Simcha Learning center at Riverdale Temple

Sunday Jewish Studies Program

Our program features small, mixed-age groups. Small class size allows us to individualize the curriculum to meet the diverse needs of our students. In a mixed-age setting, older children have the opportunity to reinforce what they are learning by modeling their skills for their younger classmates. Younger classmates in turn take their cue from the models presented by their older classmates. All children benefit from year-to-year cumulative learning. Our new curriculum also features special content taught in alternating years, ensuring that subject matter is fresh and relevant regardless of the year your child enters the program.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade

Students in Kindergarten and First Grade are introduced to preliminary Hebrew letter recognition. Our program is arts & crafts based, so reading is not a prerequisite. Children will learn to write their names in Hebrew. They will begin to build an aural/spoken vocabulary in Hebrew, (e.g., colors, body parts, classroom words, etc.). Additional areas of study include Bible stories, Holidays, elements of the Prayer Service, Music, and Tzedaka.

The students are engaged in active, hands-on projects designed to use all of their senses. This approach leaves the strongest possible impression on our youngest children's minds and nurtures a sense of the celebration of Jewish life.

This grade is encouraged to participate in our bi-weekly Tot Shabbat program. Tot Shabbat will reinforce what each student learns in school, and because they will be at the older end of the age range, they will have the opportunity to develop a sense of leadership in relation to the toddlers who attend.

All students registered in the religious school are also encouraged to join the Junior Choir, which will meet directly after school on Sunday mornings, from 11:30 to 12:00 in the sanctuary (unless otherwise notified). The choir will lead our monthly Shabbat with Junior Choir services.

2nd and 3rd Grades

In Second and Third Grades, children will begin each year with a review of the Hebrew they already know. They will build on this knowledge using the appropriate level of the textbook Phonetic Hebrew Decoded. Secular vocabulary development will continue with numbers, animals, food, and other content-related vocabulary. Children will review and continue learning additional elements of the Prayer Service. Holiday study will focus on origins and observances. Classes will engage in weekly mitzvot. The A Year in the two-year sequence will be a study of the State of Israel. The B Year will be a year-long study of great Jews in modern and contemporary times. We are currently exploring the practicality of an A and B year study of cuisine: generally Jewish in one year and specifically Israeli in the alternating year.

4th and 5th Grades

Students beginning Grade Four should also be enrolled in our Tuesday afternoon Hebrew program. While the two classes are independent, the curriculum is designed for each to reinforce the other.

Students attending Fourth and Fifth Grade Religious School will continue to build their Hebrew skills. Children will either use the appropriate level of the textbook Phonetic Hebrew Decoded (focusing on learning the alef-bet and basic Hebrew reading if this is their first experience with Hebrew), or the Hineni series, which assumes basic reading skills in Hebrew. Hineni: The New Hebrew Through Prayer 1 includes the opening prayers in the Shabbat Morning Service and prayers and blessings for the home, including Shabbat and the holidays. Students examine the themes of the prayers as well as their links to Jewish values.

Additional areas of study include Life Cycle Events; Holidays: What are their deeper meanings and why are they important for us today?; Study of Ritual and Symbolic Objects via hands-on art projects; Torah overview (divided into separate, alternating years of study); Tzedaka; in the A Year: Jewish History; in the B Year: Human Rights Through a Jewish lens.

6th, 7th, and 8th Grades

This class is closely coordinated with Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation. The text for this class is the Mishkan T’filah. By the end of 8th grade, children will have a complete grasp of the elements of the Prayer Service. In the A Year, children will delve more deeply into learning about Israel, (e.g., Zionism, How did Israel come into being? The meaning of Israel for Jews worldwide, etc.), and Jewish Rituals (What are they? Which ones do we do? Which rituals don’t we do, and why?). In the BcYear, children will learn about the Holocaust (What happened and why?), and Reform Judaism (History of the Reform Movement, Different Denominations of Judaism, etc.). Holiday experiences will include having this group assist in leading services for our younger students.

The Rabbi and Cantor will co-lead discussions on Moral Choices, asking, What does Judaism say about choices and decisions children face as they grow up? Topics of discussion include: Peer Pressure, Drugs and Alcohol, and Relationships

Children in Sixth and Seventh Grades will work on small group Social Justice / Mitzvah projects. Eighth graders will work on independent projects. Students will have the opportunity to present their work to peers and families at our annual end-of-year Student Sponsorship Breakfast.

Tuesday Hebrew Program

The addition of a new Hebrew faculty and the creation of much smaller classes enables students to be in more homogenous groups and progress more rapidly in their language studies.

The primary goal of our Hebrew program is fluency in reading Torah and prayer book Hebrew. The secondary objective is to introduce our students to basic vocabulary and concepts so that they are aware of the meaning of the prayers they recite. There is very little time for conversational Hebrew in the early stages of our curriculum, but the sixth and seventh grade introduces our students to Modern Hebrew, and we hope to create a Hebrew High School program which will build on that beginning.

Students who are preparing to celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony within the academic year will be working directly with the rabbi -- both individually, on each specific Torah portion, and as a group to learn the liturgy and explore the meanings and purpose of celebrating becoming a bar or bat mitzvah.