Short Stories and poetry
Jamie Glaser | Sunday School as a Jewish Experience

Sunday School as a Jewish Experience

My actual Sunday school experience ended at the age of fifteen at my confirmation. Sunday school was a wonderful experience for me because it sparked my curiosity of Judaism, the culture and the religion. It connected me to my roots in a way that other experiences could not.

I attended Sunday school from 1988 to 1995 and I know that as a whole the Sunday school experience has changed since then, but I believe that the overall intention of Sunday School has not. Introducing children to their Jewish roots in fun and engaging ways is the goal of every successful Sunday school program.

All children learn differently. Some are visual learners. Some learn best hands on. Some learn best by presenting to the class what they have learned. There are a variety of ways in which we learn and because of that there are a variety of ways in which we teach.

One unique program immerses very young children in music and movement as a way to teach Jewish value, culture and prayer. Rhythm and Ruach, founded by Shelley Dean is a program that introduces young children to the joys of Judaism. Shelley, the founder of Rhythm and Ruach says that one of her favorite parts of what she does is hearing that the children take the program home with them. “I love when parents tell me that their children are singing Shalom Everybody to their stuffed animals and all of their toys at home.” She is excited that the program makes an impression on the participants. She also says that parents and grandparents have told her that they wish that Rhythm and Ruach was around when they were younger so that they or their children would have been able to experience it. The good news is that Rhythm and Ruach is an interactive class that involves not only children but parents and grandparents as well. It’s a family activity!

In this day and age education is really focusing on the whole experience as opposed to the expression of information. I personally am a visual learner and an avid reader. Sitting in one place and reading a book about a topic is a joy for me. Listening to someone speak for a half an hour or so on a topic, especially one that interests me is a wonderful way for me, personally to learn. However not everybody learns the way I do and this is why Sunday school as an experience is important in the success of every student. Some students need to move. Some need to touch. Some need to hear. We have five basic senses and every student needs to engage the sense that best helps them to learn and have a positive experience doing so. The good news is that Judaism is a sensory experience! You can hear Judaism. You can feel it, you can definitely taste it and it can be seen all around us. The human perception makes our faith and culture come alive and it is up to Sunday school educators to facilitate that. The possibilities are endless in what the curriculum will look like. Imagination, paired with knowledge, paired with curiosity is an equation that makes learning fun and meaningful.

Sunday school educator Linda Kram has been teaching Sunday school for twelve years. Her favorite part of teaching is teaching about the environment and Jewish values. She is currently teaching a curriculum called “Don’t laugh at me.” By Peter Yarrow. “It promotes self-esteem and gives students tools to combat bullying.” Linda says. She has been privileged to teach a variety of ages including Tot Shabbat, kindergarten and 2nd thru 7th grade. She says that Sunday schools is a great experience because “I like seeing how the children grow and explore and become better citizens and Jews.”

Sunday school is a wonderful avenue for students to be introduced to Judaism and Jewish values. It can spark conversations at home as well as among peers. Not every student carries out their Judaism thru adulthood. Some pursue different religions or a more secular lifestyle, but I believe that a good Sunday school foundation cannot be lost throughout one’s lifetime. Years later, as an adult a conversation could take place about the state of Israel or the belief in God. A Jewish individual, having that foundation of Sunday school as a child will be able to weigh in on topics based on what they remember learning. We never forget that Sunday teacher who took time to have that discussion with us about a topic of interest or a question weighing on their mind. From in depth lessons in upper elementary classes, to joyous music and shakers and djembes in Rhythm and Ruach, Sunday school and religious education lays the groundwork for a life of discovery of one’s Jewish roots and their place in the world as a Jewish individual.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Shelley Dean and Linda Kram for their contribution to this article. Both commentaries have added to the content of the article and have enhanced its quality! Thank you both again.
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