Q: One of your students came out of religious school and said, “That was the best day of camp ever.” Why did he call it camp?
A: That is a great question! Jewish education for our young people is about positive Jewish experiences in a positive Jewish environment.
I adopted this goal as the Director of Education of a 420+ student complementary synagogue school (traditional religious school).I quickly learned that the style of programming that would achieve this goal most often occurred in our Reform Jewish summer camps (from my experience). So, our Adventure Rabbi Kids programming keeps that in mind. The sessions are interactive and student directed. We go outside to explore the natural world and come indoors to integrate our learning.”
The ARK explore Jewish values and go home each month with something they can use in their daily life. Camp style Jewish education is successful because it is lived every moment while living in community. We try to give our participants a couple hours a month of that style of learning.”
Q: I noticed on your website that you call your program Adventure Rabbi Kids (our alternative religious school) as if you are distancing yourself from calling it a school. Its as if you only label it school so parents know what box to check off on their to-do list. What’s that all about?
A: You pretty much got it. Its a way for parents to check it off their list because most of our community members (Adventure Rabbi, Jewish Community Center, Synagogue Community… whatever it may be) feel a sense of obligation in educating their children. Our program is definitely not a religious school program. At least not how they have been experienced for the last half century.
Originally, I wanted to not use the word school at all because I work hard to create a different experience from my own traditional religious school education (my mother is a world class Jewish educator and my Hebrew school principal!), but in the end, our families felt attached to using that title, “alternative religious school.”
Q: Many of us in Boulder didn’t realize that your congregation had a religious school so let’s start with basics. What grades do you include?
A: Kindergarten through 6th. Then our Adventure Bar and Bat Mitzvah class has students 6th through 9th.”
Q: How often do you meet?
A: Generally a little more than once a month. The B’nai Mitzvah class meets 15 times in 10 months. Adventure Rabbi Kids meets 11 times in 10 months.”
Q: Where do you meet?
A: We meet at Bear Creek Elementary School in South Boulder. Its a great space and has lots of fun outdoor areas we can explore.”
Q: How many students do you have?
A: I think we’re at about 90 right now. We have a bit of a waiting list and we are trying to expand so we can take everyone who wants to be in without losing our small school feel.”
Q: Can kids who are members of the Adventure Rabbi: Synagogue Without Walls attend?
A: Yes, although we love when they do become members.”
Q: How do you teach Hebrew?
A: We have a team of tutors we use. Some of them teach in person and some teach over Skype. We find one on one and small group learning to be the most efficient way to learn. Our families are super busy so we try to make learning Hebrew fit into their highly scheduled weeks.”
Q: What makes Adventure Rabbi Kids different than other religious school?
A: Our programming is based on Jewish values. Each session focuses on a specific value, like Shalom Bayit – Peace in the Home. We then explore our characters/ancestors from our Jewish story have lived, or failed to, these values.We examine the value in our own daily life in the hopes that our participants, and their families, will go off and bring them into their daily lives. This sets us apart as we do not aim to teach only about holidays, Bible stories and specific Jewish practice. We have narrowed our scope to create positive Jewish experiences in a positive Jewish environment.”
Q: If one of our readers wanted to teach with you, do you hire? What would you be looking for? How would they find you?
A: We are going to be hiring a new teacher or two for next year, so if you hear of someone great let them know! I will be looking for a teacher who loves experiential education and has experience. It is also imperative that this individual is in sync with the Adventure Rabbi way of doing things. They could contact me through our website.”
Q: What is your primary goal with the school?
A. We want our students to love being Jewish. Period. Oh yeah, we also want them to become people with whom we want to share the earth! We figure if they love being Jewish, they will go on to learn about the history of the state of Israel and what Shemni Atzerit is. But if they leave religious school hating being Jewish, it doesn’t matter how much information they have been taught. If they hate their experience, they will walk out the door and not come back.”
Q: We started with a comment I heard from one of your students. What is your favorite thing to hear?
A: I love when parents tell me their kids love coming to Adventure Rabbi Kids. When kids leave eagerly asking, “When do we have Adventure Rabbi Kids again” I know we are doing something right.”