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New school year brings exciting programs to Tucson Jewish community

Local Jewish educators are gearing up for the new school year, which starts next month. Here are some of the new programs awaiting students.

Congregation Anshei Israel is introducing a new, integrated youth education program, B’Yahad (Together). B’Yahad will provide experiential learning opportunities for students of CAI’s religious school as well as those who attend Tucson Hebrew Academy and families throughout the congregation. Tucson’s new shinshinim (Israeli teen ambassadors) will play an important role throughout the year, along with CAI’s madrichim (teen leaders). For more information, see, visit, or contact Rabbi Ruven Barkan, CAI’s education and youth director, at 745-5550.

Congregation Beit Simcha will have a new Torah Tykes class for ages 18 months-4 years old and a new ninth/tenth-grade confirmation class, along with a religious school for kindergarten through eighth grade. “New this year, Congregation Beit Simcha’s religious school is designed using a differentiated instruction model for all students,” says Education Director Lori Riegel, explaining that each student will receive an individualized lesson plan at the beginning of class, customized to their unique learning needs, interests, and goals. For more information, visit, or contact Riegel at 276-9244 or

Congregation Bet Shalom is renewing its virtual Hebrew school. Students can log in from home for a weekly class with Rabbi Avi Alpert that will focus on improving Hebrew reading skills and comprehension. Another component of the class is geared to sharpening students’ general knowledge of Judaism, and to framing their relationship to Torah in a positive manner. To register, contact Alpert at or the office administration at

Congregation Chaverim has an earth-based curriculum that follows the cycles and season of the Jewish calendar, says Rabbi-Educator Stephanie Aaron. “We have a mitzvah of each month that is observed throughout the school and the shul,” says Aaron, giving the example of August’s mitzvah, “being careful of our words.” Aaron wrote about words and their significance for the congregational newsletter, and will teach Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s book, “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal” in her adult study class. For more information, call 320-1015 or email

Congregation Or Chadash and Temple Emanu-El are collaborating on several programs in the coming year. On Sundays for the entire year, they will combine their eighth-grade classes, focusing on two components: social action and comparative religions.  In the social action unit, “students will have the opportunity to learn about the needs in our community and how Judaism influences us to become better American citizens,” says COC Director of Youth Engagement Rina Liebeskind. “The primary aim of the comparative religions unit is to provide accurate information about other religions and an exchange of views on aspects of religious life: historical, possibly mystical, and most importantly, personal experiences and traditions from representatives of these religions.”

The madrichim (teacher’s aides) course will be incorporated in the eighth-grade program to enhance students’ leadership skills as they enter high school. Or Chadash students in grades six-eight will join Temple Emanu-El’s JCTEY youth group. For more information, visit, or contact Liebeskind at 900-7030 or

Temple Emanu-El also is focusing on is Hebrew@Home blended learning program and its Partnership2Gether twinning programs. On Tuesday afternoons, eighth-graders will be learning modern conversational Hebrew, using the Ulpan-Or program that Tucson Hebrew High successfully piloted last year, says Abby Limmer, Ph.D., director of Temple Emanu-El’s Kurn Religious School. “All Jewish eighth-graders in Southern Arizona are invited to join us, either for Sundays only or Sundays and Tuesdays, whether or not they are affiliated with other institutions. With Hebrew@Home, they will be able to participate even if they can’t come to class in person.” For more information, visit, or contact Limmer at or 327-4501.

Tucson Hebrew Academy has adopted and sent four educators to a recent workshop on the TaL AM program in New Jersey, says Head of School Laurence Kutler, Ph.D. “It was developed based on the notion that the best learning environment for children is one in which knowledge is acquired through a variety of activities,” he explains. In addition to studying from textbooks, students learn the Hebrew language through music, games, and visual aids, developing a keen understanding of Jewish concepts and values. The program helps foster Jewish identity by allowing children to explore their Jewish roots and traditions in fun and exciting ways. The TaL AM program fits into the Challenge Based Learning delivery system recently adopted by THA. For more information, visit or call 529-3888.