Frequently Asked Questions
WHEN DO CLASSES BEGIN FOR 2016?
All bet-vav students: TBD
First Saturday Shabbat School session: TBD
Kindergarten & Alef: Thursday, TBD
OPEN HOUSE FOR ALL FAMILIES - TBD
WHEN ARE CLASSES HELD?
Kindergarten and alef (first grade) meet once a week, Thursday from 4:15-6:15 p.m.
Bet through vav (second – sixth grade) meet twice a week, either Tuesday/Thursday or Shabbat School.
WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR KINDERGARTEN AND FIRST GRADERS?
We start promptly at so it is extremely important to have your children at the synagogue on time! There is a light snack for those who arrive prior to 4:15 p.m. Students have dinner at 5:40 p.m. Each week a different family will participate in class and also have the responsibility to provide dinner for the students. Before school begins parents will have the opportunity to sign up to provide dinners for the class.
Dinner MUST be diary/vegetarian or KOSHER meat. In the past, dinners have been pizza, pasta, bagels and spreads. We will give specific guidelines once we know if there are food allergies in the class. Dessert is optional and up to each individual family. If you do decide to bring dessert, please make every effort to bring in something that is nut free and has not been processed on equipment that has handled peanuts, tree nuts or sesame seeds.
Participating families are asked to bring in a ritual object from home for show and tell. If you need ideas about what to bring, email Rabbi Jodie at email@example.com or call her at the synagogue, 516-627-6274 for assistance.
You will receive an email at the beginning of the week that you are due to participate in class. If you cannot make your participation day, it is EXTREMELY important that you arrange to swap days with another family and notify us of the change!! If there is no one to swap days with, we will still need you to provide dinner, even if your child is absent.
Membership in RSNS is not required to enroll in kindergarten and first grade programs.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERNCE BETWEEN THE TUESDAY/THURSDAY AND THE SHABBAT SCHOOL OPTIONS?
Tuesday/Thursday — bet (2nd Grade) through vav (6th Grade): Students attend every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:15-6:15 p.m. Tuesday are for Hebrew instruction and school community programs including Tefilla Breira (electives). Torah, Jewish Values and Acts of Ethical Kindness, will be the focus of Thursdays. Tefilla (prayer service) is held on Thursdays.
Shabbat School — bet (2nd Grade) through vav (6th Grade): This program addresses the desire for direct family involvement in our children's Jewish education and fosters Shabbat learning. Children build community within their age groups and come together in the study of Torah, Jewish Values and Acts of Ethical Kindness.
Students attend Tuesday from 4:15-6:15 p.m. for Hebrew instruction and school community programs including Tefilla Breira (electives) in groups with the Tuesday/Thursday students.
One Friday evening each month (when family services are held), students engage in "classroom" activities from 6:00-7:25 p.m. They then join their parents for Family Services beginning at 7:30 p.m. Sessions are held on the remaining Saturday mornings from 9-11:00 a.m. and will include Torah study and services. Parents are required to attend with their children on the designated B'Yahad service schedule, once a month.
DO THE STUDENTS GET A SNACK?
Small bags of pretzels or plain bagels are available for children from 4:00-4:15 p.m. Kindergarten and alef grade students have dinner in their classroom. Do not send food to school with your children unless they have a food allergy. You may then provide a supply of appropriate snacks that will be kept separately for them. Please be sure to alert the office of any allergies.
IS THERE AN ATTENDANCE POLICY?
Regular attendance at our Synagogue school is important and expected. We all want our children to feel comfortable and competent with Hebrew reading and Jewish culture, both of which are strengthened by their regular attendance. Regular attendance helps create the kind of community we hope to build for our kids. When students routinely miss school for appointments and events they lose a sense of continuity with their peers and it is harder for teachers to teach. We take attendance in each class and will be in touch with you if a problem arises. After five absences (an absence from either 1st or 2nd period will count as a full day missed) you should expect to receive a letter. After 10 absences we will arrange for a family conference. If a child is absent 15 times he or she will not be allowed to advance to the next grade and will therefore forfeit a bar/bat Mitzvah date. We appreciate your cooperation.
WHAT IF I NEED TO PICK UP EARLY?
Students who must leave Synagogue School early will only be dismissed from the office at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 5:40 p.m. on Thursdays. This avoids disrupting classes. Please do not arrange to pick up your child at any other time unless it is an emergency and you have spoken to the office. All students who leave early must be signed out in the office. An early dismissal will count as an absence.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL TUESDAY/THURSDAY SCHEDULE?
Schedule for Tuesday/Thursday bet-vav classes
4:00–4:15 snacks 4:00–4:15 p.m. snacks
4:15–5:00 p.m. Session 1 4:15–5:00 p.m. Session 1
5:00–5:30 p.m. Tefilla Breira (elective activity) 5:00–5:40 p.m. Tefilla (prayer service)
5:30–6:15 p.m. Session 2 5:30–6:15 p.m. Session 2
WHAT IS A TYPICAL SHABBAT SCHOOL SCHEDULE?
Shabbat School Schedule grades bet-vav
Tuesday 4:15–6:15 p.m. (see above)
Friday – once a month
Dinner (optional) 5:30–6:00 p.m.
Class 6:00–7:30 p.m.
Family Services 7:30–8:30 p.m. (Parents meet children in sanctuary at 7:30 p.m.)
Saturday classes when there is no B'Yahad Service, usually 2-3 times each month
9:00–11:00 a.m. Students without parents
Saturday with B’Yahad Service. Parents attend with students, usually once each month
9:00–10:00 a.m. Adult Study (adults and children separate)
10:00–11:00 a.m. Service
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL VISION STATEMENT?
Jewish Education occurs in a partnership among the generations, and between the Reconstructionist Synagogue Community and its members. Our religious school is integrated into our larger synagogue community and draws upon the resources of our entire congregation. We place a strong emphasis on intergenerational community building and lifelong Jewish learning among all members.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS FOR THE SCHOOL?
It is our goal to support your desire to raise your children with a deep appreciation, understanding, and excitement for Jewish life in its various manifestations - religious, cultural, spiritual and communal. We strive to create a climate of acceptance and security, where all questions are honored and each child is appreciated. We seek to create within our school that which we look for throughout the congregation - a caring community. We hope to provide each child with the tools to lead full and productive Jewish lives.
Children are taught to love and honor the language of our tradition as they learn the alef-bet. Through song, prayer and stories they deepen their knowledge of Hebrew. We teach Torah as a living document that serves not only as a record of our people's experiences, but as a blueprint for our lives today.
DO YOU ADDRESS SPECIAL NEEDS?
We are committed as a community to working with all children and addressing each individual as unique, while taking into account the needs of the Synagogue School community. Children with special needs are those classified by N.Y. State, including those with a medical diagnosis, or who receive special services in and or outside of their secular schools. Sometimes it is necessary for additional conferences to take place among parents, teachers, rabbis, the Education Committee, and the Director to resolve classroom and/or behavioral issues involving a student with special needs.
A number of possible options will be explored at these conferences to address these situations. The evaluative team may recommend various options including a special schedule that allows for the child’s day to be shorter; encouragement of a professional evaluation for the child; or the provision of additional services by the family at the family’s expense such as a classroom aide, or a tutor outside the Synagogue School Program. This policy provides all the children in our synagogue community access to a Jewish education.
IS THERE A RESIDENCY POLICY?
The goals of the RSNS synagogue school are to impart to our children not only the Hebrew language, prayer and Jewish culture and history, but to instill an appreciation for Jewish life and values. As a Reconstructionist congregation, we seek to create a cohesive caring community within our school as well as in the congregation. To achieve this goal, which our congregation deems to be of great importance, the synagogue school has a six-year residency requirement for attendance. This is defined as follows: All children are required to attend synagogue school from grades bet through kadima (grades 2 through 7), although school begins in kindergarten and we welcome and encourage children to attend our school from kindergarten through kesher hadash (RSNS Teen Connections).
EXCEPTIONS: A student who has attended another Hebrew School since at least second grade will be admitted to RSNS Synagogue School and will be evaluated by the educational director and placed in the appropriate grade. Private tutoring (at the expense of the family) may be deemed necessary to enable the child to be current with his or her correct grade.
Other exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, it is the belief of the synagogue community that it is disruptive to community building as well as to Reconstructionist principles to allow exceptions to the six-year residency requirement. All decisions regarding exceptions to the residency requirement will be at the sole discretion of the educational director and/or rabbi(s) in conjunction with the chair of the education committee.
WHAT IS THE CURRICULUM FOR BET-VAV STUDENTS?
Bet-vav classes on Thursdays and Shabbat School classes on Saturdays include the Chai (meaning “life”) curriculum. The Jewish sages teach us that “the world stands on three things; Torah, Jewish Values and Acts of Ethical Kindness. These pursuits – study, worship, and deeds of loving kindness – provide the framework within which Jews build their relationship with one another and with the world. Accordingly, Torah, Jewish Values and Acts of Ethical Kindness, serve as the core of the Chai curriculum, providing students with the foundation for a lifetime of Jewish learning and living.
DO THE STUDENTS HAVE A PRAYER SERVICE DURING SCHOOL TIME?
Prayer services at RSNS are filled with singing and laughter, a truly wonderful part of the day. Our students have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the service. Tefilla Breira (prayer electives) or “breirot” give students a chance to try something new, letting them focus on a particular type of prayer activity. We will explore different ways to access prayer through storytelling, social action, yoga, Israeli dancing and creative writing sessions led by our staff. Bet through vav classes join together for a modified prayer service weekly on Thursdays from 5:00-5:40 p.m. We have found that communal prayer creates a sense of Synagogue School community and kavana (intent). Kindergarten and alef engage in weekly tefilla (prayer service) with Rabbi Jodie.
DO YOU TEACH MUSIC?
Our successful Children’s Choir, led by Cantor Eric Schulmiller, is offered for students in grades gimmel through vav. They meet every Tuesday from 6:15-6:30 p.m. to prepare material to sing at Family Services.
HOW DO YOU TEACH/CELEBRATE HOLIDAYS?
Our holistic approach to our calendar with the goal of integrating learning on holidays and Shabbat into the master schedule has been very successful. Families come together with the synagogue community for holiday celebrations and Mitzvah Day. These special days are all incorporated directly into the school calendar and curriculum. We feel that this program addresses the obstacles we face in attempting to increase and intensify family engagement on Shabbat and holidays. In today’s busy society, synagogue programs compete with the myriad demands of secular life; thus is the age-old struggle of the modern Jew. By having families attend these community wide programs, while keeping the total number of sessions per week at two, we have addressed the time constraint while still providing experiences for families on the actual holiday. Of course these events are open to all congregants, not just those enrolled in the school.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL EVENTS?
Several times a year we will be holding school-wide or class-wide special events. These will include Mitzvah Day preparation, Purim Carnival, a Holocaust remembrance program, the making of home ritual objects for Shabbat and a school wide zimriah (music program). Families are welcome to participate.
ARE THE STUDENTS TAUGHT TZEDAKA?
The Jewish ideals of tzedaka were summarized and taught by Moses Maimonides, a great teacher who lived 800 years ago in Spain and then in Egypt. Maimonides believed that tzedaka is like a ladder with eight rungs from bottom to top. One of the highest levels that can be reached is by the person who gives without making his or her identity known. We encourage the children to bring tzedaka to be collected in their classroom. Each class community will make a tzedaka box and engage in a values clarification exercise to help develop a connection to the Mitzvah of tzedaka. Students will be part of the decision making process to determine where the money will be given. Please help your child remember to bring tzedaka regularly.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR FAMILY SERVICES?
Shabbat Family Services are held one Friday of each month at 7:30 p.m. There are many different ways for families to participate. We work with each class to enable parents to provide Jewish role models for their children as well as expand their knowledge of Jewish liturgy and texts. At Back-To-School Night you may sign up to help with a Family Service oneg.
The B'Yahad program is one Saturday morning each month from 9:00-11:00 a.m. There are two simultaneous Torah study groups — one for parents and the other for children — followed immediately by a joint family shabbat service. As always, the B'yahad services remain an integral part of the Synagogue School program and are open to the entire community.