Frequently Asked Questions, by Section:
- BJEP as an Independent Jewish Sunday School
- BJEP as a Welcoming Community
- BJEP Brandeis University teachers and Madrichim (classroom assistants)
- BJEP adapts to remote learning
Section 1: BJEP as an Independent Jewish Sunday School
What is meant by an “independent” Jewish Sunday School? By “independent” we mean that we are not affiliated with any particular denomination of Judaism or a with a synagogue. Our families come to BJEP from diverse backgrounds and share a desire to provide a Jewish education for their child(ren). Our school is funded primarily by tuition, as well as by donations and grants.
Why join BJEP instead of another program or organization? We recognize our families choose BJEP over other Sunday school options in the Boston area for many reasons. When asked, many families tell us that they prefer a Sunday morning program to one that meets during the week, and that they recognize the benefits of the BJEP teachers being Brandeis undergraduate students who easily connect with their kids. Families also appreciate BJEP’s inclusive, welcoming community and the opportunities it provides to celebrate Jewish holidays, attend High Holiday Family Services, and join in community singing and prayer on Sunday mornings., and with options to attend services with Brandeis teachers through Hillel at select times during the year. BJEP’s program provides the tools to guide our kids, while recognizing that we are part of a larger Jewish community in the Boston-area and around the globe.
What is the religious background of most families? BJEP families come from diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds. We are a pluralistic community, comprised of families from all walks of Jewish life, including many interfaith families.
I’m moving to the area in January, can I join BJEP mid-way through the year? BJEP is always open to new families joining when the time is right for you, at any point in the year. We would welcome a discussion with you, please get in touch with Rabbi Myra to discuss further at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you support diverse learning styles of students? BJEP is committed to inclusive classroom instruction and supporting diverse learning in our classrooms. We support students, teachers and families by engaging with our area Partner – Gateways – which offers us training,workshops and ongoing engagement with current best practices. We create individualized learning and behavior plans with students and provide teachers with the necessary tools for classroom instruction.
How do BJEP students prepare for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? BJEP’s program provides students with a foundation in Hebrew and prayer and builds a Jewish identity for our children. Many if not most students will have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and families have several options from which to choose. BJEP offers Bar or Bat Mitzvah tutoring for students as a supplemental program, with individual preparation taking place outside of class time. BJEP offers informational meetings each year for parents of fifth and sixth graders to discuss steps in planning for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah service and celebration. When there is interest,, BJEP organizes a B’nei Mitzvah experience for a group of 7th grade students. Rabbi Myra will work with families each year to discuss plans and how BJEP can support you in this joyful moment as you mark this celebratory moment for your child and family.
Section 2: BJEP as a Welcoming Community
What towns do families come from? BJEP families come from more than 20 towns in Massachusetts. The majority are from the Greater Boston area including Newton, Needham, Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge, Waltham, Natick, Lincoln, Wellesley, Framingham, Needham, Milford, Medfield and Southborough.
How do you build a sense of community when there are families from many towns? BJEP creates a warm and welcoming community for everyone to engage with on Sunday mornings. There are many opportunities for parents to mingle, learn and celebrate with each other and with their children. Parents congregate in our Atrium lounge – with coffee and a nosh – on select Sundays, giving them the chance to connect while their children are in class. Family programs provide an opportunity to learn with fellow parents in your child’s classroom, and community-wide programs – such as Sukkot on the farm, the Purim carnival, Mitzvah days and our 6th grade Legacy fair – provide the anchor for joyful celebrations throughout the year. Many parents take advantage of the various adult education offerings, delving into themes such as Jewish parenting, Jewish values and social justice. At other times, parents find some quiet time (with their laptop in tow) in a quiet space in a Brandeis Atrium, or take a walk with fellow parents around the campus.
What does it mean that BJEP is a parent cooperative? Each family supports the BJEP program by selecting a parent job upon registration. Parent jobs range from running a booth at the Purim Carnival, to helping with High Holiday services or greeting families on the farm at Sukkot, to updating our website or lending your talents in graphic design. Parents who join our parent-led Board are able to participate in Board-level leadership development workshops as part of our partnership with CJP, and to impact BJEP’s program and sustainability through collaboration, teamwork and strategic planning. Each family is integral to helping BJEP run smoothly and to creating a sense of community, while keeping tuition as low as possible.
Do you offer an abbreviated program for my child in pre-K?? Students enter BJEP in any grade, from K through 7th grade. We also offer a monthly Seedlings program for ages 4-5 with focus on Jewish holidays and values through the creative arts.
Can my child enter in a later grade? We are committed to working with students who enter BJEP in any grade by helping them integrate into their classroom communities We typically offer a beginning Hebrew class for 5th graders. In addition, we offer a supplemental Hebrew tutoring program to work with individual students, as needed. Much of our Judaic curriculum is iterative, increasing in depth and breadth each year. Each grade has a particular focus that is not dependent upon previous learning. As such, students are able to join in any grade without feeling behind or unprepared for the curriculum.
Does BJEP offer programming for the High Holidays? Yes! BJEP offers afternoon High Holiday Family services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur. The services are designed for families with children. While children of all ages are welcome, the experience will be most meaningful for children ages 4 and up. Services run a little over an hour. On Rosh Hashanah, there will be a light Kiddush following the service. These services include Hebrew and English prayers with lots of music and singing, and offer a meaningful and engaging experience, regardless of background. We request an additional family donation to help defray the cost of providing these services. Click here for more information including location and registration.
Section 3: BJEP Brandeis University teachers and Madrichim (classroom assistants)
Who are BJEP’s Teachers? BJEP engages Brandeis University students, often affiliated with the campus Hillel program, to be our classroom teachers. They often stay with the BJEP program through their whole college career. Many are studying to be professional teachers, and we have been excited to have had a few teachers who have continued on to Rabbinical school. They are passionate about their Judaism and have the energy to make BJEP fun and exciting for our families. Many of them have attended Jewish summer camps throughout their lives and help us infuse BJEP with a camp-like feeling.
What are the religious backgrounds of the Brandeis student teachers? Like BJEP families, our Brandeis student-teachers come from a variety of Jewish backgrounds. Our teachers bring the diversity, depth and variety of their own Jewish practices to their teaching, and as young adults they serve as amazing role models for our students, showing their continued interest and engagement in Jewish community. They draw on the wisdom of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and other strands of Judaism, as well as summers at camp, to bring Judaism to life in the classroom. Even with their various backgrounds, they form a cohesive and dedicated staff with the common desire to make Jewish learning fun and meaningful for their students.
How do you teach students and families of all different Jewish backgrounds? BJEP teachers are creative, joyful, passionate and compassionate. BJEP students enjoy experiential learning through interactive lessons that meet students wherever they are on their own Jewish journeys.
With only one day a week of school, what are BJEP’s educational priorities? At BJEP, we are committed to cultivating each child’s authentic relationship with Judaism. We endeavor to teach students the foundational concepts of Jewish religion, culture and values by exposing them to Jewish history, traditions and experiences. Our Hebrew program aims to develop the students’ reading skills and to teach the fundamental prayers to serve as a foundation for meaningful participation in Jewish rituals. Teachers instill in their students positive feelings about being Jewish; a sense of community with the Jewish people; a sense of concern for others and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world); and the tools to make informed decisions about how they will live their lives as Jewish adults.
How do Madrichim support my student classroom learning? BJEP graduates in grades 8-12 continue their participation by serving as assistants in the classroom. They offer support for students, lead from their learning experiences at BJEP, and support hands-on activities, e.g., art projects, singing and supporting the electives (grades 3-7). During our family programs, Madrichim will take the lead in showcasing joy and fun, such as leading booths at our Purim carnival.
Section 4: BJEP adapts to remote learning
Will your school provide remote or in-person learning from September 2020? BJEP will kick off the new school term on Sept 13 with remote learning as part of the requirements of Brandeis University, to ensure the health of our community, and as part of our values to offer an all-inclusive program. Plans this summer have focused on the development of an engaging remote learning program, and in collaboration with various organizations, building on the spring when we visited a museum in Tel Aviv for a tour and where our 6th graders presented their Legacy fair projects virtually. Where feasible, and following safety protocols, we will seek out opportunities for engagement and community in an outdoor space. While these extraordinary times continue, we will continue to seek opportunities for our community to connect in-person should we find a safe window to do so. We will continue to monitor Brandeis’ guidelines to determine when we will be able to resume classes on campus.
How important is Jewish learning in pandemic times, and what Jewish teachings help guide us in what to do during a pandemic? More than ever, these unprecedented times are forcing us all to take stock of what really matters – the core values of our family units that we want to continue to pass on to our children. In Rabbi Myra’s recent article, “Why Bother with Jewish Community” she highlights the connection, enrichment and purpose we so desperately need and that Jewish community is uniquely suited to provide.
What is the intrinsic value of BJEP’s program for your child, for either in-classroom learning and remote learning? Will tuition be adjusted for remote learning? It is without a doubt challenging to be asked to put a value on your child’s Jewish education, an education that remains with them throughout their life. While BJEP will save on some expenses by being remote, we plan on reinvesting those funds to support remote learning, such as distributing The BJEP Toolkit that will provide each family with learning materials to use from home. We are also investing in renewed training for our BJEP teachers to diversify their engagement of our students on the virtual platform. While the pandemic forced the pace of adoption, the option for remote learning presents a path forward for hybrid learning that will outlast these unprecedented times: on snow days we can easily transition to our remote learning model for BJEP at home, and we can continue to open ourselves to new opportunities that we would never have pursued otherwise.
Will I have to print ALL material for class from home with remote learning from home? No. It is anticipated that our teachers will leverage many classroom tools during remote learning, and that students will make use of their BJEP Toolkit (think ‘BJEP in a box’) to provide the necessary school supplies to support them from home. Our teachers may find something new and exciting during the year and invite you to print from home, but we will also have the documents available during class as well (to review online, or on your home device).
How long will each class be while we learn remotely? We will follow best practices, and we anticipate that classes will most likely run a total of 1 hour, 20 min, in 15/20/30 min segments and a break time, with an optional added 20 min elective. We will look to the guiding principles for remote learning to provide structured fun and engagement.
What are your plans to support Hebrew learning with remote learning? BJEP is taking the time this summer to re-imagine Hebrew learning for our families, and we plan to engage students virtually through a new Hebrew through Movement curriculum. In addition to providing Hebrew learning that is easily accessible virtually, this unique movement-based curriculum also gives students a way to contextualize and apply their Hebrew reading and writing skills. For families who desire even more time for Hebrew education, please contact Rabbi Myra to discuss your needs for supplemental Hebrew.
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Have another question? Get in touch with Rabbi Myra Meskin, BJEP’s Community Director at email@example.com.