What do you mean by an “independent” Hebrew school?
By “independent,” we mean that we are not affiliated with any particular denomination of Judaism or a synagogue. We serve Jewish and interfaith families in the greater Boston area, and our school is entirely funded by tuition.
Do families belong to synagogues?
While most BJEP families are not affiliated with synagogues, some families belong to synagogues in addition to being active members of the BJEP community.
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.
What are the religious backgrounds of the teachers?
Like BJEP families, BJEP teachers come from a variety of Jewish backgrounds. Our teachers bring the diversity, depth and variety of their own Jewish practices to their teaching. 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 Hebrew school 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 engage them 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 for Shabbat and other holidays in order to create a foundation for meaningful participation in Jewish rituals. The teachers instill in their students positive feelings about themselves as Jews; a sense of community with the Jewish people; a sense of concern for others; and the tools to make informed decisions about how they will live their lives as Jewish adults.
What towns do families come from?
BJEP families come from more than 30 towns in Massachusetts. The majority are from the Greater Boston area, with the greatest number of families coming from Newton, Natick, Weston, and Needham, followed by Arlington, Medfield, Framingham, and Belmont.
How do you build a sense of community when there are families from 30+ towns?
BJEP creates a warm and welcoming community for everyone to engage in on Sunday mornings. There are many opportunities for parents to mingle, learn and celebrate with each other and with their children. The parent lounge is stocked with coffee and bagels each week, giving parents the chance to connect while their children are in class. Our family and community programs, such as Farm Day and MLK Social Justice/Tikkun Olam Day, bring us together to embody the Jewish values of compassion and justice; and Hanukkah and Purim celebrations bring us together with song, dance, and fun surprises. Many parents take advantage of the various adult education offerings, delving into themes such as Jewish parenting, Jewish values, meditation, adoption, and anti-racism.
What does it mean that BJEP is a parent cooperative?
As a parent cooperative, each family is required to support the functioning of the community through a parent cooperative job. This can be anything from bringing bagels to an event, running a booth at the Purim Carnival, or helping with High Holiday services. In this way, each family is integral to helping BJEP run smoothly and to creating a sense of togetherness and common purpose, while keeping tuition as low as possible.
In what grade do most kids enter BJEP?
Students enter BJEP in any grade. Most students enter in 1st through 4th grade, but many enter in Kindergarten, and, beginning in the fall of 2015, kids can enter BJEP in pre-K as well.
What if my child enters in a later grade?
Students often enter BJEP in the 5th or 6th grade. We are committed to working with these students to help them integrate into their classroom communities. We typically offer a beginning Hebrew class for 5th graders. In addition, we have tutors and a Hebrew specialist available to work with individual students as needed. We are increasingly moving towards Hebrew being taught by level rather than by grade, which will allow us to meet all students where they are and thus support their learning and growth. Much of our Judaics 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 Jewish holidays?
Yes! BJEP offers a High Holiday service on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur. The service is designed for families with their children and it will be led this year by Rabbi Emily Mathis. The services are well-attended by BJEP families and are open to the public. In addition, we observe Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Hanukkah, Tu b’Shevat, Purim, and Passover within school hours.
How do you support different learning styles?
BJEP is committed to inclusive classroom instruction that utilizes the best of universal teaching practices. As part of that commitment, we have a learning specialist on staff whose job it is to support students, teachers and families. Sherri Winter-Dierks is an experienced special education teacher and a creative and compassionate human being. She brings warmth, wisdom and a keen mind to her interactions with students, teachers and families. She is available both to create individualized learning and behavior plans with students and to support teachers with in-the-moment suggestions, as well as systemic solutions. At BJEP, we believe that learning happens through trusting relationships. Sherri is integral to the creation of trusting relationships between teachers and students. She is also available to support parents and hopes to convene a periodic parents’ circle to discuss topics that reach beyond the BJEP experience.
Are BJEP students prepared to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and how does that work?
Like most supplemental religious schools, BJEP provides students with a foundation in Hebrew prayer. While BJEP introduces students to the fundamentals of a Shabbat service, parents are responsible for any individual Bar or Bat Mitzvah tutoring for their child. Many BJEP students have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but it is not required, and individual preparation takes place outside of class time. BJEP offers informational meetings each year for parents of fifth and sixth graders to meet various outside tutors and to discuss steps in planning for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah service and celebration. In 2015-16, there was a BJEP B’nei Mitzvah experience for a group of 7th grade students that will continue if there is enough interest in doing it.
Have a question?
Send an email to our Director, Cantor Jeri Robins, at firstname.lastname@example.org.