2020-2021 Youth & Family Programs
Dear Touro Synagogue Families,
Like so many things in the world that we all hold dear, our religious education and community-building programs for kids, teens, and families are facing a moment of critical and essential change. When we pivoted to online learning back in March, it was our sincerest hope that such a huge shift — borne out of our responsibility to, above all else, maintaining the health, wellness, and safety of our community — would only be temporary, and that we could resume “normal” gatherings at Touro Synagogue in some way by the time autumn arrived. Unfortunately, we now know that returning to large-group, indoor, and/or classroom-based education simply does not align with the best advice and information provided by medical, safety, and health professionals.
From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have always preached, practiced, and operated from one ethical mindset above all else: that we, Touro Synagogue, cannot in good conscience be responsible for any unnecessary exposure to life-threatening circumstances if we can possibly help it. As such, we now know that we will not be able to proceed this year with a religious school program that looks or feels the same as it has in the past.
But we’re not going anywhere. In fact, we’re seizing this moment as a great opportunity!
Beginning this fall, the program formerly known as “Religious School” will take on a new, exciting, and healthful look, modeled after this summer’s highly successful, ridiculously fun(!) weekly youth program — Yamim Yafim: camp-style, outdoors, socially distanced, and in-person.
For returning families, this will be a big change from what your child(ren)’s educational experience with Touro Synagogue has always been; for those whose kids are new to our youth education community, it might seem like something you didn’t expect to be signing up for. No matter what, always remember that we are dedicated to creating and executing the highest-quality learning experiences possible for our congregational family — the kind which builds deep bonds of friendship within our synagogue community, teach and reinforce our time-honored Jewish values and practices, and provide fun and engaging activities that make each kid want to come back the next week. We invite you to read a bit more about our plans for different age groups below, and to complete the online registration form as soon as possible!
Questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us anytime at [email protected]
FOR OUR PRE-K AND KINDERGARTEN FAMILIES
YAMIM YAFIM: SHABBAT BA-BOKER!
Shabbat Mornings at Touro Synagogue
9:30am – 10:45am
Over the summer, we learned a lot about how to prepare and execute kindergarten-friendly programming while keeping to small groups and practicing social-distancing. We started by considering the most important ‘ingredients’ when bringing kids this age together: creativity, silliness, joyful music, and active play. After dreaming up lots of new potential models of learning, and having considered all of the protocols and logistical needs to keep everyone safe and healthy, we’re now really excited to share our vision for the coming year with all of our Kindergarten families.
Beginning in late August, we hold bi-weekly sessions for our Kindergartners and their parent(s) — on Shabbat mornings at Touro Synagogue! Anyone familiar with our monthly Shabbat Rocks! experience can think of it as an organic continuation of that: a chance to spend an hour-and-fifteen minute together hearing stories, making music, playing games, and getting into some seriously creative art projects. While we will have much more information to share with you all in the coming weeks, here’s what we can tell you now:
- The bulk of our Kindergarten sessions will be held in the Bowsky Garden courtyard, where we can maintain a healthy, safe distance between families while still enjoying the beauty and serenity of being together at Touro
- Just like our summertime Yamim Yafim gatherings, every Kindergarten participant will need to have a parent or guardian attend with them each week; this is to make sure that anytime one of them needs any kind of help, someone will be right there next to them
- Also just like during the summer, younger children are welcome to attend with their Kindergarten siblings and parent(s)!
- There will still be a per-child registration fee required to enroll, though it will be significantly reduced from the fee associated with our program for older students
- We will continue to hold Shabbat Rocks! once a month — sometimes online, and sometimes in-person — for all families with kids ages 0-5.
Ready to sign up your Pre-K and Kindergartener(s)? Register Here!
FOR OUR 1ST – 6TH GRADERS
YAMIM YAFIM: SUNDAY FUNDAY!
9:00am-10:15am or 10:45am-12:00pm
We are so excited to expand our awesome, amazing, ridiculously fun Yamim Yafim summer program to span the entire school year! Beginning in late August, all students in 1st through 6th Grade will join Rabbi Silverman, Maya Shaar, and some of the best darn
camp counselors activity leaders in the world for a weekly in-person, camp-style session chock full of games, music, sports, and more — all centered around an array on Jewish values that help transform typical kids into big-hearted mensches and citizens of the world.
In order to fastidiously maintain the health and safety of each and every participant, teacher, and family, Yamim Yafim will:
- Be broken into two sessions of an hour and fifteen minutes each (with siblings able to attend the same session whenever possible)
- Divide each session’s participants into small groups of 10 or less, each supervised by their own teacher/activity leader
- Consist of contact-free/touchless activities in order to minimize any potential virus transmission
We truly believe that the decision to split Sunday mornings into two shortened sessions is the right one, even though it will mean less time together each week. In order to balance this out, we are also doubling down our commitment to provide consistent, meaningful, and engaging online content via our TouroCLE Portal; if you are new to our community or simply have not yet checked out this phenomenal resource, we encourage you to do so right away! We are confident that the combination of Yamim Yafim and weekly online content will be just as fulfilling and enriching as the old in-person model.
But please keep in mind: we know that even this new, modified set-up may potentially pose too great a risk for some families. If, for any health or safety reasons your family does not feel comfortable participating in Yamim Yafim as it has been described, we want to work with you to come up with something that does. All conversations and concerns will, of course, be taken seriously and with the utmost respect; all we want is to find a way for you to be part of the fun.
Ready to sign up your 1st through 6th Grader(s)? Register Here!
(3rd – 6th Graders Only)
From 3rd through 6th Grade, students participate in our formal Hebrew language studies program, Uptown Hebrew, which culminates at the beginning of their B’nei Mitzvah preparations with Cantor Margolius. Content areas of Uptown Hebrew include letter/vowel decoding and word construction, reading rules, accuracy and fluency, and Torah/Haftarah cantillation. Uptown Hebrew this year will be offered virtually, at least for the foreseeable future. We learned throughout the spring that for Hebrew instruction, this online medium is a great one.
How will Uptown Hebrew work? It’s easy!
- Based on their own individual previous experience and Hebrew reading abilities, students will be divided into small group “ pods”
- Each pod will meet weekly for one hour with one of our awesome, seasoned Hebrew teachers via Zoom.
- Teachers will also schedule weekly one-on-one Zoom calls with each student, to provide direct instruction, assessment, and troubleshooting if needed.
Please note: in the past, all in-person Uptown Hebrew instruction has taken place on Wednesday afternoons. We plan to continue scheduling this year’s Hebrew pods for Wednesdays, although each pod may begin and end at different times than others, to accommodate pod members’ availability.
FOR OUR 7TH – 10TH GRADERS
We cherish the time that we get to spend with our older students, and are excited to see them all again soon for deep, thoughtful discussions and fun activities together. We know that the coming school year will be full of big changes and necessarily re-calibrated schedules, and are committed to remaining sensitive to those (and all other) pressures that middle schoolers and high schoolers deal with constantly.
Throughout this year, we will continue to hold bi-weekly sessions for all of our older student cohorts. These will be a mixture of both online and in-person experiences that are relevant, worthwhile of their time and energy, and (most importantly) fun. However, since our new Sunday morning model for younger students will require additional oversight from the clergy and staff, we are committed to working with our 7th-10th grade classes to find the possible alternative (non-Sunday-morning) meeting times and locations.
An Important Note: You may have noticed that the enrollment fee for 7th-10th graders is lower this year than in previous years; this is due to the fact that we typically include the cost of our annual alternating out-of-town trip (7th/8th graders to Birmingham, AL; 9th/10th graders to Washington, D.C.) in the registration process. While it saddens us to do so, we want to be as honest as possible with our upper-grade families about the high unlikelihood that those experiences will take place this year. Of course, if anything changes throughout the year that does allow for some kind of alternative travel experience, we will communicate any additional costs to you right away and do whatever is needed to make sure everyone who wants to participate can do so.
Ready to sign up your 7th through 10th Grader(s)? Register Here!