Upper School (Grades 7-10)
“I enjoyed being involved in the community and spending time with friends.”
“It provides a fun way to learn about Jewish topics and be with friends.”
About our 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. The Gesher Program contains two distinct pieces, both of which are essential to the program: Tuesday classes AND monthly experiential education programs.
- Tuesday Classes – students have their choice of our afternoon (4:30-6:30) or evening (7:00-9:00) sessions, with an optional dinner/social time from 6:15-7:00. Each Tuesday, students take two classes: Comparative Judaism and People of the Book: Jewish Text and Thought. Current events and Jewish values are an essential piece of both of these classes and help to illuminate the relevance of Judaism to our seventh graders’ modern lives.
- Monthly Experiential Education Programs (EEPs) – roughly once a month, seventh graders take part in a program that serves as an extension and enrichment of our core Tuesday program. These include Shabbat visits to congregations of various denominations, as well as field trips and community programs that extend the curriculum beyond the classroom. This may include field trips to museums, exploring our regional Jewish history with our feet, guest speakers, or plays at Theater J or other local theaters.
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?
- Eighth graders begin their core course experience with a half-year course studying Comparative Religions, learning about other faith traditions through in class learning as well as through visits to other houses of worship. The last half of the year is spent with an introduction to the Holocaust.while the other half serves to give them an introduction to the Holocaust.
- 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.
- Tenth Grade – B’tzelem Elohim – Created in God’s Image: Human Sexuality and Jewish values
- Tenth graders spend their Confirmation year with a view to personal decision making, studying Human Sexuality and Jewish Values. Students also spend one quarter of the year with Rabbi Fabian Werbin’s Confirmation Seminar.
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.
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.
Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!
“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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood
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 for Youth Engagement.