At Temple Etz Chaim, we understand that we are responsible for providing our students with an excellent Jewish education. Our school’s critical role is to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for our students to be active and knowledgeable members of the Jewish Community. Religious education will help to enable future generations to live productive and meaningful lives as Americans and Jews.
Our goals and curriculum are outlined here. Please read the entire page, you may jump to a specific topic of you interest:
The overarching goals of the Temple Etz Chaim Religious School are to:
Develop children who want to live as Jews
Provide the skills and knowledge to live a Jewish life
Provide moral and character development
Provide family education
Reaching these goals will allow students to:
Innately feel a love of Torah and Bible.
Understand major themes and concepts found in each parsha.
Understand and be able to practice Jewish traditions and be able to explain Jewish heritage.
Participate and lead prayers with competency and understanding.
Practice Jewish rituals at home and in the synagogue and observe Jewish ceremonies that are part of life cycle events.
Encourage, support and participate in mitzvot at Temple, home, and in the community.
Participate in acts of Gemilut Hasidim and give tzedakah regularly.
Realize that they are part of a chain, linking generations through common experience and values.
Be knowledgeable about Israel, the people and the land.
Strengthen their sense of Jewish identity and create empathy towards Jewish people around the world, upholding the theme of Klal Yisrael.
Behave in a moral and ethical manner based on the teachings they receive both at home and through attendance at Religious School.
Involve their families in Jewish life through attendance at Shabbat dinners, Religious School services and school activities.
Specific areas for educational development include:
Klal Yisrael, including the historical experience of the Jewish people
Holidays and Life Cycle
The Religious School’s curriculum emphasizes the specific areas of education mentioned above. Topics are taught at appropriate grade levels to maximize learning within all seven categories listed above. Various teaching methods, including cooperative learning, music, art, dance, drama, storytelling, videos, visual aids and games, are used to enrich the learning process. Textbooks are assigned by subject and grade level. The individual teacher’s knowledge and creative input enhance the curriculum significantly. In implementing curriculum, each grade builds upon students’ previous educational experiences. Materials and resources progress from year to year. As students mature, discussions broaden and expand.
The primary grade curriculum (K-2) introduces students to basic Jewish heritage and traditions. Students are introduced to the Torah as a sacred document to the Jewish people. They learn that there is one G-d who is the creator of the world. Through stories, they learn about people in the Torah, biblical heroes and values. Celebrating the holidays introduces them to Jewish history and ritual. They recognize prayers, ritual objects and symbols associated with the holidays. Blessings over the wine, challah and candles are recited each Sunday at a “Mock Shabbat.” Students begin to understand the importance of and can recite the Shema and Shecheyanu. Students learn about the synagogue, the roles of the Rabbi and Hazzan, and the importance of tzedakah and mitzvot. They begin Hebrew instruction by being able to recognize the Alef Bet and becoming familiar with the sounds of each letter. See appendix for complete curriculum.
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The intermediate grade curriculum (3-7) builds on the primary curriculum, but places more emphasis on preparation for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Students continue their Hebrew studies, learning prayer based vocabulary. Hebrew reading skills are emphasized so that students can participate fully and comfortably in the Shabbat and holiday services. Students discuss Torah portions in depth, learning about Jewish history, laws, moral and ethical teachings, and the significant contributions of the patriarchs, matriarchs, and other biblical heroes. Students celebrate holidays, reciting the blessings and prayers, using ritual objects correctly, singing holiday songs, preparing and eating holiday foods, and understanding the religious and historical importance of the celebration. They discuss life cycle events and their importance. Students learn about Israel’s history, government, geography, culture, politics and significance to the Jewish people. Participation in synagogue social action projects reinforces the concepts of tzedakah, mitzvot, Gemilut Hasidim and tikun olam.
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The Confirmation Program (8-10) provides a diverse curriculum. Students attend a core class that covers a specific topic for each grade. Students discuss anti-Semitism, Bioethics, cults, the Holocaust, modern Jewish heroes and other relevant issues in terms of the Jewish ethical, moral and legal response according to Jewish law. Through discussions about current events in Israel, they gain a better understanding of Israeli government and politics. They also have a choice of electives, including self-defense, ceramics, scrapbooking, Jewish videos and Judaism through science fiction and fantasy, Bible studies, Israeli dancing, Jewish cooking, drama and more. Dinner seminars are a highlight of the Confirmation Program. Parents are invited to join students to hear various speakers provide valuable information about current topics. The 10th grade students lead Shavuot Services at which time they are confirmed.
In 2005, Temple Etz Chaim Religious School was selected to be one of five religious schools for the southern California region to pilot a new curriculum called “Facing History and Ourselves.” The subject matter is an in depth exploration into the Holocaust and human behavior. To quote their brochure, “Facing History’s institutes connect history to the moral questions inherent in a study not only of violence, racism, and anti-Semitism but also courage, caring, and compassion.” This program has become the foundation for our ninth grade curriculum and hopefully will make a significant difference in the lives of our students.
The Post Confirmation Program (11-12) provides students with an opportunity to continue their Jewish education while remaining involved in synagogue life. Students study Torah, discuss current events and explore ethical issues with Rabbi Spiegel. The format of the class allows students to express themselves candidly in a non-judgmental environment. The program was originally conceived after students leaving the Confirmation Program asked how they could continue their studies at Temple Etz Chaim.