The JCA School is open to children ages 4–13 whose families are members of the synagogue. Registration is required, and financial aid is available.

Study of the Jewish holidays, sacred texts, Hebrew language, and Jewish history occurs alongside lively discussions of ethics and contemporary world events. Using song, art, literature, and games, teachers cultivate a spirit of cultural connection, joy, and intellectual inquiry. Children are encouraged to explore their connection to Judaism and their understanding of what God means to them, to participate in synagogue life, to develop a love for Torah, and to treat themselves and others with compassion and loving kindness.

JCA students learn about and practice core Jewish values. Essential to each child's journey is the notion of what it means to be a mensch ("good person"). Students are encouraged to perform mitzvot and gemilut chassadim ("kind deeds"), to respect and honor the natural environment, and to embrace the concept of tikkun olam ("repairing the world"). The school collects tzedekah weekly for worthy Jewish and non-Jewish organizations such as Mazon and the Amherst Survival Center. Students also participate in food drives and other activities designed to develop a sense of personal responsibility to the community.

The JCA School values the extended family's role in each child's Jewish education. Parents, other family members, and guests attend the learners' minyan that concludes Sunday school each week. Led by Rabbi Benjamin Weiner in the sanctuary, this family-friendly service features music, discussion, and prayer. Our program allows families to build connections both within our congregation and with the broader Jewish community in the Pioneer Valley and beyond.
Parents participate in the school in a variety of ways: as members of the school committee, as volunteers in the classroom and library, as coordinators of special holiday art projects, and so on. Parents also organize such festive events as the annual Chanukah party, the Purim carnival, and grade-level Shabbat dinners.

Children ages four through six attend Shalom Sunday, an introduction to the richness of our Jewish heritage. Through songs, games, stories, and crafts, children celebrate Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. The class meets once a month from 10 to 11:45 a.m. A minimum of six children must be enrolled for JCA to offer this class. A gathering for Shalom Sunday parents is held every other month.
Students in first and second grade attend Sunday school, which meets from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The first-grade year is an introduction to Judaism and key concepts associated with holidays, prayers, and mitzvot. Special emphasis is placed on Shabbat. Students participate in Kedushat LaTorah, a service honoring the beginning of their formal Jewish education. In second-grade, students examine the calendar as a cycle of holidays, review basic blessings, and begin short prayers. They explore the synagogue as both a spiritual home and a physical space. Basic biblical stories and Hebrew letters are introduced.
Students in third through sixth grade meet on both Sunday mornings and on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Students broaden their knowledge of life-cycle events, discuss the weekly Torah portion, and study key periods in Jewish history. Students learn to read Hebrew as a means of becoming familiar with our prayer book and the basic order of a service. Text study includes an introduction to the prophets, midrash, and Talmud as well as an exploration of connections between the texts and Jewish values. Students attend grade-level Shabbat dinners, help with class tzedekah projects, and lead prayers during learners' minyan.
Students in seventh grade meet on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons. Students explore communal prayer, individual beliefs, and the spectrum of Jewish practice. Participation also involves community service activities, ethical decision making, discussion of issues relevant to teens, and leadership opportunities in the school. Students prepare for becoming b'nai mitzvah by attending family workshops, meetings with the rabbi, and sessions with individual tutors. Families gather four to six times a year to celebrate Shabbat together.

Children who enter our school after third grade: If you wish to enroll your child in the JCA School after third grade, please contact Jody Rosenbloom so she can assess your child's knowledge of the subjects studied. If necessary, families may be asked to make special arrangements to bring their children up to grade level.

Jody Rosenbloom, director of lifelong learning, is entering her 15th year at the JCA. Her Jewish education includes a childhood attending community supplementary school and Jewish day camp, three years living in Israel, and professional development spanning Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements. Jody has been involved in Jewish education for over 25 years and has taught and administered programming across all age levels at settings in both New England and the urban Midwest. Jody has a B.A. in urban studies from Antioch College and an M.A. in leadership development from Augsburg College. She has been active in regional educational collaborations and has participated in programs associated with the Conference for Alternatives in Jewish Education, the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. In 2003 Jody received the Harold Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. She moved to the Valley in 1997 with her husband, Dr. Joel Kaminsky, a specialist in Hebrew Bible who teaches at Smith College.

School Documents:
Calendar  •  Parent Handbook

For additional information about the JCA School,
please contact Jody Rosenbloom, director of lifelong learning, at
256-0160, ext. 203, or at [email protected].


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