Sundays at Temple Sinai are more interactive and family-centered since the synagogue rolled out a new program last month for children in kindergarten to sixth grade. Developed in-house, Noar Sunday offers multi-age classes, electives and tefillah. The program is just one part of the congregation’s overhaul to its educational philosophy.
According to Marisa Kaiser, Sinai underwent a full review of Jewish education during the last three years. “Out of this revision, we created a holistic approach to lifelong learning for learners of any age. There’s a common thread in everything we offer,” said Kaiser, director of the Center for Learning and Engagement.
When Sinai opened the center last year, it developed a four-part approach to families with young children, youth, teens and adults.
“We are changing the way we think about education and giving children personal choice, community building, hands-on learning and authentic Jewish content,” she said.
Kaiser and Emily Cohen, director of youth education, determined core priorities and learned about models across the country. The pair engaged curriculum writers and experts, and Noar Sunday was created.
The traditional Hebrew school program centers on children going to synagogue on Sunday morning, in a classroom, to learn Hebrew. “This is not just about content,” said Kaiser. “We are building community, connecting kids and families, asking what they want to learn and how.”
Noar Sunday offers electives, including cooking, yoga and science, so that children have the autonomy to decide how they learn material. For example, while studying the science of Shabbat, students experiment with yeast and sugar to make challah; later they learn the science behind other Shabbat items including grape juice and fire.
Sinai encourages parents to stay and play. A coffee shop vibe allows for work and catching up with friends. Committee meetings, adult education and programming are all offered on Sundays through the learning and engagement center.
On Sundays in October, dads are invited to paint pumpkins with their toddlers, special needs parents connect, a meeting is held on Atlanta’s immigrant community and the brotherhood hosts Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council.
“We are making a full cultural shift. Sunday morning used to be a place to drop off the kids and run errands. We are shifting to make Sunday an intentional family destination. Kids need to see you as part of their Jewish experience,” she said. “We are building community and forming a positive Jewish identity – and we are helping parents be a part of that.”