Hannah Senesh students see the world through “Jewish colored” glasses. Judaic studies classes provide a framework for understanding the past-and for using that past to better understand the present and prepare for the future. As modern Jews living in the Diaspora, our students are often called upon to find a balance between their religious and secular selves; we hope to help them appreciate that their “Jewish suitcase” is always with them, as well as help them identify what they need to take along for their journey.
The study of TaNaKh begins at an early age, as students learn the stories of the Torah and explore the traditions of the Jewish lifecycle. Students develop a relationship with the text as they are encouraged to ask probing questions and consider all possible answers. We train our students to become independent and literarily astute readers of the biblical text in Hebrew, and to be engaged in the learning of ancient, rabbinic, and modern modes of interpretation of biblical text. Students are empowered to see themselves as links in the ongoing chain of interpretation.
Middle school students study Mishna and Talmud. Students learn how these rabbinic texts are organized, and consider their historic contexts in evaluating their modern applications. The back-and-forth nature of these texts invites active discussion and debate, and students are encouraged to contribute to the conversation. Though ancient, these texts are alive, and students encounter the material as relevant and meaningful to their daily lives.
The Jewish lifecycle offers many opportunities for study and celebration. Students prepare for upcoming Jewish holidays by learning about dinim and minhagim, and are exposed to the varied practices of Jews in different countries and communities. School wide holiday celebrations enrich students’ appreciation of what they’ve learned and build community across grade levels.
Our tefila curriculum helps students make personal connections to the Jewish prayer service by building their familiarity with the siddur, encouraging them to look closely at the words of the prayers, and giving them experience with the Torah service. Through discussion, group translation work, and opportunities to ask questions, students explore their conceptions of God and experiences of gratitude, spirituality, and self-reflection. Daily exposure to tefila helps students increase their familiarity with the words and rhythm of the service, and builds comprehension through learning key vocabulary words and themes.
The State of Israel is central to our identity as Jews, and Hannah Senesh students develop strong personal relationships with Israel, making national, historical, cultural, and linguistic connections to the land and her people. Students study the history and geography of the modern state, and explore the richness of Israeli culture. The culmination of these years of study is a two-week trip to Israel, in the spring of eighth grade.