Choosing the right Hebrew School for your child can seem like a daunting task. There are various factors that you may wish to consider, such as location, cost, the school’s level of Jewish observance, your goals and priorities for your child and tour structure and availability. In the context of this article, the term “Hebrew School” refers to what used to be commonly referred to as “Hebrew Sunday School,” but today refers to a Jewish learning program that takes place during the weekend or during after-school hours on weekdays. Check out these foolproof tips to make your family’s Hebrew School decision-making process a breeze!
The location of your ideal Hebrew School should be a factor in your decision. Is the potential school nearby? Many synagogues offer supplemental programming for elementary-age children or instructional education for bar and bat mitzvah-age students. Oftentimes, synagogue-led programs are the right choice for parents who desire a familiar learning environment, teaching staff or social circle for their child. Alternatively, your local Jewish Community Center (JCC) may also offer weekly programs designed to enrich your child’s Jewish education.
The size of your budget may also impact your decision. Bear in mind that even though a program may be less expensive than others, it does not necessarily mean the quality is less good. Take into account the pros and cons of each program with your goals for your child as paramount. However, if you feel one program has outstanding attributes, it may be worth it to pay the slightly higher fee.
School’s Level of Jewish Observance
Another aspect that deserves consideration when choosing a Hebrew School is compatibility with your family’s level of Jewish observance. Is your potential preference Reform, Traditional or Orthodox? Does the level of religious teaching match the level of observance in your household? These are just a couple of questions parents and caregivers should ask themselves when assessing program options.
Take a Tour
One of the easiest and best ways of finding your ideal Hebrew School is by taking a tour of the program’s facilities while classes are in session. A private or open house-style tour provides prospective families the opportunity to observe the teachers’ classroom management style, get a feeling for the program’s curriculum and ascertain how knowledge is relayed to students. Are the classrooms or other settings clean, orderly and welcoming? A tour is also an excellent forum during which to ask any questions about the program that you may have. The majority of program directors are more than happy to schedule private tours for potential incoming families who desire a closer look at the school.
Your Goals and Priorities
What would you like your child to learn at Hebrew School? Standard topics of study usually include Jewish prayer, history, holidays, community service, Shabbat and Hebrew language. If your child is of bar or bat mitzvah age, schools may also offer preparatory classes consisting of Torah study and/or chanting his or her Torah portion.
The ultimate goal of a quality Hebrew School program should be to enrich your child’s knowledge of and love for Judaism.
All of these factors should prove more helpful in making your decision as to which Hebrew School is a good fit for your child for a great year.
Congregation Or Zarua – Or L’Atid program
Upper East Side
127 E 82nd St.
Hebrew School is just one piece of the puzzle at Or Zarua. The Or L’Atid program for youth and family encompasses Hebrew School, holiday celebrations, social events, Shabbat programming, and more. Students there are engaged and connected, while doing real, active Jewish learning. The depth and breadth of their program gives their kids Judaic knowledge and abilities while connecting them with tradition and ritual, with Rabbi Bolton, their educator, Sigal Hirsch and teachers, and with one another. Kids at Or Zarua love learning, a value passed down from parents and other adult members of the community. Students are engaged with deep questions, opportunities for personal connection, music, art, movement, and authentic Jewish practice.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom
Upper West Side
7 West 83rd St.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom offers exciting and innovative programming from Pre-K-12. Their highlights include an emphasis on inclusion for all families; social justice; a brand new, fully renovated sun-drenched floor designed for young families and children; a gifted clergy team who prioritize building relationships with families; and an individualized Hebrew program which allows students to work at their own pace as they develop the skills of fluent reading and chanting prayers. Students can also practice with a newly developed Hebrew App! Children choose classes based upon interest areas such as comics, music, yoga, visual arts, photography, debate and culinary arts in the new state-of-the-art kitchen. The program inspires ideas, instills values and creates community. Through lively discussions, creative projects and engaging activities based upon their interests, students will embrace Judaism with joy, incorporating the teachings of Torah, prayer and acts of loving kindness in everyday life.
The Jewish Youth Connection, sponsored by Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun
Upper East Side
125 East 85th St.
The Jewish Youth Connection calls themselves “the Hebrew School with H.E.A.R.T in the heart of NYC” offering a Hands-on, Energetic, Attentive, Relevant, and Tech-savvy environment for their students, who each walk away with a stronger connection to Judaism. Their unique approach to providing each student with the attention they deserve sets it apart from other Hebrew schools in New York City. The staff, teachers, tutors and administration put their heart and soul into the program, creating an engaging, loving and nurturing environment. Make sure to check out their Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs, as well as their classes starting from K-7.
Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple Religious School
Ditmas Park / Flatbush
83 Marlborough Road
The Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple Religious School is a welcoming and inclusive program that provides students with an understanding and love for Judaism and its traditions. Students learn to appreciate the richness of Jewish heritage and to embrace the values of the Jewish faith. Shabbat morning classes focus on community-building and Jewish learning in a lively, interactive setting. All students attend class on Saturday mornings, including Shabbat services for families and children. They approach every student as an individual — from personalized Hebrew instruction to enabling them to help conduct Shabbat morning services. Their focus on each student successfully integrates children with special needs. Join them, it’s B’ShERT!
Union Temple of Brooklyn
Grand Army Plaza
17 Eastern Pkwy.
This program strives to create Jewish learning experiences that empower students and families to live joyful and meaningful lives. Children from all types of Jewish backgrounds and families feel at home here, including those with special needs. Sunday morning begins with the whole school community gathering for tefillah. The classroom study that follows includes Hebrew, Torah and Jewish culture enhanced by music and art. Families are actively involved in school activities and holiday celebrations. Through studies and weekly tzedakah, students learn what it means to be a Jew in today’s world. By the time they begin their Bar or Bat Mitzvah preparation under the tutelage of the rabbi, they are fully prepared. Wanting Jewish learning and culture to expand beyond the temple walls? They offer many opportunities for parents to be a part of the experience – at school, home, and during Shabbat and holidays.
Free Synagogue of Flushing
136-23 Sanford Ave.
They are about to begin their second century of serving the Jewish Community of Queens, and are experiencing a true renaissance with significant growth in membership of young families with children. They offer Hebrew school classes starting at age 6, and religious education starting at age 5, and continuing religious education for their post-Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. Only a short eight years ago they were a synagogue with no Religious School. Today, families from Forest Hills, Sunny Side, Astoria, Woodside, Elmhurst, etc. are all making the trip to Flushing to be a part of the new Free Synagogue of Flushing. The children in their program range in age from 6 to 14 years old. They have a wonderful educational staff consisting of talented college-age instructors filled with passion, dedication and devotion to their children who represent the next generation of educated American Jews.
The Reform Temple of Forest Hills
71-11 112th St.
Religious School years are a formative time for students to develop as individuals and as Jews. The Reform Temple of Forest Hills encourages students to think about their Jewish identity through a variety of ways like arts, music, literature, conversation, and creative learning. Their community, led by their dynamic Rabbi, Cantor, and Educator, is strengthened by its commitment to Social Action and Tzedakah. They work towards creating Jewish moments of celebration and connection for families to carry forward and grow.