An exciting first two weeks of school

The shofar has been sounded during the Hebrew month of Elul, the new markers have been taken out of their boxes, the new Hebrew textbooks and Tanakhim (Hebrew Bibles) have been removed from their cellophane wrappings, the SMARTBoards, laptops, iPads, digital cameras are powered on and the Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies has been launched. Jewish music, the Aleph-Bet and conversations about Israel and repairing the world around us are in full force at Am Yisrael. We are proud to be the first congregational school on the North Shore to have had the first SMARTBoard and now we are the first to have four of them. The teachers are using technology as a successful tool toward the learning process because it is meeting our students where they are. We have new students walking through our doors and the largest group of primary grade students (32) between Gan (Kindergarten) and Bet (2nd Grade) in several years. We have a cutting edge web site with easy to navigate pages, highlighted by the Class Home Pages. I would match our teachers with those of any congregational school in the area. We also have 35 post-B’nai Mitzvah students which is another exciting development.

Our developing relationships with the JUF, JChoice.org, the iCenter, Shorashim, the Jewish Educator’s Assembly, CFJE, Walder Education Pavilion, BJE Chicago’s Marshall Jewish Learning Center and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism help us to reach places we could never otherwise see. Please visit our website, amyisrael.org regularly, as you will be able to read weekly messages from our faculty and learn about our new chugim (special activities) program, featuring the following: school choir, band, newspaper,Jewish Lens/photography, Israeli culture and specialized art. All of the events are on the full school and youth groups calendar. I am maintaining Mr. Sherman’s Blog, which incorporate my philosophy of education and documentation of the school year. Most importantly, the students are forming positive Jewish memories through formal and informal education. There are numerous learning resources on the website, including Cantor Simon’s prayer service chantings.

The present and future of Jewish education at Am Yisrael is extremely bright and there are too many people to thank in this article. I encourage you to follow my monthly articles in the synagogue’s bulletin and share our website and my contact information with anyone whom you know who is looking for a “best practice” school for their child, grandchild, niece, nephew or friend. I can be reached by calling the synagogue office 847-446-7215 ext. 12, via email csherman@amyisrael.org or cell phone 847-708-1805. The High Holiday services are a great way to start the Jewish new year and they feature programming for babies through teenagers, at the Tot, Family and Tween/Young Adult Kavanah services. My wife Laura and our boys Michael, Gabe and I want to take this time to wish you and your families a Shanah Tovah u’Mitukah, a good, sweet new year.

The Launching of the Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies!

(Taken from my article in the synagogue’s Monthly Bulletin)

It is with great excitement that we announce the new name of our school: Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies. For years people have been calling the school connected to our synagogue “Sunday School,” “Religious School” and “Hebrew School” depending on the day of the week or the group meeting. We now have the opportunity to tell our children “today you get to go to Jewish Studies.” Another change this year is that we are now matching the grade levels that the students are in with their Hebrew equivalent (ie. 1st Grade is
now the Aleph Class, 2nd Grade the Bet Class, 3rd Grade the Gimel Class and so on).

There is so much more than just a name change taking place. After an entire year of examining the school’s culture and curriculum, and having conversions with our professional staff, board of trustees and officers, interested congregants, parents, teachers and students, “best practice” colleagues and my National Advisor at United Synagogue, I have analyzed and adjusted several aspects of the school. Here are some of
the modifications that have been made:

1. Our new schedule of classes during the week is as follows: Sundays from
9:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; Wednesdays from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. and once a
month on Shabbat mornings from 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. for Kindergarten (Gan)
through 6th Grade (Vav).

2. We will be offering Shabbat Morning Family Programming once a month during the school year: October 22nd, November 19th, January 21st, February 18th, March 17th, April 21st and May 19th. Students and their parents will have an opportunity to learn, pray and
read from the Torah together. Students in the 5th and 6th grades will have an
opportunity to lead portions of the service in the Main Sanctuary on those dates. In
order to partner with our families in the process of giving our students a strong
Jewish identity, we feel that this Shabbat morning component is going to be crucial. We thank everyone in advance for their participation.

3. We are offering formal Hebrew language instruction (including reading Hebrew) beginning in 1st Grade as opposed to 3rd Grade.

4. We are offering photography (through a “Jewish Lens”), newspaper, choir, band, Israel culture and art electives in 3rd through 6th grades.

5. We are partnering with a school in Kiryat Gat to have “classroom-toclassroom” collaborations through our partnership with Chicago-based organization Shorashim.

6. We are partnering with the iCenter on some exciting initiatives regarding Israel
education and hopefully more activities. Their new “Aleph Bet Israel Education” is absolutely cutting-edge.

7. We have set up a grid schedule of classes to offer our students the opportunity to study with more members of the teaching team. As they say, “Variety is
the spice of life.”

8. We have hired three new teachers and welcome them to our Am Yisrael
community: Jamie Cooper, Keith Kanter and Shira Sender.

9. Thanks to generous anonymous donations we now have four SMARTBoards.

10. Thanks to generous anonymous donations we are in the process of adding more laptops to the school for use by our students in the technology driven
portions of the curriculum. Our school curriculum is now between 30 and 50
percent technology focused.

11. We have upgraded our Am Yisrael website to make communication clear
and effective between the school and our families. Simply click on the Education tab of our amyisrael.org website and see our new categories which will be
updated on a regular basis:

-At A Glance (including key dates
and when we meet)
-From our School Director (including
my Educational Philosophy, bio and
my blog entitled “Mr. Sherman’s
Blog”)
-Curriculum FAQ’s
-Faculty biographies and pictures
-A Google School and Youth Groups
Calendar
-Class Home Pages (including regular updates of what is happening in
each class, curriculum outlines,
minute-by-minute schedules, snack
schedules and class assignments
-Parent Manual
-Learning Resources (both what we
use in our classes and what we recommend for at-home reinforcement)
-A Photo Gallery linked to our
Facebook page.

On the class home pages and the Faculty Bio page you will be
able to find everyone’s email amyisrael.org email addresses to further aid in communication between home and school.

12. We have added several new madrichim (teaching assistants)
to our team.

13. We are maintaining Facebook, Twitter and Youtube pages and recommend that you check them out. Links can be found on the left side of our website. Please “Like us on
Facebook,” “Follow us on Twitter,” and check out our Youtube channel.

14. Our school is building a direct relationship with JUF and JChoice.org as we teach our students how to give to those less fortunate.

15. We have a new attendance policy which can be found on the “At A Glance” page and in the Parent Manual on our website.

Our Youth Group is also in full swing. The executive board of AMUSY has been empowered to plan several exciting activities. This gives them an opportunity to serve as
future Jewish leaders and give the participants an opportunity to participate in activities planned by their peers.

Finally, I look forward to seeing everyone at the end of September at High Holiday services. I will be leading Family services once again this year. Please stay tuned to our website, to future bulletin articles and to my weekly email updates for more
information. We encourage anyone who wants to know more about our school for the purposes of recruiting friends or family to our congregation to visit me in the office, before or after services, send me an email csherman@amyisrael.org or give me a call in the office 847-446-7215 ext. 12 or on my cell phone 847-708-1805.

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