Hebrew School

Kerem Shalom’s Hebrew School is in planning mode to put together a safe and exciting year of learning, and we will update this page soon with more information.

Our dynamic, once-per-week Hebrew School program empowers our students to find their own path to an authentic relationship with their Jewish heritage and identity. Hebrew School is tuition-free for members.

At Kerem Shalom Hebrew School, our students learn:

  • Kehillah—being part of a diverse Jewish community
  • Kavod—respect, honor, and acceptance of all people
  • Mitzvot—taking responsibility to make their Jewish heritage part of their lives
  • Gemilut Hasadim—a sense of commitment to act with kindness toward all humanity
  • Talmud Torah—dedication and love of learning
  • Tzedakah—the practice of righteous giving
  • Ahavat Yisrael—love for their Jewish heritage and identity

Our staff and faculty are deeply committed to partnering with you in the sacred work of teaching your children Jewish values that foster their growth as socially responsible, empathetic members of their class, school and synagogue community.  Our curriculum is integrated, so what our students learn about prayer, Torah, Israel, or social action is connected with art, music, movement, and cooking!  Students learn from each other in a nurturing, inclusive environment that focuses on individual learning styles and strengths.

We are committed to creating a community that welcomes, recognizes and honors students and family members of all abilities. Please let us know of any unique needs within your family as we will want to work with you and for you to ensure the integration of everyone into our community as a whole.

From Pre-K through high school our commitment is to raise our children with a deeply rooted positive Jewish identity. We see this as our obligation to our children and to Judaism’s future. Our program connects our youth with one another, the synagogue community, and the world at large, through peer learning, participation in services and community celebrations, and tikkun olam (Social Action) projects within the greater Boston community.

In addition to a robust classroom experience, our students enjoy a wonderful music program, community activities, and celebrations, including our school Mitzvah Day, community Israel Day celebration, and monthly minyan. As part of learning to accept and respect others, students in grades 4 and up participate in the Ruderman Foundation’s program, “Understanding Our Differences.” This includes a sleepover that focuses on building a strong, supportive classroom community.

Our school program includes a wide variety of activities. Students gather together monthly across all grades, to sing and celebrate holidays, such as Israel Day and Passover. Our families study together in our grade level Family Education programs, as well as for a special grade level program and a family Shabbat dinner.

Click here to see our allergy and cancellation policies.

Commitment to Social Action

We put our commitment to repairing the world into action each fall at our annual community-wide Mitzvah Day for families, adults, and children. Many of our booths feature activities to encourage families to carry related projects forward as their personal commitment to Tikkun Olam. We continue this process in our School Mitzvah Day, which takes place annually each winter.

Our school Tzedakah council is run by students in 5th and 6th grade, as part of their study about righteous giving. The students help each class decide where they will allot the funds collected in their classrooms. The results of their collection and decisions are shared with the community and posted on school bulletin boards.

Schedule

In today’s busy world, finding time for everything is a challenge. At Kerem Shalom, students in Kindergarten through 7th grade attend class once each week for a two-hour class. Seventh graders enjoy dinner as part of their class time, and the grade 8-12 program meets on a variable schedule.

Parent Visits & Participation

Parents are always welcome to join us for community activities during our sessions; these are listed on our school calendar. In addition, our staff welcomes parents for orientation on the first day of school, classroom visits by pre-arrangement, and parent-teacher conferences in January. Throughout the year, teachers invite parents to classrooms for special events or to share family programs or celebrations.

Faculty

Our dedicated staff has years of teaching experience and a commitment to professional development. In addition to faculty workshops and peer observations, our staff participates in many types of professional development including research for Better Teaching and programs through Combined Jewish Philanthropies Education Initiative. Our staff has the same commitment to growing and learning that we have for our children.

Rabbi Sam Pollak

Rabbi Sam Pollak

Director of Congregational Learning

Rabbi Sam Pollak joined Kerem Shalom in July 2020. He received a BA in philosophy and comparative religion, at The Ohio State University, where he held leadership positions at Hillel and sang in a Jewish a cappella group. He attended Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion where he received a MA in Hebrew Letters and was ordained as a rabbi in 2017.

He most recently served for three years as one of the rabbis at The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, New York, where his responsibilities included teaching religious school classes and Torah study; leading early childhood classes; establishing an adult education initiative; creating a group to guide interfaith families; serving on a newly formed inclusion committee; and officiating life cycle events. During his rabbinical studies, Sam worked at a number of small congregations in the Midwest.

“I am thrilled to join the Kerem Shalom community, and I am inspired by how the congregation and the Hebrew School emphasize joyful, inclusive Jewish life,” shares Rabbi Sam. “I look forward to meeting everyone and working toward that vision together.

He was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is moving to the Greater Boston area with his husband, Rabbi Ari Abelman, who grew up in Lexington, MA.

Nancy Kaplan

Nancy Kaplan

Family Engagement Specialist

Nancy Kaplan joined Kerem Shalom as a member in 1999 and as Family Educator in 2002, after a year of teaching in Kerem Shalom’s Hebrew School. Prior to coming to Kerem Shalom, she was a religious educator in Rapid City, South Dakota’s Synagogue of the Hills.

Nancy has a Masters in Medical Illustration from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Biology from Tufts University. She completed the Jewish Family Education certificate program at Hebrew College.

Nancy leads Kerem Shalom’s monthly Tot Shabbat services and works with Rabbi Sam on Kerem Shalom Family Programs. She is the religious school music educator, teaches the Social Action and Sacred Jewish Music curricula during the b’nai mitzvah year, and runs Kerem Shalom’s annual community-wide Mitzvah Day. She also plays the piano in the Mostly Music Ensemble during Kerem Shalom’s Mostly Music Shabbat services. She has also led Kerem Shalom’s monthly TELEM teen volunteer program at Household Goods in Acton.

Nancy and her husband, George, live in Acton with their dog Benny. They have two adult daughters and one son-in-law.

Programs

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Holiday Preschool

For over twenty years, Kerem Shalom has offered its monthly Sunday morning Holiday Preschool program. This delightful program is a perfect first introduction to Jewish education for 3- to 5-year-olds (the two years immediately preceding kindergarten). 

  • Taught by Award-winning teacher Abbe Smerling
  • Stories, music infused with joyful Jewish values
  • Crafts, food, and friendship for children
  • Connection for parents and caregivers with one another and with our community 
  • Our Sunday sessions run from 9:45 AM to 10:45 AM from September through May.

2020-2021 dates are Sundays: 9/13/20, 10/18/20,  11/15/20, 1/24/21, 2/7/21, 3/14/21, 4/11/21, and 5/16/21.

The hour-long program begins at 9:45 am.

Holiday Preschool is open to both members and non-members. There is a registration fee and tuition charge of $150 for members and $175 for non-members.

Early Elementary (Grades K & 1)

Weekday afternoon Hebrew School at Kerem Shalom begins with our Kindergarten program. Our teacher introduces the children to Jewish culture, emphasizing learning about the joys of Jewish holidays and celebrations through crafts, stories, and activities. In addition to the classroom experience, Kindergarteners participate in a weekly music and movement program.

Children in our first grade build upon what they have learned in Kindergarten, and also begin their study of the Hebrew alphabet. They work on reading one and two syllable words using the letters and vowels that they have mastered. In addition to learning about the holidays, they study Torah stories and participate in a weekly music and movement program. A highlight of our kindergarten and first-grade program is the Parent Connection, a weekly library/read-to-me program with special parent guides for reading and discussion. In addition to bringing the books home, parents are invited into the classrooms to read and share a story every week during the latter part of the year.

Middle Elementary (Grades 2-5)

As they enter our middle elementary program, students begin to acquire formal synagogue skills. Second graders focus on completing their mastery of basic Hebrew decoding and begin learning to chant basic prayers. These skills are refined and expanded in grades 3-5, creating a strong foundation for becoming bar or bat mitzvah in their 7th-grade year.

In addition to the mastery of synagogue skills, each grade of the middle elementary program studies Torah, holidays and customs, Israel, tzedakah (righteous giving), and Jewish values. As part of their unit on Jewish identity, students in grades 4 and 5 intensify their focus on these two areas: Grade 4: My Jewish Family; Grade 5: Israel: the land, its history, and its people.

Middle School (Grades 6 & 7)

Grade 6: Grade 6 is the final year of “afternoon Hebrew school;” By the beginning of 6th grade, most students will have complete mastery of Hebrew decoding, and know most of the common Shabbat morning prayers. This leaves them free to master the Torah service, which, alongside reading Torah and Prophets, is the core of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah service. Students in 6th grade also learn about the overall structure of the Siddur and review the meaning of the various prayers. In addition to their focus on synagogue skills, 6th graders learn about Jewish history, mitzvah heroes, and continue their study of Torah, holidays, and values. As an outgrowth of their study on Jewish values, they run a tzedakah (righteous giving) fair for the younger students.

Our 6th grade Sunday morning Family Education program focuses on getting ready to become Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It consists of 3 temple-based sessions and a field trip to Mayyim Chayyim, Boston’s Liberal Jewish Mikveh (center for ritual immersion), located in Newton.

Grade 7: Seventh graders attend classes on Monday evenings from 6:00-8:30 pm. In addition to their regular classroom studies, most 7th graders meet one-on-one with a Bar or Bat Mitzvah tutor every week. The 7th grade curriculum focuses on Exploring our Jewish Identity, Jewish life cycle, Tikkun Olam, Jewish culture, sacred Jewish music, and Israel. In addition to our regular faculty, 7th grade classes are taught by our Family Education Director and our Director of Education of Congregational Learning.

Post Bar/Bat Mitzvah (Grades 8-12)

Post Bar/Bat Mitzvah students work toward achieving Chagigat Torah—when our synagogue community recognizes them for achievement in the areas of Torah (study), Avodah (synagogue life), and Gemilut Hasadim (social action volunteerism). In addition to participation in formal school programs, students accrue credits by assisting in our Hebrew School and Family Education programs, volunteering in social action activities, and participating in synagogue life.

Kerem Shalom offers students who have already celebrated their B’nai Mitzvah many opportunities to continue their involvement in our community, whether by formal study, participating in synagogue life, youth programs, or by volunteerism.  Every spring, we recognize those teens who have accumulated 18 credits in these areas at our Chagigat Torah celebration.

For information on scholarships for post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah youth, click here.

Special Needs

Kerem Shalom’s education program is built on the desire to educate every child and to work to find the best way to support individual learners as they grow. We believe that being part of the Jewish community is of utmost importance and do whatever we can to support special needs learners in our classrooms.

Kerem Shalom is a member of the Sudbury Valley Jewish Special Education Initiative. The initiative provides Kerem Shalom with a special educator who works with Hebrew language acquisition. The Initiative also provides Kerem Shalom with the services of a skilled special education consultant who observes classes and teachers and recommends accommodations for students with challenges. Our faculty of highly qualified educators work to match teaching styles to the learners in their classrooms.

When needed, Kerem Shalom’s Education Director and Rabbi work with families to establish goals and modify the Hebrew school program for special needs students. Our goal for all students to participate as fully as they wish.