Dual Language Curriculum
CJDS has chosen to teach Hebrew as our second language. The Hebrew language is the glue that connects our students with their heritage and the Jewish people all over the world.
One of the first lessons in first grade is a tour of the many synagogues around the world. They learn that no matter what language is spoken in that country, Hebrew is spoken in the synagogue. They can feel at home wherever they go.
Educational studies suggest additional benefits of early foreign language education
- Improves overall school performance and produces superior problem-solving skills
- Enhances listening skills a greater sensitivity to language builds
- Helps students statistically outperform their peers in standardized verbal testing
- Promotes creative development and awareness of cultural diversity
Our students begin learning Hebrew in kindergarten when they are taught the Hebrew letters and vowel recognition. They progress to reading words and sentences, developing vocabulary, and increasing comprehension.
We are very fortunate to have a Hebrew whole language modified immersion curriculum. This program is taught in a Hebrew immersion classroom and includes all of the components of Judaic teachings, reading, writing, language, Torah, and holidays and rituals. In the beginning the children think that they are in a foreign country, but in a few weeks they are responding in the Hebrew language. With continuing instruction, many of the students are able to write stories in Hebrew, converse, and read fluently.
We also utilize our skills in the study of Torah. Since the Torah is the basic foundation of Judaism, we feel that it is important for the children to be exposed to the original text, which is written in Hebrew. The skills that we teach allow the children to further explore the many treasures contained in the Torah.
We begin teaching the Torah in the second grade, using the actual Hebrew text.
The Torah, which is the five Books of Moses, is divided into 53 portions. Each of these portions is called a "Parsha."
A large percentage of Parsha is devoted to the lives of our ancestors. We strive to present our ancestors, the patriarchs and matriarchs, as models from whom we can learn. For example, we are all familiar with the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, when G-d commands Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt. When relating this story, we emphasize that, at this particular time, Moses was working as a shepherd. One day when he was herding sheep, he rescued a single straying sheep – a sheep that would otherwise have been lost from the flock. By rescuing that sheep, Moses showed his concern for each of the creatures in his flock.
We help the children recognize and understand Moses’ compassion and love and hopefully incorporate that compassion and love in family relationships, friendships, and each aspect of their own lives.
Holidays and Customs
Because so many families identify with our many beautiful holidays and celebrate them, we spend time learning the story and practices of each holiday. We want the children to understand the reasons behind the holidays and their customs. For example, the holiday of Chanukah is presented in our school in the following way:
The younger children begin by learning about the origin of the Chanukah menorah. They learn about the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting for eight days. They are then ready to learn how to recite the blessings that precede the lighting of the menorah.
We know that children learn and remember best through hands-on experiences, so the children design functional menorahs and actually press olives to produce olive oil for their handcrafted menorahs.
As the children mature, we focus on the message of the lights. Just as we mark each new day of Chanukah by adding another candle, so must we constantly strive to add light and warmth to our surroundings.
We further encourage the children to apply their critical thinking skills by challenging them to understand not only what we do or what happened, but also why we celebrate in the manner that we do. For example: Why is Chanukah the only holiday that is not celebrated with a festive meal? And why is the miracle of the great military victory barely mentioned and certainly not included in the practices of the holiday? These thought-provoking questions help the children gain a complete understanding of the holiday, from the when to the what, and then to the why.