The primary focus of the Judaic studies program in the Early Years is on the development of the early stages of Jewish identity and Jewish literacy. VTT students become excited about their connections to Judaism and comfortable with traditions and rituals of Shabbat and the Jewish festivals. Judaic studies subjects and activities are naturally integrated into the daily routine and learning. Topics include: morning prayers, Torah stories, Jewish holiday customs, rituals, blessings, and Jewish values.
The goal of the Judaic studies program in the Kindergarten is to build upon and reinforce learning and experiences from Preschool 3 & 4 for our students who were with us for our Early Years program and to integrate new students into their development of Jewish identity and Jewish literacy. Judaic studies are delivered in three ways in the Kindergarten:
- The classroom teachers all cover certain set themes and materials over the course of the year in the areas of daily morning prayers, Torah stories, Jewish holiday customs, rituals, blessings and Jewish values.
- A specialist teacher spends two periods per week in Kindergarten offering an introduction to Hebrew language and the Alef-Bet and additional content about Jewish holidays, including Jewish music and rituals.
- The School Rabbi teaches in Kindergarten in order to provide enrichment of the Judaic program in a variety of areas teaching songs, reading books, teaching on specific topics requested by the teachers, holding grade-wide Kabbalat Shabbat services and special programs, such as a Passover Model Seder or Tashlikh at the beach.
VTT has chosen to implement the world-class TaL AM Hebrew and Heritage Judaic Studies curriculum for Grades 1-5. Designed with the most up-to-date educational and brain development theories in mind, the philosophy of the program is to offer the study of Judaic subject matters while immersed in a Hebrew environment, Hebrew being the linguistic cultural heritage of the Jewish people. While learning in Hebrew, the students develop a deeper and richer connection to their Jewish identity. The TaL AM program provides materials for the studies of Hebrew language, Torah (in-depth) and Weekly Torah Portion, Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and Jewish values.
As students grow through the grades, focus on the immersed Hebrew environment is replaced with emphasis on development of deeper learning of Judaic studies, where conversations in class may take place in English. In addition, supplementary materials are brought in from outside of TaL AM to teach core subjects for Grades 4 & 5 not included in the TaL AM program (i.e. Prophets, Jewish History, and Torah Trope Cantillation).
Grade 6 & 7 is the plateau toward which studies in prior grades have been building in Judaic studies. In conjunction with their growth into adolescence, students in the upper grades now deepen their Judaic learning and strength of Jewish identity by engaging their critical and analytical skills when confronting a variety of Judaic subjects. The questions they ask are given priority over the answers. Curiosity and exploration are at the heart of the Grade 6-7 Judaic studies curriculum in order to prepare our students for their lives as B’nei Mitzvah/responsible members of the Jewish community. We seek to facilitate their ability to understand that Jewish knowledge and values are core to their very beings, not limited to when they find themselves in a specifically “Jewish context.” We hope that students will graduate inspired to continue their Jewish learning throughout their lifetimes.
In order to facilitate these goals, Judaic studies in the upper grades are taught by “specialty” Judaic studies faculty, each focused on specific subject areas. Judaic studies in Grades 6-7 is comprised of: Hebrew Language, Jewish History, Torah (in-depth) and Weekly Torah Portion, Jewish Holidays Laws & Customs, Rabbinics, and Prophets (the Book of I Samuel).