Judaic Studies Curriculum by Grade Level
B’nai mitzvah/בני מצווה/Children of the commandments is a critical focus of the sixth grade year. Through an intensive, integrated unit, each student creates a beautiful and functional talit/טלית/prayer shawl. Students move from a study of their personalized bar/bat mitzvah/בני מצווה portions through an artistic process that ends with the tying of tzitzit/ציצית/fringes. Students continue to work on units based on material from the books of Bamidbar/במדבר/Numbers and D’varim/דברים/Deuteronomy. Students explore holidays through the lens of the Mishnah/משנה.
- Units of study: Blessings and Curses, the spies, Miriam’s/מרים’s slander, the Torah as a system of laws and ethics (mishpat/משפט and tzedek/צדק), Moshe’s/משה’s/Moses’ death, and the succession of Yehoshua/יהושע/Joshua.
- Key values explored: Appreciation, using our words appropriately, being a responsible member of the Jewish community, and leadership.
Text skills: Basic Mishnaic Hebrew, understanding longer passages of text, and biblical language as metaphor.
The seventh grade year looks at the remaining corpus of the Tanakh/תנ׳׳ך/Bible, primarily the books within Nevi’im/נביאים/Prophets and K’tuvim/כתובים/Writings. Through the study of selected texts students are exposed to the breadth of scriptural material while also giving depth and richness to the Tanakh/תנ׳׳ך/Bible. Students focus on ethical and family issues raised by the stories in the Tanakh/תנ׳׳ך/Bible, the use of the Tanakh/תנ׳׳ך/Bible as a personal resource, and as an historical narrative. Weekly parasha/פרשה/selection study focuses on the haftarot/הפטרות/the selections from the Nevi’im/נביאים/Prophets read after Shabbat/שבת/Sabbath morning Torah readings.
- Units of study: Yehoshua/יהושע/Joshua, Shoftim/שופטים/Judges, and the conquest of the land; emerging national institutions; Shaul/שאול/Saul, David/דוד, and Batsheva/בתשבע and the conflict between personal roles and leadership responsibilities; Ruth/רות, Esther/אסתר, and the role of women; the call for social justice; and the wisdom literature.
- Key values explored: The ethics of conquest, a nation of tribes or a tribal nation, power and family responsibility, women in the Tanakh/תנ׳׳ך/Bible, creating a just society, and finding personal connections to the characters in the text.
The eighth grade year looks to deepen students’ Jewish identity by offering a variety of perspectives on how Judaism informs our lives. To that end, students take 4 different Judaic Studies courses with different teachers throughout the year. The courses are:
- Jewish Lifecycle and Ritual (One semester; three days per week) - Students discover the many different and intricate stages of life including Jewish concepts of Love, Sex and Marriage, Divorce, Family Purity, Brit Milah/ברית מילה/Circumcision, Simhat Bat/שמחת בת/Celebration of a Daughter, Pidyon Haben/פדיון הבן/Redemption of the Firstborn, and Death and Mourning. Texts include the Tanakh/תנ׳׳ך/Bible, midrashim/מדרשים, Mishnah/משנה, Talmud/תלמוד, halachot/הלכות, and some of our ancient and modern day commentaries. All of these are geared towards helping students understand and develop their own insight and relevance in these subjects.
- Text Me: Ancient Jewish Wisdom Meets Contemporary Technology (One semester; three days per week) - Students study Jewish texts to see the lens of Jewish values on communication in a global, digital age.
- Parshat Hashavua with Rashi (Full year; one day per week) - Students learn פרשת השבוע/parshat hashavua/the weekly Torah portion, through the lens of the famous commentator, Rashi. Student learn about Rashi the person, looking at his biography and seminal works before focusing on texts that reflect the relationship of bein adam l'atzmo/בין אדם לעצמו/between a person and him/herself.
- Judaic Elective (Full year; one day per week):
- Mishnah/משנה - The first compendium of Jewish legal writing that forms the basis for Jewish beliefs, values, laws, etc. for millennia to come. Students explore the need for Torah Sheb'al Peh/תורה שבעל פה/Oral Torah, while learning the organizational structure of the Mishnah/משנה, the historical background and leading personalities of the rabbis, basic vocabulary, technical terms, as well as the structure and ideas behind the Mishnah's/משנה’s classic makhlokot/מחלוקות/disputes.
- Social Justice - This class is based on the premise that our world is in a state of imperfection and that we feel compelled to improve its condition. We wrestle with the question, how can should we respond? Through Jewish texts and exploration of root causes of social issues, students will dig beneath the surface and explore why we feel any sense of responsibility or moral obligation to repair the world and what Judaism tells us about taking action, what our priorities should be, and how we give to the world.