In our transient society, having roots is more important than ever. Who are we? From what people and traditions did we come? Answers to these questions give us a valuable anchor. The Jewish people have a 3,000-year heritage, one which has profoundly contributed to society.
Advances made by Jews in science, law, medicine, and the humanities have been disproportionate to the size of the Jewish population. Jewish education allows us to pass along this estimable heritage to our children. In doing so we help to ground them as they mature and ensure that this valuable tradition will continue beyond us for the betterment of the world.
Why Humanistic Jewish Education?
We want our students to have a great Jewish experience; one in which they not only learn and meet other Jewish kids, but also one which they enjoy.
Although proud of our Jewish heritage, many of us are not comfortable with the God-language of traditional Jewish observances. Humanistic Jews believe that the core of Judaism stems from its people, values, history and culture rather than from a deity. Whether there is a higher intelligence guiding the universe or not, we believe humans do not have access to any "divine revelation." We believe in the humanistic values so evident in our history, without reference to supernaturalism.
With this philosophy as our basis, our educational goal is to present a full spectrum of Jewish traditions, culture, ethics and history, including the role of God in traditional Jewish belief. We do not teach prayers to God, the Bible as God-given, or laws and ethics as God-given. The Bible is part of our tremendous body of literature; the stories are the legends of our history and culture. Since many of our families are intercultural and given our philosophy we neither proselytize nor claim to have the only valid belief system.
We emphasize the noble humanistic values of justice, fairness and personal ethical responsibility which are not only evident in Jewish tradition from the early prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, but also displayed by Jews throughout history. Of course Jews are not the only source of our ethics but we are proud of our role in developing them.
Whether as adults our students choose a humanistic or a more traditional orientation, children completing our program will have a solid background in rich, remarkable heritage of the Jewish people.
What Classes are Offered?
We have an Aleph class (ages 5-8), Betclass (ages 8-11), first year mitzvah class (ages 11-12) and a second year mitzvah class (ages 12-13). Classes are sometimes combined if there are too few students for individual classes. Our classes are small; pre-mitzvah classes are usually under 12 in size and mitzvah classes usually 5 or fewer students.
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What are the Class Dates and Location for 2016-2017?
Pre-school, Aleph and Bet classes meet twice a month, generally second and fourth Sundays (with some exceptions) from 10:00 AM - noon at Mittleman Jewish Community Center, 6651 SW Capitol Hwy in SW Portland. The first year mitzvah class meets at the Kol Shalom Center, 1509 SW Sunset Blvd., Suite 1E. Parents are encouraged to have students attend all classes.
What is taught in the Pre-school, Aleph and Bet classes?
Curriculum Outline. These classes emphasize a variety of age appropriate hands on activities relating to Jewish holidays, music, culture, history and traditions. We also explore values and ethics, literature, art, drama, and the Hebrew alphabet. In addition, each year we focus on a particular topic such as mitzvot, Israel or Shabbat. There are many crafts activities for the younger children.
Many of our students participate actively in our Kol Shalom holiday celebrations. From the earliest classes we teach and model humanistic and Jewish values that promote a commitment to social justice, ethical living and community service. We create an environment that fosters pride in our Jewish connection. While we are a Jewish organization, we are sensitive to the fact that many of our members are intercultural families.
What is the Mitzvah Program?
First Year Mitzvah Syllabus
Overview of Full Mitzvah Program Requirements (13 Steps)
The Kol Shalom Mitzvah program involves two years of classes and activities. Classes are held once per month and do include homework. There are also outside activities which might include visiting other congregational services, the Jewish Museum, a Jewish themed film, or the Holocaust Memorial. The first year class curriculum covers the history of the Jewish people from early Biblical times up to the creation of the state of Israel. Jewish traditions and customs are studied as well as some Yiddish vocabulary. The second year class focuses on more in depth studies of important people and episodes in Jewish history, ethics, community service and preparation for the mitzvah ceremony. The ceremony can be arranged by the parents or with the aid and officiating provided by Kol Shalom. Sometimes parents will join together for joint ceremonies with more than one child while other parents choose to have individual ceremonies. We can provide and officiator and music but this requires that the child has successfully completed the requirements of the Kol Shalom Mitzvah Program.
What are Parent Responsibilities?
The main responsibility of parents is to clear students' busy schedules to help assure good attendance! Class cohesion is damaged when there are excessive absences. Let's try to aim for attendance at most to all of classes!
We also aim to make this education program a family experience and one where teachers can get help from parents! To that end we request that the parents agree to act as classroom aides for three of the class sessions during the year. This entails helping the teacher with his/her activities and also developing and leading one activity yourself for each of those classes. This activity can be as simple as reading a story, or doing something musical, arts and craft related, holiday related, etc. We have help for you if you need it!
Our annual Hanukah party is a main production of the Children's Education Program. This party is usually a highlight of the year for all who attend, young and old. We have latkes, music, games, a kids production, socializing and more. We ask that parents volunteer to take on a particular task for the party ranging from kitchen duty with warming the member made latkes, to shopping to set-up and clean-up.
Parents usually join together to help with snacks for the classes.
Parents are welcome to attend the Sunday Forum programs we offer at our nearby center in Hillsdale on many of the class days. Parents are always welcome to stay and observe classes.
What are the Costs of Classes? Is Membership Required?
Membership is required for students to be in our Mitzvah Program, including classes. Membership is not required for the pre-school, aleph and bet classes.
Aleph and Bet Classes:
First Child Second Child Registration Fees
Members $175, $125
Non-members $275, $225
Tuition $300 per child (membership required)
Kol Shalom provision of mitzvah ceremony and officiating fee varies depending on level of Kol Shalom involvement
What Personnel are Involved with the Children's Education Program?
The Children's Education Committee sets policies and does the hiring for our program. Davida Jordan will be teaching the bet class. Davida is a Kol Shalom member and parent with extensive professional teaching experience including experience teaching in other Jewish children's classes in California. She teaches English as second language at the college level. Julie, also a Kol Shalom member and [parentis starting her second year teaching in our program. She has initiated new and popular activities including a Purim Party in her home. The aleph and bet classrooms are adjacent and the classes frequently combine for joint activities. Walt Hellman teaches the the first year mitzvah class. and has been teaching the Kol Shalom mitzvah classes for 12 years. He is a founding member of Kol Shalom and has served as co-chair of the Education Committee of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Walt taught high school physics for over 30 years. Mary Raskin is excited about teaching the second year mitzvah class. Mary is a Madrikha (certified Ritual Leader) and has experience working with the students and parents to create meaningful b'nai mitzvah ceremonies. Mary is in the rabbinic program at the International Institute for Secular and Humanistic Judaism. She also represents Kol Shalom on the national board of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
Teachers: (Davida Jordan, Julie McGee, Walt Hellman, Mary Raskin)
Who Do I Contact for Further Information?
More information can be obtained from our Children's Education Committee Chair, Walt Hellman (firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-648-6361).