The Family School at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation provides an open, welcoming, and enthusiastic environment where Jewish children and their families learn to practice Judaism in a meaningful and enlivening way. It is a safe place for children and their families to express their views, feelings and concerns without being judged.
It is important to us that our students experience our family school as a joyful and meaningful community, and that they feel comfortable and secure in their religious education and upbringing. They will be more likely to be involved in Jewish life if they have a solid foundation: Specific knowledge goals are important, but more important is that we establish a loving and caring place for families to grow into their Jewish identities.
We want our school to feel like home to our students. We want to familiarize our families and students with knowledge of key mitzvot, in order to be empowered to make choices that feel good and right. The family school provides a basic vocabulary of Jewish and Hebrew terms in which to discuss those choices. Torah, Hebrew-language Tefillah (prayer), Middot (values to live by), and the cycle of the Jewish year are touchstones for lives we encourage our families to live—lives lived on Jewish terms.
The best Jewish education models the values it teaches. We make space for all students and families to safely explore and reflect on their inner lives and their relationship with G~d. We include artistic and creative learning modalities as integral components of our learning methodology. All participants are encouraged to think, to reflect, and always to question.
Our experience has shown that students learn best when their study is supported by families who are engaged with and excited by what the children are learning. We are committed to the education of the whole family: Shared meals, interactive programs, and intergenerational learning create a warm, close-knit Jewish community.
Goals of the Family School
Context is more important than specific content. It is more important that our families experience the synagogue and organized Jewish life as a loving and caring community than that specific knowledge and academic goals are rigorously met.
We feel that if our parents experience our congregation as a joyful and meaningful community, they will be more likely to remain involved after their child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah. If our children experience the synagogue as a loving and joyful place, they will be more likely to be involved in Jewish life.
Creating a Foundation of Jewish Literacy
We care deeply about our specific educational goals. The following are not listed according to priority.
- We work to create a comfortable familiarity for our children and families with important Hebrew prayers and blessings
- We endeavor to give our students the ability to read and decode Hebrew so that they can successfully chant Torah from the Torah scroll at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and capably follow Hebrew in our prayer book for their entire Jewish life.
- We provide a basic vocabulary of Hebrew words relevant to synagogue life and the Jewish home for both parents and children.
- We encourage our students and families to attain knowledge of the key mitzvot of Jewish life, and an understanding that to live Jewishly requires practicing mitzvot. We provide our parents and children an opportunity to name and practice a significant number of mitzvot during the course of their education. We wish for our families to gain the tools and skills to practice Judaism and begin to speak about their lives in Jewish terms.
- We provide our families with a comfortable familiarity with the Jewish Holidays and Shabbat, along with a basic understanding of the Jewish calendar.
- We give our students and their families a basic understanding of what the Torah and the Tanach are and we teach the core stories of tradition.
- We teach a basic knowledge of modern Jewish history.
Establishing the Environment
We strive to create an environment that encourages all participants in the Family School to safely explore and reflect on their inner lives as well as on their relationship with God.
We include artistic and creative learning modalities as integral components of our educational methods.
Our family activities are structured experientially so that parents and children can have meaningful interactions and experience closeness with each other.
A corollary, yet important goal of our Family School is to give the widely dispersed Jewish families in our area the opportunity to socialize and to create a community together with other Jews. Shared meals and interactive activities are critical to promote this outcome.
We also strive to create regular opportunities for our Family School families to meet and interact with our broader synagogue community.