The Third grade curriculum includes the CHAI program, one that has been used with great success in joint Conservative/Reform religious schools throughout the country. In this year, in the Torah strain of the curriculum, we focus on the Book of Leviticus. We use “Chevruta,” or studying together in groups, to deal with particular subjects or themes. Parashot (Torah portions) include what it means to be holy, offering ‘gifts’ or sacrifices as a way of drawing near to God, “Kashrut,” placing stumbling blocks before the blind, rebuking someone and not holding a grudge, the concept of Shabbat as holy time, the sabbatical year and holiness of the earth, love thy neighbor, making a bedside companion to remind one of holiness, the importance of passing on to others the laws of holiness, and how to do it.
The Avodah (or worship) strain focuses on how we can make the world more holy, starting with a scavenger hunt to find things and persons in the synagogue that can make us feel holy and then including road signs to find God (using Biblical texts about Jacob and Esau), how to relate to God (as someone ‘special’), getting connected to God (the Shehechiyanu prayer), how to act holy, the importance of order (vs. disorder), being holy by respecting and caring for our bodies, how ordinary moments can be holy (using the Nisim B’chol Yom [daily miracle] prayers), and take all of this home to share and discuss with parents.
The G’milut Chasadim [Acts of Lovingkindness] strain incorporates not only developing and implementing mitzvah projects, but also explores our responsibilities to others, to Jews around the world (K’lal Yisrael), the balance between taking care of others and looking out for onself (all using Jewish texts), how caring has a multiplier effect, how to incorporate G’milut Chasadim into our every day lives, establishing a “road map” for acts of loving kindness, connecting such acts to Jewish Holiday observance, and actually mounting and implementing a mitzvah project
The third grade curriculum also presents an introduction to Modern Israel, its culture, geography, and people. We touch on relevant history and underscore the importance of every Jew’s relationship to Israel. We also strive to promote a healthy sense of pride in being Jewish with our new “modern Jewish heroes” material. While not a formal part of the curriculum, students learn about contemporary Jews to whom they can relate, in the fields of entertainment, sports, and politics.