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Philosophy of Jewish Education at Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies (SJS)

We take our partnership between our students, their parents, our teachers, our clergy and our synagogue professional staff very seriously. Our goal is to have every person who enters our community have a meaningful Jewish experience which will inspire lifelong learning.

Hebrew is the DNA of Jewish learning.

The Jewish learning becomes more involved each year and the curriculum is meant to spiral so that each year’s lessons build upon one another. One of my mentors in Jewish Education said that “Hebrew is the DNA of Jewish learning.”  With Hebrew as a foundation, we can learn about our heritage in the most authentic way. The siddur (prayer book) is a book that has been around for almost 1,000 years. Our students feel incredibly comfortable using the siddur because we make it a part of their lives early on. The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is perhaps the best selling book in the history of the world. Our students become familiar with the Torah, Prophets and Writings throughout their years in our school. The Jewish holidays, including Shabbat and commemorations are community-building events that strengthen Jewish identity within our congregational community. Israel is our Jewish homeland and is a cornerstone of our entire existence. Performing tikkun olam (repairing the world) allows us to fulfill one of Rabbi Hillel’s teachings, “You want to learn a great deal quickly, don’t you?  Very well, I shall teach you the Torah while you stand on one foot. This is our Holy Torah: ‘What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.’”  “Does it mean that the heathens and the Jews and all of us are brothers (and sisters)? Does it mean that we must be kind to one another like brothers (and sisters)?” asked the heathen, wonderingly. “That’s it, my son (or daughter). That’s the meaning of the whole Torah.  All the rest is only an explanation of that. Go, go, my son (or daughter). Go and study it,” said Rabbi Hillel kindly.

The Jewish journey is an individual experience enhanced greatly by the community. Everyone has his or her own story and we want the Am Yisrael portion of your Jewish journey to be golden. This starts with the earliest years that your child enters our synagogue and school. My earliest childhood memory was being held by my rabbi on the bimah and having him hand me a lollipop. I have witnessed moments similar to this at our Shabbat Family Programming (SFP) and in our Gan, Alef and Bet (Pre-K, K and 1) classrooms. Our formal program encompasses Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grades.

The 21st-century learners’ needs are prime on our agenda for reaching our goals.  We are diligent about meeting the needs of each individual student and take into consideration the 21st-century learner. Many students enjoy using the tablets as a tool for learning Hebrew one-on-one in a remedial fashion and for doing curricular enrichment at school and at home using several recommended websites and apps. As more websites and apps become available, we will continue to add them to our school and recommended repertoire. These tools even help students to overcome learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Our SMART Boards enhance the learning experience.

We love our SMART Boards as they enhance the learning experience at SJS in a major way.  Nearly all of our classrooms have SMART Boards. We use the SMART Boards to teach Hebrew, letters, vowels and Hebrew decoding/reading. We enjoy video conferencing with Israel and hope to branch out to other cities in the United States and throughout the world, do school-wide programs and show timely, poignant videos (e.g. Operation Solomon, Memorial for Yitzhak Rabin, Kristallnacht, etc.). A picture says a thousand words. A short, meaningful video says more.

We are excited about our cloud computing, as we have set up a secure place to post and share our students’ writings, videos and scans of their artwork. MP3 Recordings are made available to all students in the school to aid in practicing Hebrew prayers and Torah readings.

Hands-on tikkun olam work is used as a teaching tool.

With the needs of our students at the forefront, we are meeting our students in their world, where they are at in their secular schools and in their lives in general. In addition, we are keeping the best of the past and having it meet our student’s needs. For example, hands-on tikkun olam (repairing the world) work is used as a teaching tool at Am Yisrael SJS as well. We donate lunches to those in need and have had our students volunteer at soup kitchens.  We also send classes to the ARK.  Our students visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum. All the while, Rambam’s ladder of tzedakah is a focal point, as we teach our students “to teach others how to fish so that they can fish for themselves someday.”

We believe that we must change with the times in order to compete with sophisticated modern-day students.

Do we use textbooks and siddurim (prayerbooks)? Absolutely! Do we have prayer services?  Without a doubt. Do we offer omanut (art) and shira (music) classes? Yes!  Do we believe that we must change with the times in order to compete with the sophisticated and complex modern-day student who has Google and Alexa at his/her fingertips?  You better believe it.

An innovative learning experience for the 21st-century learner.

If you are interested in an innovative learning experience for your child(ren) that takes the needs of the 21st-century learner into account as a primary goal, we just might be the school for you. Please contact me if you have any questions, via email or 847-708-1805 (mobile).  Our best ambassadors are our students and their parents. Please speak with them or get in direct contact with me.

Mr. Charlie Sherman, MAEd, CJE
Head of School
Tue, June 22 2021 12 Tammuz 5781