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Curriculum » JEC's 2020 Summer Curriculum Project

JEC's 2020 Summer Curriculum Project

July 31, 2020

I'm delighted to share that, at the moment, there are 80 educational programs from across North America that indicated that they are “in” with the La-bri’ut curriculum; that’s pretty amazing and a bit humbling to those of us who have been working on the curriculum all summer!


The team has been incredibly busy this week, and wanted to let you know that you should check the curriculum’s website for:



  • Teacher and Learner webpages for Ometz Lev (there’s even a new overview video that was posted) and for K’hillah
  • Challenge cards (for the upper elementary group) and Family Schmooze cards are up (except for Hesed).
  • Materials have floated over to the Directors page including….



  • For Sukkat Shalom
  • For G’vurah

We are hoping to get Ometz Lev up early next week

Just a reminder that the videos that explain to the lower elementary learners their tasks will help you with set-up. Also, know that these lists will be updated with photos that will help you understand what is in our heads.


There should be a boatload of videos uploaded to the website next week. Stay tuned!


ALSO, I had hoped to have a PR ready for the upcoming webinars to support you and your teachers BUT the sun is heading closer to the horizon and I won’t get that done before Sunday or Monday. However, save these dates and times:

Directors’ PD webinar – Wednesday, August 12th, 1:00-2:30 pm Eastern

  • We will provide background and protocols, but the actual PD for your teachers will be in your hands. This is the place to come for support! Yes, we will record it.
  • In preparation, we ask that you read through the Sukkat Shalom curriculum (“full teacher guide”) and if you haven’t yet viewed the previous webinar, to try and get to it in advance – that will help us push ahead.. More info will be forthcoming.


Teachers’ Kick-Off webinar – We have two, one scheduled for East Coast and one for the West, though teachers may pick whichever is more convenient:

  • Monday, August 17th, 8:00 – 9:00 pm Eastern
  • Tuesday, August 18th, 7:00 – 8:00 pm Pacific

Both will be recorded and one (whichever is our favorite!) will be posted for others to view.


Our Facebook group is up and running and would be a great place for teachers and directors to share successes, challenges, questions and advice. We will start stirring conversation there next week so come join and please post!!


It has been a busy week, but more to come! A final reminder do NOT yet make multiple copies from the website – we are still making changes and editing.



July 26, 2020

The planning team is happy to satisfy your curiosity a bit by sharing STILL-IN-PROCESS curriculum documents posted to a new website: The BIG caveat is that all posts have the potential to be edited in the next few weeks. DO NOT RELY ON THEM as being done, do not print them for sharing with teachers. Drafts, consider them drafts that allow you to check out our direction so you can decide if you are in or out. You’ll find lots of items not yet posted (curricula and videos) and we are convinced there are still typos lurking or unclear directions (feel free to pass whatever you find to


Trust us, you’ll be happier if you wait until mid-August to run full speed ahead with the curriculum when we give you the go-ahead.


But all those grave warnings aside, you’ll find that the Sukkat Shalom and G’vurah modules are more complete than the others … though (here comes my caveat, just in case you missed the first paragraph, above) there are still updates to come.  Here's an example of a challenge video for the upper elementary age learners - this one is for G'vurah, session one:


Tomorrow (Monday) we will open up our Facebook group – it’s a place where the communal wisdom of educators working with La-bri’ut will be shared!  


Also, sometime this week we hope to post shopping lists for the lower elementary activity boxes. Stay tuned!



UPDATE: July 16, 2020
Thanks to all who joined in on the overview webinar for this curriculum project. Couldn't make it or wish to view it again? The recording is here (click on the link, not on the photo):
If you view the webinar, we ask that you be in touch via this feedback form. We'd like to know who is considering using the curriculum and what questions still remain!
ALSO, we were asked to provide a very short description of the curriculum. See how this might work for you and your teachers, committee members, parents, etc

לַבְּרִיאוּת La’bri-ut: To Our Health and Wellness” is an exciting, new values-based curriculum designed for learners in kindergarten through sixth grade. Via five values-focused modules, learners experience synchronous learning in a weekly cohort-based mifgash (“gathering”). Off-line they delve into module-related content and concepts - lower elementary age children explore them through a curated box of hands-on activities, while upper elementary learners receive engaging weekly challenges.  Learning is anchored in Jewish texts and tales of our past, offering rich understandings of Jewish values that build resiliency and guide personal and communal health and wellness: 

  • sukkat shalom (a shelter of peace)
  • ometz lev (inner strength)
  • g’vurah (courage)
  • k’hillah (community)
  • hesed (loving kindness, tying into hope)

While developed with minimal at-home adult responsibility for learning, resources are offered to encourage informal  family conversations.



UPDATE: July 12, 2020

We’re having a webinar and hope you’ll join us! The curriculum planning team will offer an overview of the still-in-process curriculum and leave plenty of time for questions.

Wednesday, July 15th, 4pm Eastern

Register here:

Stay tuned! We’re hoping to post a draft of one of the units in the next week.



UPDATE: July 3, 2020

Getting overwhelmed by all the curriculum updates we've made over the last five weeks? Check out the PDF below that puts this curriculum’s relevant information on two pages and is easily shared and discussed with teachers and committee members. Complement it with our still-in-draft-form video for Sukkat Shalom:

UPDATE: June 26, 2020



As promised, our team is delighted to share with you a sample of the curriculum project we are temporarily calling, “לַבְּרִיאוּת La’bri-ut: To our health and wellness.” It’s descriptive of our wish for our learners and caring adults – that this year of exploration offers a Jewishly-anchored toolkit that supports them in a time of the pandemic and beyond, and that builds their resilience in all situations that provide physical, social, and emotional challenges.

PS – La’bri-ut is a Jewish Life Vocabulary word that is part of #OnwardHebrew, which is why we felt comfortable choosing it. You could refer to the curriculum by its Hebrew name, by its English tagline, or something else that you feel is appropriate. Feel free to pass along those latter ideas to us and yes, the name may still change!


We have so much more to do and are sure that the final version will shift a bit from what we share today. That said, we offer you two items that may help you decide whether this learning approach will work for your educational program:

  • A video developed to introduce the teachers and parents to the theme, activities and challenges of the first module, Sukkat Shalom: Note that it still has a couple of editing rounds to go, but you’ll get the idea.
  • A draft of the first module’s first week. Again, this still has a number of edits to go. There are a few items written in brown font that offer explanatory notes to you, the reader. They will be deleted when the final curriculum is ready to go. To read the curriculum sample, click on the PDF, below.

If you are new to this project, scroll to the bottom of this blog and read the background information provided. In the final curriculum document, we will offer an introduction that will set the context, but have not yet created that. In the meantime, catch up with the earlier information provided.



Based on the feedback from the Educator Informants team, we are no longer referring to the learning divisions as K-3 and 4-6. Instead, we are using the terms “lower elementary” and “upper elementary.” This allows for flexibility in use – perhaps your fourth graders would enjoy the activity kits, or maybe a mature third grader would like working on the challenges. A number of the informants wondered if, with the Zoom sessions structured as they are, this learning approach is truly appropriate for kindergarteners and maybe even first graders. As you read the curricular document, keep that question in mind on behalf of your own young learners.


We have been asked about the estimated cost for the lower elementary activity boxes – we hope to have an answer for you by next Friday, at least in regard to the Sukkat Shalom module.


This week, we will begin considering professional development opportunities that will support teachers using “La’bri-ut.” We will set up webinars, as well as a Facebook group, both of which will allow for a sharing of information and an informal community of practice. Because Cleveland asks that its synagogue-based teachers complete 10 annual hours of professional learning, we will also develop a seminar that others around the country may use and/or adapt.


Which brings me to the final point for this week’s update:  good teachers match written curriculum to the needs of their learners. While we are in the process of developing what we believe is thoughtful and coherent age-appropriate learning, once the document leaves our hands, it moves fully to yours and that of your staff. You will need to make decisions that fit your community and its context.


Stay tuned to further updates! In the meantime, click the PDF below to read the sample we are providing!

UPDATE: June 19, 2020
Our team has made great progress, carefully building our first module, that of Sukkat Shalom, which literally translates as a “Shelter of Peace,” a place – physical or otherwise - that offers feelings of safety and protection.Learners’ explorations will connect to the Enduring Understanding in meaningful ways:
  • If I am not for myself, who will be for me? – We want to empower children with the tools to take care of themselves in a world that is fraught with uncertainty, with fear and with illness.
  • If I am only for myself, what am I? – We want to empower children to look beyond themselves, to consider their ability to provide safety, healing and wholeness for others by joining together in a network of support and caring.
  • If not now when? – We want to empower children to take action toward creating Sukkat Shalom for themselves and for others.
As with all of our modules, learning is anchored in Jewish texts and tales of our past, offering a rich understanding of Jewish values that offer guidance for personal and communal health and wellness.
If you are thinking of adopting this learning approach, now is time to experiment with your 5781 calendar. We anticipate teachers spending 1-3 weeks in community building activities before beginning the first of five modules. Each module offers 5 weeks of learning, though the specifics of this year’s calendar may push educators to choose only four of the five for a couple of the modules. Remember that you may wish to add pop-up events around Jewish holidays or other events important to your community. However, as much as possible, each module should be scheduled in coherent blocks of time, allowing for maximum consistency.
Next Friday, June 26, the planning team will share a draft of the Sukkat Shalom module offering a glimpse into the structure and content of the chosen learning approach. Be sure to check back here before Shabbat!Yes, the planning team is excited by our progress and grateful for the creativity, expertise and persistence of those involved! We hope your learners will join inon this journey next year!

UPDATE: June 12, 2020

Yes, this is a long posting (feel free to skim!). The planning team wants to provide information that would help educational programs decide whether or not they wish to adopt this curriculum for the fall. The more you know, the easier it will be to choose to be in (and start gearing up on your end), out (and move onto a different curricular decision), or stay on the fence a bit longer. 


The JEC’s Not-Yet-Named summer curriculum project team has had a very productive week! Besides spending many of our days Zooming with each other, we had two meetings with “educator informants” – a group of synagogue education directors from Cleveland and a broader-based one from across the US. We are using them to test assumptions and gain very valuable feedback. Thank you to those who offered their time and expertise!



Keeping in mind our desire to offer supports for potential trauma bubbling out the COVID-19 crisis, the team chose a familiar and timely text from Pirke Avot as its Enduring Understanding:

Hillel said,

If I am not for myself, who am I?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

If not now, when?

We appreciated that this text addressed the need for both personal and communal care, as well as its imperative to take action. The themes that emanate from the text integrate well with each of the five Jewish values and principles of trauma-informed care at the core of this year of learning (see the June 5th entry, below, for details).


The team spent much of the week developing the first module - once we have its systems in place, the remaining modules will be built on that foundation. Education programs choosing to adopt this curriculum may adapt parameters and materials as best fits their situation – for instance, the team recommends up to 10 children per cohort, but that might not be feasible for a number of part-time education programs..


Below are the decisions currently made by the team: :

A teacher-facilitated mifgash (meeting) will frame each week’s learning for cohorts of up to 10 children. This number (10) was chosen to allow for stronger individual participation on a weekly basis.
    • The mifgash needs 30 minutes, weekly. The team attempted to fit the mifgash agenda into 20 minutes but that was not feasible. On the other hand, some educator informants felt more comfortable scheduling 40 minutes.
    • The mifgash is being developed to create community, celebrate previous week’s learning/projects, introduce the nuance with which the value will be explored that week, and spark interest in the current week’s at-home projects. Jewish Life Vocabulary will be integrated, as appropriate. Teacher-facilitators will be provided with plenty of guidance to assist with their planning.
    • We imagine that most children involved in the mifgash will be able to manage without a parent’s assistance for much of the time. Yes, the mifgash will have something for all ages (K-6) relatively seamlessly.
    • The team is planning each mifgash with the inclusion of a participatory activity – children will not be sitting and passively watching the screen.


Our intention is to use a child-at-the-center, constructivist learning approach throughout, with the implication that teachers (and parents) will learn to say things like, “Tell me more” or “I’m wondering what you will do as your next step?” [Reminder: K-3 is being built around a container of activities and fourth to sixth grade learners will do a PBL-inspired weekly challenge that might be completed by some children in 15 minutes, but engage other children for an hour or two.]


The team has embraced the idea of learners being grouped by family, not grade level.
    • In most homes, this eliminates (or at least diminishes) the need for everyone to be on a separate computer or laptop.
    • To create cohorts of up to 10 children, families may be matched by age of children, neighborhood, school, or even by energy level (might it be advantageous to mix groups to include those gung-ho about the at-home projects and those that might not follow-through?). That said, the learners may certainly be grouped by grade level or grade clusters according to current practice.


Our hope is that most children will be able to tackle the at-home/off-screen activities relatively independently. While younger children (K-1) may need parental support, the team is working to create challenges that are compelling, with enough scaffolding to enable independent work.


Children who do not do the at-home activity should still be able to comfortably participate in the mifgash. However, we hope they are intrigued by project challenges and might find the work of those in their cohort to nudge them into participation.


This not-yet-named curriculum will generally replace one’s Judaic studies curriculum.
    • We assume that synagogue programs will still want to have t’fillah and teach Hebrew online. So the question for synagogue education directors to consider is how these are scheduled in conjunction with the 30 minute mifgash.
    • This may be a good year to expand beyond “Sunday, 9:30-12:00” as the only option for Jewish learning time. As long as teacher-facilitators are available and children's face-to-face after school activities limited, might cohorts be scheduled at various times during the week? Cohort A’s parents could decide that Sunday at 10:30 is great, while cohort B’s parents might choose Tuesdays at 4:30, and cohort C could find itself quite happy on Fridays at 4:00 pm. A teacher might offer “office hours” on Mondays from 4:45-5:15 and perhaps t’fillah is scheduled by the synagogue at two different times for families to choose from – Sunday at 9:30am or Wednesdays at 5:00pm? All these choices are for the synagogue’s professional team to decide.


The box/bag (kindergarten through third grade)
    • Our plan is to create one box/bag per module, with different activities for each of the five weeks.
        • You may choose to assemble these in a box (the items are easy to see as kids look for specific supplies and the chance of them being squished is lessened) or a bag (cheaper and potentially more colorful)
        • You may choose to create one box/bag per K-3 child in each family OR you may deliver one box/bag to the family with each child’s name on it (kids do love mail and gifts!).
        • You could choose to assemble the first three modules’ boxes/bags and then put them into a bigger box for families to pick up once a semester.
    • We will provide a supply list along with links to assist your purchase. The JEC has no connection to any vendors – you may choose to use our recommendations or substitute your own. Our educator informants had a hard time pinning down a suggested price-point for each of the five boxes/bags, so we have no budgetary guidance for you at the moment. Know that the JEC is generally cost conscious, but we do want these the materials to inspire children to dig in!
    • There are multiple ways to distribute the boxes/bags, depending on the geographical reach of your community and your budget. You might:
        • Mail them
        • Deliver them, with a chance for conversation through the door
        • Ask parents to pick them up from the synagogue, which also provides the chance for personal contact and connections, enhancing the moment.


The “sprint challenges” for grades 4-6
    • Each of these are designed to be completed in a week.
    • We were inspired by this “Maker Monday Challenge” by John Spencer: As you’ll see, the challenge could be tackled by almost any age level and there are enough scaffolds for a child to work independently with little need for expert assistance or special materials, with the exception of the prototype. Yes, a child might focus on one element and complete the challenge in 15 minutes (no prototype), but others could get deeply involved over the week. Our hope is to create similarly engaging challenges for our older children.



    • The write up of sukkat shalom (a sukkah of peace, module #1) will be completed.
    • Module #2 (ometz lev, inner strength) will be outlined and hopefully completed.
    • Supporting materials and resources will be scoped out for each of the completed modules
    • Ways to market this learning approach to parents and teachers will begin to be considered



Completion of modules #3-5
Material/resource development
Attention to professional development
Consideration for the use of madrichim
And more....

UPDATE:  June 5, 2020


As stay-at-home orders persisted and the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread, it became apparent that educators in every setting were overwhelmed by the need to quickly shift to an online environment. Zoom became the ubiquitous platform for learning originally designed for in-person settings. With a resounding kol hakavod to Jewish educational colleagues who quickly worked out the challenges, it was clear that the upcoming year could be equally difficult. 


To relieve pressure from educational colleagues across North America, the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland's Curriculum Department decided to offer its expertise to create curricular materials for synagogue/part-time educational programs for the 5781 (2020-2021) academic year. Under the leadership of the department's director, Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz, a small team of Jewish educators from Cleveland and around North America began work the first week in June. Their goal:  to have materials available by the second week in August, free of charge, with thanks to the generous support of both the Jewish Education Center and the Covenant Foundation.   


Knowing that education directors needed to make decisions for their own programs sooner rather than later, the team has committed to post updates to this webpage throughout summer 2020. However, as the team continues its work, decisions made early in the curriculum development process might shift as other realities come to bear.  Colleagues considering the adoption of these curricular materials are encouraged to check back weekly for updates.



As of this writing, there are many decisions still to be made, but they are all on the foundation of the following suppositions that were developed from observations made in spring 2020.

  1. The importance of creating, maintaining, and enhancing connections between children-and-children, and children-and-adults.
  2. The inherent difficulty for families when needing to juggle multiple computers and different learning schedules for their children.
  3. The challenge of retrofitting current curricular materials and textual materials to virtual learning.  Plus, the challenge of using virtual environments for constructivist, collaborative, creative learning.
  4. An appreciation for activities that siblings (and even families) can support each other in accomplishing.
  5. A change in how children began to occupy their days – for some, play and exploration returned.
  6. Stress exacerbated by stay-in-place orders and adults needing to juggle work responsibilities, children’s long days at home (including school work, meals, squabbles and boredom). In addition, teachers who also parent needed to juggle their own children at home while trying to teach online.
  7. Stress felt by children and adults caused by helplessness in the face of today's reality - including parents and/or family members who've lost jobs, financial pressures, days not structured as they were in the past, and more recently, violent protests in the wake of George Floyd's alleged murder.
  8. The fickleness of the Zoom platform at times (especially Sunday mornings after Saturday night security updates), as well as reported “Zoom exhaustion” by children, teachers and parents.
  9. The learning curve for teachers who, for many, suddenly had to shift their teaching style to one that they were not used to; for some, the online environment may never feel comfortable.
  10. Challenges for directors, clergy and others to offer leadership, curriculum guidance and resources for the learning of children in multiple grades while also attending to the needs of individuals and daily/weekly synagogue functions.



With too many unknowns related to the coronavirus' potential resurgence this coming fall and winter, a decision was made by the JEC to develop curriculum and a learning structure for out-of-the-classroom use, with"pop-up" events possible depending on the health status of each community and regulations on permissible group sizes. Since "Zoom fatigue" set in early this past spring, learning in this program will occur in a hybrid model of a virtual environment (Zoom, Google Classroom, etc.) AND home-based learning and activities. It is assumed that synagogue programs will complement this with other elements - t'fillah, Hebrew Through Movement lessons, Hebrew prayer practice, Jewish Life Vocabulary, holiday celebrations, etc. 


This as-yet-unnamed project is being developed for learners from kindergarten through sixth grade, with one approach for K-3 (focused around a box of materials and explorations) and a second set for grades 4-6 (challenge "sprints" based on Project Based Learning concepts). While the younger children (non-readers, especially) will need parental support, the goal is to create compelling challenges that children will accomplish relatively independent of adult intervention. That said, there are parental partnership elements - a different kind of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) - being built into the structure. 


Five core modules are scheduled throughout the year, each one with a theme that focuses learning for all ages. Other than the introductory unit, which will be scheduled for 1-3 weeks, the five modules will be explored over 4-5 weeks each. Thus, the learning is comprised of 20-25 weeks of modular learning, plus an additional 1-3 weeks in the introductory segment. Educational programs may choose the number of weeks/elements based on their institutional calendars and inclinations.


This curriculum approach is being designed to enable educational programs to consider learning groups different from grade levels, especially sibling cohorts. Thus, these could be family-based (with 2-6 families forming a cohort), built around a set of multi-age friends, a geographical area (a neighborhood or school district), or yes, specific grades or grade clusters. The decision related to groupings is fully in the hands of every educational program. Because of the challenges of virtual environments such as Zoom, the recommended number of children per cohort is imagined to be 10. This could be a great opportunity for synagogue educational programs to open their doors to unaffiliated families that would like to join in for a year, or find ways to support clusters of families not interested in "crossing the threshold" of a synagogue, but whose parents might consider a hybrid learning experience for their children.



Five Jewish values form the basis of the five core modules. They complement a set of principles for caregivers of mass trauma victims, such as a pandemic. In the article that describes this concept, the caregivers are generally clinical professionals, but for the purpose of this curriculum, the definition has been expanded to parents, guardians, teachers, etc, who are helping children gain a sense of: safety, calm, self- and community-efficacy, social connectedness  and hope. The team has attached the following Jewish values to each of the principles:

  • Sukkat shalom (safety) - creating a shelter of peace 
  • Ometz lev (calm) - tapping into one's inner strength
  • G'vurah (self- and community-efficacy) - finding or gaining power that leads to positive outcomes
  • K'hillah (social connectedness) - being connected to a community for support
  • Hesed (hope) - "radical caring" for others as a forward-thinking strategy, leading to hope


NEXT DECISIONS TO BE MADE (heading into the second week in June)

  • Guidance for the structure of each cohort's time together (20-30 minutes). The team has been looking at Responsive Classroom's “morning meeting” for its starting point, though it may have too many elements for our needs.
  • Overall coherence between the modules. An Enduring Understanding and complementary elements will hold the learning together.
  • Text study so as to better focus each module's value.
  • Broad decisions regarding the hands-on materials for the K-3 "boxes." This includes price-point, assembly logistics, etc.
  • Early consideration for the approach and focus for the "challenge sprints" for grades 4-6
  • Hmm, and maybe a name for this yet-unnamed-project.


Stay tuned!