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, Creative Writing, 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 15-minute program in which the entire Upper School gathers for a Dvar Torah and a talent presentation. 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!
With the beginning of each Jewish month, we hold an event or assembly, and showcase the theme of the month by planning a program or speaker that highlights upcoming holidays in that month. We often partner with a local or national organization to give our students the opportunities to hear from outside speakers. For example, the month of Nisan contains the holiday of Pesach, when we celebrate the Jews’ freedom from their slavery in Egypt. To commemorate that, we invited an immigration attorney who works on high profile asylum cases of political prisoners around the world. Making connections between students’ contemporary lives and the Jewish calendar/experiences helps them understand how Judaism is relevant in their lives today.
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 and have memories that last a lifetime.
In addition to celebrating Jewish holidays, we also mark dates of significance to Israel including Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah. To celebrate Israel's independence on Yom Ha’atzmaut, we host Zimriyah, an annual song and dance competition that students look forward to each year.
These are just a few of our many Jewish life elements 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 and 6th 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 K-6 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.