This year, the grade 9 and 10 New stream students were given the opportunity to explore and learn from the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in their Rabbinics classes. This new curriculum was introduced to meet the needs of the New stream cohort who arrived at TanenbaumCHAT with less Hebrew text knowledge, but with a curiosity to learn about Judaism and living a Jewish life. The Melton School’s Rhythms of Jewish Living textbook was developed as an adult learning course, but we have adapted it for teenage learners. The curriculum focuses on the Jewish calendar, Jewish living, and rites of passage. Each chapter offers a wealth of Jewish texts, ranging from biblical and medieval sources to contemporary essays. This allows for students to explore different interpretations of a topic, and encourages discussion around values and Jewish identity.
Four teachers participated in this curriculum project; Eliezer Robbins and Keren Romm from TCK along with Lyla Abells and Lori Cohen from TCW. The grade 9 curriculum focuses more on the Jewish calendar, including Shabbat and the chaggim, while the grade 10 curriculum focuses more on the Jewish rites of passage. In parallel with the text study we have built in experiential components. For example, while studying Sukkot the students had the opportunity to learn in the Sukkah, to write midrashim about the lulav and etrog, and to participate in the rituals. We have also devoted classes to have both Tu B’Shvat and Pesach Seders.
As teachers, we have benefitted from the clear text and methodology that the Melton School has developed. We’ve had a Melton advisor, Rabbi Morey Schwartz, with whom we have met, both in person and over Skype from Jerusalem. He has encouraged us to share and adapt the curriculum for our students’ needs. We have also been in touch with other Jewish Day Schools in the United States to see how they have successfully used the Melton curriculum.
Megan Werger: “This curriculum exposed us to a perspective and interpretations which make sense, relate, and are useful to us. This new curriculum caters perfectly to the questions we had entering TanenbaumCHAT.”
Josh Slan: “The new Rabbinics program has allowed us to think outside the box. Learning different aspects of Judaism and grappling with different concepts, allow us to discuss the question: why?”
Jaime Turk: “I enjoyed Rabbinics this year. I enjoyed the discussion we had as a class and how we questioned various Jewish texts.”
Erin Zahavi: “This year the Rabbinics curriculum was so much more meaningful than last year’s. Instead of just memorizing facts about Judaism we were able to explore current Jewish issues and ideas, such as the sanctification of time, the conversion process and death and mourning.”
Harrison Berman: “This new curriculum made me appreciate the smaller moments in life and gave me a larger appreciation for Judaism.”
Hannah Greenspan: “This year’s curriculum encouraged us to reflect on our own beliefs, traditions and what is important to us. We explored controversial topics in Judaism and learned new relevant and modern information helping us shape our Jewish identity stemming from our newfound knowledge.”
Simon Grammer: “The new Rabbinics program enables us to have a new, beneficial way of learning Rabbinics that is easier to understand and is much more relatable to grade 10 students.”
We look forward to continuing to develop this curriculum and to expand it to the upper grades with a focus on philosophical and theological issues using the second half of the Melton program, Purposes of Jewish Living.