UJS Curriculum (2021-2022)

GAN KATAN (PRE-PRE KINDERGARTEN) 2 & 3 year old attend with a parent

Goals:  Introduce students to the concept of “What is Jewish”.  

Objectives: The students will: 

1.  know the basic Jewish signs and symbols – where they are seen in our congregations and in our community and how they connect us as Jews.  

2.  celebrate the Jewish holidays as they occur incorporating sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures.  This class will be held as a parent-child class with parents learning along with their child to help integrate learning into home participation.

Structure: One hour class with parent/guardian every Sunday from 10:35-11:30am

PRE-KINDERGARTEN 4 & young 5 year old

Goals:  Understand the concept of “being Jewish” and having a Jewish identity – develop a connection to the Temple/Synagogue and Religious School.

Objectives: The students will:

  1. using the Shalom Sesame curriculum:  be introduced to customs, ceremonies, symbols and foods of Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. 
  2. be involved in playful activities which will introduce them to the Mitzvot that every Jewish child is expected to fulfill, including honoring your parents, telling the truth, and returning lost property.
  3. Using Aleph Bet Yoga: recognize and demonstrate the Hebrew alphabet.

Structure: 1st hour session learning, 30 minutes Tefillah, 2nd hour session. Art and Music incorporated on a monthly basis.

Kindergarten through Seventh grade are also using a Schoology platform developed by Jewish Educators called “Shalom Learning”. This is a Jewish Values Curriculum with 28 complete lesson plans providing students with stimulating, interactive hands-on activities to explore and engage with these Jewish values and holidays:

Jewish Values Curriculum from Shalom Learning

KINDERGARTEN 5 & 6 year old

Goals:  Students explore Jewish values and holidays through the senses. Young children experience the sights, sounds, tastes and feels that connect us to Jewish tradition and learning 

The Kindergarten curriculum will explore Jewish values and holidays through the senses using the Shalom Learning curriculum and other learning resources. Students will experience the sights, sounds, tastes, and feels that connect us to Jewish tradition and learning.  Through art projects, games, picture books, videos, and songs, the students will learn Jewish holidays, customs, values, and some Hebrew words and phrases. The students will learn about and put into practice values like kavod (respect), shalom baayit (peace in the home), ometz lev (courage of the heart), tzedakah (charity, justice), hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), and more!

As the students are learning at their age to empathize with others, our curriculum will focus heavily on the Jewish value of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Rabbi Hillel famously said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.  This is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary.”  The Kindergarteners will practice doing mitzvot for others, talk about ways they can care for their world, act out this value through play, and learn about Jewish holidays through this lens. 

Structure: 1st hour session learning, 30 minutes Tefillah, 2nd hour session learning. Art and Music incorporated on a monthly basis

Grades 1 through 7 will be using the Shalom Learning Schoology curriculum, based on Jewish Values like Thankfulness, Giving to Others and the Land of Israel.    

First Grade

Students will continue to explore Jewish values and holidays through the senses. A variety of hands-on activities and choices give teachers options to personalize the learning. 

Objectives: The students will: 

  1. Over the course of the year, students will learn a number of Hebrew words and simple phrases related to the values and holidays including: Shalom, L’hitra’ot, Tz’dakah, ner, and more!
  2. Students explore T’hillim with the Shema, Chanukah Candle Blessings, Bore pri ha’etz and more!
  3. Through the values-based curriculum, students learn to apply the traits to their everyday life.

Structure: 1st hour session learning, 30 minutes Tefillah, 2nd hour session learning. Art and Music incorporated on a monthly basis

Second Grade

Shalom Learning’s second grade curriculum explores Jewish values and holidays through literature adn art. Each lesson includes an introduction to an artist, author, or musician. Students createan original piece of work connected to the theme of the lesson in the style of the artist. 

Objectives:  The students will:

  1. Learn all the letters of the Aleph-Bet and two Hebrew words for each letter including: Ahavah, Torah, Tzdakah, Chanukah.
  2. understand that Jewish celebrations and rituals help us express our relationship with God.
  3. learn that we can make the world a better place by performing g’milut chasadim – acts of loving kindness in our everyday lives.
  4. develop basic reading skills by starting Let’s Discover the Aleph-Bet

Structure: 1st hour session learning, 30 minutes Tefillah, 2nd hour session learning. Art and Music incorporated on a monthly basis

Third Grade – Sixth Grade

In third grade, we incorporate Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills that enable students to build positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Through the values, students explore Jewish text, history, tefillah, and holidays.

Objectives:  The students will:

  1. Increase Hebrew learning with one session totally devoted to study of Hebrew
  2. Learn through the Jewish Values how to apply these to their lives at home and in the community
  3. appreciate that each individual act of  kindness brings a peaceful home and world

Structure: 1st hour session learning, 30 minutes Tefillah, 2nd hour session learning. Art and Music incorporated on a monthly basis. Supplemental Hebrew will be conducted virtually at the discretion of the family and Hebrew teachers. This is in addition to the Hebrew focus during UJS.

Seventh Grade

Enduring Understanding:

Our development as emerging Jewish adults is closely linked to our ethical behavior (middot) and the performance of acts of g’milut chasadim.

Objectives:  The students will:

  • develop a personal sense of Jewish identity through Torah and prayer 
  • apply Jewish ethical behavior (middot) and gimilut chasadim to become Jewish adults and members of the community
  • investigate the significance and customs of Jewish lifestyle events
  • explore issues that teens face in daily lives using debate and role play

Structure:  1st hour session learning, 30 minutes Tefillah, 2nd hour session learning. Art and Music incorporated on a monthly basis. In addition, students study Mussar, Mindfulness and meditation. 

Eighth Grade:

Objectives:  The students will: 

  • discover the journey of the Jewish people including Sephardic development and traditions, introduction to Yiddish, traditional foods, dance and music  
  • evaluate the concepts of bigotry and prejudice and investigate the historical events that led to the Holocaust
  • gain an understanding of the events that led to the Holocaust, with a visit to the Holocaust museum to reinforce their learning experience
  • develop social action projects to help them understand their personal responsibility of Gimilut Chasadim. 

Structure:  2 hours of instruction and discussion with ½ hour Tefillah. Art, Music, Mussar study, Meditation, Mindfulness included monthly.

Ninth Grade and Tenth Grade taught concurrently  

The students will be introduced to World religions – the basic beliefs and practices. The students will be able to analyze and compare the similarities and differences between each religion and Judaism, in an effort to help develop understanding and tolerance.  Students will visit different local congregations – Hindu, Moslem and Christian, to meet with religious leaders and observe different  rituals and traditions.   

During the second semester the students will focus on the questions that teenagers often have about Jewish life, reading articles from a variety of texts as a way to begin conversations. 

What is the role of atheism in Judaism and Jewish culture. What is the “Messiah?” Why is there some anger toward Jews? What is the Jewish stance on the afterlife?Did the stories from the Torah actually happen?  Are we a religion or a nation or a people? Should I care about Israel? What do Jews think about souls? Do I have free will or is there a plan?  If there is a God why is there so much suffering in the world?  What is the meaning of life?  Does prayer work? Should I care about being Jewish?  

A Note from the teacher:

Hello parents,

I write to you tonight to introduce myself and the class. Thank you for trusting me with the minds and hearts of your children. Thank you, also, for being willing to engage your children in more Jewish learning; it’s not easy, especially in a post-b’nei mitzvah world. I thank you for encouraging their participation and hope to impart some knowledge and wisdom this year.

We have been learning together the past month and I have been quite pleased with the insight and brilliance of your children. They’re all incredibly insightful, observant, and they genuinely want to learn. That is what excites me the most. They are honest, both when they say they’re tired and it’s too early to be awake, but also when they convey their opinions, their ethics, their values, and ideas. I love their candor. They all seek out understanding. It’s been wonderful. 

Here is what to expect this year: 

Each Sunday morning we meet and practice a 1-Minute Meditation with a Singing Bowl. You’re welcome to try it if you like. Just click HERE. It’s lovely. 

First Semester: By week, approximately – All subject to change due to COVID-19.

1) Introductions: get to know you, your beliefs, your background, Jewish knowledge.

2) Introduction to Judaism Part I.

3) Introduction to Judaism Part II.

4) Introduction to Hinduism Part I. Polytheism (Asia, Near East, North African, Sub-Saharan, Indigenous religions, Indian Continent, Vedas, primary foundations)

5) Introduction to Hinduism Part II. Hinduism foundations, theology, general history, (*Bonus* 60 minutes of Yoga)

6) Introduction to Buddhism Part I. Near East influences, Hindu foundations, Buddhist histories, basic 9-Fold Path dialogue.

7) Introduction to Buddhism Part II. In-depth reincarnation, Samsara, Enlightenment, emotion-management, meditation, mantras, additional side components (pacifism, vegetarianism, etc)

8) Introduction to Intermediary Minor Religions: Zoroastrianism, Persian pantheon, Egyptian, Roman, Greek, contemporary Near-East developed cultures/faiths, final years of Temple, Diaspora. 

9) Introduction to Christianity Part I. Post Temple destruction, Messiah culture in pre- and post-diasporic communities, Gnosticism, Christianity as a minority cult. 

10) Introduction to Christianity Part II. Byzantium, Constantine, End-of-Days madness, dark ages. 

11) Introduction to Christianity Part III / Islam Part I. Middle Ages, Let’s Count the Crusades, Islam as a Regional and World Power, culture clashes, trade as positive and negative, Black Death – Two Perspectives, Renaissance, Enlightment, Industrial Revolution, American Christianity.

12) Introduction to Islam Part II. Development of Shia, Sunni, and Sufi practices, foundations of Islam, practices, histories, and modern-day dynamics. 

Vacation – *Bonus points for any adventures that the students have with other religious celebrations such as Dwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc*



Second Semester: Learning and Field Trips – Notes MUST be kept during each visit – there WILL be evaluations after each religion-section.

*PLEASE NOTE – These trips are all subject to change or cancellation due to COVID-19. Whenever possible, we will Zoom these experiences before having to cancel*


1) Visiting the Islamic Center of Grand Rapids 

2) Visiting At-Tawheed Islamic Center

3) Visit Bosnian Cultural Center

4) Islamic Field Trip Review Day – Review, Discussion, Quiz

5) Visiting West Michigan Hindu Temple

5) Visiting Sikh Society of Western Michigan

6) Hindu Field Trip Review Day – Review, Discussion, Quiz

7) Visiting Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

8) Visiting Cambodian Buddhist Society

9) Visiting SokukoJi in Grand Rapids

10) Visiting Great Wisdom Meditation Center

11) Visiting Dhammasala Forest Monastery

12) Buddhism Field Trip Review Day – Review, Discussion, Quiz

13) Visiting St. Mary Catholic / St. Andrew’s Church

14) Visiting New Hope Baptist Church

15) Visiting Mormon Church

16) Visiting Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

17) Christian Field Trip Review Day – Review Discussion, Quiz

18) Visiting Indigenous Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potowotami lands and peoples. 


I’m sure you’ve noticed a pattern; we’re visiting more than 1 religious institution for each section. There is a reason. I want your children to learn how different people worship the same religion – both in Judaism and other religions of the world. There’s a running gag: two Jews, three opinions. We need to extend that thinking to everyone. My goal is to highlight how different and how similar we all are in this world, looking at these various faiths with a Jewish lens. 


If any of you would like to help be a chaperon, please reply to me. *AGAIN* these dates, order of visit, are subject to change due to COVID-19. Please dress and behave accordingly. 


I am a very laid back teacher, I highlight the truth and try to bring humor and honesty into the conversation whenever possible, after all, none of us has gotten it right yet. I hope you will join us in these adventures. I am grateful you’re along for the journey. 


*** FINAL NOTE *** These lessons and field trips WILL challenge your children and their world view. That’s the point. I invite you to hear them speak their minds, discuss what they noticed and experienced, and HOLD SPACE for them to wrestle with the ideas without judgement or cross-talk. Do not feel you have to correct them or give your opinion. Approach these subjects as I have instructed them to: with curiosity. Question everything and everyone, including me.   ~Na’amah

Structure:  there will be a two hour core class, ½ hour T’fillah. Art, music, Mussar, Meditation, Mindfulness and field trips focusing on both Judaism and comparative religions and cultural experiences included. 



Our 11th and 12th grade students are an important part of our education program, acting essentially as student teachers for our staff.   Details of this program are headed by our Cantor-Educator, David Fair and Madrichim Coordinator, Shelby Denhof. 

Structure: They will have the opportunity to work as an aide in the classrooms of younger students, taking part also in the Tefillah session.  

As a theme for our school this year we will focus on Middot – Jewish values, and how we can all put them into actions.  Each month we will focus on a different value.  The students will work with their teacher, classmates and occasionally family, to learn about each value, and how they can embrace the Middot into their own life’s purpose.

The Hebrew Curriculum: Texts and Objectives

  • Pre-K, K, and 1. Letters aurally, a word or two or three with each letter. 
  • 2nd grade. “Phonetic Hebrew Decoding.” Learning letters, selected vowels, and short letter combinations. 
  • 3rd grade. Torah Aura “Tiyulim.” Practice combining letters into words.  
  • 4th grade. “Z’man Likro.” Reading fluency, increasing vocabulary.  Siddur curriculum: Shema, Bar’chu, Ma Nishtana, En Keiloheinu, modeh ani, Mi Khamokha, oseh Shalom. 
  • 5th grade. Behrman House “Harmony in Hebrew.” Fluency in reading unfamiliar words, Siddur curriculum: Birkot Hatorah, Avot V’imahot, V’ahavta, Aleinu. 
  • 6th grade. Behrman House “Harmony in Hebrew.” Fluency in reading prayers, Siddur curriculum: G’vurot, haftarah berakhot, Kedushah, Yotzer Or. 
  • 7th grade. Wednesday Hebrew program, Siddur Hebrew/Haftarah practice. 
  • Supplemental prayer list for Early Sunday or Wednesday Hebrew:
    • Al Shelosha D’varim
    • Eitz Hayim Hee
    • Tallit Berakha
    • Candle-lighting Berakha
    • V’Shamru
    • Ein Kamokha (Torah service)
    • Vayehi Binsoa
    • L’kha Adonai
    • Kaddish
    • Adon Olam
    • Kiddush
    • Ma’ariv AraviM