Temple Shir Tikva Religious School Leadership and Community Building Curriculum
Rabbi Jennifer Gubitz (center) leads the Religious School team assisted by school principal Beverly Klau (left) of Natick, and Curriculum and Family Education Director, Rhonda Magier-Cohen (right) of Framingham. Ms. Magier-Cohen also leads Shir Tikva’s student teacher program, open to members of Shir Tikva's Youth Community, AISH.
Rabbi Gubitz joined Shir Tikva in July 2012 with a special focus on youth and family engagement. She spent many years teaching and song leading at URJ (Union Reform Judaism) children’s summer camps and high school programs. Leading the Religious School team will extend her interest in fostering strong relationships between children across towns and age lines to help kids feel connected to each other.
"We have an exciting calendar that offers many ways for Shir Tikva congregants to share their personal passions and interests with each other. In modern Jewish education – the work of developing relationships, deep personal engagement, and community building - creating Jewish experiences where kids and their families feel a sense of individual and communal belonging - is the curriculum, and it’s the template for which deeper learning and identity building can flourish," says Rabbi Gubitz.
Principal Beverly Klau, an experienced Jewish educator and Shir Tikva 4th grade teacher, echoes that sentiment. "If what we're doing doesn't have to do with relationships," she says, "then we're not doing our job." Mentoring takes place between grades. Older students mentor younger ones, alongside student teachers who already have a major classroom presence. "Our overarching goal for the religious school," says Klau, "is about connections; connection to each other, and connection to being Jewish, and to the community, and to Shir Tikva, in particular."
Curriculum Director Rhonda Magier-Cohen has been on the Temple Shir Tikva faculty since 2008 teaching 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th grades. She has been a B'nai Mitzvah Hebrew tutor for Shir Tikva students for 13 years. A talented Hebrew teacher, Magier-Cohen has spent the summer finessing the Shir Tikva curriculum, with a particular focus on best practices in teaching Hebrew and Tzedakah (righteousness and social justice), two subjects that actively connect Jewish children to the language of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and social justice concerns local and worldwide. “There is no greater gift we can give our Jewish children than a love of Hebrew language, culture, and knowing how and when to do the right thing for others,” commented Magier-Cohen.
In addition to K-6 education Shir Tikva has a high school program, known as AISH: the Shir Tikva Center for Youth Leadership, where teens in grades 7-12 gather together on Wednesday evenings to explore Judaism through various lenses. "Research on youth development," remarks Gubitz, "suggests that teens will be most engaged when they are in peer constructed environments and focused on their personal passions, or as we're calling it, their AISH, their inner spark. It’s not shocking research. We all know that teens want to be with their friends doing what they enjoy. And we know they have a lot of stress in their lives, so we aim to create a stress-free and joyful community where their time is respected and their passions and interests celebrated." Elective-based courses planned for the year range from A Cappella, Event Planning, Graphic Novels, Gaming, Mind/Body Yoga and Food, Journalism, and much more.
Rabbi Gubitz says the leadership team, in collaboration with the vision of Senior Rabbi Neal Gold and Cantor Hollis Schachner, and a wealth of dedicated lay leaders, sees an ongoing "process of evaluation and reflection to think about new ways of doing Jewish education at Shir Tikva. We celebrated 36 years of Shir Tikva and are excited to imagine what the next 36 years of educating our Jewish children will look like!"