What is the Jewish Enrichment Center?
The Jewish Enrichment Center is pioneering a progressive model of Jewish community and learning for children and families, rooted in empathy, text study, and creative expression.
We raise the child’s voice in Jewish learning. Through our unique communal project process, children grapple with Jewish text and emerge with a new understanding of self and the world. We run a school in Hyde Park, Chicago, and teach our mindset and methodologies to educators nationwide.
What Jewish denomination is the Jewish Enrichment Center affiliated with?
The Jewish Enrichment Center is not affiliated with any denomination or movement of Judaism, and our community represents a wide range of Jewish beliefs and practices. Many of our families are affiliated with other synagogues or temples in the Chicago area; many of our families are not affiliated with any other Jewish institutions. Our curriculum encourages children to explore Jewish texts and traditions, and to develop their own personal interpretation of, and relationship with, Judaism. Our children and families have a wide range of beliefs and practices around God, Jewish holidays, and Jewish texts.
What ages does your program include?
We run Sunday morning programming for infants and toddlers, and Sunday morning plus Monday – Thursday afternoon programming for three-year-olds through 10th grade.
My partner isn’t Jewish / I’m a single parent / I’m raising my grandchildren / My child has two parents of the same gender / We don’t celebrate Jewish holidays at home. Will our family fit in?
What days should we choose? How many days should we choose?
Choose the days that work best for your family. We foster community among the children no matter what days of the week they’re enrolled on. Plus, we offer several age-based and Center- wide opportunities throughout the year for children and families to get to know each other.
Our project-based curriculum makes it possible for children to ask the questions that matter to them, and to wrestle with their questions in ways they prefer, in a community of peers, as part of the long tradition of Jewish conversation. Every session here reflects the mix of children and ideas present that day; every session offers something new.
Our infant/toddler program meets once a week, on Sunday mornings. Nursery and kindergarten children may enroll for any days of the week, and kindergarten children must enroll for a minimum of two days per week.
First through fifth grade children come to the Enrichment Center on a Sunday morning and Wednesday afternoon schedule, or a Monday and Thursday afternoon schedule. Middle and high school kids come in two groups on days and times TBD.
Will some days fill?
Some days do fill quickly. Currently enrolled families will have one week to secure their preferred sessions before enrollment opens to the general public. We will be enforcing a strict enrollment cap this year so if your schedule is less flexible, make sure to sign up right away!
What is Shirah/Tefillah (Singing/Prayer), and why should I attend with my child?
At the end of every session, the entire community gathers together for Shirah/Tefillah (Singing/Prayer). We sing in Hebrew and English, and children learn the words to the primary Jewish prayers through song. It’s a time to hear special news from the day, get a sense of the big ideas your child is grappling with, and find out what to ask your child(ren) about at home. We strongly encourage families to make Shirah/Tefillah (Singing/Prayer) a regular part of your weekly schedule.
Shirah/Tefillah (Singing/Prayer) is held during the last 15 minutes of every session (Sundays 11:30 – 11:45 AM, Mondays and Wednesdays 5:30 – 5:45 PM, and Thursdays 6:00 – 6:15 PM). All adults welcome – grandparents and caregivers, too!
Why do children attend at least two days/week starting in kindergarten?
The kind of creative, communal, long-term project work we do with children requires them to trust each other, collaborate, and take risks. It takes time to build and sustain the kind of relationships that supports this intensive work.
In addition, children need to revisit their thinking about the current theme at least twice during the week in order to continue developing their ideas. To learn Hebrew in a natural way (i.e., through the auditory environment, through play), children need to hear and play with the language multiple times/week.
Do you teach Hebrew? Does my child need to learn Hebrew?
Hebrew is embedded into the auditory and visual environment, and in the routines of our day, so children pick up the language naturally. Children of all ages play games in Hebrew, often choosing how they would like to engage with the language that day. Hebrew is woven into our physical playtime for younger children, and older children master Hebrew prayers. Comfort with the Hebrew language, and a working vocabulary, are essential to developing confidence in owning the texts of our centuries’-old Jewish conversation. A child who owns these texts can play with Judaism, creating their own meaning in Jewish life and community.
Why do you have multiage groupings?
The Jewish Enrichment Center offers multiage groupings in all kevutzot (groups). With a broad range of ages, children learn from other children through role modeling, allowing younger children to be stimulated intellectually by older children and older children to develop self- reliance and responsibility. Multiage groupings also promote friendship between children of various ages, which strengthens the community as a whole. Multiage groupings make it possible for children see that each one of us brings strengths and a unique perspective to our community.
Do you offer Jewish enrichment when school is closed?
Yes! We have full days of Jewish enrichment when local schools are out, called Special Days. We also run full weeks of Jewish Enrichment Camp during selected school breaks. We spend our Special Days and Camp days playing and exploring a Jewish person (e.g., Marc Chagall) or idea (e.g., the tastes of Passover), culminating in big project by the end of the day or week.
Please check our website for a full schedule of Special Days and Jewish Enrichment Camps for 2020-2021.
Do you offer summer programming?
We do! We expect Summer 2020 to be different from previous summers. Typically, we gather to play in parks around the city, and send children mail with Hebrew games and puzzles and cards. We believe children should get to keep their Hebrew skills sharp over the summer, and see their Enrichment Center friends, too. Depending on public health recommendations, Jewish Enrichment Camp will run for two weeks at the end of the summer, from August 24 – 28 and August 31 – September 4. Register online today at www.jewishenrichment.org/augustcamp.
Will my child be ready for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?
Children at the Jewish Enrichment Center develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence to design their own lifelong relationship with Judaism. Starting at an early age, children develop a relationship with the Torah, learn to express their own ideas about Torah and Judaism, and dialogue respectfully with peers. Children learn Hebrew, and they learn Jewish prayers and about Jewish prayer services. By the time children reach the age of B-Mitzvah (a gender neutral term) at the Jewish Enrichment Center, they have acquired foundational Jewish literacy, and also developed their own ideas about what Judaism means to them.
Can we celebrate our child’s B-Mitzvah with the Jewish Enrichment Center?
Yes. We partner with families to design a B-Mitzvah experience that reflects the family’s Jewish life as well as the individuality of the child. Our process proceeds within a family’s lifelong relationship with Judaism and aims to launch children into the next stage of responsibility in their lives. Children who celebrate becoming B-Mitzvah with the Jewish Enrichment Center engage in a personalized, long-term project emerging from their strengths and interests, learn to chant from the Torah, and participate in a ritual that reflects their own and their family’s values.