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Curriculum Cycle

Our school operates on a four-year curriculum cycle, with the entire school focusing on one theme for the entire year. This model allows us to dive deeply into a theme and explore it in all of our programming throughout the year. Every week that Beit Midrash meets, each class will study the same topic at the appropriate level for their age group.

The four years of our cycle are:

Avodah עֲבוֹדָה (Jewish practice)   <----  We are here!

Torah תּוֹרָה (our central Jewish text)

Derekh Eretz דֶרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (Jewish values)

L'dor vador לְדוֹר וָדוֹר (Jewish history)


Avodah: Finding Meaning in Jewish Practice

This year as we study avodah, we aim to help students across all ages learn about and find meaning in Jewish practice, customs, rituals, and lifecycle events-- as celebrated by Jewish communities all over the country, around the world, and throughout history.

Our focus will be on avodah, but that doesn't mean that Torah, Jewish values, and Jewish history will be absent from our learning this year! Think of all these subjects like a four-strand braided challah, with one strand rolled a little thicker each year.


What is Avodah?

    The Hebrew word עֲבוֹדָה literally means “service,” as in the ritual worship of God that used to happen in the Temple. However, its meaning has been transformed since the destruction of the Temple and the reorganization of Jewish religious life around the institution of the synagogue. When we say avodah today we most likely mean worship of God through liturgy and prayer - the sacred “service” of God that forms the core of Jewish religious life.

For our purposes in this curriculum, we will actually understand avodah even more broadly. Our focus will not be solely on prayer and its accompanying rituals, but on the whole category of mitzvot she’bein adam la-Makom, “mitzvot that are between a person and God,” or what we will commonly call ritual mitzvot. These are as opposed to mitzvot she’bein adam la-chaveiro, “mitzvot that are between one person and another,” or what are often termed interpersonal mitzvot. 

Our goal in this curriculum year is to cover a broad overview of Jewish ritual practice, and to conceptualize the rituals we encounter through a framework of concentric circles of connection. Working outwards, Jewish ritual can be a vehicle for discovering meaning across the following levels of relationship:

  • Self

  • Family

  • Community

  • Jewish People (across time and space)


Enduring Understandings for Our Avodah Year

  1. Avodah is the work we do to find sacred connections to God, family, community, and self. These connections extend across time and space.

  2. Through Avodah, we can experience beauty, joy, comfort, and wholeness in our lives through shared experience with others in our communities.

  3. Keva and Kavanah, the fixed order of prayer/ritual and the personal intention we bring to it are complementary and in tension. We need both to help find sacred connections.

  4. At Beit Am, we embrace a diversity of Jewish religious and cultural traditions.

  5. Understanding Jewish ritual traditions is a central part of knowing my identity. The more I know about Avodah, the more I know about who I am. I am an important part of the ongoing story of the Jewish people.


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