Written by Karan Malhotra, firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday, 03 August 2013 00:00
The Jericho Jewish Center is undergoing a total reconfiguration, and the educational program in particular is striving to create a never-before-seen method of religious education.
For more than 50 years, the Center’s religious school has followed a traditional format for educating Jewish youth, with not much in terms of education distinguishing it from other religious schools. This new model for conservative synagogues involves a one-day-a-week classroom-based interactive learning program with an adjunct Shabbat school, with the class taking place on Tuesdays and the Shabbat Friday nights and Saturday mornings.
This new approach is designed to keep up with the busy schedules of today’s youth. In traditional classrooms, prayers took place within the classes themselves; the new system involves prayers taught in real-time during the Shabbat sessions, with Hebrew reading and education on topics such as Israel’s history and holidays occurring during classroom sessions. The Center’s new Jewish Youth Learning Center program also incorporates project-based learning to make education more interactive.
“Kids learn better when they feel in charge of their own learning instead of being lectured,” says the Center’s education chairperson, Nancy Sherman. “No blackboards or whiteboards, but more hands-on learning [in part of the new program].”
Mark Wilkow, the Temple president, explains the effort aims to attract a younger base of congregants.
“The entire center is going under a period of introspection with an eye towards maintaining our traditional base, but also looking to evolve with the times,” he says. “We’re trying to become a place that can be attractive to what has always been our traditional membership base, but also to new young families who are looking for dynamic ways to interact with their children, innovative programming, and things that will make their children want to be here.”
While still maintaining the core values of their culture, the center will modernize while still performing two tasks crucial to the Jewish religion: Tzedakah and Tikkun Olama (Charity and Repair The World respectively). This passing of ideals to the youth is what gives the Jewish Youth Learning Center its name, as opposed to other educational wings, referred to as religious or Hebrew schools.