The Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies (AYSJS) is now in full force. Earlier this month we had the most amazing day at the Tikkun Olam Fair! In addition to reflecting on how we have the opportunity to “repair the world” in so many different ways, every student in the school from Gan (Kindergarten) through Confirmation (10th Grade) participated in preparing lunches and snacks for a shelter called A Just Harvest. Four families from AYSJS drove these 1,000+ brown paper bags into the city and people who live on the streets were fed meals prepared with love and care. The older students in our school, along with several congregants, heard from two students, one Arab and one Israeli, who attend Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem. They are trying to fix the world by connecting the youth of the Arab/Israeli world. At the end of the day, our entire school gathered with Rabbi Newman Kamin to recap the day of activities and listen to our new AYSJS Band and Choir–Kochavim Chadashim (New Stars). They performed the song “Ose Shalom” under the guidance of Mr. Marc Nevins and Mrs. Natasha Bodansky. It was truly inspiring.
With a tighter scoped and sequenced curriculum and the addition of Chugim (Specialized, Choice Activities), including Art, Band, Choir, Israeli Culture, Jewish Lens (Photography) and Newspaper, that make the school feel more like “Jewish Summer Camp,” the last forty-five minutes of the day, we are fitting the needs of our Gimel (3rd Grade) through Zayin (7th Grade) two-day a week students. We have our regular Jewish Studies teaching, which now includes Hebrew, Library, Tefillah, Art and Music classes and technology and Tikkun Olam activities capture the imaginations of our Gan (Kindergarten) through Bet (2nd Grade) students. In our post-B’nai Mitzvah, Prozdor (8th Grade) and Pardes (9th Grade) classes we have developed a grid schedule which includes: Current Events from a Jewish perspective, Online partnership with a school in Israel, Jewish Lens Photography, Torah and prayer reflections. Our Confirmation Class watches cutting edge videos and analyzes them in an incredibly sophisticated manner with Cantor Simon. We are also giving the teens more social time to give them the opportunity to interact with one another and either strengthen friendships or build new ones. The complete package of an AYSJS education includes: a) getting a solid Jewish education imbued with Jewish values at the core; b) engaging with peers in a meaningful way to solidify friendships; c) being inspired, taught and making a solid connection with our teachers and madrichim (teaching assistants), who serve as role models.
We are very excited about the Shabbat Morning Family Programming (SMFP), which debuted after the holiday season on Saturday, October 22nd. We had 37 students from our Gan (Kindergarten) through Vav (6th Grade) classes attend the program. With all of the parents who accompanied the children, which we were thrilled also included students who attend our local Jewish Day Schools, we had well over 100 people in the building. As mentioned, we strongly encourage our Day School families to send their children to SMFP, as in addition to the educational component, the children have an opportunity to interact with seasoned teachers and most importantly become friends with other children in our Am Yisrael community. SMFP is a fun, educational and mandatory component of the Am Yisrael youth experience for our AYSJS.
Finally, partnership between home and school is crucial to our success. In addition to my articles for the Bulletin, our http://www.amyisrael.org website (everything under the “Education” tab), along with my Am Yisrael Limmud (Learning) emails sent to AYSJS and Day School families are the hubs of my communication to our families. I also want to thank the class parents, who are taking it upon themselves to communicate with the classes and help organize major functions. Our teaching team is posting messages of what they accomplish on their Class Home Pages on our website. Online Hebrew assignments and songs for performances can be found on these Class Home Pages and should be checked by our AYSJS parents weekly. We have even started posting the assignments for our Adult Hebrew Class, which has its own Class Home Page.
By having a weekly Parent Prompt, e.g. “Ask your child about their opinion of the freeing of Gilad Shalit” to an 8th Grader or “Ask your child how s/he can participate in Tikkun Olam (“Repairing the World”) at home” to a 2nd Grader, will in theory spare us the famous answer to the question, “What do you do at Jewish Studies today?” with the response being “nothing.” We are also 95% complete on receiving back our Media Release forms, which are designed to allow us to put pictures and videos on our website without the students names being included. Taking a model from Head of School Jon Mitzmacher at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Florida, we are trying to stay at the “top of the pack” in terms of our ability to communicate what is happening in our school with our families.
As always, please either send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org call me in the office (847-446-7215 ext. 12) or on my cell phone (847-708-1805) with any comments or questions.