The tenets of Jewish heritage and the spirit of Jewish community come together at Bernard Zell. Jewish learning begins in Early Childhood, and invites the student’s entire family to take part, welcoming everyone with a “come as you are” attitude. We create a nurturing Jewish cultural environment in which students engage in comprehensive and in-depth study of Hebrew language, Jewish texts, Jewish history, values, prayer, holidays and Shabbat.
Children in our Early Childhood program are introduced to spoken Hebrew in a natural, organic way, through games, songs, and simple conversation about daily activities, and progress to daily Hebrew classes in later years. Learning about Jewish holidays is an immersive experience, including the long-standing tradition of Fridays' Likrat Shabbat lunch, and, for fifth- and eighth-grade students, a Shabbaton
—an off-site, camp-like experience where they celebrate Shabbat from start to finish.
From the youngest ages, students learn the Shema
and blessings said for meal times as well as those that are specific to Shabbat and holidays. Lower School students begin to build a repertoire of core prayers that are integral to all denominations of Judaism. Torah study begins in fourth grade. In Middle School, students conduct their own prayer services each Friday, and begin to learn new melodies to add to familiar prayers, as well as prepare for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
A combination of experiential and academic learning includes Israel education at Bernard Zell. Our Israel Independence Day celebration includes a reenactment of Ben Gurion's reading of the Declaration of the State of Israel, singing HaTikvah, the Israeli national anthem, Israeli foods, and even a model of the Western Wall where students can place notes. The invitation to explore their Jewish identity that begins in Early Childhood culminates in eighth grade with the Tiyul
(journey), a two-week experience in Israel that one student described as “making aliyah
for two weeks!”
With every step they take throughout their education at Bernard Zell, students come to recognize essential Mitzvot
, the guidelines that shape a Jewish life, as they learn to take care of the earth, honor their parents, observe Shabbat, and maintain an honest and just community.