Upper School

The Upper School is a huge leap from the educational experience of the lower grades.  The program is designed to accommodate the teen’s changing sense of self, the interest and awareness of the outside world, and desire to see the relevance of the lessons Judaism has to teach.  The Upper School program seeks to inspire our teens to lead their lives as identified, committed Jews, with a thirst for lifelong Jewish learning.

Gesher: A Seventh Grade Program

The seventh grade religious school program at Congregation Beth El has long acted as a bridge, gesher in Hebrew, between the lower and upper school programs.  Designed to complement the reality of life as a seventh grader, this program offers our students and their families flexible, meaningful educational experiences. With the transition to Jewish adulthood, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the seventh grade serves as a bridge to the more mature approach of the high school program. Students are encouraged to attend the congregational Shabbat morning services at least once a month.  The seventh grade completes formal Hebrew and prayer study, shifting to an exploration of Jewish text and thought, studies relating to themes of the Holocaust, and ethical dilemmas. Hazzan Fradkin provides enrichment sessions.  Recognizing the rigor of preparation for Bar/Bat Mitzvah which most students will be engaged during this year, the weekly commitment is shortened to one day. Students have their choice of our Tuesday afternoon (4:30-6:30) or evening (7:00-9:00) sessions, with an optional dinner/social time from 6:15-7:00.

The Core of Upper School (Grades 8-10)

Each Tuesday evening, teens take two classes – one core and one elective.  The core courses make up the backbone of our Upper School program, with one year-length course for each grade.

  • Eighth grade – Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li – If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  If I am only for myself, what am I?  And if not now, when?
    • The eighth grade curriculum consists of two units. During the first part of the year students engage in a study of anti-racism, social justice, the Black Lives Matter movement, and how these topics are all connected to Judaism. During the last part of the year, students study modern day antisemitism. All class content is designed with respect for the sensitivity and seriousness of the topic, as well as an appreciation for what is developmentally appropriate for students of this age. Tali Moscowitz is happy to talk to any families who have questions about this curriculum, or any other aspect of the Upper School.
  • Ninth Grade – Ahavat Yisrael – Discovering a Love of Israel – Her Land, Her History, Her People
    • Ninth graders engage in a year-long study of Israel – her history, her land, and her people. This course utilizes primary source documents, building a strong foundation of Israel study, beginning with Biblical texts and spanning the centuries to society and issues of today.  This course endeavors to allow our teens to gain a fuller understanding of Israel’s history, the diverse people who live there, and the unique and complex reality of living in that land.
  • Tenth Grade – B’tzelem Elohim – Created in God’s Image: Human Sexuality and Jewish values
    • The Tenth grade-Confirmation program consists of a broad range of components.  The unifying theme for the program of studies is B’TZELEM ELOHIM – In God’s Image.  Study derived from this fundamental principle leads toward an understanding that we are all created “In God’s Image” and thus are deserving of dignity and respect. The course is built around an exploration into Jewish Views on Human Sexuali­ty and Sexuality Related Issues, making personal decisions and what our religious tradition has to say in those matters.  The synagogue clergy also meet with the class for sessions on decision-making, personal responsibility and sexuality, and their Jewish journeys more generally.

      Confirmands also have the opportunity to participate in an exciting experiences together with their classmates: the Sorkin Youth Trip to Israel.  The Confirmation celebration and dinner in the spring marks the climax of the Confirmation year.  In this ceremony the Confirmand accepts added responsibilities that go along with increased maturity.

"I enjoyed being involved in the community and spending time with friends."


The elective courses offered enable students to choose a class based on areas of interest to them. These classes fall under one of four areas of study: Israel, History and Culture, Jewish Text and Thought, and Ethics and Jewish Values.  Courses offered this year include: Conversational Hebrew, Jewish Leadership, Top Talmudic Tales, The Afterlife: Jewish Views on Death, Tikkun Olam – Text and Thought, Arab-Israeli Conflict, US-Israel Relations, Power & Propaganda in the Holocaust, The Holocaust through Film, Hot Topics and Jews in the News.


Every Tuesday evening, teens come early for class (or stay after class, in the case of our afternoon seventh grade cohort) for dinner and social time.  A highlight of the program, the hallways of the school are often filled with teens spending time together, creating their own teen community.  Most Tuesday evenings, dinner will be pizza, but occasionally a different menu will be planned.  You can sign up for Tuesday night dinner here.

"It provides a fun way to learn about Jewish topics and be with friends."

Special Teen Programs

In addition to our regular program of core classes and electives, we provide a broad range of special programming for teens and their parents dealing with issues that impact their lives now or will in the near future. Past programs have included workshops on relationships with the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, programs on social action with Jews United for Justice, and special speakers, such as Neil Lazarus and Scott Fried.

“I loved the activities—lots of fun!”
“Being with my Beth El friends was the best part.

Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing offers adolescent girls the opportunity to gather on a monthly basis to learn, laugh, and grow as they explore the challenges and joys of their lives, sharing their thoughts and experiences, and accessing the wisdom from their heritage. We will gather  for dinner, discussion, and a project related to the theme of the current Hebrew Month. Beth El currently hosts two Rosh Hodesh groups for sixth and seventh graders.  Sixth graders typically meet on Saturday evenings, when Shabbat ends early, or on Sunday evenings. Seventh graders typically meet on Sunday evenings.   For more information, please contact Tali Moscowitz (tmoscowitz@bethelmc.org).

Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood is a program designed for teen boys by a group of rabbis, educators, psychologists, parents, and teens themselves. In general, the program is a lot of fun for the participants – they play various competitive and collaborative games, talk about pop culture, study great Jewish texts, and share stories. They will also have an opportunity to discuss, in a safe and private setting, critical issues in their lives as teens and young men. For more information, please contact Tali Moscowitz, Assistant Education Director.