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Curriculum

The purpose of the Oraynu Children’s School curriculum is to encourage a strong Secular Humanistic Jewish identity in each child. Through experiential learning, each child develops an understanding of the humanistic ethics and cultural traditions forged by the historical experiences of the Jewish people, and by participation in the Jewish community.

Our Jewish studies are based on a curriculum written specifically for us by certified Secular Humanistic Jewish Leaders — Rabbi Eva Goldfinger and Rabbi Karen Levy. It is titled Values and History Based Curriculum for Secular Humanistic Jewish Supplementary Schools (©1995, 1999) and is in use not only at our school, but also at other humanistic congregations as well.

In Oraynu’s curriculum:

  • Jewish history, culture, traditions and ethics are studied as expressions of our identity within a secular humanistic framework.
  • Jewish continuity and pluralism are encouraged by open and rational examination of traditional stories and legends.
  • Personal integrity, respect for the beliefs of others and responsibility to society are promoted.

The curriculum for each grade includes the following:

  • Theme-based Jewish study units
  • Preparation for holidays and festivals
  • Life-cycle units
  • Israel unit
  • Tzedakah projects
  • Family Education projects

Oraynu Children’s School staff implements the curriculum to facilitate learning by:

  • Presenting lessons with a variety of age-appropriate stories and meaningful social studies materials.
  • Thoughtfully engaging students in activities such as music, drama, simulations, school-wide assemblies, community presentations, learning games, arts and crafts, creative writing, research and discussion.
  • Involving students in all grades in the celebration of the major holidays and in meaningful class and/or community Tzedakah (acts of loving kindness) projects.

Curriculum Summary for JK/SK & Gr. 1-7

  • Only Secular Humanistic practices and interpretations are taught and practiced, with the exception of several specific units in Grade 3 to Grade 6, when some comparative Judaism is also taught.
  • All grades learn about the major holidays and have class tzedakah projects.
JEWISH FAMILY
Theme: The family as the social structure and context within which students will learn and develop Secular Humanistic Jewish values
Subject Content:

  • Festivals: Become familiar with symbols and practices for celebrating festivals using the family as a framework
  • Participate in the celebration of festivals to experience a sense of family and community
  • Jewish Values: Bible stories and heroes stress the characters as role models, emphasizing their values and behaviour which promote harmony in the family
  • Ongoing classroom tzedakah project: “Chesed (Kindness) Home Project”
  • Life Cycle Unit: Jewish baby naming
  • Israel Unit: A simulated trip to Israel
  • Family Education Project: Matzahs, Questions, and Food Boxes. In alternate years, Grandparents’ Purim Day: Megillot & Mishloach Manot
MYSELF AND MY FAMILY
Theme: The importance of the individual in the continuing evolution of the Jewish people and culture
Subject Content:

  • Jewish Values: Bible stories and heroes
  • Tu B’Shevat: The desert and the importance of trees in Israel in Biblical times and today
  • Festivals: Become familiar with symbols and practices for celebrating festivals using the individual as a framework
  • Participate in the celebration of festivals to experience a sense of the individual’s contribution to community
  • Israel Unit: A simulated trip to Israel
  • Ongoing classroom tzedakah project: “Growing a Tzedakah Tree”
  • Life Cycle Unit: Babies and growth; Shabbat and the need for rest
  • Family Education Project: Jewish Art Unit. A means of expressing Jewish values and connecting to community
FRIENDSHIP AND COOPERATION
Theme: The importance of friendships as the microcosms of the human interactions necessary to create Jewish Community and culture
Subject Content:

  • Fall Festivals: Positively identify with the symbols and practices for celebrating Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot focusing on friendships
  • Jewish Values: Bible stories that highlight friendship and cooperation
  • Chanukah: Develop an awareness of the importance of tolerance and cooperation to achieve common goals
  • Participate in the celebration of festivals to experience a sense of the how friendships build relationships beyond the family and contribute to Jewish Community
  • Tu B’Shevat: Living and growing food cooperatively in Israel in Biblical times and today
  • Israel Unit: A simulated trip to Israel
  • Ongoing classroom tzedakah project: “Helping Hand/Friendship Chain”
  • Life Cycle Unit: Develop respect for humans at every stage of growth from baby naming to Bar/Bat Mitzvah, to wedding, and so on
  • Family Education Project: Wisdom of the Aged, featuring a Grandparents Party. Learning about Jewish values together with a family member or friend who is aged
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – YOU CAN BE A HERO
Theme: The value of social responsibility and its expression in action emphasizing that social action can become a part of daily life
Subject content:

  • Comparative Judaism: The Fall festivals, Shabbat, and Chanukah are studied not only to emphasize social responsibility as their fundamental underlying value, but also as examples of the differing practices and interpretations past and present
  • Sephardic Jewry: Learn about the Golden Age of Spain through to the Inquisition and dispersion emphasizing the positive contributions to society of role models such as Maimonides and Donna Gracia Nasi
  • Chanukah: Compare the Maccabees to the Spanish Conversos; Re-enact a Converso Chanukah celebration as a dramatic presentation at Chanukah Assembly
  • Shtetl Life: Examine the place and responsibility of the individual in a Shtetl community; Re-enact a simulated Shtetl Shabbat celebration
  • Pesach: Discover the importance of personal and national freedom; experience a sense of community through school Seder
  • Ongoing classroom tzedakah project: G’milut Chassadim (Acts of Loving Kindness) bar graph to emphasize the students personal contribution to human well-being on an ongoing basis
  • Life Cycle Unit: Study a Shtetl life-cycle event
  • Family Education Project: Shtetl Stories. Parents tell Shtetl stories in class to explore the ethics, values, and interpersonal relationships in the Shtetl
COMMUNITY AND CONTINUITY
Theme: The function and dynamics of Jewish communities in history and today
Subject Content:

  • Festivals: Participate in the celebration of festivals to experience a sense of community
  • The historical evolution and significance of holidays
  • Ongoing Project: Perpetuating values through story-telling
  • Jewish Communities in History: Ancient Hebrew kings and prophets
  • The Sages and the Talmud: The creation of the Talmud and the importance of its stories in dealing with humanistic issues
  • Life Cycle Unit: The Jewish calendar and the development of the Bar Mitzvah
  • Israel Unit: Modern Israel’s pioneers and the Kibbutz
  • Family Education Project: The Leadership and Values of Ancient Israel. In class, parents tell the stories of ancient Israel to explore human behaviour and relationships
CELEBRATION AND PEOPLEHOOD
Theme: The Jews are a worldwide pluralistic people and civilization with varying beliefs and values which determine their practices
Subject content:

  • Rhythms of the Jewish Year: Review of Jewish calendar and holidays focusing on their significance, meaningful observance, and evolution
  • Secular Humanistic Jewish life cycle observances and celebrations
  • Chanukah: Create a futuristic Chanukah dramatic presentation and participate in a community-based Chanukah Festival
  • Immigration and North American Jewry
  • Comparative Judaism: The Torah in Different Jewish Eyes —Understand the significance and connection of the Jewish people to the Torah throughout their history and become aware that various Jewish communities have interpreted the book differently
  • Zionism and Modern Israel: The development of Zionism through a look at its heroes
  • Tzedakah Project: Collecting and sorting food for the National Council of Jewish Women Passover Food Drive
  • Life Cycle Unit: The purpose of life cycle observances from birth to death
  • Family Education Project. A Virtual Tour of Israel. Strengthening connections to Israel by visiting it via the internet and by seeking more knowledge about Israel
UNIVERSAL FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND DIGNITY
Theme: Through the study of relevant Jewish history, discover the role of each student as a responsible member of society
Subject content:

  • Festivals: Participate in the celebration of festivals to experience a sense of community
  • A discussion of the basic concepts of the festivals with respect to their symbols, ethics, and our commitment to universalism
  • Tzedakah Project: Prepared for Chanukah celebration; determined by class members
  • The Holocaust: Historical background including how the Holocaust could happen and how we can prevent future atrocities; learning the values of resistance and tolerance; present a Yom Hashoah assembly; memorial field trip to Holocaust Centre.
  • Jewry in the New World: North American Jewry and immigration with a look at the various religious movements in North America
  • Israel Unit: The birth of Israel; Israel and Judaism in the world today
  • Family Education Project: Jewish Immigration to Israel. Present an interview of a relative or friend who immigrated to Israel at a school wide assembly
SECULAR HUMANISTIC JEWISH BELIEFS AND THEIR ROOTS
Theme: Secular Humanistic Judaism, our beliefs and their roots, our actions and their impact
Subject content:

  • Secular Humanistic Jewish Identity: Basic ideas of Secular Humanistic Judaism
  • Living Our Values: Humanistic values in Jewish sources
  • Jewish Life In The Ghetto and Shtetl
  • New Ideas and Their Impact In Europe: The Jewish Enlightenment
  • Mendelssohn. The Haskalah And Emancipation: Modern origins of Secular Humanistic Judaism
  • The Birth Of Modern Judaism: Secular Yiddish culture; Jewish socialism and activism; New religious ideas – Zionism, the Secular Humanistic Jewish movement
  • The Human Life Cycle: growth, puberty, Bat/Bar/Bnai Mitzvah
  • Tzedakah activities (extensive after hours program)
  • Preparation for Group B’nai Mitzvah Ceremony
  • Family Education Project: Jewish Role Model Research Project. An in-depth study of a Jewish hero who put humanistic Jewish values (ex. tikkun olam) into action and thereby made a difference to humanity.

Curriculum is subject to change

Hebrew

Our goal is for our students to learn to recognize and pronounce the Hebrew words we use on an everyday basis to discuss Jewish values, life cycle events, holidays, holiday symbols and Israel. Hebrew songs are also taught. An elective Enriched Hebrew class is offered for children who wish to learn conversational Hebrew through an organic approach to vocabulary. Enriched Hebrew is periodically offered as an elective one-half hour session before regular classes and is a multi-level group, drawing children from various grades.

Music

Music is part of the daily schedule for each level taught at Oraynu Children’s School. Music is one-half hour long. The children learn secular Jewish songs in Hebrew and in English. Songs are appropriately tied to the seasons, the festivals and the B’nai Mitzvah ceremony.