Curriculum & Calendar
Jewish scripture instructs us that we should “chanoch l’na-ar ahl pi darco” or “teach each child according to his or her way.” When we lovingly and intentionally do so, we set our children up to grow into knowledgeable Jewish adults. It is our mission to engage our Touro Scholars with a variety of techniques, methodologies and practices that bring out the best in every learner.
We hope that any family who is considering Touro Synagogue as their spiritual home but is unsure about the Religious School program being the right fit for their learners will contact Rabbi Todd Silverman, Rabbinic Director of Lifelong Learning, to set up an in-person meeting.
Scroll down to see an overview of our Pre-K – 10th grade curriculum and use the following links to:
Download our Religious School & Uptown Hebrew Calendar
ABOUT OUR SCHOOL
Touro Synagogue’s youth education program serves students in the range of pre-kindergarten through 10th grade — our “Touro Scholars.” Each week Touro Scholars, ranging from ages 4 to 16, examine various aspects of Jewish life and engage in the traditions and teachings of Judaism which Touro Synagogue values and embodies.
Our two-day-a-week (Sunday/Wednesday) program is dedicated to facilitating students’ interactions with topics like Torah and biblical stories, Jewish history, Jewish values, Shabbat worship practices, personal identity and ethics. On Sundays, students are grouped by their grade in secular school, and on Wednesdays they are able to move freely between groups based on their Hebrew language skills.
Our Touro Synagogue Religious School teachers come from a patchwork tapestry of backgrounds and walks of life. Some are educators by training, while others are lawyers, civil servants, or even still students themselves. Each week they are dedicated to building relationships with each Scholar to create an environment of love, camaraderie and learning that befits our beautiful Jewish traditions.
Our Pre-K program focuses on teaching Jewish values and symbols through stories, art and songs. Each week students engage in hands-on projects which help them build their vocabulary of Jewish beliefs and practices, as well as being able to identify many of the symbols associated with Judaism. Pre-K participates in weekly t’filah prayer experiences with the cantor and the rabbis, where they celebrate, discuss and debate the existential, theological and philosophical nature of Jewish life.
Pre-K at Touro is programmatically designed with families in mind, so they can make the best decisions regarding how they use their time on Sundays. We love seeing students arrive for a day of friends, fun and learning each week. We also love hearing about how families spend quality time together outside our classrooms.
Kindergarten builds on and reinforces the symbols, practices and holidays taught in the Pre-K year. Students participate in art projects meant to make Jewish life tangible and fun. Teachers bring stories and music (and sometimes videos!) to the classroom for Scholars to sing along with and dance to. They are often joined for part of the morning by a member of the clergy team. Basic Hebrew vocabulary is introduced in Kindergarten, as are the essential meanings and practices of Jewish holidays. Additionally, one of the main goals of the year is to build friendships and classroom community as students begin their formal educational journey together at Touro Synagogue.
1st and 2nd Grade
Our first and second grade classes operate on a two-year loop in which students participate in activities based on the Hebrew Through Movement program. Imitating the way people first learn their primary language (i.e. through hearing and responding to commands, requests, questions, etc.), Hebrew Through Movement uncouples the acquisition of Jewish vocabulary from the burden of written or read Hebrew phonics such as the Alef Bet and decoding. Each week students are introduced to 1-3 Hebrew words and are asked to mimic or act them out through games and role play. Mid-way through the year, students also begin to formally learn the letters of the Alef Bet (Hebrew alphabet) in preparation of beginning their formal Hebrew skill acquisition in 3rd grade.
Sundays and Wednesdays
On Sunday mornings, beginning in 3rd grade, Touro Scholars engage with Jewish texts starting with the first book of the Torah, Bereisheet (Genesis). Through the picturesque narrative of its stories, our Scholars become familiar with the important character personalities and situations of Torah. In the following years, they will rediscover these concepts through scripture, poems and prayers. Each week they engage in investigative and hands-on projects which help them grasp and retain Jewish ideas that are the foundational blocks of Jewish education.
Also in 3rd grade, Touro Scholars begin their formal Hebrew education on Wednesday afternoons. This first year of the program historically known as “Uptown Hebrew” entails mastering the Alef-Bet, the Hebrew alphabet through songs, games, “Hebrew Sportz” and reading drills, Scholars work to build ease with the phonetic components of Hebrew which will allow them to practice their skills through basic liturgical texts such as the Shema and Barechu blessings.
Sundays and Wednesdays
In 4th grade, Touro Scholars begin the year by studying and examining Shemot (Exodus), the second book of the Torah, on Sunday mornings. Through its stories and values-rich lessons contained within them, Scholars grapple with moral decisions that they may encounter just as their religious forbearers did. In the second half of the year, they begin to map out and explore the historical and contemporary boundaries of the region/modern state of Israel, as well as its leaders and populace throughout the course of Jewish history.
On Wednesdays, 4th grade Scholars continue building and practicing their Hebrew reading and writing skills, and undertake the mission of learning a number of typical prayers and blessings found in the Shabbat evening service. These include, among others, Kiddush, L’cha Dodi, Ma’ariv Avravim, V’ahavta and V’shamru.
Sundays and Wednesdays
In 5th grade, Touro Scholars examine the process of fulfilling mitzvot (commandments) through the enactment of Jewish lifecycle events. These sacred moments in Jewish time include beginning-of-life rituals, wedding ceremonies, b’nai mitzvah and Confirmation, funerals, and memorial ceremonies. With each of these specific lifecycle events, 5th grade Touro Scholars engage in a three-prong investigation of them: a) Where does this specific lifecycle event originate in our tradition and how has it traditionally been enacted? b) How does Reform/Progressive Judaism handle this lifecycle event in contemporary life? c) How might this lifecycle event be further reconsidered to allow for all Jews to participate in them?
In their Wednesday Hebrew class, 5th graders continue practicing their skills by way of other Shabbat evening blessings as well as Shabbat morning including Modeh Ani, Yotzer Or, Mi Chamocha, Mi Shebeirach and Aleinu L’Shabei’ach. The goal for the year is to build comfort with the Shabbat service in preparation for their final year of Uptown Hebrew where they will begin focusing on the B’nai Mitzvah process, as well as become familiar with certain key terms and prayer names which are thematically linked to the part of the service in which they are found.
Sundays and Wednesdays
On Sunday mornings, 6th graders begin their year by exploring the thematic flow of the Shabbat service. By looking at the history of prayers and the way they are stitched together to craft a service that fulfills Judaism’s theological beliefs and communal desires, Scholars begin to position themselves as both participants and leaders in the Shabbat worship experience. This becomes more important as the year progresses and each student is provided with their B’nai Mitzvah materials in preparation for their own individual coming-of-age service and celebration. As the year progresses, students begin to experience a taste of Torah trope, which they will continue to build upon in their individual B’nai Mitzvah learning sessions with Cantor Mintz.
In their Wednesday Hebrew sessions, students fine-tune their reading skills and solidify their comfort with the Shabbat service blessings and prayers. By the end of the year, students are able to receive a previously unseen text and read it with accuracy, and will use their acquired skills to begin practicing their own Torah and Haftarah portions in preparation for their B’nai Mitzvah.
7th and 8th Grade
Sundays; weekly Hebrew sessions with Cantor
Throughout their 7th and 8th grade years, Touro Scholars are introduced to a variety of Jewish topics by way of “mini-mesters” — three-to-four week long courses taught by members of our community who dedicate themselves to introducing their fields of interest and profession. These mini-mesters touch on topics of bio- and medical ethics, law, social justice, mental- and physical health and wellness, media arts, studio arts and…of course…food.
Each week, our 7th and 8th grade class gather at the start of the day for a light nosh and conversation on a teen-relevant, current topic in the Jewish world. From there, they move into their learning blocks to listen, think and question in a way only teenage minds know how to do. Throughout the year they also find themselves outside the classroom and building, exploring both known and hidden sites of Jewish New Orleans. Every other year, 7th and 8th grade students participate in a Civil Rights-themed trip to Birmingham, AL, where they see sites and hear voices of advocacy and action, and meet teens from other synagogues in New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
For 7th and 8th graders, our Uptown Hebrew program extends through the time of a student’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the form of weekly one-on-one-sessions with Cantor Mintz and/or Rabbi Silverman. These sessions build on the reading and comprehension skills gained in grades 3 through 6
9th and 10th Grade (Confirmation)
The 9th/10th grade Confirmation experience is a two-year loop that explores Jewish identity, spiritual wrestling, and the movements and expressions of Judaism – theologically, sociologically, individually, and communally. Through the use of thought-provoking documentaries, stirring guest speakers, challenging readings, and experiential workshops, the students and rabbi engage in meaningful conversation of complex issues – intended to inspire and encourage an adult approach to integrating Jewish identity and practice into everyday life. Every other year, 9th and 10th graders travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the L’taken program run by the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center.School Calendar 030717
Parent Information 2016-2017