If you heard reports of, “It’s FUN!” “I love it! It’s so much fun and a great experience!” and “It is a great idea,” an extra-curricular religious school program might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But for 120 sixth- and seventh-graders, this has been their experience at Makor. They’re having a blast, and to quote one student, “it is better than regular Hebrew School!” If that’s not high praise, I’m not sure what is.
Makor, named with the Hebrew word for “source,” is an innovative and collaborative approach toJewish middle school education. A partnership between Prozdor (Hebrew College’s supplementary High School program), four local synagogues, and CJP, Makor seeks to change the way Jewish students learn. What began three years ago with just one synagogue expanded to two congregations in 2009. But it has been this year that Makor has really taken off with four congregational partnerships (Temple Emanuel, Temple Emeth, Congregation Mishkan Tefila, and Temple Beth Abraham) and more than 120 students. We surveyed our students recently and were overwhelmed with the positive responses they shared. According to them, Makor is fun, awesome, a great idea, and full of nice people. And, oh yeah, we have good bagels–not an incidental matter for these kids.
With a simultaneous focus on the group and the individual, we help our students navigate the terrain that is being a Jewish pre-teen. A day in the classroom may be spent learning about Rambam or lifecycles–or could just as easily be dedicated to talking about bullying and the Jewish value of not standing by the blood of your neighbor. We make each lesson engaging, informative, and relevant.
By integrating formal and experiential learning, as well as offering our students a myriad of choices in selecting their courses, we empower the students to take hold of their Jewish education in new and exciting ways. Teens get a choice of how many hours to attend, and which classes to take while they are here. Some choose academic, thought-provoking classes where they debate ethical dilemmas, while others express themselves through Jewish art. We have something for everyone.
What makes us different from other community-wide schools? Makor has created a customized model for each synagogue partnership. What works for one synagogue or cohort of students may need to be tweaked to fit another cohort. We approach each student individually, as well as site, and customize the experience to be optimal for them.
I can’t think of a better (supplementary, year-round) environment in which to educate our kids. No, it’s not summer camp or a trip to Israel – but it’s darn close!