240-321-9737


Mailing address:

Beth Chai

6301 River Road

Bethesda, MD 20817

Sunday School and Adult Education usually meet at Burning Tree Elementary School, 7900 Beech Tree Rd, Bethesda

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Lifelong learning

The Beth Chai Sunday School, Pre-K to 8th Grade

Six Points of Learning

We seek to develop a positive Jewish identity in our children by teaching Jewish history, culture, values and traditions from a humanistic perspective. Our core goals are for students to identify as Jews and to feel connected to the Jewish people, empowered as Jews to make an impact in the world.

The curriculum is organized around six themes that are wound through each grade level.

 

Kehilla: Community

Students will understand that as Jews and as humanists, they are connected to the people around them. Students will appreciate the intricate network of connections in their lives: congregation, nation and our multi-faceted Jewish world.

 

Mishpacha: Family

Students will appreciate the core role that family plays in the Jewish experience and how Judaism celebrates family connection through life-cycle events. They will understand that the diversity of the modern Judaism is something to be celebrated.

 

Tikkun Olam: Repair the World

Students will feel empowered, as Jews and as humanists, to act and make an impact on the world. They will gain an understanding of the multitude ways they can make an impact, including through Tzedakah, direct action or advocacy.

 

Simcha: Celebration

Students will understand and appreciate the meaning, traditions, values and themes of major Jewish holidays. They will explore how Judaism celebrates connection through these celebrations.

 

Limud: Study

Students will appreciate texts and history as central to the Jewish experience and communal identity. They will be able to identify major moments in Jewish history and important texts in Jewish literary history and will think critically about those texts and history. They will understand their own family's history as part of the greater history of the Jewish people.

 

Yisrael: Israel

Students will understand that Israel is the Jewish state, will feel a connection and appreciation for Israeli culture and learn to think critically about modern-day controversies. They will understand the deep and complex bond between Diaspora and Israeli Jews.

The school is led by Rabbi Cohen with an eager and committed faculty. A parents’ council advises Rabbi Cohen, and all parents are encouraged to participate through volunteer opportunities and celebrations. 

Each school day begins with a half-hour congregation-wide music and song assembly, followed by a two-hour class session during which music, literature, art, dance, film, writing and discussion may be used to engage children in activities that help them relate curriculum content to their lives in meaningful ways. Students learn Hebrew vocabulary words as well. A short bagel break is shared with parents and others participating in adult education programs, which run concurrently.  

New students are always welcome. For more information, contact Rabbi Cohen via email at education@bethchai.org. Congregational membership is required to participate. Please visit our Membership page for more information.

 

B'nai Mitzvah Program

At Beth Chai, we prepare our students for Bar and Bat Mitzvah by engaging their intellect and fostering maturity in their thinking and feeling. This work culminates in a coming-of-age ceremony that is put together by families working with our rabbi. Each student chooses an original research project, connecting their own personal interests with their Jewish background to explore an aspect of Jewish life. It might be centered in the United States or elsewhere. It could relate to a historical event or a modern problem, or the student might delve into how an ancient commandment is expressed in modern days.

For six to nine months, students work individually with the rabbi or another senior member of the community to craft a research paper using primary and secondary sources. After the paper is complete, the student and rabbi work on turning the research paper into an oral presentation for the mitzvah ceremony.

 

Students also participate in our 13 Values Capstone project, by which they demonstrate an appreciation for the themes of their Jewish education and Jewish humanist values. Students choose 13 values and find their own way to demonstrate them. Values to choose among include Tikkun Olam, Tzedekah, Israel, Culture, Forgiveness, Celebration, Debate, History, Identity, Caring, Reflection, Remembrance, Family and Justice. For instance, a student might show an appreciation of Culture by cooking a Jewish meal for a holiday, or might demonstrate Caring by writing a letter to someone who needs some special attention. 

The mitzvah ceremony itself is crafted by the family using templates of historical and modern readings and is a celebration shared by the congregation, family and friends. Honored family members and close friends are typically invited to participate through readings and blessings. The Beth Chai ceremonies differ from traditional b’nai mitzvot in that we do not include reading from the Torah.

 

For more information about the Beth Chai B'nai Mitzvah program, please contact us at info@bethchai.org.

 

Adult Education

At Beth Chai, education isn’t just for kids. Adult education programming, or Adult Ed, is available almost every Sunday that school is in session, and runs concurrently with youth classes. Programming includes both Jewish and secular subjects, and typically consists of our rabbi, a congregant or a guest speaker presenting on a topic, followed by discussion and questions and answers. Sometimes we break into small groups for more intimate conversations.

Past topics and themes have included what it means to be a humanist Jew, the refugee crisis, the conflict in the Middle East, race relations, the role of the media, Yiddish, Jewish-Muslim relations and anti-semitism in Europe and elsewhere.

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