Venture of the Month: Temple Sholom

Posted: March 31st, 2016

Jewish Learning Venture’s mission is to inspire and empower people to make Jewish life, learning and community relevant and meaningful. Every month, we’re featuring a story from one of the synagogues whom we work with that are engaged in making systemic change.

In April, we are delighted to share about Temple Sholom in Broomall’s participation in our LeV program and what has changed at their school as a result. LeV is a two-year project that transforms Jewish education for elementary school age children and their families. Education Director Lori Green answered our questions about the impact of LeV on the Temple Sholom community.

JLV: Please describe the change that’s happened at Temple Sholom as a result of participating in LeV.

LG: Seeking to provide our families a change from a traditional to a more contemporary educational experience was the driving force behind Rimon. The journey to our re-imagined and re-envisioned program took us from challenging our preconceived ideas of what Jewish education has been, to what it could be at Temple Sholom. Focusing on community, voice and choice, and a pluralistic education that was rooted in the past, living in the present and looking towards the future, we developed Rimon…a Jewish educational program for Kindergarten through 6th grade.
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Our Sunday program, originally divided into two, independent sessions, now meets for one long session. This enables all of our students to be in our building at the same time and helps to build community. Additionally, our students are in cross age groupings, each with a team of three teachers. Our days are full of song, Project Based learning, tefillah and chugim! In order to ensure that each and every child’s voice is heard, our days begin with Kehillah boker where students gather in small groups to share events of the past week and to talk about the day’s activities.

Realizing the 6th grade is a bridge between primary Jewish education, B’nai Mitzvah, and beyond, we created a unique program that includes family learning and “kids only” learning. Gesherim (bridges) provides our tweens and their families an opportunity to focus on such topics as: The Jewish Journey, The American Jewish Journey, The Adolescent Journey, The Journey to Jewish Adulthood, and more. Tikkun Olam, field trips, alternative Shabbat experiences, and a year long Torah project are key components of Gesherim.

Temple Sholom’s mid-week Hebrew program also underwent a transformation. Understanding how difficult it is for students to sit in a Hebrew classroom after a long day at school, we restructured our afternoon Hebrew program. Students choose from an array of 45 minute class meetings. Though only 45 minutes in length, our Hebrew class size is limited to 5 or 6 students. Short but small classes with focused content enable our students to receive the one-on-one attention that was not possible in our formerly, large classes. Additionally, for our families who live further from Temple Sholom, we offer one-on-one Hebrew classes via Skype or Face Time.

Now in our third year of Rimon we are pleased with the results. Our children love our student-centered Sundays, including the opportunity to having ownership of their learning, and building friendships across the grades. Our mid-week Hebrew students are achieving well beyond expectations. They are enjoying spending time not only learning how to read and chant Hebrew prayers and blessings, but are also engaged in rich activities that empower them to make each prayer their own.

Rimon is a living and breathing educational program. Through ongoing reflection, reassessment, and revision it is our hope that it will continue to engage, excite, and have meaning for our children and their families.

JLV: How did Jewish Learning Venture help you achieve what you described above?

LG: Jewish Learning Venture’s LeV program enabled us to enter a process to help us focus on what was important to our Temple Sholom community and envision what could be. The support of our consultant and Jewish Learning Venture was critical to the creation of Rimon.

JLV: What words of wisdom would you share with other organizations who are interested in making a similar change?

LG: In order for real change to take place, it is critical that all stakeholders are involved. The professional leadership, lay leadership, parents, and faculty must all be around the table for discussion and ongoing communication. All must be involved in the process and all must be champions for the product. Additionally, it is critical that the rabbi be a key partner in the process.

 

Jewish Learning Venture is happy to work with your community–contact us anytime!

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