P’nai Or OF PORTLAND SIMCHA SCHOOL
P’nai Or of Portland/St Mark Presbyterian Church
9750 SW Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
The focus of P’nai Or’s Simcha School “is to engage children to actively embrace their Jewish learning and integrate it into their personal lives, their families and community,” says Education Coordinator Batya Podos.
The Shabbat school meets Saturday mornings, starting a half hour before services so children can engage with rabbi, hazzan or service leaders. They spend the first part of the morning in their classrooms but return to the sanctuary for the Torah service, taking part in the Torah procession and having a special aliyah where they receive a blessing.
“Although we do not operate on the traditional Hebrew school model, the depth of Jewish experience children receive at P’nai Or’s Simcha School becomes a part of their larger lives,” says Podos. “They are encouraged to ask questions, become ‘God wrestlers’ and take an active part in tikkun olam – this combination of faith and an awareness of social justice stays with them into adulthood.”
Beyond the classroom, students experience mitzvah-centered Judaism and service through ongoing and one-time projects – including hosting an interfaith Tu B’Shevat seder and tree planting at Tryon Creek State Park.
“We have been partners with the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, children have sent school supplies to Cuban Jews, and this year we supported Hand in Hand (Jewish-Arab schools in Israel) as Tzedakah partners,” says Podos, adding she expects that last connection to grow in the coming year.
P’nai Or’s Simcha School serves children ages 5 to 13+. The Renewal congregation also has a teen program PBJ’s (post-b’nai Jews). Music, storytelling, art, living history, mitzvot and service are integrated into their learning.
A new favorite of the program is the quarterly Friday night family Shabbat potlucks, which feature services around the dinner table, much singing and sharing of food and stories.
Congregation Shaarie Torah EDUCATION
Congregation Shaarie Torah
920 NW 25th Ave.
Congregation Shaarie Torah, a conservative synagogue in the heart of Northwest Portland, offers education programs for children, teens, adults and families.
“Shaarie Torah is a tight knit community; we know each and every family by name,” says Education Director Dorice Horenstein. “Our love of Israel and the Jewish people energizes and drives many of our programs. We thrive on the joy of being Jewish, through learning the stories from our past and infusing them with the influences of current events.”
Weekday preschool, weekend religious school, Wednesday night middle and high school all aim to instill Jewish identity in every youth.
Ivrit B’Ivrit is a Shaarie Torah secular pilot program for kids ages 5-7 (Kindergarten-first grade). Children will be immersed in the Israeli culture, Jewish holidays and the Hebrew language through reading, writing, storytelling, games and songs. The program is appropriate for Hebrew speaking children. The program will take place on Wednesday nights September through June.
“Engaging both parents and children, we seek to increase knowledge of our sacred texts, while teaching their relevance in today’s world,” says Horenstein. “Above all, we strive to foster in each member the ability and desire to live a Jewish life, a commitment to tikkun olam (repair of the world), and a sense of joy in experiencing all that our heritage has to offer.”
Beit Haverim Religious School
1111 Country Club Road
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
At Congregation Beit Haverim, teachers create powerful educational experiences that enable students to become critical readers, social justice activists and reflective ritual practitioners.
This Reform congregation in the southwest metro region offers classes for students in pre kindergarten through confirmation.
“Through meaningful experiences and an understanding of, and familiarity with, Jewish rituals of all types, we seek to instill our students with a sense of their spiritual selves and competency in prayer and ritual,” says School Administrator Heather Kirkbride. “Our goals are for our students to use prayer and ritual as a way to center and nurture themselves and to connect to the larger Beit Haverim community.”
Each class goes beyond learning about ritual and social action. They put their lessons into action in a variety of ways. During the school year, each grade leads a Friday Shabbat service focusing on a theme they have discussed in class. On Super Bowl Sunday, the students put together Blessing Bags to help those in need.
“Handing out a Blessing Bag to someone gives you a very real way to meet their immediate needs by providing them with some basic supplies such as toiletries, water, food and warmth,” says Kirkbride.
Beit Haverim Religious School also provides several different learning experiences through hands-on programs, art, music and field trips.
“Our focus on the development of identities provides touchstones for making pragmatic, curricular choices; enables us to chart our personal development throughout our lives; encourages opportunities for experiential learning; and guides us in integrating the study of Judaism with the lives that we lead,” says Kirkbride.
Congregation Beth Israel Religious School
1972 NW Flanders St.
Portland, OR 97209
At Congregation Beth Israel students not only learn Jewish values and ideas, they put them into action.
Every year Beth Israel’s high school students travel to Washington, D.C., to participate as lobbyists with the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. This past year, while lobbying their congressman to support social justice issues, they also “prayed with their feet.” The students participated in a national march of “Black Lives Matter,” a racial justice movement created in the wake of multiple shooting deaths of African-Americans.
From pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Beth Israel students study Torah, defined here as Jewish texts, and ideas at developmentally appropriate levels. Jewish studies, prayer and G’milut Chasadim, acts of love and kindness, are integral parts of their experience. They not only learn the ideas and values in Jewish texts, they become more connected to Judaism as they apply those Jewish values.
“Our teachers, clergy and staff are dedicated to partnering with families to create meaningful and joyful Jewish learning experiences,” says Education Director Ben Sandler.
Beth Israel’s pre-k through fifth-grade program is an arts-integrated curriculum combining Jewish culture with core curriculum and Hebrew language studies.
“Our dedicated, engaged and energized teachers and students, clergy, parents and staff make Beth Israel’s Religious School special,” says Sandler. “The people create a Jewish educational setting that is welcoming, interesting and fun.”
Please contact Education Director Ben Sandler or Education Administrator Ziva Sholin to learn more about our Religious School and Early Childhood Education/Preschool community, classes, and family programs.
Congregation Kol Ami Religious School, Hebrew School & Senior Teens
7800 NE 119th St.
Vancouver, WA 98662
At Congregation Kol Ami, age-appropriate social groups heighten learning and facilitate tikkun olam beyond the classroom.
Education programs include a K-12 weekly religious school, a weekly Hebrew school, and adult education supervised by Rabbi Elizabeth Dunsker and Education Director Lauren Trexler.
“At Kol Ami we believe in a personalized approach to learning, creating personal relationships with students and their families,” says Trexler. “There is a strong emphasis on Family education. … Yom Mishpacha sessions allow students and parents to learn together. Studying together as a family, among peers, and with other parents increases community and builds a strong Jewish identity.”
The Kol Ami Religious School focuses on experiential, project-based learning to engage and excite students.
“KARS is big enough that students are engaged in experiential and creative learning in small classes where students are able to build community with each other as well as find role models and mentors in their teachers,” says Trexler.
Curriculum in kindergarten through eighth grade centers around the study of Torah, Israel, life cycle events, and mitzvot.
Hebrew school students master Shabbat prayers and Torah and Haftarah trope, and continue participating in services past b’nai mitzvah as Torah chanters and song leaders.
The high school program has a four-year rotating curriculum and covers topics on Israel history and politics, Jewish views on sex, Holocaust, and Jewish values through photography. Kol Ami boasts an almost 100% retention rate of students post-b’nai mitzvah.
In 5776 thanks to a fellowship program through the Union for Reform Judaism, KARS will have a Service Corps Fellow. This fellow will help to “cultivate an awareness of the power of camp in the congregation” through special family and Shabbat programming.
Maayan Torah Day School
2900 SW Peaceful Lane
Portland, OR 97239
Maayan Torah Day School is growing again. This year Maayan Torah’s academic excellence in Judaic and general studies will extend through 10th grade.
“Children in our school feel that they love being Jewish and this begins with experiences that start in our preschool,” says Principal Aviel Brodkin. The preschool starts at age 24 months.
The school’s vibrant Jewish atmosphere that focuses on Torah study, Israel and living as Jews continues in elementary, middle school and now high school. “Maayan” is the Hebrew term for a spring of water; at Maayan Torah, teachers seek to instill in each student the love of Torah as a wellspring in their lives.
In addition to the rich Jewish environment, Maayan offers a learner-centered education prioritizing students’ active involvement in acquiring knowledge.
“Our preschool builds ideas and imagination, teaches kids how to be a friend, and how much joy there is in learning,” says Brodkin. “Our preschool program measurably shows how it impacts our students’ success in early elementary grades.”
In elementary school, teachers use the most current best teaching practices to engage students.
“Our students score high in academic areas because we use small groups to challenge students on multiple levels,” says Brodkin. “Parents speak of the sincere care of staff for students and individual attention. … Surveys showed that a majority of families spoke of how happy they are with their children’s development as above-grade-level readers and writers.”
This year Maayan Torah received accreditation from AdvancED, which conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools to ensure that all learners realize their full potential. Brodkin says that during the review, the school was noted for excellence in teaching and school leadership.
Congregation Neveh Shalom
2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland OR 97239
Foundation School Preschool:
www.foundationschoolpdx.org | 503-293-7307
ALIYAH Jewish Learning Program:
www.nevehshalom.org | 503-293-7306
At Neveh Shalom, we want our kids to grow up loving being Jewish,” says Director of Congregational Learning Mel Berwin.
The experience begins with the Foundation School (ages 12 months-5 years).
Based on the ideals and traditions of the Jewish faith and open to all, the Foundation School is dedicated to providing exceptional early childhood education.
“We encourage the development of each child’s creativity, curiosity and character through age-appropriate practices,” says Director of Early Childhood Education Leah Conley. “By valuing play as a child’s natural way of learning, our qualified and experienced teachers encourage the growth of the total child: intellectual, social, emotional, physical and spiritual.”
Conley says a highlight of last year was watching PreK students build their own city. As architects, they drew sketches and planned their projects. As builders, they created buildings. They held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the months of work they put in as a community to build a world of their own.
Older children participate in the warm community of Aliyah where they experience Jewish holidays and traditions, gain strong Hebrew language skills, and grow from the many opportunities for meaningful leadership within the congregational community.
“Aliyah helps kids develop their own ‘what, how, and why’ of Jewish life,” says Berwin. “Kids growing up in Portland are not saturated with Jewish experience. Aliyah provides the community and the experiences that allow youth of all ages to understand their Jewish culture, holidays, language, history and values.”
Each K-6 grade has its own goals in the area of Hebrew, Tefilah (Prayer) and Yahadut (Jewish building blocks) plus a specific mitzvah or Jewish value to focus on for the year.
Seventh-12th graders keep their connections with friends on Wednesday evenings, enjoying dinner and two learning sessions: a core, grade-level session and a mixed-age elective.
PORTLAND JEWISH ACADEMY
6651 SW Capitol Hwy.
Portland, OR 97219
The mission of Portland Jewish Academy is to ensure an academically excellent environment in which children thrive. PJA nurtures and inspires positive Jewish engagement, respect for human and religious differences, and responsibility for the world in which we live. PJA teaches children to think for themselves and work for the world. The school serves children from 6 weeks through eighth grade.
In 2014-15 PJA focused on several enrichment initiatives. While STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math – is a focus in all classrooms, last year PJA created a school-wide, hands-on STEAM museum. Each grade set up an exhibit and then taught a related lesson to another grade. Several middle school students held a STEAM fair exhibiting research worked on independently and with faculty mentors. Two of these were exhibited in the OMSI science fair and one has been chosen to move on to a national science fair competition.
PJA also launched two other exciting innovations. In the first Shelter Feed, middle school students helped prepare and serve meals at four shelters in Portland. PJA also embarked upon an adult and family education initiative; Limmud 2.0 and Café Limmud brought in rabbis and community educators to offer learning opportunities for PJA families on and off campus.
One of PJA’s greatest strengths is their faculty. In a recent family survey, 100% of families who responded said that their child’s teachers know their children well, and that their children are challenged and engaged at school every day.
“In addition, students are supported both in the classroom and in small groups outside the class by our very able and professional support services faculty who work with students on literacy, math, organizational skills and social/emotional challenges. This year we also added a math enrichment focus in our lower school,” says Principal Merrill Hendin.
HAROLD SCHNITZER FAMILY PROGRAM IN JUDAIC STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
Susan Campbell Hall, Room 311
5273 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-5273
Established in 1998, the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Oregon is an interdisciplinary program that provides a broad liberal-arts background in an intimate small-class setting. Graduates find careers in a wide range of professional fields from business and high-tech to law, communications and nonprofit administration. The program also prepares students to go on to graduate work in Judaic studies, religious studies, archaeology and anthropology, as well as, the rabbinate and cantorial schools.
“When you study Judaic Studies, you study the world,” says Deborah Green, Greenberg Associate Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature and Director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies.
Most of our courses fulfill general education requirements; thus, several of our students opt to have a double major or minor in Judaic studies. The program focuses on language, history and contemporary Judaism in the states and abroad. Students can add to their stateside studies through participation in the university’s study abroad program – either in Israel or in countries in Western and Eastern Europe. The University of Oregon maintains reciprocity with Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion in Haifa. Judaic Studies faculty and study abroad advisors are available to ensure college credit at any of the accredited programs in Israel and Europe.
Judaic studies faculty comprise professors from across many disciplines: anthropology, art history, comparative literature, English, geography, Germanic languages and literature, history, landscape architecture, music, philosophy, political science, religious studies, romance languages, sociology, and women’s and gender studies. Topics include Israelis and Palestinians, American Jewish Cultures, contemporary Jewish Literature, Holocaust Studies, Medieval Spain, Women and Judaism, Jews and Christians through the Centuries, Bible and Early Judaism, among others.
Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies
Portland State University
University Center Building, Ste. 465
1881 SW 5th Ave.
Portland, OR 97207
The Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies was established to foster academic achievement, civic engagement and leadership skills through rigorous and in-depth interdisciplinary study of Jewish history, culture and civilization.
“Thanks to the program’s intimate learning environment, students benefit from the type of personal attention normally associated with small liberal arts colleges while still having the advantages of a large urban university,” says Natan Meir, Lokey Associate Professor and Academic Director of PSU’s Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies.
The four core faculty members – Meir, Rabbi Joshua Stampfer Assistant Professor of Israel Studies Nina Spiegel, Associate Professor Michael Weingrad and Assistant Professor Loren Spielman – focus on ancient Jewry, modern Jewish history, Israel Studies and Jewish literature. Working with affiliated faculty in Hebrew language, medieval history and Middle East studies, they create an enriching and stimulating atmosphere.
“In September of 2014 our program began offering an undergraduate major in Judaic Studies,” says Meir. Students undertaking the B.A. in Judaic Studies can choose from concentrations in Judaism; Jews in Antiquity; Israel Studies; Modern Jewish History; and Literature, Culture and the Arts.
Integral to the program’s mission is a strong commitment to community engagement, which includes a broad array of programming such as lectures, seminars, and arts events.
The community will certainly be engaged in October when the Judaic Studies Program will present the inaugural Larry and Pam Levy Event. The weekend of Oct. 8-11, 2015, will be dedicated to the study of the Sephardic Diaspora. The weekend will include a concert and workshop by the Guy Mendilow Trio, whose “Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed” explores the rich diversity of music created by Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. The program will also feature lectures by scholars from across Oregon.