How do we teach Judaism

Mission statement

Judaism is the central element in our school’s instruction. Judaism is taught in a school subject called Jewish studies (“židovská výchova” and “židovská studia”) and in Hebrew classes. Jewish topics are also a part of other school subjects i.e. science, history, geography, languages instruction, civics, arts and music. Jewish topics appear also in most school’s projects.

The school was established by the Prague kehilah and it is a community school with no specific Jewish affiliation. As such, it is open for children of different Jewish backgrounds. Pupils and students learn the Jewish tradition, basic principles of religious practice, Jewish ethics and Jewish history. Our aim is to offer our children enough knowledge and experience for them to be able to form their own Jewish identity and Jewish way of life once they grow up.

In our work we cooperate with several further institutions as The Jewish community in Prague, The Jewish Museum in Prague, Foundation for Holocaust Victims, Jewish Old Age Home Hagibor, ORT, Israeli Embassy in Prague, KKL, Czech Jewish Student Union, Terezin Studies or Centropa

Kindergarten

Jewish studies are a central part of the life of our kindergarten children. The children work in weekly cycles in which they work on various Jewish subjects (Torah stories, holidays, ethics, Israel etc.) The school follows the teaching program Step by step, which allows children to grasp every topic through all senses in creative activities. These include art work, music, drama, sharing stories and experiences in a circle, gan celebration of holidays, gmilut chasadim projects etc.

As a natural part of the daily program, children meet in a morning prayer circle, recite blessings before and after meals and welcome Shabbat during a Friday Shabbat program before they leave the gan for the weekend.

The kindergarten has a partial bilingual program. One of the teachers is a native Israeli speaker and she communicates with the children in Hebrew during parts of the daily program. She also conducts the It’s Hebrew time language mini-classes, in which the children learn the basics of Ivrit.

Our Kindergarten was established with the support of L. A. Pincus Jewish Education Fund for the Diaspora.

Primary School

In grades 1 to 5, pupils study in classes of Jewish studies and Hebrew, which are conducted according to a Canadian Jewish studies program Tal Am. This learning program combines Hebrew language instruction with studies of Jewish holidays, Israel, ethics and simple basics of Jewish history. Pupils take 4 classes a week of Tal Am classes in every grade.

Every day before the regular classes, pupils have a choice to join a morning prayer conducted in a way suitable for their age. The attendance of the morning prayer is voluntary.

As a part of their weekly schedule, pupils welcome Shabbat together at the end of the week during a meal in the school canteen.

Teachers of general (non-Jewish) subjects implement Jewish topics into their classes during the whole year.

In the afternoon, the school offers after school optional classes of Hebrew, Parashat ha-shavua and halakha (these optional classes open only if enough children enroll.)

Lower high school (ages 11–15 i.e. prima – kvarta)

In the lower high school, students take 2 classes of Jewish studies and 3 classes of Hebrew a week.

The main topic of grade prima are the stories of the Torah and selected chapters of the Prophets. The students get acquainted with the classical commentaries and midrashim. They are led to be able to analyze the religious and ethical elements of the stories.

In sekunda grade, students study mainly the life cycle and year cycle traditions in Judaism. During prima and sekunda the students have the opportunity to get ready for their bar/bat mitzvah during optional afternoon classes with rabbi Sidon and rabbi Koller.

In the first semester of tercie, students study various topics in which Jewish or personal teenage age values are confronted with the outside world. In this semester they study topics like family planning, contraception, abortion, self-harming behavior etc. During the second semester they study Jewish history.

In kvarta, students continue to study Jewish history.

Upper High School

In the upper school students study Jewish studies in the form of Jewish studies seminars. New students that come to our school without prior study of Judaism at the age of 15+ are obliged to attend a two-year seminar called “Basics of Judaism” (Základní kurz) in which they learn the basics of Jewish religion and history. This course covers the following topics: Tanakh – its structure and the most profound stories, Shabbat, Jewish holidays, cycle of life in Judaism, the most important chapters of Jewish history, Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, anti-semitism, Shoah and Zionism.

Students that previously studied at the lower high school or come with significant knowledge of Judaism or students that have completed the seminar “Basics of Judaism” choose one-semester courses from a current school’s offer. Every semester the school offers courses in the three following areas:

  • Jewish religion and religious texts
  • Jewish history
  • Jewish philosophy and arts

We regularly open the following courses: Basic religious texts and their interpretation, Pirkei Avoth, History and Current Affairs in the Middle East, History of European Jewry from the Middle Ages until today, American Jewish literature, Modern Israeli literature, Current social issues through the eyes of Judaism etc.

Hebrew

As we mentioned earlier, primary school pupils have four classes of Hebrew/Tal Am a week.

The lower and upper high-school students have 3 classes of Hebrew a week. Students study in groups that are put together based on the students’ level of language knowledge irrespective of their age. This means that even students that come to our school in the middle of their high school age can start with Hebrew on an elementary level and those that come to prima with knowledge of Hebrew can continue to study on their level.

School’s donors

The classes of Jewish studies and Hebrew have been supported by the following institutions and organizations:

Tal am program:

Foundation for Holocaust Victims ORT

Release of the Czech-Hebrew reader translated and ilustrated by the Lauder students

  • Czech Ministry for Education

Release of the Lauder school’s Maharal project DVD and booklet

Prague Jewish Museum Foundation P3K JOINT (JDC)

  • Prague Jewish Museum Foundation
  • P3K publishing house
  • JOINT (JDC)