The main goal of Beth Israel’s youth and education program is to ensure that our children emerge with a strong Jewish identity. We want them to love being Jewish, to have fun at Religious School and other Beth Israel activities, to learn about Judaism, and to feel part of a larger community. We also want their parents to grow in their love for Judaism and gain a greater knowledge of our traditions. Lastly, we want to foster intergenerational connections in order to help make the Beth Israel community a congregational family. Our School partners with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life for our curriculum.
Wednesday Hebrew is the first formal step in the b’nai mitzvah training process. Students start on Wednesday in the third grade and continue through sixth grade. We use the ISJL Hebrew curriculum with the Kol Yisrael series from Behrman House, which emphasizes prayer literacy but also includes a taste of modern Hebrew. In addition to learning the alef-bet and prayer vocabulary, we teach our students about keva and kavannah, so they may gain a greater understanding and appreciation for t’filah.
B’nai Mitzvah Training
At Beth Israel Congregation, becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is much more than an “event.” We at Beth Israel want it to be:
A positive Jewish experience for your entire family.
A successful experience. An introduction to Torah that will impact your life as a Jew and as a teenager on the bridge between childhood and adulthood.
A chance for you to explore the meaning of mitzvah in ritual and deed and take on new mitzvot as you enter your teen years.
To sum it all up, the Beth Israel bar/bat mitzvah experience is intended to be a window into the sacred; a training not only in how to make a Jewish blessing, but how to be a Jewish blessing. For the student, it is a chance to mature spiritually. Being called to the Torah publicly is a privilege and an opportunity to establish a closer connection to God, Torah, and the Jewish people. For the family, a bar/bat mitzvah is the epitome of a shehecheyanu moment: a growing experience for parent and child alike.
Pre-Confirmation and Confirmation
At Beth Israel, 9th and 10th graders join together in the Rabbi’s office on Wednesday nights to learn about Judaism as emerging adults. Topics range from Jewish views on: vegetarianism, driving, technology, social issues, our bodies, and more. Other topics include: Parashat haShavuah, Jewish Philosophy, Sex in the Texts, Current Events, Jewish Comedy, Art, and Film. The students decide which areas of Judaism they want to study, and tangents are encouraged, as long as they have a Jewish focus. The 2-year course culminates in a Confirmation service in which the 10th graders write a creative Shabbat service, read the Ten Commandments from the Torah, and write a speech describing what they have learned and how they have changed. It is a wonderful and growing experience for the student and for the Rabbi.