By Rachel Happel
In the spring of 2012, Temple Beth Shalom shuttered the religious school which we had deemed beyond repair. In its place, we launched a new model for Jewish learning based on two core principles: depth of relationships and depth of learning.
Our new program, Mayim (the Hebrew word for “water” (learn more about why we chose that title), emerged from a broad-based, three-year process of reflection, visioning, best practices research, and dreaming what could be. Mayim seeks to create an inclusive, accepting environment in which children learn and build relationships while enjoying a rich experience of Judaism that will serve as a foundation for Jewish living now and for years to come.
Children attending Mayim learn in mixed-grade chavurot (friendship groups) once a week for 2.5 hours. Each week, Jewish Learning Guides (what in traditional schools might be called “teachers”) orchestrate four types of experiences with the children: Mifgashim (encounters), Explorations (our project-based learning curriculum), Hebrew learning, and T’filah (worship). In addition, monthly Jewish Connection Experiences provide opportunities for the children (and often their whole families) to engage in authentic Jewish living together with the larger Beth Shalom community (e.g. Shabbat and holiday celebrations).