Kibbutz Kol Am
Subject: Intergenerational Religious School Program
Target: All who wish to participate in this community of Jewish learners are welcome.
Time Frame: The Hebrew School Year
Congregation: Congregation Kol Am
Contributor: Rabbi Holly Levin Cohn
Kibbutz Kol Am is an Intergenerational Religious School Program modeled after various schools across the country. Many parents have little or no Hebrew or Judaic background, are unable to help their children at home, and express discomfort with worship services in the synagogue. Many do not know how or where to access Jewish text or how to provide Jewish structure and answers for their children’s questions. Jewish holidays are celebrated superficially if at all. By helping parents become more knowledgeable participants in the Jewish education of their children, the hope is that families will spend more time and energy on Jewish activities in the home and synagogue. Ultimately, this program will give families meaningful time together and a source for communication regarding Jewish topics and how Judaism relates to secular issues and interests.
To strengthen the religious school and educational programs for children while at the same time engaging parents in Jewish life-long learning opportunities.
To create a Jewish community of adults and children who value and practice life-long Jewish learning and live by what they learn.
To infuse Congregation Kol Am with a spirit of Jewish time, place, and purpose by anchoring it in the rhythm of Jewish life.
To build Jewish identification through immersion in a vibrant, dynamic, creative Jewish intergenerational/family setting.
To increase and strengthen the following:
- home practice of Jewish rituals
- the amount of time families spend together having pleasant Jewish experiences and conversations about Jewish ideas and values
- an understanding of Jewish worship and prayer
- levels of comfort and frequency of attendance at worship services and Shabbat dinners in the synagogue
- knowledge of Torah and Mitzvot
- the ability to use Jewish values in making daily choices
- the bonds of friendship between families
- the connection and commitment to the Jewish community
- a Jewish cultural identity
- the performing of acts of gemilut chasadim and the giving of tzedakkah.
All who wish to participate in this community of Jewish learners are welcome. Adults with no children or grown children are encouraged to participate actively in this program. Their involvement adds to the multigenerational richness of this educational concept. To accommodate all family structures, the program is designed in such a way that it does not isolate individual family units. Kibbutz Kol Am brings together the generations to talk, learn from each other, and to laugh. Another positive benefit is that children are given a chance to know other Jewish adults and perhaps find role models for a missing parent or grandparent. The hope is that the more children see for themselves that Jewish learning is lifelong learning, the more successful a congregation will be at raising a next generation of Jews. Kibbutz Kol Am serves a 50-family congregation. The participants range in age from 5 to 95 years old.
This program can take place wherever Hebrew School takes place.
Staff and Specialists
For the first three years of Kibbutz Kol Am, the Rabbi was responsible for the overall vision of the school, making sure that lessons were relevant and truly incorporated the generations. The Rabbi supervised one part-time family educator, who was responsible for the details of each specific session. Outlines and lesson plans were submitted to the Rabbi for approval. Second and third year Rabbi only.
The year before the pilot program was implemented, Rabbi Cohn gathered information from many different family schools in the United States. Members of Congregation Kol Am met with Rabbi Sam Gordon, whose congregation, Sukkat Shalom, in Chicago, has a vibrant Family School. This meeting was used to set the tone and get members of the congregation thinking about what they wanted Kibbutz Kol Am to achieve. Rabbi Gordon’s model and others were shared with the congregation as part of a focus group. The summer before the pilot program began, curriculum was written, teachers were recruited, and a part-time family educator was hired.
The program was publicized in the congregation’s newsletter. It was advertised in the St Louis Jewish Light. Advertisements were run in the Suburban Journal. Flyers were circulated among congregants and registration was mailed in late May.
As of this time, Kibbutz Kol Am has been in effect for three years.
These are the topics for Years 1 - 7:
Year 1 Basics of Judaism Holidays, Life Cycle, God
Year 2 Tikkun Middot Jewish Virtues
Year 3 History Reform Judaism/American
Year 4 Tikkun Olam/Mitzvot Ethical & Ritual Mitzvot
Year 5 Genesis Relationships between People & within Family Structures
Year 6 History World/Holocaust/Israel
Year 7 Exodus Slavery to Freedom - Telling Our Stories
The following is a short overview of Year's 1 and 2:
Year One: Basics of Judaism
This program met 17 times on Sunday morning. In addition, each family unit was asked to choose 12 Shabbat opportunities that they would attend as a family unit. Shabbat opportunities included any Friday or Saturday program at Congregation Kol Am, which included a study or worship component. Families took turns to lead the service or to teach the weekly Torah portion.
Year Two: Tikkin Middot
This program met twice a month for the Hebrew School Year.
The prayer Elu D’varim was used as the base text and lessons were designed around the values listed in the prayer; honoring father and mother, performing acts of love and kindness, attending the house of study daily, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, rejoicing with bride and groom, consoling the bereaved, praying with sincerity, making peace where there is strife, and studying Torah. In addition, other middot relevant to the congregation were selected. These values were taught with the support of traditional and modern Jewish texts.
The following is an example of the schedule:
9:30 – 9:50 a.m. Nosh
10:00 – 10:25 a.m. Families are introduced to the learning strand of the day.
10:25 – 10:30 a.m. Transition to Parallel Classes.
10:30 – 11:15 a.m. Parallel Learning.
Adults and children studied the same subject matter but at the appropriate level. Adults and 8-10th grade were together, 6th and 7th grade were a second group, then 3rd – 5th grade and K- 2nd grade.
11:15 – 11:20 a.m. Regroup in Sanctuary
11:20 – 11:45 a.m. Z’man Shelosha D’varim
11:45 – 12:15 p.m. Intergenerational Program
12:15 – 12:30 p.m. Closure/Evaluation
Kibbutz Kol Am received funding from the Henry and Gladys Crown Charitable Income Trust. In addition, tuition was $115 per child and there was an additional book and supply fee of $45 per participant regardless of age. An adult without a child was asked to pay the equivalent of one child.
Participants were asked to fill out an evaluation form at the end of each session.
After Year One, participants reported that the frequency and level of Jewish practice in their homes has increased. People have added Jewish ritual and conversation about Jewish topics to their home life. Some have begun to light Shabbat candles, others make a point of having family Shabbat dinner on Friday night. Family discussions revolve around spiritual issues and observance and there are more questions about G-d. It has helped families create more family traditions based in Jewish practice. It has also had a social impact on the congregation because people have spoken with members they may otherwise not have met. People felt they could make more informed choices now and are better able to answer questions about “why” we do what we do. Attendance at Kibbutz Kol Am has stimulated their curiosity to learn even more. Parents have stated that their children seem to enjoy religious school more that they have in the past. Rabbi Cohn finds this is true when she has engaged in conversations with the B’nai Mitzvah students.
References and Resources