Kehillat Ma'arav, a Conservative synagogue in Santa Monica, thinks it has a winning formula for the eternal challenge of Hebrew school.
First, it did away with Sunday school, which was constantly competing with sports, music, tutoring and family activities. The Tuesday program was lengthened to three hours, but rather than relying on one teacher to cover all subjects, students go to specialized classes in Hebrew language, prayer and holidays, Bible and ethics -- much as they move from math to science in school.
It cuts down on boredom, said Cantor Keith Miller, who did the revamp with Rabbi Michael Gottleib.
"The kids realize there is a finite amount of time in class, so they are excited to maximize that time and they come into class ready to start," said Miller, who is also the education director at the 300-member synagogue. The school has about 60 students in its second- through seventh-grade classes.
Kehillat Ma'arav also developed Club Shabbat, a junior congregation for Hebrew school children, which integrates the Hebrew school families with those families who come for services every week.
This congregation has long sought ways to make its school more innovative. Two years ago, Kehillat Ma'arav revamped its high school program by teaming up with Shaarei Am, a Reform congregation in the neighborhood. Teens from both congregations study together every week.
For more information, call (310) 829-0566 or go to www.kmwebsite.com.
After School Academics
B'nai David-Judea Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Pico-Robertson, is opening a new religious school for fourth- through sixth-graders with minor learning problems who attend public or private secular schools rather than Jewish day schools.
"For a lot of kids, day school is just too fast-paced, with too much homework and too many subjects to master," said Janet Fuchs, a mother who helped establish Torah Club with B'nai David's Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky.
Eight kids and a teacher are already signed up for September classes, which will meet twice a week for two hours. Fuchs hopes the program will not only educate the kids but, more importantly, give them a sense of community. The vast majority of traditionally observant kids go to day school, leaving those who don't out of the social loop.
Students at Torah Club will study the holidays, the prayerbook and the weekly Torah portion, but not Hebrew language, which eliminates the need for homework.
For more information, contact B'nai David-Judea at (310) 276-9269 or BDJ@bnaidavid.com.
Calling All Authors
If, like most Angelenos, you have a manuscript in your desk it's time to pull it out. If it's geared toward 8- to 11-year-olds, that is. The Association of Jewish Libraries is accepting submissions for the 21st annual Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition for aspiring authors of children's books. The best fiction manuscript written by an unpublished author that serves to deepen an understanding of Judaism will receive a $1,000 award.
For entry forms and rules, go to www.jewishlibraries.org, then click on Awards, then click on Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award. Deadline for submission of manuscripts is Dec. 31, 2005.
Around the Fringe The Gift of Summer
Nine Southern California children were able to attend camp this summer thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Education. The Beverly Hills-based nonprofit gives scholarships to unaffiliated, financially strapped families so their children can enjoy a summer experience of Jewish education and identity building. All nine attended Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, which also contributed to the scholarships.
For more information on the Foundation for Jewish Education, visit www.tfjeinc.org or call (310) 273-8612.
The Winners Are...
Downey B'nai B'rith Lodge 1112 presented five students Al Perlus Awards for scholastic and community achievement. The recipients of the $25 or $50 scholarships are: Vanessa Vasquez of South Gate High School; Byron D. Zacarias of Bell High School; Mercedes Perez of Huntington Park High School; Lauren Duran of Downey High School, and Mathew Vasquez of Warren High School.
Emek Hebrew Academy graduate Adam Deutsch won third place in the Jossi-Berger Holocaust Study Center Essay and Poetry Contest, a national contest sponsored by Emunah of America. His poem, "Will There Be Another Day?" dedicated to the 6 million Jews murdered during the Shoah, is posted at www.Emunah.org.
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