Or Shalom Religious School Earns
Or Shalom’s Religious School was awarded its Certificate of Accreditation by the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE) in December 2012. The accreditation process was a 1 ½ year effort on the part of the education committee, board of directors, teachers and congregants to review and assess each part of our religious school program, culminating with a weekend visit from the ARJE site team. There are only 21 accredited religious schools of the 875 Reform synagogues in North America. We are very proud of the accomplishment of our congregation and its commitment to quality Jewish education.
The 2016 5th & 6th Grade Retreat at OSRUI will be held November 4–6
Here's a photo and YouTube video from last year's retreat:
Preschool: Holiday Happenings for Preschoolers & Parents
Our preschool class for three- and four-year-olds meets once each month with a parent. Together they will get a ta’am (taste) of all the excitement and joy that Judaism has to offer. Participants will learn about the Jewish holidays and symbols through arts & crafts, stories, songs, cooking and games. This class is a wonderful introduction to Or Shalom for both our preschoolers and their parents. Children and parents alike form close friendships that will last well past bar/bat mitzvah.
THE PRESCHOOL CLASS IS OPEN TO BOTH MEMBERS AND NONMEMBERS!
Kindergarten: Learning About Mitzvot & Our Jewish Holidays
Kindergarten students meet weekly on Sunday mornings and are introduced to the beauty of Jewish life, customs and traditions. Working toward the goal of each student developing a feeling of pride in being Jewish, we begin our kindergarten year by calling our students to the bimah on Simchat Torah, where they recite the Sh’ma prayer and receive their very own baby Torah at the Consecration service. Our classroom activities include crafts, music, library visits and stories as we introduce the concept of Jewish ethics (mitzvot) to our young students. We will also introduce and celebrate each Jewish holiday.
1st Grade: Holidays & Discovering God
The focus of the first-grade year is the child’s role in the family’s observance of holidays and our relationship with God. Students will learn each holiday story along with its key ritual objects, vocabulary, and observances using hands-on experiences such as art projects, singing, dancing and cooking/eating! First-grade students will also explore basic concepts about God—our Covenant with God, how we talk to God and how we act in God’s image.
2nd Grade: Exploring the Synagogue, Acts of Lovingkindness
and Introduction to the Hebrew Alef-Bet
Our second-grade students learn about the people and ritual objects found in the synagogue. The goal of the year is to acquaint each student with all aspects of the synagogue as a place where Jews gather to pray, study and meet other Jews. We will also introduce the concept of gemilut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness), and gain familiarity with some of the letters of the Hebrew alef-bet. As we progress through the year, our second graders will celebrate each Jewish holiday and learn the meaning and rituals associated with each holiday.
Hebrew School Programs
for Grades 3 through 6
Congregation Or Shalom believes that children must be equipped with a solid foundation in the Hebrew language in order to fully appreciate our worship service and to connect them with the spirit of the Jewish people and Israel.
Our Hebrew school curriculum is designed to provide students with the following:
- A familiarity with the Hebrew language
- The ability to read and write in Hebrew
- A basic Hebrew conversational vocabulary
- An understanding that Hebrew is an important part of our Jewish history and culture, and that Hebrew is both a holy and a living language
- The ability to follow and lead a worship service and to understand the order of the service
- A knowledge and understanding of the prayers for weekdays, Shabbat and holidays
- Familiarity with the melodies of the prayers that are chanted during services and songs connected with our holidays
Hebrew School Options for Grades 3 through 5
Third–fifth-grade students can choose between our two program options, attending on Sunday mornings/Wednesday afternoons (Family School) or on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons.
The schedules for these two program options are as follows:
Family School: Wednesdays 4:30–6:30 p.m. & Sunday mornings (early session 8:45–10:35 a.m., or late session 10:50 a.m.–12:40 p.m.)
Tuesday/Thursday program: 4:30–6:30 p.m. weekly
Third – Fifth Grade Family School Program
Or Shalom has one of the largest and most successful family school programs in the country and provides an opportunity for third–fifth-grade students and parents to learn together. Students attend class every Sunday morning and on Wednesday afternoons. Once a month on Sunday mornings, parents join their children in family workshops to study Torah, Bible, Israel or holidays and traditions. This is done through hands-on activities such as drama, art, music, storytelling and games.
The Family School curriculum covers the same Judaic and Hebrew concepts as covered in the integrated Tuesday/Thursday Hebrew program described on the following pages. On “student-only” Sundays and Wednesdays, children learn Hebrew in the classroom with their grade-age peers.
An additional benefit of this program is that families have the opportunity to meet, study and socialize with other Or Shalom families and really build a sense of community.
Third – Fifth Grade Integrated Hebrew & Judaica Curriculum
3rd Grade: Introduction to Hebrew & the Torah
Third graders begin to study the Hebrew language. Students learn how to read (decode) and write in both block and cursive. They master some basic Hebrew vocabulary and learn the blessings associated with each Jewish holiday. Additionally, third grade students are introduced to our most important text, the Torah. Beginning with the story of creation, students learn all the major bible stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs through the birth of Moses.
4th Grade: Hebrew Studies & Israel
Our fourth-grade students will advance their reading and writing skills and begin to work on Hebrew prayers. The prayer curriculum will be supplemented with easy Hebrew stories to teach modern Hebrew conversational skills. Fourth graders also study the land and people of modern Israel. They will learn about the geography, history and culture using text, films, pictures, games, maps and a variety of hands-on craft experiences.
5th Grade: Bible & Hebrew
Fifth graders continue their study of Hebrew, emphasizing reading fluency, script writing and basic grammar. Students read and translate Hebrew stories incorporating modern Hebrew conversation, prayer skills and new vocabulary. Students continue their Bible (Torah) studies beginning with the Ten Commandments and the journey into Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). They also are introduced to selected stories from the Prophets and Writings.
6th Grade: Lifecycle & Hebrew
Sixth-grade students continue their prayer-reading curriculum and focus on the order and parts of the worship service. They will deepen their understanding and appreciation of selected prayers and their concepts. Sixth-grade students lead weekday worship services on a regular basis, and become familiar with our Shabbat morning and Torah service liturgy. Students are taught to chant the Torah and haftarah blessings in preparation for their bar/bat mitzvah year.
Our sixth graders enjoy learning the traditions and explanations of our Jewish life-cycle events. They will explore b’rit milah/baby naming, bar/bat mitzvah, confirmation, weddings and funerals/mourning on their way to understanding that the Jewish traditions associated with each of these life-cycle events help bring holiness into our lives.
Bonim: Students with Special Needs
The goal of Or Shalom’s religious school is that each child will have a positive Jewish identity, will be proud of being Jewish and will want to continue his or her Jewish traditions into adulthood. While Hebrew and Judaic studies are mastered easily by some students, it can be difficult for others. For students with physical limitations, learning challenges, emotional issues or other special needs, we offer individualized programming. Or Shalom is proud to offer a small special needs class called Bonim (Builders), which builds on the skill level of each participant. Typically this class has 4–6 students ranging from grades 3–7, with a specially-trained teacher. Students progress in their Hebrew and Judaica studies at their own pace, sometimes with classroom games, projects, cooking, music and services. The Bonim class is part of Or Shalom’s Family School program, and students attend on Family School Sundays with their parents or peers. Bonim students have the opportunity to become bar/bat mitzvah at age 13, wherever they fall into the calendar with the rest of our students. Parents who would like to learn more about the Bonim class should contact the education director.
Junior High Programs (7th & 8th Grade)
Our seventh- and eighth-grade students meet on Tuesdays from 6:30–8:15 p.m., and start with a pizza dinner!
NEW! Our seventh- and eighth-grade curriculum has a new look this year as our students have the opportunity to choose among various six-week electives focusing on different aspects of Jewish culture and identity.
Jewish Rock & Rap
Made in Israel—Israeli Inventions
Jews in Sports & Krav Maga
Jews & the Media
Seventh-grade students will choose three electives in addition to a six-week unit on the Holocaust and a six-week unit on Active Mitzvot. They will also volunteer at The ARK and tour the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
Eighth-grade students will choose four electives in addition to an eight-week core unit which includes a multi-week God Shopping workshop, “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll” Purim lesson and the Chocolate Seder.