An Invitation to Become a Project Etgar School


Jacob, our illustrious ancestor, was transformed. He became Israel only after wrestling with his identity and with God. Likewise, today's students learn best through engagement with others and by actively processing information that they find personally meaningful. Project Etgar, a curriculum created especially for middle school students (Grades 6-8) in Conservative synagogue settings, builds on students' prior knowledge and experiences while promoting new learning. It empowers them to articulate positive Jewish identities with pride, while adding breadth and depth to their understanding and observance of Judaism. Project Etgar rejects the outmoded view that students are empty vessels passively waiting to be filled with knowledge and love of all things Jewish. Rather, by continually addressing their developmental needs, Etgar schools throughout the country create a positive, productive Jewish learning experience. Using the Etgar curriculum, teachers act as directors, leaders, and guides in the learning process.

The Melton Research Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's Department of Education have embraced the challenge of providing meaningful Jewish education by jointly developing and investing in this effort. Field tested in over 30 schools throughout the United States, the Project Etgar curriculum has benefited from the critiques of educational directors, teachers, and students.

The curriculum consists of grade level modules designed by experienced synagogue school educators. Based on 4MAT, an educational model that engages students in active learning while considering their individual learning styles, Etgar lessons use a variety of learning activities and techniques. Upon entering an Etgar classroom, one might see students engaged in cooperative learning groups and self-directed study; reading excerpts from the Torah and other Jewish sources; writing and performing skits; or viewing and analyzing clips from contemporary movies.

In addition, Etgar units integrate Jewish life beyond the confines of the classroom through family education, community service, and practical applications for Jewish living. For example, at the 6th grade level, the Kashrut unit includes shopping, cooking, and serving a meal, while the unit on Bikkur Holim includes visiting the sick and preparing get-well baskets for members of the community returning home from the hospital. Parents are not only involved through family education sessions, but are kept continually informed through "Kesher," the Project Etgar newsletter.

Click here for more information about the curriculum and to see sample lessons.

If you would like to participate in Project Etgar or have any questions, please send an email to Debbie Kerschner, Manager, Project Etgar.

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