Jewish Life at CESJDS
Going to a Jewish day school includes much more than learning about Jewish identity; it means experiencing Jewish life together. The Jewish Life team creates experiential programs and opportunities for students to deepen their Jewish identity and connection to their school community. One of our goals is to make connections for the students between the secular calendar and the Jewish calendar. The rhythm of the Jewish calendar is one which punctuates our religious life, and pointing out the significant dates should enhance a student’s relationship with his or her Judaism.
Each day, students participate in Zman Kodesh (sacred time), dedicated to starting the day in a spiritual way. This form of sacred time enables students to build positive connections with Judaism and with their school community. We offer a wide variety of Zman Kodesh options — from traditional prayer in Egalitarian and Mehitzah (separate seating) settings, to alternative approaches such as Music, Journaling, Art, and others. These options are designed to expose students to a variety of models of Jewish spiritual expression. Students are encouraged to pursue their interests and to select the Zman Kodesh option that will provide the most engaging, meaningful, vibrant experiences for them each morning.
Every Friday, we hold Kabbalat Shabbat (accepting Shabbat), which is a 20-minute program in which the entire Upper School gathers for a Dvar Torah, a presentation, and a talent performance from our students. This is the highlight of the week for many of our students and staff. This weekly gathering is a hallmark of our warm community, in which everyone is welcome to offer words of encouragement, reflection and Torah. Additionally, from musical numbers to Tai Kwon Do and everything in between, our CESJDS community is rich with energy and talent, and Kabbalat Shabbat is the place we see it all!
We mark the beginning of each Jewish month with an event or assembly. We often partner with local or national organizations to give our students the opportunity to hear from or see outside speakers and performers. Some of the assemblies help our students engage in civic and cultural subjects while others focus specifically on an upcoming holiday or Jewish theme. For instance, the month of Adar, during which the holiday of Purim takes place, is knows as a month of joy. For this assembly, high school students have engaged in a game show and middle school students have participated in a talent show. Each assembly helps students engage directly in making connections between the program and their personal lives.
Starting in 8th grade, each grade spends one Shabbat together on their annual Shabbaton. We travel off campus to see new sites and bond in ways that we cannot during the school day. The annual Shabbaton is a highlight for many students, as they become closer to their classmates and teachers. Additionally, the Shabbat contributes toward the evolution of a grade as they grow through shared experiences.
We mark each Jewish holiday with hands-on and experiential learning. For example, our Hanukkah celebrations have included candle-lighting ceremonies, the creation of artwork representing the theme of “finding light in the midst of darkness,” and developing our growth mindset strategies as we focus on resilience. Our annual Passover celebration includes learning about hametz (the category of restricted foods on Passover) and burning of hametz. In addition to celebrating Jewish holidays, we also mark dates of significance to Israel and to the Jewish people, including Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah. To celebrate Israel’s independence on Yom Ha-atzma-ut, we engage in learning about Israel culture and host Zimriyah, our annual song and dance competition.
These are just a few of our many Jewish life programs at the school. Come and experience them with us!
Students in grades K-4 participate in T’filah in their classroom each day while students in 5th grade enjoy T’filah with their whole grade. These services are student led and celebrate all that they have learned during their time at the Lower School. They become familiar with the structure of the weekday, Shabbat and holiday prayers and develop the skills necessary to become active leaders and participants in synagogue services. Major prayers and liturgical themes are taught in great depth.
Every five weeks we have a whole-school Kabbalat Shabbat in the gym. Students JK-5 come together to welcome in Shabbat as a school with music, dancing and celebration
The Jewish calendar is taught experientially. Shabbat and holidays are celebrated in song and dance as students relive and reenact key events in our history. They gain an in-depth knowledge of the value concepts, blessings, prayers, laws, customs, symbols and observances that are central to each holiday.
Core Jewish Values
Our Middah of the Month program exemplifies our infusion of Jewish values into the daily life and learning of our school. It is a critical aspect of our philosophy of and deliberate attention to the education of the whole child. Our teachers use language throughout the school day that focuses on respect, responsibility, and community.
Through our “Middot Menschen” program, we celebrate students who demonstrate these values through their actions during the school day.