Sunday School Curriculum
Classes with combined grades use a rotating A-B curriculum in alternating years.
- A. My Humanistic Judaism • Students learn basic principles of Humanistic Judaism in an age-appropriate way and create their own booklet on Humanistic Judaism; they discuss and create artwork and assemble the booklet throughout the year. Throughout the year, they also learn about Jewish holidays and Shabbat from a Humanistic Jewish perspective. The curriculum includes stories, discussion, games, and craft projects.
- B. The Jewish Year • Holidays, Literature, and Shabbat Students continue to study Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Hanukkah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Passover, Yom Ha’atzmaut) and Shabbat using a variety of media. They also learn about various types of Jewish literature, including the Bible and folk tales.
- A. The Jewish Calendar and The Bible • Students learn about the origins of the Jewish calendar and study major Jewish holidays. The Bible is introduced from the perspective of the Jewish family tree, teaching the stories of Genesis and Exodus sequentially. Origin myths from different cultures are also discussed as a means to put the Bible in historical and world context.
- B: The Jewish Calendar and Life Cycle Events • In addition to continued study of the Jewish calendar and holidays, students are introduced to the major Jewish life cycle events. Students explore how the creative use of symbols makes celebrations more meaningful. Jewish holidays and life cycle celebrations have evolved over time to respond to and be more relevant to new circumstances; students learn how Humanistic Jews, as well as Jews throughout history and around the world, have acknowledged the key events in our lives: birth, coming of age (Bar/Bat Mitzvah), marriage, and death.
- A. Heroes and Choices • Every hero must make choices -- many difficult, some seemingly impossible. These choices, and a person's actions that follow, make a hero. In this curriculum we will explore many heroes -- from American history, Jewish history, the Bible, comic books and other pop culture sources, and from common everyday life. We will decide who are our heroes. What makes a Jewish hero? What makes a superhero? Students will gain an understanding of heroes' common values. Heroes don't have to be perfect either—that makes them human. The underlying theme of the curriculum is this: A hero's values can be identical to our own, and we don't even have to consider ourselves to be heroes!
- B. Coming to America • This class begins the study of Jewish history. Students begin the year studying shtetl life in eastern Europe during the late 19th century and their own family histories. Students follow the immigrant experience through the voyage to America, processing at Ellis Island, and Jewish communities in the United States. A highlight of the year is the Family Heirloom Project, in which students create a “museum” of their own families’ heirlooms and act as docents for invited family and friends.
- Great Jewish Communities Throughout History • The main focus of the class is the study of significant Jewish communities throughout history, from the rabbinic period to the Middle Ages. Students will consider the continuous tensions inherent in assimilation as a factor in Judaism’s survival as they study Jewish communities in ancient Jerusalem and Babylonia; Alexandria during the Rabbinic period; Cordova during the Golden Age of Spain; Renaissance Venice; Rashi and the Jewish community of Troyes, France; and Rosheim, Germany, and Prague, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) during the Middle Ages. Each student receives a Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible, in English) and learns to identify and maneuver through the books of the Bible; the class reads and discusses several Bible selections.
- A. Insider/Outsider: Jewish Identity 1750–Today • This class focuses on Jewish history from the Enlightenment through the aftermath of the Holocaust. Throughout the year, students discuss how political and social decisions affect quality of life, the importance of community, the ethical and unethical uses of power, personal responsibility, and the importance of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. The year begins with studying the Enlightenment and the global and domestic conditions that led to the rise of Nazism. Students explore the evolutionary process of state policies that resulted in the Holocaust as well as the various forms of resistance, intervention, and rescue that occurred. Ethical dilemmas presented in rabbinic responsa before, during, and after the Holocaust will be presented for discussion in class and at home. At the end of the year, students discuss the impact of the Holocaust on society and assess issues of conscience and moral responsibility. Guest speakers throughout the year have included Holocaust survivors, camp liberators, and children of survivors; a field trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Skokie is planned for the spring. Given the serious and often disturbing nature of this period of history, parents are strongly encouraged to visit the classroom regularly.
- B. American Jewish History and Israel • The themes of this year are identity, community, and overcoming obstacles to create nations, recognizing the importance of human efforts and power. The fall semester covers the history of Jews in America from the early pre-colonial period to modern times. Jews have influenced America, and America has transformed Jews and Judaism. Jewish life in America has been a balance between change and tradition. The second semester focuses on the land of Israel, the evolution of Zionism, and the establishment of the state of Israel, including discussions of Israel today. Students expand their Jewish literacy as they study key events, figures, and geography in the history of Jews in American and of Israel.
9th/10th Grades: Confirmation Class
- Comparative Judaism and Comparative Religion • Over a two-year period, students explore how various religions attempt to answer the big questions of life, while they explore and develop their own personal philosophies and codes of ethics. Critical to the class are field trips throughout the year to various religious institutions. Both 9th and 10th graders participate in the May Confirmation service, with graduating students preparing more in-depth presentations.