We Have a Plan

by Arliene Botnick, July 1, 2021

This has been quite an interesting school year, quite a challenging year and, to be honest, I’m quite glad the school year has reached its end. There have been wonderful things that have been accomplished this year. All our Bar/ Bat mitzvahs have been outstanding. Our students participated in many, many Saturday streamed services, and attendance at school was actually extremely good. There was also the opportunity for families who lived a distance not to have to drive, which, especially in the winter, was very convenient. But we all missed community, we all missed being together in one building and creating the warmth and the camaraderie that can only happen when you are in person. So now our plan for September.

Our goal is to nurture a strong sense of Jewish identity in our children, to have them understand both on a personal and a communal level what it means to be part of the Jewish people. We hope that we can help them bind themselves inseparably to our people both by word and by deed. We managed to do it all online this year; next school year, we plan to be in person.

We have been meeting with all the grades to talk to you, the parents, about what you’d like to see, and we hope we can learn from all the suggestions you have given us. We are looking at starting school on Sunday, September 19, with classes at Solel. The school, at this point, is not available for rental, and, depending on numbers that are allowed by the public health department, we should have no problem creating space for some 50 children in our various junior grades and middle school. We are looking at grade 8+, our Chai school, to be held not on Sunday mornings but perhaps Sunday evenings (Still to be confirmed) Our opening day will be at 10 AM Sunday Sept 19 – perhaps an outdoor program at Solel and going until noon. On Sept 26, we will have regular school hours from 10:00 to 12:30 at Solel with regular school programming, including music, a short Tefillah session and Hebrew sessions. Our midweek Hebrew, beginning Sept 21, looks like it might be staying online, and this is a decision that most of the supplementary Reform Hebrew schools have made. But if there are students who find online full classes difficult, we will be tutoring one on one either online or in person, depending on what the child needs.

Some of the challenges of having school in the synagogue and not at St Herbert have to do with space, creating social distancing, as well as noise control. It means that there isn’t space for the parents to remain in the synagogue while classes are going on. Their presence would exceed the numbers we are assuming will be allowed in the building and disturb classes that will be set up in various areas of the building. Adhering to the health requirements of our synagogue, all the teachers will have to have received both their inoculations, and if masks are still a requirement in September, we will continue to wear masks and have distance seating in the various areas of the synagogue where the grades can meet.

Our programmes are focussed on teaching your children as completely and as fully as possible about Jewish holidays, lifecycle events, traditions, history, values, texts. We want to give them the skills necessary to participate comfortably in services, and prepare them not only to be ready to become Bar/ Bat mitzvah but to be ready to take an active role in synagogue life. We want to make sure they understand how much Jewish values can impact daily lives and that we not only learn Jewishly but we live Jewishly.

If your child’s class meeting hasn’t taken place yet, I assure you that you will be contacted in the next couple of weeks and your input is truly valued. As well, over the summer months, when there is no Hebrew /Religious school, we hope that some of the skills and some of the concepts the students have been presented with over the year are integrated into their day-to-day life. Celebrating Shabbat and/ or Havdalah at home is an easy way to emphasize Jewish identity. There’s a wealth of amazing music from great Israeli singers out there that the kids would love. Discussing pertinent Jewish topics, preparing for the High Holidays, reading Jewish themed books, studying the weekly parashah – just some ways to keep the kids learning/living Jewishly. You could possibly set up play dates for your child with classmates from Beit Sefer Solel, and there can be Tzedakkah opportunities you can be involved in as a family.

Let’s look forward to a healthier year, a year that will look a lot more normal than this past year, a year during which we can meet together as a community in person. So please, everybody get your two shots, protect one another. And we will see you in September. The plan will work. Have a wonderful healthy summer.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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