- Inside the Classroom
- Judaic Studies
By Dr. Sarah Levy
Director of Jewish Life & Learning
At the beginning of this school year, we launched a process to create and document our K-12 Judaic studies curriculum. This document, often referred to as a scope and sequence, outlines what skills and content students learn (the scope) in which grades (the sequence) and aims to minimize gaps and redundancies in the curriculum, maximizing student learning.
As part of this process, we have talked to numerous other schools, read a variety of articles about Judaic studies curriculum, heard from our students, and consulted our faculty at every step. Because our parents are such an important part of our community and are incredibly valued stakeholders, we also wanted to involve them in this process.
In October, we invited all parents to participate in a survey to give feedback about our Judaic studies program, including the goals and the subject areas of focus. We received over 90 responses, spread between both divisions, and we are pleased to share some of the findings here.
When given the option, parents found all of the listed goals to be important, but when asked to select the one most important goal, 27.5% of respondents said, “Creating a feeling of love and pride for Judaism.” This response is confirmed in the data from the spring 2018 parent survey where many parents included that the reason they chose/choose to send their children to Denver JDS is to foster a connection to and a love of Judaism. Fostering a love and pride for being Jewish is often cited as the top strength of our Judaic studies program, and we are very conscious of wanting to maintain this important strength as we move forward, aiming to strengthen the other areas of our program as well.
We also asked about content areas within Judaic studies, and the data from our parents points to the desire for a well-rounded and diverse Judaic studies program. Parents want their kids to learn traditional Jewish texts such as Torah and gemara, but to also have a solid foundation in Jewish history and Israel. Additionally, Jewish prayer continues to be important, which verifies the findings from last year’s tefilah/prayer survey.
We also asked two open-ended questions connected to strengths and suggestions and summarized the data as follows:
What do you view as the greatest strengths of the Denver JDS Judaic studies program?
The most cited strengths were connected to instilling in students a love of being Jewish and a connection to heritage. Holidays were listed as a particular strength, and the teachers were also referenced as a strength of the program. Some parents also used this question to express their concerns with the Judaic studies program, however, sharing that they felt there were significant challenges with the program.
What suggestions do you have to improve the Denver JDS Judaic studies program?
Parents would like to see the program more engaging and relevant. They would like to see more opportunities for students to connect their learning to their own lives and to what is happening in today’s world. They would like the program to be more interactive, providing opportunities for students to engage in their own inquiry and to have more opportunities to directly engage in their learning, shifting the pedagogy towards more innovative approaches. Parents also pointed to the need for a stronger curriculum, citing examples of repetition and lack of challenge. They would like to see the Judaic studies classes take a more academic approach, engaging them at higher and deeper levels. Additionally, many parents discussed that, although we claim to be pluralistic, our Judaic studies program does not always reflect that. Finally, several parents noted a need to provide more in the areas of Israel and Jewish history.
We take this data very seriously and appreciate the time everyone took to complete this survey. Moving forward, we will use the rest of the 2018-19 school year to continue to develop our curricular scope and sequence document.
For more information about our Judaic studies program, contact Director of Jewish Life and Learning Dr. Sarah Levy at email@example.com.