Jewish Studies

The Harold and Mickey Smith Judaic Studies Department strives to inspire young adults to take joy and pride in their Jewish identities, approach Torah and the study of all Jewish text rigorously and analytically, and commit themselves to active Tikkun Olam/תיקון עולם/Repairing the World.

As a kehillah/קהילה/community day school, Heilicher fosters a nurturing environment where students engage with and are exposed to a broad range of Jewish belief and practice. Our students lovingly explore, develop, and wrestle with a personal relationship with God and Israel. Students embrace their roles as members of the Jewish people and as global citizens. Through respectful dialogue, exchange, and a spectrum of shared inclusive experiences, students refine and better articulate their own opinions while they develop the critical skills of interacting and coexisting with people of different backgrounds, ideals, and customs.

These objectives adeptly prepare our graduates to be the future leaders of our people, poised to pass on our values to the next generation.

The Harold and Mickey Smith Judaic Studies Department

In November 2019, Heilicher was proud to announce the re-naming of the Judaic Studies Department. In gratitude and recognition of a $2.5 million contribution from Rabbi Mitchell Smith, the department was named the Harold and Mickey Smith Judaic Studies Department, in honor of Rabbi Smith’s parents.
This tremendous contribution created the Harold and Mickey Smith Judaic Studies Endowment Fund to support the school's Judaic Studies program in perpetuity. In addition to the endowment, the new gift also provided yearly operating support for Judaic Studies.
Harold Smith is a long-time community leader and philanthropist who, with his wife Mickey (z”l), has been a staunch supporter of many causes and organizations in the Twin Cities and beyond, including Herzl Camp, Beth Jacob Congregation, the Talmud Torah of St. Paul, the Harold and Mickey Smith Gallery of Jewish Art and Culture at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Harold and Mickey Smith Enhancement Center at Hadassah Medical Center, and Heilicher. 
Rabbi Mitchell Smith, Harold and Mickey’s son, is an ordained rabbi, author, and consultant who has held many positions of distinction both in Israel and the United States. He holds advanced degrees in counseling and educational psychology with a specialty in sports psychology and exercise science. He currently resides in Delray Beach, Florida.
“It is so fitting for the Jewish Studies Department at Heilicher to be named for our parents, as over their lifetime they have been among the staunchest advocates for Jewish education in the Twin Cities,” said Rabbi Smith. 
“They always felt that Jewish education is the surest guarantor of meaningful survival of the Jewish people in a free society. In particular, my father’s belief in the critical need of Jewish institutions to adapt to the future while rooted in the past is embodied in his own life, spanning the days of his heder education on St. Paul's West Side to the application of modern technology to teach and transmit those same values as they best relate to our own day. We are pleased to see our parents’ legacy and their vision secured in this gift.”
“It is a great honor to receive this extraordinary gift from the Smith family in support of Judaic Studies and to rename this central pillar of our educational program for Mickey and Harold,” said Yoni Binus, Head of School. “Their vision and unwavering support strengthens our vital work to prepare Jewish young people to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and mensches.”


Jewish Life and Ritual Practice

Jewish rituals and practices are an integral part of daily life at Heilicher. Students say blessings before eating snacks, join together in Birkat Hamazon/ברכת המזון/Grace After Meals, celebrate Kabbalat Shabbat/קבלת שבת at the end of each week, and mark the holidays throughout the year. Jewish life is enriched throughout the year by special experiences and holiday assemblies. We partner with families and synagogues to enhance the Jewish life of our students.

Hagim / חגים / Jewish Holidays


The study and observance of Jewish holidays is woven into the Judaic Studies curriculum throughout the school year. At each grade level students explore the historical background, rituals and customs, prayers, and ethical understandings of the holidays, and they acquire Hebrew vocabulary associated with the different holidays. We also form community around celebrating holidays together in a manner that is respectful and incorporates a variety of Jewish beliefs and practices.

T’filah / תפילה / Prayer

Students experience prayer services and the study of prayer texts 2-3 times a week. This occurs in a variety of settings and groupings, including by class in homerooms, and by grade levels in the Beit Knesset/Sanctuary. The t’filah curriculum focuses on prayer fluency and meaning making. As students move through the grades, they become comfortable participating in and leading services at school and at synagogue.

Community Engagement

One of the main hallmarks of a Heilicher graduate is their commitment to living the values learned and imbued throughout their time at Heilicher. We develop a commitment to active engagement in Tikkun Olam/תיקון עולם/Repairing the World, through grade-level and school-wide programs providing opportunities for students to focus on community service. Grade-levels choose organizations to support and the weeks-long service work culminates in an evening program of hands-on service projects for the entire Heilicher community. Through integrated service learning and mitzvah education, we aim to affect change and live out Heilicher values, working towards Tikkun Olam/תיקון עולם/Repairing the World.

Our goals for community engagement are to:

  • Create meaningful connections between learning, mitzvot/commandments, and servicing our community
  • Reinforce Heilicher's core values in an integrated way
  • Cultivate responsible, aware global citizens
  • Deepen appreciation of what we have
  • Position Heilicher as an important force for change within our community
  • Make volunteerism and community involvement accessible for Heilicher families

Hebrew Language and Israel

Hebrew Language - Our Hebrew curriculum is designed to nurture the development of Hebrew proficiency and the ability to function adequately in order to negotiate for meaning at age-appropriate levels. Students develop meaningful Hebrew speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in order to convey and interpret meaning for coping with real-life situations. The Hebrew skills our students learn serve as a key for unlocking and relating to Jewish text, and affiliating with the global Jewish community, our tradition, our history, and our connection to the modern State of Israel.

Israel and Jewish peoplehood - Our curriculum strives to imbue a sense of connectedness wherein students see themselves as members of a broader Jewish community connected to Jews living here, in Israel, and around the world. Students explore the historical connection between the land of Israel and the Jewish people. They also study the history of Jews in the Diaspora. They learn about different aspects of life in Israel such as geography, famous personalities and politicians, the arts, and modern Israeli holidays.