Reimagine Judaic Studies @ AJA Lower School


Written by: Debbie Bornstein, Director of Judaic Studies, K-8

According to the Pew Research Center, only 28% of Jews feel that being part of a Jewish community is an essential aspect of being Jewish. At AJA, our entire mission revolves around the importance of community. Our Judaic studies program strives to create literate and fully-invested members of the Jewish community who exhibit a sustained commitment to our people, our history, and our values. We want our graduates to feel and live a life of connection to Judaism. 

How do we get there? 

  • - We provide experiential programming and enthusiastic role models who exhibit a love of Israel and Judaism. 

  • - Our curriculum is structured around problem and project-based learning to create authentic connections between students and our culture. 

  • - Chaggim (holidays) are a focus for integration of different methods of instruction and evaluation. 

  • - Starting in 1st grade, our students are introduced to texts and when coupled with Hebrew language instruction, our students learn the skills for navigating our siddur (prayer book), exploring our Chumash (printed Torah), decoding our Mishna (oral Torah), and delving into our Talmud. 

  • - As students progress through our school, we nurture developmentally appropriate higher level thinking skills corresponding to each modality of learning. 

The foundation of any successful program is the faculty. We are focused on finding and developing first class educators. Our plans call for an expansion of the Judaic Studies faculty for the 2017-18 school year and we are currently accepting applications, from both the United States and in Israel. 

AJA will be introducing a comprehensive evaluation system to track our students’ progress through the Judaic studies curriculum. This data will allow us to assess and track mastery and knowledge and structure our spiraled curriculum appropriately to maximize student success and learning. Currently under development, the initial roll-out for this program will be in 3rd and 4th grades with additional grades to follow in subsequent years.

This year, we have reimagined our Birkat HaMazon at the end of lunch. The words are now easily accessible to the students on a projection screen where they can follow along with the faculty member facilitating and adding Al HaMichya and Borei Nefashot when appropriate. Students are now exposed to a wider variety of brachot (blessings) which we hope they will continue to use throughout their lives. 

We are introducing Chumash towards the end of 1st grade (previously 2nd grade), in order to start textual skills earlier in 2nd grade. This will allow our students to be acclimated with learning from a text, to create the foundation for Torah study.

We have also reimagined middle school Tefillah. Students now attend classes with their Judaics studies instructors where they learn about the prayers and their significance in addition to recitation each day. 

Our 1st - 6th grade buddy oneg program which is held once or twice each month has been reimagined as a Parsha learning opportunity with handouts containing Divrei Torah and exercises to help our students gain an understanding of the weekly portion. 

We hope that our work here continues long after our students leave these doors. Lifetime engagement of our students in a commitment to living Jewish lives and Mitzvot (commandments), being connected to their Torah and Jewish community, and providing continuity to their own children is central to who we are as AJA. And we can’t do it alone. School provides only part of the equation for our mission.

Parents, family, friends, synagogue, and youth groups are essential components of success. What is important in our lives is important to our children. So I encourage you to come to school and visit us during Tefillah or take your child to Shul with you on Shabbat and show them your love and your commitment. 

- Debbie Bornstein, Director of Judaic Studies, K-8


Reimagine Lower School Judaic Studies
D'var Torah: Make Time


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Wednesday, 18 July 2018