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RS Info. Letter 2020-21

Dear Religious School Families,

Thank you for your patience and perseverance as we went suddenly to remote education in the spring.  Our staff, faculty, and volunteer leadership worked hard to make sure we were following the two pillars of our school - strengthening our current community and building the Jewish community of tomorrow.

We wanted to take a moment to update you on the plans for this fall.  Many things have been up in the air, and we have wanted to be as flexible and as safe as possible, while considering those two pillars.  Here's what we've done:

1) The Temple created a Re-Opening Task Force, which includes medical professionals, people with expertise in schooling, our building, and representatives from our Board of Education and Religious Practices committee.  The Task Force has made a number of recommendations across our activities.

2) The Board of Education has decided to hold all Hebrew and Religious School classes virtually - at least through the first trimester (September, October, November) and will probably follow the Task Force's recommendation not to resume anything at the Temple in person through December.  We are, of course, flexible, should any major change in the situation develop.

3) While we have not yet hired a principal to administer the school, Rabbi Abraham has been working with our former Director of Education, Michelle Shapiro Abraham, to prepare for the fall.  Our Sunday teachers will be meeting next week (a month early) to review the curriculum and begin to plan the best way to engage in live, virtual classes on Sundays, while building connections between our students, and conveying the material that will help them lead meaningful Jewish lives.  (The subject of the first trimester is Modern History - the rise of Reform Judaism and emigration to America.)

3) Our Board of Education has thought about a number of ways to build on what may be an hour of weekly Judaic classroom instruction.  Tentatively, we plan to:
a) Send each child a box which will both have the materials for the trimester, and also something(s) to excite them about the coming year.
b) Encourage class-based, socially-distanced activities (preferentially outdoors).  We are relying on you, our parents, to help plan these activities.  If you can help, you are needed.  Please reach out, and we can help develop Jewishly themed, engaging social activities, that our children can safely enjoy.
c) Although we cannot support the family track program this year, we do have a number of family-based activities that we will distribute that will be important aids to the curriculum. If you are looking for constructive ways to spend family together - we can definitely help.  Since we teach the same curriculum (although at different levels) across the age groups, families with children of any age will be able to find appropriate activities.

4) For Hebrew school, we are exploring on-line options to help as well.  Our hope is to combine full-school tfillah (prayer) experiences weekly, with smaller group meetings with individual teachers that allows individual instruction.  We realize there are schedule challenges and hope to address such concerns.  (As always, the best way to practice prayer Hebrew is to attend a worship service.  You can find log in information on the Temple website, under worship/livestreaming.)

5) Since JU and JU Prep are our most flexible programs, we are finding ways to use on-line opportunities to deepen and innovate in this program as well.  We are not sure of the exact format yet, but a group of JU faculty and Board of Education representatives are meeting to figure this out.  Stay tuned.

6) Our incredible faculty is our biggest asset.  On their own, several teachers have been taking on-line courses in how best to teach Judaically on-line. We will be helping our faculty to collaborate and help each other apply the best wisdom available.

7) We are always welcome to hear your ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Let us know how things are working for your family and your child(ren).  Even in person, one method does not fit every student, and we know that is even more true for distance learning.  Our Inclusion Committee is our permanent in-house consultant for making sure your child gets as much as they can out of Jewish learning.

Thank you for your patience.  The first day of Religious School is Sunday, September 13th, and the first day of Hebrew School is the next Tuesday, September 15th.  We will also have a parent town hall to share any other plans and information.  Watch for exact details of sign ons and materials to come.
Thank you again,

Marv Brander, Board of Ed President
Rabbi Joel N. Abraham


Wed, October 21 2020 3 Cheshvan 5781