At Beth Adam, we take a BOLD approach to Judaism. We are bringing that boldness to our newly redesigned religious school known as Our Village, offering an innovative strategy grounded in cutting edge education theory.
Our educational approach is student centered as well as content oriented. We want every child in Beth Adam to feel empowered as a member of the Jewish community, while also proudly embracing a world view and philosophy based on science and reason, rather than supernatural theology.
At Our Village, we are preparing our students to be kind, confident, collaborative, critical thinkers for the twenty-first century and beyond. They are encouraged to be change-makers; social and environmental justice advocates. Jewish history, tradition, and culture provide the framework within which our children develop their individual moral and ethical decision-making processes. One of the most obvious examples would be studying the Holocaust not only as a devastating tragedy in our communal history, but also as a lens through which to view all bigotry, prejudice, human cruelty, and the psycho-social origins of human destructiveness. Similarly, we teach the Jewish Festivals not only as cultural traditions and rituals, but also as environmental lessons in our relationship, interdependence, and responsibility for all living organisms.
Every segment of our curriculum is taught experientially, and students have the opportunity to utilize various media to explore the academic content; storytelling, videography, arts, music, dance, drama, and more. Rather than being presented with “projects” to complete, our students collaborate with their classmates and teachers to create projects that will become a part of the curriculum, and a part of Beth Adam, for the future. Every wall in Our Village displays the living, interactive, and ongoing products of our students’ creativity. Our unique learning space is designed to support this process.
Facilities: Our Village consists of seven distinct learning spaces.
Our Village “Sanctuary” - This large, relatively empty multi-use room houses a range of activities from Yoga (including “Aleph Bet Asanas”) and other meditative practices to physical activities such as music and dance – and everything in-between. It is a space that can accommodate the entire student body at once, and is governed by one sacred principle – everyone is welcomed, supported, accepted and nurtured according to their own needs and preferences. “Sitting out” of an activity is always as legitimate a choice as “jumping in” fully. It is our “Sanctuary” in the literal sense.
Our Village Early Childhood Center – This cozy room is furnished specifically for young children, with different areas devoted to different activities, with safety as a primary design feature so that our youngest students are able to explore Jewish culture and values with confidence and curiosity.
Our Village Story Lab - This space contains a small stage, for performative storytelling. Students learn how to weave content into engaging stories, myths, tales, dramatic productions. Each session, our students “produce” a new contribution to our oral tradition.
Our Village Library – This room is an annex to the Beth Adam Library, devoted to age-appropriate books and other educational resources. It is also the venue of our two-year Bar and Bat Mitzvah program, providing a quiet, peaceful environment for the academic studies necessary to celebrate this coming-of-age ritual in the Beth Adam tradition.
Our Village Media Studio – this small studio is used for much of Beth Adam’s media projects in general, but on Sunday mornings, it is the heart of our students’ digital media creativity. On occasions we have “roving reporters” covering the activities of our other rooms. At other times, our students may be creating a podcast or video of a specific topic or issue. An integral part of the mission of this studio is to engage students in serious thought about the evolution of new technology and its effects on our culture (Jewish and general).
Our Village Science Center – this large, bright room is the intellectual heart of Beth Adam’s Our Village. Here we ask questions about how the world works, why we exist, what life is, how to conduct our lives in a way that supports all living things, and what it means to be Jewish without a supernatural being giving us commandments. While our “teva” or nature program often takes place outside, in our expansive natural surroundings, the academic portion of our inquiry lives in our Science Center. We engage in thought experiments, as well as actual physical experiments, studying the reality of existence and striving to discover our place within it, as Jews, as humans, as collections of molecules living within a universe of molecules. The most central concept of Judaism, “oneness,” is the bedrock of our approach. Here we reclaim ancient, pre-biblical understandings that all existence is interconnected and interdependent, and verify that theory through observation, research, and discussion.
Our Village Arts Center - This large resource room is the hub of representational art projects; drawing and painting, sculpture, weaving, origami, even architecture – where students work collaboratively on major projects that will, like our storytelling, become a part of the future curriculum. On other occasions, especially relating to upcoming holidays, students create individual pieces to enhance their family’s celebration at home. Borrowing from a Bank Street style philosophy, we avoid pre-packaged, pre-planned arts and crafts, and invite the students to develop their own concepts, inspired by the content they are studying.
Beth Adam’s Our Village embraces the idea that learning is a complex process. We strive to engage all of our students’ senses, promoting and deepening their emotional attachments to the joys of Jewish culture.
If you would like to learn more about Our Village please feel free to email Rabbi Lewis, the Our Village Scholar in Residence, at RabbiLewis@BethAdam.org.