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Youth Learning Curriculum and Teachers

Our Sunday School teaches cultural Jewish literacy for secular Jews. 

We encourage our children to value their Jewish identity and to be independent thinkers. Each grade explores Jewish holidays, history, culture and creativity through a Humanistic approach to life. We give our children the freedom and responsibility to decide what is relevant and meaningful to them.

Our school provides a non-theistic Jewish education for students whose families identify as Culturally Jewish, Just Jewish, Jew-ish, Jewish and . . . , Half-Jewish, Interfaith, Jews by Choice, Multicultural, Not Religious, Secular, Humanistic, Atheist, and/or Agnostic.

Our Youth Learning programs are on Sunday mornings.  They include weekly Sunday School class for First Grade through Ninth Grade Confirmation, monthly adult-tot programs for ages 0-2 and 3-6 with an adult, and family holiday and cultural events.

Families can try out our Sunday School by visiting their grade’s class for the day with no expectation of a commitment. We also welcome everyone to join our family holiday and cultural celebrations.

1st/2nd Grade is a two-year rotating curriculum covering Jewish holidays, Bible stories and folk tales through storytelling, games, and arts & crafts projects. Guest teachers in Jewish art, music and language regularly provide special enrichment. Our youngest students begin to experience the rhythm and flow of Jewish life through our Humanistic approach, and discover what NEW traditions they and their family can create. They also get to lead a Shabbat demonstration for the whole school on a Sunday morning!

3rd/4th/5th Grade is a three-year rotating curriculum during which students deepen their familiarity with Jewish culture through holidays and life cycle celebrations, and explore how Humanistic Judaism is different from traditional theistic Judaism. Guest teachers in Jewish art, music and language regularly provide special enrichment. Special projects make learning meaningful: in exploring the Jewish immigrant experience, an heirloom museum connects Jewish history to family history; students learning about life cycle ceremonies interview their parents about their own experiences; and the lens of “what makes a hero” offers new perspectives on both Jewish history and Jewish literature from the Bible forward. Students also co-create a Shabbat celebration with their teacher to lead at a Friday night service.

6th/7th Grade is a two-year rotating curriculum covering the history of Jews in America, Israel and the Holocaust, and how this history shaped the modern Jewish experience. In all three areas, students explore how political developments impact society, the ethical and unethical uses of power, and the importance of community and personal responsibility. To understand where we are today, we need to learn how we got here. With their teacher, the class co-creates a Shabbat celebration related to their learning for a Friday night service in the spring.

8th/9th Grade Confirmation Class is a two-year curriculum packed with field trips to other synagogues, churches, mosques and temples. Students explore Comparative Judaism and Comparative Religion while developing their own personal philosophies and codes of ethics. The class culminates with our Confirmation service where the students present their views on Judaism, religion and ethics.

Rabbi Adam Chalom (1st/2nd Grade, B Mitzvah Prep) has been the Rabbi of Kol Hadash since 2004, and both of his children went through the Kol Hadash Youth Learning program from adult-tot through Confirmation and have served as classroom aides. He holds degrees in Jewish Studies from Yale University (BA) and the University of Michigan (PhD), and rabbinic ordination from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, where he now serves as Dean for North America. Learn more about Rabbi Chalom.

Karen Jackson (3rd/4th/5th Grade) joined Kol Hadash in 2013 and has been a Sunday School teacher since 2018. Karen grew up in Reform Judaism. She has a BA in Psychology and an MA in Elementary Education. When not preparing for Sunday School, she is usually buried in children’s books as a Team Leader and Educational Services Representative with Usborne Books & More. Karen has two daughters, one who completed our Confirmation and is now in college and one who is in our Confirmation class this year.


Irene Chase (6th/7th Grade) joined Kol Hadash in 2003, and all three of her children completed our education program through Confirmation. She was raised at the secular North Shore School of Jewish Studies, and professionally she is an attorney. She has taught Sunday School periodically since 2011.


Marla Davis Henry (8th/9th Grade Confirmation) has been a member of a Secular Humanist Jewish Congregation for three decades. She was ordained as an officiant in 2022 and has been published in the Society of Humanistic Judaism’s journal and serves on their board. Marla graduated from The University of Chicago with her masters in clinical social work. She is the proud parent of two young men and is a founding member and board member of a grass roots non for profit advocating for inclusive housing for disabled adults.  


Fred Henry (8th/9th Grade Confirmation) was raised in Unitarian Universalism and has been a part of the Humanist movement for the past 45 years. He is an active member at The Charter for Compassion and a hospice volunteer. Fred has two master’s degrees, one in technology management and the other in public health, and he has spent the last four decades working in drug research and development. He enjoys sailing, making driftwood art, and reading in his spare time.


B Mitzvah Program
Our innovative B Mitzvah (a gender-inclusive term covering Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah) program includes individual Hebrew learning, a B Mitzvah Prep Class with our Rabbi, and personalized choices for Mitzvah presentation and the service itself. Learn more about our B Mitzvah Program.

Leah Sosewitz (B Mitzvah Coordinator) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2014. She is an alumna of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. Leah has a BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a professional artist who has been creating Judaica through her studio in Highland Park for nearly three decades. She was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council grant in Folk Arts, and her work has been collected in the USA and beyond. Leah has three sons, the youngest of whom celebrated his B Mitzvah at Kol Hadash in 2017. Leah is an avid reader and a huge fan of Zumba!

Mara Heichman (Hebrew Tutor) has been a B Mitzvah tutor since 2000 for a variety of congregations in the Chicagoland area. She was raised in a Conservative congregation and was the first girl to have a Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah at that congregation, which helped create a more egalitarian community. Mara is also a Certified Professional Coach, mom to two 20-somethings and an avid fan of all things nature/animals!


Ellen Apley (Music Director) grew up as a Humanistic Jew and has been singing at Kol Hadash services since its founding, becoming music director in 2014. Ellen has a BA in Psychology and an MA in Learning Disabilities. She runs Kroft Educational Therapy and her two sons have both completed the Kol Hadash Youth Learning program from adult-tot through Confirmation and serving as classroom aides.


Ilana Shaffer (Youth Education Director) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2012. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and has held positions in marketing communications, event planning, and non-profit management. Ilana grew up in a traditional Jewish household in Oklahoma City, OK, and Atlanta, GA, but had an “aha!” moment when she learned about Humanistic Judaism. Ilana’s daughter completed Sunday School confirmation and her son is in the 6th/7th grade class this year.


Useful Youth Learning Information
Sunday School FAQ                                      Family and Youth Events Calendar             Curriculum and Teachers
Adult-Tot Programs                                      Family Holiday Celebrations                          Sunday School Registration
Sunday School Tryout and Tuition       B Mitzvah Guide                                                     
Wed, June 12 2024 6 Sivan 5784