The Judaic Studies program at The Hebrew Academy is designed to foster excitement, love and security in a child’s identity as a Jew. It provides the required skills, understanding and knowledge of how and why to live as a productive Jewish citizen in our society.
In order to reach these objectives, the curriculum is tailored and individualized for The Hebrew Academy students. Our detailed and comprehensive program is revised and updated each year to meet current needs, the advancement and growth of individual classes and the unique strengths of its teachers.
The following represents a summary of Judaic Studies for Grade One.
Prayers and Blessings:
The focus in first grade is to review the prayers learned in kindergarten, to add selections appropriate to the student’s level, and then to discover them in the Siddur. They will learn the importance of prayer as a regular practice. The content of the selections will be reviewed often. The children will learn to select the appropriate blessings or prayers for the particular occasion.
Many of the prayers will be chanted or sung, many will be learned by-heart; some selections will be identifiable with the home, others with synagogue worship. The prayers will be chanted with the traditional tunes, facilitating opportunities for the children to lead parts of the service in their own houses of worship or at Shabbat dinner. This will also encourage participation during congregational recitations of prayers with which they will become familiar.
An important aspect of prayers and blessings is to understand what we are saying, to whom, and why. Children in first grade will know that their prayers are directed to G-d, the essential meanings of blessings, and the central ideas of some of the prayers.
Throughout the year, the portion of the week will be reviewed in story form. In addition to relating the narratives, focus will be directed to the Jewish values gleaned from the Torah. These lessons will be reinforced through review and by application to the children’s level of experience.
First graders will be formally introduced to the Chumash, which will become a major area of study during their years at The Hebrew Academy and hopefully of primary interest throughout their lives. They will study about the life of Avraham; his travels, wanderings and experiences as the first Jew. The stories of our forefathers represent the religious and cultural foundations of our people. They vividly demonstrate our ancestral heritage of Jewish values and our ancient bond to the Land of Israel.
Following a cursory review of the narratives of creation and Noah and the flood, intensive study will cover the Portions of Lech Lecha and Vayera. Students will understand that the Torah “was given by Hashem, recorded by Moshe and transmitted from generation to generation to this very classroom.” In class students will read and translate from the Chumash text. Emphasis will be on correct (phonetic) Hebrew reading. Students will develop an understanding and appreciation of the Torah and the values it teaches. They will develop a base of Chumash vocabulary and grammar that will aid them in their future years of Chumash study. A highlight of the year will be the Chumash presentation. Each student will participate and students will receive their own copies of Chumash B’reishit.
Spoken Hebrew is taught in first grade in many ways. Children are exposed to the language as spoken by the teachers and through the series of readers, audio tapes and CDs within the TaL AM program. Children learn songs designed to internalize the language in a natural manner. Children are expected to follow teacher’s instructions given in Hebrew from the first day. They learn to respond, request and inquire in Hebrew.
From the very beginning of the school year, classroom management and routines are conducted in Hebrew. Class begins each day with a Hebrew conversation of a social nature (greetings, weather, date, feelings, etc.). The children are encouraged to use the vocabulary, phraseology and sentences they previously learned. They are regularly introduced to new vocabulary and forms that they will continue to reinforce in their daily dialogues.
Hebrew is a phonetic language. The early emphasis in first grade, therefore, is on mechanical decoding. This does not preclude the continued reinforcement of sight word recognition. As phonetics are important to correct pronunciation, so is sight word recognition important to fluency. Both complement each other in learning to read and for reading comprehension.
During the early part of the school year, first graders will use stick letters to complement the block forms they will be reading. These are easier to copy as they are clearly identified with printed letters. Upon mastery of the alphabet and practice, they will learn to use script for all writing exercises.
Our students will learn to form letters correctly. They will copy words and sentences and learn to read what they have written. They will learn to communicate in writing using Hebrew in simple phrases and sentences.
Cultural and Traditional Studies
Jewish cultural and traditional studies are designed to imbue children with pride in their identities as Jews. They are made aware of the multi-faceted aspects of Judaic heritage; its values, history, tradition, and the importance of Eretz Ysrael.
The students are exposed to their heritage at their level. They will be proud of their Jewishness in their world, and in the society in which they live.
Students will learn that essential to Judaism are its values. They will learn that such things as caring for and helping one another, sensitivity towards others, respect for parents and elders, and the importance of sharing our blessings with those in need are sacred to the Jewish faith.
Previously learned traditions and practices will be reviewed. Some will be studied in greater depth while new ideas, customs and concepts will be introduced. Knowledge of the holidays, songs, prayers and routine Jewish customs and traditions will be reinforced. At first grade level, almost all traditions and customs discussed with the children will be rehearsed and practiced in the classroom. A Shabbat program is held every Friday with the first grade. They practice and learn the traditions, prayers, Zemirot (Shabbat table songs) including Kiddush and Havdalah as they enjoy some wine (grape juice) and challah.
Children will learn to identify Jewish objects in the synagogue and home. They will learn how and why many of them are used. Articles will be brought into the classroom for hands-on experience. For others, they will visit the synagogue at school and be shown the many items necessary in a synagogue.