kitot Alef, Bet and Gimmel (Grades 1-3) Meets one Friday or Saturday evening per month Other weeks, Saturday morning 10 am - noon Also 3rd grade only on Tuesdays 3:45-5:45 pm

Shabbat LO”X (Learning Outside the boX) expands opportunities for our 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders and their families to learn through doing and focuses on bringing their Jewish learning into their homes and out into the world. Families meet monthly to celebrate erev Shabbat or Havdalah together and parents meet periodically during the year for adult study paralleling their child’s class curriculum, described below. Saturday mornings begin with “Shabbat Circle” as students, parents, and teachers celebrate Shabbat with song, movement and family-friendly Torah learning.

Kitah Alef (Grade 1) students learn about living in “Jewish time”. They explore the Jewish year, and learn about the meaning and traditions of the holidays in the annual cycle. They also learn about the Jewish concepts of day, week and month, and learn to look to the sky to see where we are in Jewish time. Students also begin their first steps to Hebrew reading readiness.

Kitah Bet (Grade 2) students learn that to be a mensch is to be a caring person. They acquire a “toolbox” of Jewish values that help them make good decisions that show caring for themselves, their families, their community and the world. Students also continue developing their Hebrew reading readiness skills.

Kitah Gimmel (Grade 3) students dive into Hebrew, and by the end of the year can read simple Hebrew texts. In their introduction to Torah study, students focus on the first chapters of the book of Bereshit (Genesis). Gimmel students also learn the skills to work effectively in chevruta (with a study partner), and begin to explore how Torah is a foundation not just for our ritual lives as Jews, but our ethical lives as well.

Beit Midrash (House of Study)

Kitot Dalet, Hey and Vav (Grades 4-6) Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:45 - 5:45 pm One Saturday morning/month 10 am - noon (no Thursday class that week)

Our Beit Midrash students work on developing skills in Hebrew, in Torah study and in tefillah (prayer) that will carry them into Jewish adulthood, while also exploring the Jewish values which inform all aspects of their lives. Students experience Jewish time together, each month celebrating Rosh Chodesh (new month) with activities about the Jewish holidays and participating in monthly Jewish cultural electives, such as Jewish cooking, art, and Israeli folk dancing. Once each month, students gather as a community on Shabbat morning for Simchat Shabbat, to explore and experience Jewish prayer. Special programs like field trips and our 5th/6th grade “shul-in” help build a sense of community, and are lots of fun!

In addition, each grade has its own focus, as described below.

Kitah Dalet students (Grade 4) continue their study of Torah with an in-depth exploration of the stories of Abraham and Sarah and their descendents. They begin a journey through the Shabbat services, focusing on the Friday night Shabbat service. The students lead a family Kabbalat Shabbat service at the end of the year.

Kitah Hey students (Grade 5) explore the book of Shemot (Exodus), focusing on themes of civil disobedience, freedom, and the challenges of leadership. They learn the Shabbat morning service (Shacharit), and lead a morning service for the congregation in the spring.

Kitah Vav students (Grade 6) study the latter books of the Bible, grappling with everything from the pitfalls of charismatic leadership to the social justice message of the prophets. In preparation for the bar/bat mitzvah year, they learn to lead the entire morning service and the Torah service.

Every class in the Beit Midrash undertakes a tikkun olam project over the course of the school year. Past projects have included learning about and raising money for an Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation project, making and delivering gifts to local nursing homes, and visiting the Heifer Project’s demonstration farm in Rutland, MA. In connection with their projects, students learn about Jewish values of tzedek (justice) and gemilut chasadim (lovingkindness), and how we can apply those values in our own lives and in the world around us.

Mifgash No’ar (Teen Encounter)

Zayin (7th grade), BaDerech (8th grade and up) Meets Tuesdays: dinner 5:45 - 6:15 pm; class 6:15 - 8:30 pm

Mifgash No’ar reflects the needs of our teens to have their own time–to give them the opportunity to develop a community of their peers as well as continuing their Jewish learning. Each evening begins with an optional dinner time during which students can socialize with their peers and solidify friendships begun in the younger grades or begin new ones.

Kitah Zayin students (Grade 7) continue their Jewish learning through interactive educational units helping them to recognize different elements of Jewish identity and to explore their individual paths within Judaism. In addition to weekly classes, students prepare for their b’nai mitzvah with private tutors. Rabbi Toba Spitzer oversees bar/bat mitzvah preparation.

BaDerech means “on the way” and students in BaDerech are “on the way” to becoming Jewish adults. They participate in TEL, an experiential learning program of the Reconstructionist movement. Students attend two retreats with teens from other congregations at Camp JRF, and continue the learning and projects begun there in their meetings at CDT.

Family and Community Education

Educating the whole family is an important part of our mission. Through our Project LO”X (Learning Outside the boX) we have created unique learning experiences for our 1st-3rd grade students and families and will be expanding elements of Project LO”X to our 4th and 5th grade families as well as other cohorts within the congregation. Family education also includes Shabbat B’Yachad’s mini-minyan and parent discussion groups for our youngest students and their families and pre-b’nei mitzvah workshops for our Kitah Vav and Zayin (Grades 6-7) students and families. Community learning programs which integrate students and their families into the broader Dorshei Tzedek community of learners are also an important feature of our educational program.

Grants

Congregation Dorshei Tzedek is a proud recipient of a Program Experimentation Project grant from Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

Contact the Religious School

Our Education Director, Annette Lawson, welcomes your calls or emails. Contact her at 617-965-5443, or school [at] dorsheitzedek [dot] org

School Closings Due to Weather

In case of inclement weather, check the school phone line 617-965-5443 for a message about school cancellations. For weekday classes, parents will also be notified by email if school is cancelled.