Students in the sixth grade are using the Union for Reform Judaism’s CHAI curriculum, which encourages students to learn in a way that goes beyond the classroom activities. Specifically, sixth grade students will focus on the concept of “revealing,” and how, when, and in what form God’s teachings and instructions were “revealed” to the Jewish people.
In the Torah section of the curriculum, students study Ketuvim or Writings, and analyze the different types of literature within, which include poetry, stories, and words of wisdom. In particular, students examine evidence of God’s presence or absence in the Book of Ruth by reading and interpreting the actual story. In the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, they determine whether they agree or disagree with the message, and they apply these words of wisdom to their own lives, even attempting to write their own wisdom text. Finally, students look at representations and images of God in the Book of Psalms. The students can then reflect on how they see God represented or “revealed” in their own world and compose a poem or psalm of their own to share with the class.
The Avodah section of the curriculum focuses on the Torah service and how participation in the Torah service is the student’s way of connecting with God the way the Jewish people did when they received the Torah. Students experience Torah reading by learning about the ancient practice of reading Torah in the marketplace and through their attendance at synagogue services. Students read portions of the Torah out loud and in the sanctuary, to further experience the communal nature of the Torah service. Students also learn about the different parts of the Torah service, including the distinct terms and vocabulary (aliyah, bimah, etc.), service elements (removing the Torah from the ark, parading it around the congregation), and choreography and etiquette (the proper way to behave during an aliyah). These concepts are reinforced by activities such as researching the prayer book to find specific components, and playing a “Torah Team Challenge Game,” to assess what the students have learned about the service. Finally, students learn about the Haftarah and what it contains, as well as the blessings before and after both the Haftarah and the Torah.
The third and final section, G’milut Chasadim, teaches the students about performing “acts of loving-kindness,” as both a way of fulfilling our covenant with God, and as a way of feeling connected to God. Students look at six serious world issues (protecting the rainforests, recycling and conserving energy, care and protection of animals, world health issues, peace, world hunger, civil rights), their connection to Jewish texts, and what can be done to help alleviate the problem. Students engage in research and activism to do their part in making a difference in the world.