School/Education Profiles

Congregation Beth Israel
1972 NW Flanders St.

Congregation Beth Israel’s Religious School creates an environment where students in kindergarten through 12th grade learn to be comfortable being Jewish.

Younger students (K-5th grade) experience Judaism through their senses; music, art, cooking and stories expose them to the richness of Jewish culture. Intermediate students search for answers to life’s questions through an exploration of Jewish values and feelings. Older students develop awareness for Judaism’s rich history and modern Jewish community. They are encouraged to apply Jewish concepts to social action and personal decision making.
This past year, one bar mitzvah student did that in a very visible way.

“In this historic year for marriage equality in Oregon, one of our students gave a speech on the topic, which went viral on YouTube receiving more than 200,000 views,” says Education Director Ben Sandler. “The video discussed his belief that people should be able to marry who they love. His speech and the other social justice projects and speeches given by our students truly impacted our community and society, as our students actively engaged in tikkun olam (repairing the world).”

In addition to developing mitzvah projects, b’nei mitzvah students also develop proficiency in Hebrew through CBI’s Integrated Hebrew Program. Meeting in addition to regular Religious School Sundays, the Integrated Program teaches students to read Hebrew with accuracy and normal pace and phrasing; to understand and speak basic Hebrew vocabulary and have some basic knowledge of prefixes, suffixes and sentence structure; and to become a fluent participant in the service.

The school also has a strong focus on the arts. Students regularly attend specialty sessions for music, dance, drama and crafts, including art mediums such as ceramics, print making, drawing and collage. Students in grades 2-5 are welcome to join Cantor’s Chanters, our children’s choir.

“Congregation Beth Israel is not just the beautiful byzantine sanctuary where our mishpacha minyan (family service) takes place every Sunday; Beth Israel is the people,” says Ben. “Our dedicated and talented rabbis, cantors, teachers and madrichim make joyful learning and community building top priorities and create a Jewish educational setting that is welcoming, interesting and fun.”

Portland Jewish Academy
6651 SW Capitol Highway Portland, OR 97219

Portland Jewish Academy is a member of RAVSAK, the national consortium of community Jewish day schools. As a community school, PJA serves students from a diverse range of Jewish practice and provides a strong foundation in both general and Jewish education. Our mission is to ensure an academically excellent environment in which children thrive.

This year 10 PJA students in 4th through 8th grade were recognized in local, state and national arts and literary competitions. PJA is fully accredited through the Northwest Association of Independent Schools.

“By serving children from 6 weeks through 8th grade, we create a strong community of learners,” says PJA Principal Merrill Hendin. “Our early childhood department has increased its focus on Hebrew and Jewish studies, and our preschoolers have classes with our school librarian and enjoy physical education and Israeli dance that supplement our already strong and enriching curriculum.”

Being housed at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center enables PJA to partner with a strong Jewish community institution in a beautiful facility.
PJA nurtures and inspires positive Jewish engagement, respect for human and religious differences, and responsibility for the world in which we live. PJA has an inquiry-based, project oriented curriculum, with a full arts and physical education program.

For the past two years, PJA has focused on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics – in all grades. We continue to invest in the latest technology and integrate technology into our already deep and thoughtful curriculum in ways that serve to enhance students’ experience in the classroom.

One of PJA’s most important initiatives in recent years is in the area of support services. We strive to serve a diverse community of learners in all subject areas. PJA has added faculty and worked with consultants and a committee of lay leadership to continue to meet the needs of our students.

“At PJA our students think for themselves and work for the world,” says Merrill. “Students who graduate from PJA are successful in high school and beyond, and are known for their strong writing and critical thinking skills, science knowledge and continued engagement in Jewish life and values.”

Beit Haverim
1111 Country Club Road
PO Box 311 Lake Oswego, OR 97034

Beit Haverim’s Religious School provides a quality, Jewish religious education/experience from preschool through confirmation thus providing a building block in the spiritual and moral foundation upon which students build fulfilling lives for themselves, practice lifelong Jewish learning, and sustain Jewish traditions in years to come.

“At Beit Haverim we view Judaism as a way of life and encourage families to attend services at Beit Haverim and practice meaningful Jewish traditions at home as a way of holistically educating children in our tradition,” says Michelle Bombet Minch, who chairs the congregation’s Marketing/PR Committee.
“Our Religious School, with its small class sizes and dedicated teachers, gives our students from both Jewish and interfaith families an excellent Jewish education in a comfortable and enjoyable setting,” she adds.

Throughout the school year, Rabbi Alan Berg provides supplemental programs to enrich students’ experiences of Jewish life. The school’s mission is to ensure students gain basic knowledge of the Bible stories, the weekly parsha, Jewish music, dance, art and Israel programming. Arts are integrated into the classroom through Israeli dancing, painting, music and more.

Beginning in kindergarten, students explore Jewish values including the concepts of tzedakah and tikkun olam (healing the world). That learning culminates in sixth and seventh grade with participation in tikkun olam projects in the community. Last year the sixth/seventh grade class helped pack Thanksgiving food boxes for families in need.

The sixth/seventh grade class also took a variety of field trips to the Oregon Jewish Museum and a performance of the Fiddler on the Roof. Our religious school is augmented by our Tot Shabbats held one Saturday morning a month. Led by Rabbi Berg, the fun- filled, casual service of songs and stories is followed by snack and a craft. “We bring Shabbat to life for our preschool aged children and their families,” says Michelle. “These events give your child a sense of Shabbat in a pleasant environment, as well as a chance for you to celebrate Shabbat with your child and other young families at Beit Haverim.”

Congregation Shir Tikvah
7550 NE Irving St. Portland, OR 97213

Congregation Shir Tikvah offers educational programming for Jewish children of all ages. “Our goal as educators is to encourage lifelong learning and engagement with Judaism,” says Education Director Katie Schneider. “We believe that parents are the first and best teachers. We’re here to support them in whatever way possible.”

Shir Tikvah’s program for school-aged children (ages 4-13) is called the Nashira Education Project. Their schedule combines 18 Sunday morning classes with congregation-wide celebrations. Classes are held at the Tucker Maxon Oral School on Southeast 28th and Holgate.

At Shir Tikvah, educators are able to tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of individual students. Some highlights from last year were an archaeological “dig,” a Noah’s Ark construction project and instruction on Israel from a college student just back from the Middle East. Schoolwide artist visits, like last November’s presentation by Oregon Book Award winner Barry Deutsch, expose students to the breadth and depth of the Jewish community here in Portland. Parents are encouraged to stick around while their children learn, to have a cup of coffee with friends or sit in on the parent discussion group with Rabbi Ariel Stone.

“We tackle Judaism’s big questions in age-appropriate ways,” Schneider says, “and do our best to welcome families of all different backgrounds.”
Chevra, Shir Tikvah’s youth group, offers high school students an opportunity to continue their religious involvement post bar and bat mitzvah. Whether it’s attending “Fiddler on the Roof ” at Portland Center Stage or working on tzedakah projects, Chevra students engage with Judaism in an active, hands-on way. They also receive support to develop leadership and Torah reading skills.

For the very youngest congregants, Shir Tikvah also offers an informal Jewish playgroup for infants and toddlers. The group meets on the same days as programming for older kids at Tucker Maxon Oral School. Shir Tikvah also will be sponsoring a “Shabbat Storytime” starting in September. These will take place at the synagogue on Irving Street.

Congregation Kol Ami Religious School, Hebrew School & Senior Teens
7800 NE 119th St.
Vancouver, WA 98662

Congregation Kol Ami education programs include a K-12 weekly religious school, Hebrew school and adult education all supervised by Rabbi Elizabeth Dunsker and Education Director Lauren Trexler. Age-appropriate social groups heighten the learning and facilitate tikkun olam.

Congregation Kol Ami recently received an honorable mention certificate from the Union for Reform Judaism’s Epstein Communicate Awards recognizing the congregation’s successful and innovative educational programs.

The Kol Ami Religious School engages students in experiential and creative learning in small classes where students are able to build community with each other and find role models and mentors in their teachers. The kindergarten through 8th grade curriculum centers around the study of Torah, Israel, life cycle events and mitzvot. The high school program, Kol Ami Senior Teens, has a four-year rotating curriculum that covers Israel History & Politics, Jewish Views of Sex, the Holocaust and Study of Jewish Values through Photography. Kol Ami boasts an almost 100% retention rate of students post-b’nei mitzvah.

“At Kol Ami we believe in a personalized approach to learning, creating personal relationships with students and their families,” says Lauren. “Our strong emphasis on family education will expand in 5775 as we introduce Yom Mishpacha sessions – days that 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.”

Students in the Hebrew school not only master Shabbat prayers, but also Torah and haftarah trope and continue participating in services past b’nei mitzvah as Torah chanters and song leaders. They also volunteer as tutors in the Hebrew School after becoming bar or bat mitzvah.

“We are very proud of our school and of our students,” adds Lauren. “Our students have found employment opportunities during college as teachers and Hebrew tutors at congregations near their schools. Many of them come back and volunteer in our school when they are home for vacation. We work hard to give them Jewish knowledge and skills as well as instill in them the value of community and their role in the continuity of the Jewish community wherever they find themselves.”

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Oregon
UO Baker Downtown Center, 975 High St., Eugene, OR 97401
UO Bend Center and The Duck Store, 80 NE Bend River Mall Dr., Bend, OR 97701
800-824-2714 (UO Academic Extension) 541-346-0697 (Eugene-Springfield) 541-728-0685 (Central Oregon)

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Oregon is designed for adults “ages 50 and better.” Members shape the programming to expand their views of the world and enrich their lives and communities.

“Members at our Central Oregon site organized an eight-week course on Gettysburg to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle,” explains OLLI-UO Program Director Ruth Heller. “Five OLLI members with varying backgrounds gave overviews of the battle scene, military strategy, politics and personalities of the generals, weaponry and the role of women in battle.”

In Eugene-Springfield, a member of the UO faculty partnered OLLI members with students of the UO Honors College for a seminar in Feminist Science Fiction.

“Our members describe the program well,” says Heller. Those comments include: “The topics, ideas and people keep me thinking and exploring.” “It’s always a mind expanding experience.” OLLI-UO is an intellectual and social community of engaged adult learners committed to celebrating the joy of learning. Membership is open to all interested adults; a previous affiliation with the University of Oregon is not a requirement of membership.

The OLLI-UO curriculum is diverse, encompassing many areas of focus from current events to the sciences, humanities, and appreciation of the visual and performing arts.

Congregation Neveh Shalom
2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland OR 97239

ALIYAH Jewish Learning Program

Foundation School Preschool

Neveh Shalom is committed to meaningful education at all stages of life. “At Neveh Shalom, kids grow up loving being Jewish,” says Director of Congregational Learning Mel Berwin.

Children ages 2 to 5 attend the Foundation School, which celebrates its 60th year this fall. We see our students as extraordinarily capable learners, says Early Childhood Director Leah Conley. We respect them as individuals exploring the world around them. We provide opportunities and challenges that are within their grasp but not beneath their capacity. Through emergent curriculum, students partner with teachers. Children are encouraged to test their theories of the world and develop a love of learning, a strong sense of self-reliance and a solid foundation for critical thinking. Foundation School is grounded in Jewish values. We are committed to nurturing good citizens and providing exceptional early childhood education.

The learning continues for kindergartners through 12th graders in the ALIYAH Jewish Learning Program.

“In the warm community of ALIYAH, our students experience Jewish holidays and traditions, gain strong Hebrew language skills, and grow from the many opportunities for meaningful leadership within the congregational community,” says Berwin.

“ALIYAH helps kids develop their own ‘what, how and why’ of Jewish life. 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 culture, their holidays, their language, their history and their 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. Sunday classes also include chugim (specialty activities) such as art, music, dance, drama, Jewish super-heroes and other creative topics. Students have many opportunities to “live” their Judaism through leading services, celebrating holidays, putting on a Jewish wedding celebration, cooking or participating in tzedakah projects that support others.

Seventh- to12th-graders choose projects such as: Interfaith Project on Hunger; Social Issues from a Jewish perspective; Sacred Space: Designing a 21st Century Synagogue; or Voices & Visions: using art and words as commentary on sacred texts.

The Gan-Portland Jewish Preschool
6612 SW Capitol Hwy. Portland OR, 97239

At The Gan-Portland Jewish Preschool, children thrive in a creative, progressive Jewish environment under the care of exceptionally loving and nurturing staff. In addition to its preschool for children ages 18 months to 5 years, The Gan offers a Mommy & Me program for children from birth to 2 years accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

The Gan is a Reggio-inspired preschool that is certified eco-friendly. With a warm and welcoming atmosphere, the preschool has developed a diverse and community-centered that is joyfully Jewish.

“We believe that children learn best when they are encouraged to explore their environment and express themselves through words, movement, drawing, painting, playing and other natural modes of expression,” says Preschool Director Mimi Wilhelm. “We promote an atmosphere in which children can develop collaboration and critical thinking skills that will serve them throughout their lives. At The Gan, we strive to inspire curiosity, creativity and compassion in a joyfully Jewish environment!”

The Gan-Portland Jewish Preschool nurtures development and education through open-ended, investigative opportunities for learning that bolster children’s natural curiosity and the joy of discovery. We focus on hands-on, meaningful science experiences such as tending the preschool garden, or observing hatching chicks.

Children bake challah every Friday, celebrate Jewish holidays, and explore Jewish traditions, music and symbols. Weekly, children enjoy special music and stories in Hebrew with Hebrew language instructors. In addition, children enjoy a monthly Friday morning music program in honor of Shabbat with Kim Palumbis.

“This year we raised the funds for the first phase of our natural playground,” says Mimi. “Our natural playground includes a hill with slides, boulders, tree stumps, garden boxes and a sand box. A natural playground allows children to stretch their muscles and their imagination.”

Due to increasing demand, the Gan has added two new preschool classrooms for the 2014-2015 school year.

Maimonides Jewish Day School
Chaya Rivkin, Judaic Studies Director, Devora Wilhelm, Principal, Simi Mishulovin, Admissions
6612 SW Capitol Hwy. Portland, OR 97239

At Maimonides Jewish Day School, children in kindergar- ten through eighth grade thrive at the highest levels of Jewish and general studies. In an atmosphere infused with respect for all, teachers instill knowledge and values to ensure meaningful and intentional lifelong connections to Jewish living.

Everything we do at Maimonides is based on the essential question: How does what we do support each child’s cognitive, social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual development?

To consistently address this question, MJDS Admissions Director Simi Mishulovim says, “We affirm that each child is a unique, valuable individual created in the image of G-d; therefore all children deserve to be known and respected. We consider differences in learning styles, interests, ideas, strengths and challenges and support them through our lesson plans. Further, we believe students should be active participants in their learning and genuinely invested in developing and discovering knowledge.”

Students engage in experiential learning that is authentic, holistic and challenging. Along with core lessons which incorporate reading, writing, math, science, social studies and art standards, the small classroom sizes allow teachers to tailor the curriculum to meet children where they are academically and socially, and to help them meet their highest potential. Additionally, through projects such as our learning garden, designing models of watersheds, or observing the behaviors of a class pet, students learn new concepts, and real-life critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“We use cutting edge curriculum for Hebrew language and Jewish studies,” says Judaic Studies Director Chaya Rivkin. “The Torah is a book of lessons for a meaningful life; every day at school, students learn another lesson that prepares them to be thoughtful and ethical individuals. We incorporate these values throughout the day, in everything we do.”

Maimonides’ recently-expanded campus includes an outside amphitheater to be used in multiple ways, such as an outdoor lunch area and stage for school performances. The expansion is adding more features including a natural playscape, a basketball court and a sports field.

Harold Schnizter Family
Program in Judaic Studies Portland State University
465 UCB, 1881 SW 5th Ave.
PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207
503-725-8449 Adult (B.A.)
Natan Meir, Academic Director and Associate Professor

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. The interaction of our four core faculty members, working in the study of ancient Jewry, modern Jewish history, Israel Studies, and Jewish literature, together with affiliated faculty in Hebrew language, medieval history, and Middle East Studies creates an enriching and stimulating atmosphere. 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. 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 major in Judaic Studies trains students of all back- grounds in the skills and tools associated with the academic study of Judaism and Jewish culture, offering knowledge and understanding of a major world civilization, with important and widely applicable lessons in close reading, canonicity, historical analysis, the complexity of identity, and the dynamics of tradition and modernity. Through exploration of Jewish culture, Jewish contributions to other cultures, and the impact of modernity on national, ethnic, and religious identity, students will have broadened and deepened their education, better preparing them for our interconnected world of diverse cultures and religions. Our program offers major and minor degrees in Judaic Studies. 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.

The University recently approved the major in Judaic Studies, opening the way for the launch of the first undergraduate degree in Judaic Studies in the greater Portland area in fall 2014. Larry and Pam Levy, longtime supporters of the program, established the Levy Program Fund to support innovative academic programming on an annual basis.

Students undertaking the major in Judaic Studies at PSU may be eligible for a number of scholarships which cover a portion or full cost of tuition and fees.

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