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Local Jewish schools eager to start new year

As students sharpen their pencils and charge their laptops and smartphones for the new school year, Tucson’s Jewish schools are keeping their programs fresh with everything from new electives to new teachers.

Temple Emanu-El’s Kurn Religious School will hold a geniza (archive) ceremony field trip as students learn about the special care of sacred texts. A focus on hands-on learning will include creating special foods for Jewish holidays, along with Israeli dance, music and art. Eighth grade students will practice conversational Hebrew on Tuesdays and continue the Social Action Sundays program. At Temple Emanu-El’s Strauss Early Childhood Center, enrichment activities include cooking, yoga, music, puppet theatre, Judaics, physical education, hip hop and Spanish. On Fridays, a web series called “The Strauss Storytellers: Bringing Books to Life” will feature parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles or older siblings reading favorite children’s books aloud to the children in the 2- and 3-year old and pre-K classes. (Phone: 327-4501)

Along with seven new faculty members, including three from Israel (see Business briefs), Tucson Hebrew Academy has a new K-8 electives program and an expanded gifted child enrichment program, now for grades 1-8. Electives include kosher cooking, conversational Hebrew, Israeli dance, parsha (weekly Torah portion) studies, chess, computer coding, Spanish, science forensics and math games. Eighth grade students will have a chance to learn robotics as part of a revised middle school STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program. (Phone: 529-3888)

Students at Congregation Chaverim will take part in the annual Blessing of the Animals as part of a new elective on caring for your animals Jewishly. Along with exploring Jewish texts on the subject, they’ll interact with live animals such as rabbits, sugar gliders and horses. In another elective, Jewish yoga, students will explore the aleph-bet through yoga poses that correspond to the letters. (Phone: 320-1015)

Congregation Or Chadash is continuing the process of becoming accredited by ARJE, a division of the Union for Reform Judaism, with the final step, a site visit, scheduled for December. Students from pre-K through seventh grade will learn basic farming concepts as part of an overall theme of doing mitzvot (good deeds) and giving back to the community. On monthly visits to a neighboring property, the noprofit Felicia’s Farm, hands-on experiences will include planting and harvesting crops and milking goats. The farm donates all its produce and eggs to the Casa Maria soup kitchen on a weekly basis. Another field trip is planned to the Interfaith Community Services food bank. (Phone: 512-8500)

Congregation Anshei Israel’s preschool kindergarten has several new enrichment program instructors for 4- and 5-year-olds, including Rebecca Lipson from the University of Arizona SkyCenter, who will teach science, and local artist Julie Stein, who will teach Spanish and art. Rachel Calloway, program coordinator with the Pima County Health Department, will teach physical education and movement for all classes. CAI’s religious school begins the school year with a new education and youth director, Rabbi Ruven Barkan. (Phone: 745-5550)

At Congregation Bet Shalom, a new Jewish Learning Center approach will be facilitated by Cantor Avraham Alpert, Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz, Saul Ostroff and Eva Biznichuk. Along with the core curriculum of Jewish religious practices, beliefs, history and Hebrew, students may engage in topics such as eco-kashrut, Jewish meditation, Israeli games, Jewish art and music. CBS will launch Connections, a program for teens 13-18 with social activities and community service, led by Daniel Naiman. (Phone: 577-1171)

The Tucson Jewish Community Center’s 5,000 square foot addition will include an indoor playspace and a teaching kitchen. The expansion, which will include renovated classrooms for the Early Childhood Education program, is scheduled to open in November. The ECE will hold a Discover CATCH Field Day, allowing parents to join in children’s health and wellness activities. Camp J365, a school days out program, offers field trips, sports, art, swim (seasonal) and lunch. Fall camp will offer a weeklong introductory robotics course in October. (Phone: 299-3000)

Tucson Hebrew High will ease into the new school year with a surprise program. In addition, a new intergenerational program, Tracing Roots & Building Trees, will bring students together with residents of Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging one Sunday a month. (Phone: 577-9393)

Chabad Hebrew School of Tucson, held Monday-Thursday at Castlehill Country Day School and Sundays at Congregation Young Israel, is the local authorized instructor of the Aleph Champ Hebrew language curriculum. Classes for ages 4-13 also feature a personally tailored Judaic studies program. Chabad Tucson’s Mini-Chefs Academy, now for ages 3-11, is held on the second Monday of each month. (Phone: 869-4971)