Consider the huge number of brilliant secular Jews and their outsize contributions to society:
Science: Steven Pinsky, Albert Einstein, Rosalind Franklin, Neils Bohr, Jonas Salk Writing: Phillip Roth, Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, Nadine Gordimer Comedy: Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Billy Crystal, Marx Bros Philosophy: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Noam Chomsky, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag Business: Mark Zuckerberg, Serge Brin, Andy Grove, Sheryl Sandberg
Many, if not all, of these thinkers grew up in assimilated secular Jewish households. Their Judaism was holidays, food, language, literature, and ethics; what we teach in our school. Like all secular families, our secular Humanistic school does not address the religious aspects of Jewish tradition.
Explore secular Humanistic Jewish education for your children. Reserve your place for one of our open houses this spring. Learn more about the movement and school from Rabbi Peter.
A secular cultural Jewish education
The City Congregation’s Jewish KidSchool fosters an understanding and appreciation of Jewish culture in children five and up. An alternative to traditional Hebrew school or Sunday school, we introduce the concepts and literature of classical Judaism from a secular humanistic perspective and we explore our own values and history as well.
Classes are held twice a month on Sundays from 2:45 PM to 5:15 PM at 15 West 86th Street (SAJ) in Manhattan.
Goals and values of a secular Jewish education
At Jewish KidSchool we:
- foster joy in our children’s Jewish education and nurture a cultural connection to their Jewish heritage.
- introduce our children to the principles, beliefs, and practices of Humanistic Judaism.
- develop cultural literacy in Jewish holidays, literature, and history and familiarize our children with different approaches to Judaism.
- encourage critical thinking and healthy skepticism in an atmosphere of respectful and open discussion.
- respect the dignity of each student’s unique learning style.
- engage children in an exploration of their values and beliefs.
- teach our children to respect the right of all people to be treated with fairness and equality and to recognize a responsibility to speak out against injustice.
Our educational philosophy
At The City Congregation we share the commitment to education that has been one of the core values of Jewish civilization for centuries. As Humanistic Jews we use critical thinking to assess all claims to truth. While we believe that it is important for our children to become familiar with the Hebrew Bible and other ancient texts we do not automatically accept them as authoritative. We subject them to the same scrutiny we would apply to any body of knowledge.
We believe that learning should be substantive and also fun. When there are no expectations, there is little progress. And when there is little enjoyment, there can be little motivation.
We believe that education takes place not just in formal class settings but in unstructured conversation and social encounters. Students and parents are always encouraged to take part in our community celebrations and observances.
A day at Jewish KidSchool
Families arrive on Sundays at 2:45 for snacks and schmoozing. At 3:00 we begin our half-hour kehilla (community) circle which is a spirited time of singing and sharing for all KidSchool students, parents, and teachers. Adult members without children in the KidSchool are most welcome to join in.
Classes divided by grade run from 3:30 PM to 5:15 PM. Younger children learn through discussion, games, and hands-on art projects. Older children add creative writing, debate, and chart-making. Age-appropriate subjects range from Yiddish sayings and Jewish jokes to Jewish strategies for survival.
Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our KidSchool classes or see the current curriculum.
True, we occasionally question our sanity when we schlep into the city every other Sunday afternoon for KidSchool but we are always delighted that we did. — David
Education is a lifelong endeavor
While children are in the KidSchool, parents are strongly encouraged to join other members of the congregation for our free adult education classes, which take place at the same time. Adult participation demonstrates to children the importance of belonging to a Jewish community, and that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs
Our Jewish KidSchool is the ideal (though not required) preparation for our secular bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah classes. These last for two years, and typically begin when students are in the sixth or seventh grade.
The Jewish KidSchool faculty
KidSchool director Rachel Dahill-Fuchel has 30 years of experience in education and is presently the assistant principal of a public high school. Our teachers are also professional educators and social workers with significant training and education in Jewish studies.