A JK-12 pluralistic school that engages students in an exemplary and inspiring general and Jewish education.

Lower School (JK-5)

Lower School


The Jewish Year

Shabbat and Festivals

The rhythm and cycle of Jewish life and experiences are driven by observances and celebrations of Shabbat and the haggim/Jewish festivals. Each day at school, we recognize not only the Gregorian calendar date, but also the days on the Jewish calendar and any particular Jewish or secular events that fall on each day. This recognition of cycles running parallel to one another allows our students to develop integrated understandings of their identities as members of two distinct cultures and peoples: Jewish and American.

Our formal studies of Jewish life and ritual take the approach of instructing students in traditional knowledge of and approaches to Jewish living. However, as a pluralistic Jewish day school community, we embrace the many paths that our students and families take to integrating Judaism into their lives. Our goal is to build a foundation of knowledge, skills, and modes of thinking that will prepare students for the deeper engagement in Jewish identity and practice, exploration that will occur in Middle and High School, and for the decisions they will make about their Jewish observances and affiliations in adulthood.

Using learning materials from a variety of traditional and contemporary sources, with TaL AM as the primary foundation beginning in first grade, students explore the celebrations of Jewish life through a curricular spiral, each year gaining greater depth and breadth of understanding for the haggim/Jewish festivals, their historical background, traditions, ritual practices and mitzvot/commandments. Alongside the academic aspect of Jewish studies, we strive as well to engender a sense of excitement with and passion for Judaism in our students. We create a variety of opportunities at each grade level for students to "live" Jewish experience instead of merely "learning about" it. Our school lives and breathes a tangible Jewish ru-ah/spirit, which contributes to the overall strength of our sense of community and the development of personal and strong Jewish identities.

To view the full description, scope and sequence, and content of the CESJDS Lower School Jewish Year Curriculum, click here.

T'filah and Spiritual Development

At the CESJDS Lower School, we celebrate and maintain a strong link to our ancient prayer customs through participation in traditional t'filah activities. As a pluralistic community Jewish Day School, we offer a diverse program in t'filah education in order that allows students to connect with prayer practices in a variety of ways:

  • Matbei-a T'filah: the liturgy itself, correct nusah/melody for a particular day, and flow of traditional prayer services
  • Iyyun T'filah: in-depth study of prayer texts to develop comprehension of and connection to the traditional liturgy
  • Ru-ah Ha-t'filah: developing a sense of spirituality through participation in various modes of prayer experience
  • Shlihut Tzibbur: leadership of the community in traditional and contemporary forms of worship

Our school-based t'filah program includes a variety of participatory elements that allow students to become fluent in liturgy from across the Jewish calendar:

  • Daily prayer at each and every grade level, with practice of both the Shaharit/Morning and Minha/Afternoon services, while learning as well about the Ma-ariv/Evening Service.
  • Kabbalat Shabbat each Friday either in class or as part of our monthly school-wide Kabbalat Shabbat celebrations.
  • The Havdalah service is a focal point of 4th grade in-depth learning, culminating in a grade-wide Havdalah Celebration in the winter time.
  • High Holy Day and Festival liturgy, including Hallel, is learned and practiced in a spiralled fashion beginning in the early grades
  • Birkat Hamazon/The Blessing(s) after the Meal is recited after lunch each day and children learn the main paragraphs/blessings over the course of their Lower School years.

Our Siddur/Prayer Book of Choice:

The Lower School has chosen The Koren Children's Siddur and The Koren Youth Siddur as our prayer books of choice in recent years. These siddurim, developed specifically with community and pluralistic Jewish Day Schools in mind, artfully integrate the traditional and modern approaches to t'filah education that we have chosen. In order to reflect the diversity of our community fully, we have supplemented the printed texts of this prayer book with selections from egalitarian traditions (including the imahot/matriarchs and reflecting gender-aware language) as well.

Our Spiraled Curriculum:

At each grade level, specific t'filot have been chosen for iyyun t'filah, in-depth study and exploration. While the skill of reciting liturgy is an important learning outcome for our students, meaningful study of t'filah as text and expression of emotion, Jewish identity, and connection to God are what help to build personal meaning in this subject area for our students. The ultimate goal of our curricular spiral is to educate a student who is capable of independently leading and fully participating in weekday services (including the skill to chant from the Torah correctly) and having confidence with significant portions of the liturgy for Shabbat and other special days. Our students develop these skills as they practice their leadership as sh'lihei tzibbur/prayer leaders in their classrooms and the Bender Beit Midrash during communal t'filah gatherings.

To view the full description and content of the CESJDS Lower School T'filah/Prayer Curriculum, click here.

Social Studies

Our Social Studies program provides opportunities for our students to question, debate and explore historical issues and events through a variety of lenses. Critical reading and writing are at the core of our program as students are challenged to analyze, write and discuss historical events from multiple perspectives including primary and secondary sources, textbooks, literature, museums and performances. Our focus on Middot K-6, provides a window for students to see how our Jewish values can help them understand, critique and debate historical decisions and events and how we as citizens have a responsibility to act compassionately in our communities.

2nd Grade World Museum


At CESJDS, science lessons capitalize on your student's natural wonder about the world around them and build on that excitement to learn new content. From an in-depth study of the Chesapeake Bay, to designing a knee brace, to chemical engineering we offer a wide range of activities to engage and challenge students. Our science specialists and dedicated STEM Specialist teach students to "do" science through inquiry rather than memorize facts. In addition to learning traditional science content students become builders and problem solvers through Engineering is Elementary units created by the Boston Museum of Science. Your students will apply STEM knowledge, skills, and habits of mind, learning that it is OK to take risks and make mistakes.

Lower School Science

Physical Education

Our physical education program is designed to develop and strengthen the physical, social, and emotional needs of children through involvement in athletic activities. It encourages students to participate in and enjoy a variety of team sports such as soccer and basketball as well as other fitness activities and cooperative games. Students are introduced to skills through practice exercises and games to offer a better understanding of a particular sport.

The PE objectives are to:

  • develop age-appropriate fundamental skills including locomotor movement; indoor and outdoor sports; and physical fitness;
  • encourage physical, social, and emotional growth;
  • teach compassion and good sportsmanship;
  • promote personal responsibility;
  • engender a feeling of enjoyment and self-accomplishment;
  • encourage non-competitive participation.

Each year the Lower School PE team leads the Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart programs. In 2015, students raised more than $16,000 for the American Heart Association.



At CESJDS, our math work is hands-on, challenging, and focused on problem solving.  Teachers celebrate alternative approaches to solving math problems so that students are taught that math is a sense-making process for understanding why and not memorizing procedures.  Your child learns math in context to connect what they are learning to the real world.  We pay attention to content while also enhancing your child’s flexibility of thinking and perseverance.

Language Arts

The CESDJS Lower School Language Arts program inspires students to become independent, critical thinkers, consummate writers, confident speakers and avid readers. Our literature-based program not only provides the skills that create a life of reading and writing, but also ignites the excitement around texts and text study. Following the Reader's Workshop model, our reading program K-6 provides a scaffold for students to learn and master reading strategies. Units of study build on each other and students are exposed to a multitude of genres throughout their time at the CESJDS Lower School. Students are challenged to think critically about bigger issues and themes that texts present. Meaningful discussions in large and small groups provide students with the opportunity to analyze texts and build ideas together.

Writing weaves throughout all parts of the CESJDS curriculum. The writer's workshop model provides our students the opportunity to write about their ideas and interests while at the same time receive high-level instruction to hone the necessary skills to become proficient writers. Students are challenged to write in a variety of genres as well as use writing as vehicle to respond to texts. Small group work and one-to-one conferring provide students with ample time to receive feedback from their teacher to improve their craft. Enter any classroom and you will see the students engaged in meaningful conversations about their writing with a peer or teacher as they build their writing portfolio.

1st Grade Publishing Party

Language Arts Enrichment

Our Language Arts (LA) enrichment program is designed to provide additional learning experiences for students who are performing above grade level in both reading and writing. In the enrichment classroom, students are expected to perform at an accelerated level independently - they read high-level texts, annotate and analyze various genres through writing and discussion. The work in LA enrichment aligns with the classroom curriculum, yet provides enrichment students an opportunity to explore a variety of topics and themes in more depth. A greater amount of reading and writing is expected of all enrichment students in addition to their daily classroom work.

Students are recommended to enrichment by their General Studies teacher based on a variety of criteria. Students who qualify for enrichment are pulled out of their General Studies classroom to work with the enrichment teacher. Additionally, enrichment teachers provide push-in support in all classrooms to extend the classroom and small group discussions for each child in our K-6 classrooms.

Jewish Text

As "עם הספר/The People of the Book," the study of Torah sits at the foundation of the Jewish People's identity. It is an essential element of a comprehensive Jewish education, teaching not only fundamental content knowledge, but also analytical and thinking skills that serve students across the disciplines. Beginning with our youngest students, we engage children in a love of narrative and history through Torah study and lay the groundwork for a lifelong connection to the language and text of Judaism.

We are proud participants in the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education and Legacy Heritage TaNaKH Standards and Benchmarks Project, which guides our TaNaKH curriculum development and review efforts with best practices and educational research, and aligning our content and teaching with the School's mission, vision, and purpose. The two standards selected by the Lower School staff and administration as guiding understandings for our approach to TaNaKH study are:

  • Students will view the TaNaKH as the formative narrative of the Jewish People - past, present, and future.
  • Students will develop a love of Torah study for its own sake and embrace it as an inspiring resource, informing their values, moral commitments, and ways of experiencing the world.

Torah B'Iyyun/In-Depth Torah Study Methodology and Approach:

The methodology used to teach and learn Torah is consistent from grade to grade, spiraling in complexity from year to year. In Gurim-1st grade, the focus is on developing a love for Torah study and a familiarity with the basic storyline of the Torah through the parashat ha-shavu-a/weekly Torah portion. In 2nd grade, students begin more intense units of study of individual parashot for longer periods of time, in which their textual analysis and interpretation abilities are engaged and developed. Over their years in the Lower School, students acquire the basic grammatical structures of biblical Hebrew and a treasury of vocabulary that will allow them to understand the text in its original. The biblical text is not used in order to teach Hebrew vocabulary or grammar. Rather, Torah-specific vocabulary and language skills are taught so that students own the keys necessary to unlock the biblical text.

Beyond the learning of the literal meaning of the Torah text, and aligned with our core value of Torah Lish-mah/Learning for its Own Sake, deeper understandings of and formation of personal meaning and connection to the text are what truly inspire the lifelong study of Torah. Therefore, engagement with and practice of parshanut/exegesis are central to our Torah curriculum. Over the course of students' years in the Lower School, they begin this aspect of Torah study by being encouraged to ask questions and think deeply about the texts they are learning, in the very same ways that our traditional commentators did centuries ago. Varied meanings and understandings of a word, phrase, or text are possible as well as multiple answers to any given question. This approach allows our students to develop an appreciation for our tradition's view of the "Shiv-im Panim La-Torah/The Seventy Faces of the Torah." At each grade level, students are introduced to midrashim/rabbinic legends through the library books that are associated with each unit of Torah study. Beginning in 3rd grade with an introduction to Rashi, students are introduced formally to biblical commentaries, meeting different commentators from various eras and learning their different approaches over the course of their upper elementary years in the Lower School.

Study of Parashat Hashavu-a/The Weekly Torah Portion

At all grade levels, students are introduced to the weekly Torah portion. Over the years, students revisit the parashot through new and different "lenses" of exploration and analysis. In the early years, the focus is on mastering essential plot lines and characters and their relationships. As students get older, they discuss moral lessons that each Torah portion teaches through its narrative and legal passages. By the end of 5th grade, students have plunged into the deep critical and analytical thinking and questioning that results in an understanding and practice of mature and sophisticated study that will benefit them across the disciplines.

Introduction to Rabbinic Sources

Students in the Lower School are exposed to rabbinic literature throughout the disciplines of the Judaic Studies curriculum, particularly in Torah and Haggim/Jewish festivals. In Torah, beginning near the end of 3rd grade, students read and study Rashi's commentary on specific selected Torah verses in order to deepen their understanding of the text and give them a first taste of rabbinic analytical text study and consideration. In 4th and 5th grades, students are exposed to a wide variety of commentators from across the centuries, medieval to modern, and are given opportunities to analyze and evaluate and connect to the ideas and opinions shared. In addition, selected midrashim are presented to the students through TaL AM's reading library, books which are assigned for supplemental reading to the Torah units of study.

Throughout the Haggim/Jewish festivals curriculum, students learn the many rituals and customs of Jewish tradition and engage with selected source materials. In 4th grade, students are formally introduced to rabbinic legal codes through the Mishnah, with a year-long exploration of selected teachings from Pirkei Avot. In 5th grade, a thematic unit of study including selections from the Mishnah, Talmud, and Shulhan Arukh is studied by all students so they are well-prepared for Middle School Jewish Text courses.

To view the full description and content of the CESJDS Lower School Jewish Text - TaNaKH and Rabbinics Curriculum, click here.

Hebrew Language שפה עברית

שפה עברית

Hebrew language is more than an academic subject at CESJDS. It is an expression of our Core Value of Ahavat Yisra-el/Love Of Israel. We believe that through the study and eventual mastery of our language, our students will develop an inextricable bond with the people, land, and culture of the People of Israel and the texts of our tradition.

CESJDS uses the Proficiency Approach to second language acquisition for development of Hebrew Language skills. This approach focuses on developing communicative language within our students, with the goal for students - after several years of study beginning in the Lower School and extending through Middle and High Schools - to become naturally and authentically conversant in Hebrew. For a number of years, we have been using the fully integrated TaL AM Hebrew Heritage Language program as the primary materials for learning, while supplementing with additional sources, including authentic Israeli literary texts. TaL AM's research-based, spiraled curriculum is designed with the understanding that the best learning environment for second language acquisition is one in which students are actively engaged with the language being taught through a variety of modalities, the multiple intelligences, and all five senses. Applying the methodology of the proficiency approach, our program - developed in collaboration with Hebrew at the Center (HATC) - focuses on the development of all four key areas of language acquisition: speaking, comprehension (oral and reading), reading, and writing. As students progress through their Lower School years, their language skills develop toward fluency. In the school, the Hebrew environment is not limited to Judaic Studies classrooms. Hebrew is infused into the daily life of the school in a variety of ways so that Hebrew stands as a characteristic aspect of the life and culture of the school.

Ability Grouping

Beginning in third grade, students are placed based on demonstrated skills in oral and written output and comprehension of authentic Hebrew. Our levels are:

  • Grade Level Enriched: Teacher and students speak and write almost exclusively in Hebrew in all Judaic Studies subjects.
  • Grade Level: The teacher conducts the class almost exclusively in Hebrew, while students are encouraged to speak and write as much Hebrew as they can while also being given a safe space to speak in English when exploring subjects of greater complexity or depth.
  • Grade Level Supported: Designed with our students who have challenges in a second language immersion environment, Hebrew Language skills are taught by our Hebrew Language Learning Specialist with the language of instruction and interaction for Judaic Studies topics being English. Students in this class focus on developing their Hebrew literacy skills: decoding and reading comprehension, while also growing their functional vocabulary at a pace that will most ideally meet their needs.

This leveling structure allows all students to engage with the curricular material at a level of challenge that is appropriate to their capacity with Hebrew. The school takes a fluid approach to leveling decisions from year to year, allowing students to transfer to a higher or lower level depending on their demonstrated achievement levels in Hebrew language skills.

To view the full description, scope and sequence, and content of the CESJDS Lower School Hebrew Language Curriculum, click here.


Identity and Spiritual Development

Can one develop a sense of one's role in the world before developing a strong sense of self? Can a sense of self in the world be developed without an understanding of one's history and the communities within which one lives?

CESJDS emphasizes the importance of the development of one's awareness of and connection to his or her soul. Through the lens of our core values of k'dushah/holiness, ahavat Yisra-el/love of Israel, and pluralism, our students will come to understand who they are at their spiritual essences and identify ways to express their spirituality, their connections to the land and people of Israel, and embrace that there are multiple pathways to experiencing meaning within Judaism. Through our integrated curriculum of learning, experience of religious and other spiritual activities, and caring, rich relationships with faculty, our students engage in a community that fosters our students' development of a confident and strong sense of who they are as individuals, Jews and members of the global community.

Responsive Classroom

A classroom must - first and foremost - be a community of learners built on the ideals of mutual respect, kindness, and positivity.  We all make mistakes; it is how we respond to them that is a true measure of a teacher or a student. 

At the CESJDS Lower School, we have adopted the Responsive Classroom philosophy and approach to classroom management and community building.  To begin each day, our students gather for a Morning Meeting or Advisory session to get their days off to a warm and comfortable start, having taken some time to get to know and bond with their classroom community members a little bit better.  Responsive classroom guides teachers in how to intervene with and redirect student behavior in ways that align with classroom norms, build trust, and positively reinforce behavioral expectations.


CESJDS has placed itself at the forefront of schools integrating technology into the classroom. The School's technology-rich learning environment presents students with unprecedented opportunities to demonstrate their intellectual strengths and creativity, to customize their learning to support their individual needs, and to broaden their access to and ability to learn from a variety of sources. At the same time, they are mastering the skills that will prepare them for college and will be critical to their success in their adult professional lives.

Why Teach with Technology?

  1. Technology enables and fosters collaboration, particularly beyond the walls of the school and beyond the hours of the school day.
  2. Technology fosters engagement, both because the children we teach now are digital natives and because it puts the means of multi-media creation into their hands.
  3. Technology helps students do the things we've always done, better – both analyzing and evaluating are more dynamic, which taps and trains a broader range of skills.
  4. Technology pushes kids to reach the highest levels of Bloom's new taxonomy of skills - not just analyzing and evaluating, but creating.
  5. Technology enables differentiation within a single classroom, both in terms of learning styles and ability.
  6. Technology helps place students at the center of the classroom and makes students active creators of their own learning.
  7. Technology makes it possible for students to do real work for authentic audiences and to present their findings and products to a world outside our school.
  8. Technology is the currency of our students' futures – their adult success may well depend in large measure on their comfort in a digital world.

Students in 1st grade used the online program Blabberize to bring their self-portraits from art class to life!


Learning how to be a leader is developed over a course of experiences where one steps forward and takes risks, observes others in the ways that they lead, and reflects upon the characteristics and responsibilities associated with leadership.

Students at JDS have opportunities to engage in leadership experiences that range from a leadership role in a Reader’s Workshop group to participation in Student Council.  Leadership occurs in many arenas, including academic group work and community service projects.  The learning that occurs as our students experiment with leadership roles provides the foundation for future leadership as well as the understanding of what it means to be a contributing and collaborative group member.


It really does take a village to raise a child and learning in school is about so much more than academics.

When parents entrust their children to us at the Lower School of CESJDS, they do so knowing that their children's social-emotional needs are being attended to by a caring and generous team of guidance counselors whose purpose is to help children, in partnership with teachers and parents, navigate challenges that often extend beyond the classroom.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction is a valued part of our educational philosophy. Our classroom teachers recognize that each classroom is filled with learners with skills above grade level, those with various learning styles and those with learning challenges.  Each teacher works toward enriching or modifying the curriculum based on student needs.

Curriculum Integration (STEM & Beyond)
The CESJDS STEM program places the school at the forefront of elementary school STEM educa¬tion. STEM education is an approach to teaching and learning that integrates the content and skills of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Whereas a traditional approach would treat these disciplines separately, STEM education integrates the four so that students draw on ideas from each discipline and better understand how these fields interrelate. STEM education is hands-on and provides students with opportunities to plan, collaborate, persevere, problem-solve and in¬novate – critical skills for students to be successful in our rapidly changing world.

Examples of CESJDS STEM education:
  • Kindergarten students exploring and devising ramp systems to investigate how weight and angles affect motion.
  • Third grade students engineering a unique working door alarm by integrating simple machines, electricity, measurement and technology
  • 5th and 6th grade math classes integrating measurement and design to build Rube Goldberg machines that elaborately perform simple tasks.
  • After-school robotics program that provides students with the opportunity to engineer robots and program their motion with NXT Mindstorms software.



More important that what we know is the kind of people that we are.  How will a child become a person of good character and high moral values - loving their neighbors as themselves and taking responsibility for themselves and the wider community -  if they are not engaged in learning about and practice of them?

At the CESJDS Lower School, becoming and being a mentch is so core to our learning experience that it is the only behavior that we publicly recognize and reward in our school. Each month, we adopt a new middah/ethical value on which to focus our learning in the area of character and moral development and we are so proud to recognize our students for behaviors in the spirit of our middot as Middah Mentchen on our Wall of Fame each month.  This is so important to us as a community that it is the only accomplishment for which students are publicly recognized.

  • September: Kavod - Respect
  • October: G'milut Hasadim - Acts of Loving Kindness
  • November: Achrayut - Responsibility
  • December: Gvurah - Courage
  • January: K'hillah - Community (Diversity & Tolerance)
  • February: Hizdahut - Empathy
  • March: Tzedek - Justice and Honor
  • April: Ezrahut - Citizenship
  • May: K'dushah and Anuvah - Holiness and Humility
  • June: Hakarat Hatov - Appreciation and Acknowledgement

Tikkun Olam/ Social Action

What does education mean if it is not being put into use to make the world a better place than what it was when we arrived? 

Tikkun olam/Repairing the world takes many different forms and is a core pathway for an individual to express his or her Jewish identity and commitment to Judaism.  At CESJDS, we offer students a variety social action/service projects - inside school and beyond our walls - and encourage students to initiate their own projects so that they may put into action what they have learned about their role in the world.  

Ethical Covenant

What are the guiding ethical principles that we wish to make manifest in our everyday lives as a community? 

Our values, or middot, guide our relations to ourselves, our families, our community and our God.  Through the vehicle of the Ethical Covenant, we transform the principles of Caring, Respect/כבוד, Responsibility/אחריות, Honor/יושר, Citizenship/עזרחות and Justice/צדק into our learning and behavior throughout the day.  A collaborative effort, including parents and school personnel, went into selecting these principles and translating them into our Ethical Covenant document.  The Covenant includes quotations and suggestions for action and provides inspiration for behaviors aligned with and reflective of these values.  This covenant is an important component of the CESJDS partnership between home and school, which is dedicated to educating and raising mensches, kind and responsible human beings.

View the CESJDS Ethical Covenant.

Welcome to the Lower School!

CESJDS achieves academic excellence through a rich and rigorous General and Judaic Studies curriculum designed to promote inquiry, critical thinking and solid 21st-century skills in a world of rapidly changing information. Lower School students start their journey to become skilled readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and artists, anchored in Jewish values and knowledge. Our integrated curriculum approach highlights experiential learning across all subjects to help students see connections and develop a deeper understanding of core skills and concepts.

A CESJDS education is designed to assure that our students are well grounded in essential skills and creative in spirit; that they will know the academic disciplines while learning to work diligently and persevere; that they will succeed according to standardized scholastic measures but excel, too, in realms like citizenship and menschlekhkeit that are not quantifiable. Through our character education program “middot tovot”, we cultivate specific מידות – Middot – qualities of character in classrooms, on the playing fields and in the relationships formed at school. We design our curriculum to allow children to explore and learn in an environment that balances structure with choice, and the individual with the community.

CESJDS Gurim Junior Kindergarten CurriculumCESJDS Kindergarten CurriculumCESJDS first grade curriculum


CESJDS second grade curriculumCESJDS third grade curriculumCESJDS fourth grade curriculumCESJDS fifth grade curriculum



Meet the Principal

Rabbi Matthew Bellas, Lower School Principal

Rabbi Matthew Bellas
Lower School Principal

Rabbi Bellas received his call to the Rabbinate at the tender age of eight years old. From that summer on, he pursued studies and a career that would forward his own religious, spiritual, and educational goals and those of the Jewish People. It was during his teenage years that he discovered his passion for working with children and decided soon after high school that leadership in Jewish Day Schools would be his career path. Rabbi Bellas received his B.A. in Jewish Studies and M.A.Ed from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and was ordained as a Rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Before coming to CESJDS, Rabbi Bellas served as School Rabbi of The Brandeis School in Lawrence, NY and Principal of Judaic Studies/School Rabbi of Vancouver Talmud Torah School in his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.