NEW VISION FOR A DOWNTOWN HEBREW SCHOOL,
by Rabbi Darren Levine
As a rabbi working with students in New York for the past ten years, there are a number of important lessons I’ve learned – and they’ve all influenced my vision for the Tamid Hebrew School. First, we should be dealing with Jewish identity formation, not facts and memorization. Formation comes from being exposed to the warmth of our tradition in Jewish settings that children enjoy – with peers, with caring teachers, and with family.
Next, Hebrew School should be accessible. It pains me to see Hebrew School compete with gymnastics or baseball because Hebrew School usually loses out. That’s why Tamid is offered multiple days per week at different times in four downtown neighborhoods so you can choose the day, time, and location that suits you best – and you can change mid-year. We’ll even set up a private tutor for you. Accessible also means not building classes on age/grade alone. Every child enters Hebrew School at a different place and they need to be challenged appropriately. At Tamid, we’ve modeled our curriculum on todays best learning practices – small clusters of like minded students working on group projects together. In this way, dividing students into clusters ensures that the pitch is right – everyone is engaged from the new student to the veteran.
Lastly, we’re taking the long view and planning seriously for your family’s Jewish future. We’ve got big plans for your children’s bar/bat mitzvah celebration and we’re also planning for post-Bnai Mitzvah and Confirmation. We hope you’ll participate in our alternative Spring Break trips to Poland/Israel on “March of the Living,” Passover Seder in Moab, and service learning trips to parts of our country and our world that need our help. By the time your child leaves home for college, our hope is that their Jewish identity has been formed with all the right inputs from home, from synagogue, and from Hebrew School.
Since we launched Tamid six weeks ago, the response has been terrific. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with many of you and listening to your stories. If we haven’t already, I and the other rabbis at Tamid want to meet you and hear your story, too. We really want to get this right and we want to learn from you, so we can do this right, together. Thank you for caring. I look forward to partnering with you in the days and years ahead and please share this email with others who might be interested – thank you, Darren