Our School

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Jewish education is the key ingredient of Jewish continuity, as one generation passes on its wisdom to the next. We believe that Jewish education develops a meaningful Jewish identity.

We are proud to create an environment for the honest questioning of life’s essential issues. There are no unthinkable thoughts nor any unaskable questions. Only in this way can we hope that our children eventually will become freethinking individuals who affirmatively take ownership of their Jewish identity.

bc hope 8All our students learn about the Jewish holidays as they occur over the course of the liturgical calendar. They learn what our tradition offers in terms of observance and celebration in general, and how Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community celebrates them in particular. It is one of the wonders of Judaism that there is no single way to be Jewish.

 

Visit us on YouTube to see more videos from our school holiday celebrations.

Specialty Programs:

Kindergarten through Second Grade Focus

Our primary students are on a three-year curricular rotation to cover kindergarten and first and second grades. The curriculum includes Bible stories, Jewish identity, and mitzvot or good deeds as they learn to become good people by being the youngest participants in tikkun olam or repairing the world and making it a better place. They learn about the Jewish holidays throughout as well.

Third and Fourth Grade Focus

Our third and fourth grade students study Jewish heroes and history. Jewish children need a cultural literacy about their heritage, and role models to whom they can look when confronted with difficult issues in their lives. A hero is not an idol, and not simply someone who is outstanding in his or her field. Rather a true hero is someone who has overcome an obstacle to succeed, set an important moral or ethical example, or led his or her community in a different and better direction. In the alternate year, these students study the Jewish life cycle from birth to death and Jewish literature, including the Bible, Talmud, midrash and contemporary stories.

Fifth and Sixth Grade Focus

Fifth and sixth grade students focus on Israel, both in historic and modern times. They learn the significance of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, and come to understand the complex issues facing the Middle East today. In the alternate year, this class studies immigration, Eastern European Jewry and Yiddish culture.

Middle School Focus

Seventh and eighth grade students will be privileged to have a full year of Holocaust studies (see below) unparalleled in any supplemental school in the Chicago area. In the alternate year, the class studies American Jewish history, and prejudice and tolerance.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation

One-year learn to read Hebrew program, in conjunction with Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation culminating in a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony

Ninth Grade Focus

Ninth grade students study ethics in a class leading to confirmation.

Distance Learning

Beth Chaverim offers an innovative and exciting educational opportunity for people who live more than fifty miles from us. The Beth Chaverim Distance Learning Program (“DLP”) allows grade school and middle school students to have a Humanistic Jewish education even if their hometown does not offer the appropriate opportunities. Through the DLP, written materials as well as projects that are grade level appropriate are sent to the student to be completed and returned to the school. Those students who are able are requested to attend religious school once a month; for others for whom the distance is too great for monthly attendance, they are encouraged to attend three programs during the school year; and for those for whom the distance is prohibitive, the entire program will be offered via email and regular mail. All supplies, including books and craft project materials will be provided.

“I Witness the Holocaust”

Dick Strauss teaches award-winning Holocaust curriculum

Beth Chaverim is proud to offer the award winning curriculum, “I Witness the Holocaust” taught by Holocaust educator, Dick Strauss. It is believed to be the only full year curriculum of Holocaust study in a supplemental religious school in the entire Chicago area. Awarded a Lurie Award for Excellence in Jewish Education by the Community Foundation for Jewish Education, this curriculum spans the years 1914 through 1948 and gives middle school students a first hand account of the experiences of a variety of people in Europe. The students hear directly from a ghetto survivor, a hidden child, a death camp survivor, a righteous gentile, a Jewish resistance fighter, a liberator, a child of a survivor, and a representative from the Israeli Consulate. In addition, the students visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. Additionally, time permitting, the students will commemorate Yom HaShoah with a service in the spring. The students literally become the witnesses to the Holocaust, and therefore bear the important responsibility to remember, retell and do whatever they can to prevent injustice, prejudice and ultimately genocide.

The curriculum has had a lasting impact on the scores of students who have experienced it. Dick Strauss describes the importance of the curriculum: “The Holocaust was unprecedented, but now the precedent is there. One of the horrible lessons of the Holocaust is that it can happen again, it has happened to a certain extent in Rwanda, East Timor and in Kosovo. The only way for us to relay the horrors of what happened, its significance and to keep this from ever happening again is through ‘honest’ and universal education. When you study the Holocaust, you are studying the highest level of organized hate in the history of mankind. Studying the rise of the Nazis, their extermination of the Jews, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and other ‘undesirables’ is an exploration into how ordinary people can be led into committing the ultimate horror — genocide. John Conway said, ‘The Nazis victimized some people for what they did, some for what they do, some for what they were, and some for the fact that they were. For the dead and the living, we must remember.’ This is the only way to prevent the events that took place between 1933 and 1945. Can it happen again? Yes. Can we, through knowledge and education and guts prevent it from happening again? Yes.”

Dick Strauss has taught religious school for twenty-five years. He developed the curriculum as part of his advanced degree and it is the result of his studies at Roosevelt University, the University of South Florida, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Facing History and Ourselves, the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation, and Steven Speilberg’s Shoah Foundation. He and his wife Donna are charter/founding members of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Dick has been honored by being admitted to the USHMM “Circle of Life,’ the Museum’s highest and most distinguished honor for non-survivors.

Because of the importance of the subject matter, this curriculum is offered to interested adults as well.

Contact us for more information.