To find out what the school is currently up to, please visit the JCSS blog!
For a printable summary of the school, please view our brochure!
The Or Emet Jewish Cultural Sunday School (JCSS) is a monthly Jewish secular Sunday school program for preschoolers though bar/bat mitzvah age. The curriculum emphasizes Jewish history, culture, and the traditions that shape our identity and values. Basic Hebrew phrases and traditional Jewish songs are incorporated into the program as well. Tikkun Olam activities enable students to put the value of “improving the world” into practice.
Humanistic Jewish education is non-theistic, meaning we focus on our shared identity, values, and cultural history – not religious doctrine. Humanistic Jews believe a reason-based worldview and Jewish identity are complementary. We teach Jewish history as a human saga. Our children learn that morality and ethics are derived from human experience, and from the documented history of Jewish leaders and heroes who came before us. (For more information about Humanistic Judaism, see the Society for Humanistic Judaism website at www.shj.org.)
Or Emet celebrates Humanistic Judaism’s proud tradition of leadership in social movements for peace and justice, and teaches the responsibility of Tikkun Olam—working to improve our world. We encourage our children to develop their own convictions and seek truth and meaning on the basis of knowledge, reason, ethical values and compassion.
The JCSS provides an open environment where students may freely express thoughts, feelings, and questions. Family participation is central to the success of our school. We welcome and affirm children of interfaith, intercultural, and LGBT families.
2023-2024 SUNDAY SCHOOL PROGRAM
The Jewish Cultural Sunday School is held once a month from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the centrally located Talmud Torah of St. Paul’s Marjorie Smith Hofman Educational Building. Dates for the current school year are listed below. A dynamic and engaging program for adults runs concurrently, with speakers and discussions of interest to parents as well as other Or Emet community members.
- Sunday, September 10, 2023
- Sunday, October 1, 2023
- Sunday, November 12, 2023
- Sunday, December 3, 2023
- Sunday, January 21, 2024
- Sunday, February 11, 2024
- Sunday, March 17, 2024
- Sunday, April 14, 2024
- Sunday, May 19, 2024
- Sunday, June 9, 2024 – Family Picnic to follow
Other family-oriented Or Emet activities include an annual Hanukkah party and a Passover Seder that focuses on family and student contributions with the full congregation. There are opportunities for students to participate in Or Emet’s High Holidays services as well. Additionally, we organize field trips, book clubs, and service events, giving students and families more opportunities to build relationships and community. See the Calendar page on this website for complete information about congregation-sponsored events, including secular Friday Shabbat Services.
The JCSS curriculum is based around a chronological, three-year Jewish history cycle; it also strongly emphasizes holidays, Jewish cultural traditions, and Humanistic Jewish values. In the first year of the three-year curriculum cycle, lessons focus on biblical and ancient Jewish history, in the second year focus shifts to the post-Second Temple period through the early 19th century, and in the third year the focus shifts again to modern Jewish history. This same cycle is repeated for students in all but the youngest class, first at a basic level and again at more advanced levels for older age groups. This approach helps ensure real mastery of critical information by the time students are ready for bar/bat mitzvah. The preschool-age Littles learn the foundational basics about holidays, songs, customs, and the Hebrew language through play, art, hearing stories, and other participatory activities.
Students of all ages learn about the High Holidays, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim, and Passover, and explore Jewish culture through cooking, art, music, literature, theater, and games. Teachers stress the importance of tikkun olam (improving the world) and tzedakah (righteousness) and offer age-appropriate opportunities for social action. Students learn basic Hebrew and sing Hebrew and Yiddish songs. We explore Humanistic Judaism in particular and often invite members of the congregation to share skills, expertise, or simply stories. From baking challah and hamentaschen and writing poems about trees on Tu B’shevat to talking about Jewish heroes from the Exodus story to the Civil Rights Movement and drawing on study of the Ten Commandments to brainstorm our own list of Humanistic Commandments, we help students form a sense of Jewish identity and community.
JCSS classes are organized in the following age groups:
The Littles class is open to 3- to 5-year-olds. Students begin to develop Jewish identity as they learn the basics about Jewish holidays, customs and values through play and activities.
The Middles class is for 1st-3rd graders. Students focus on Jewish historical topics, following the three-year cycle described above, in addition to learning more about holidays, traditions, and values through fun, hands-on activities.
The Juniors class is for 4th-5th graders. The curriculum for this class focuses on Jewish history following the 3-year curriculum cycle in greater depth. Students learn to think critically about the Torah, Jewish history, and Jewish culture, and continue to develop appreciation for Jewish values and traditions. Students in the Juniors class do a mixture of reading/writing/discussion and creative hands-on activities.
The B’Mitzvah (Bar/Bat Mitzvah) Prep class is for 6th and 7th graders. The term “B’Mitzvah” includes Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, and youth of all genders who do not identify with the “Bar” or “Bat” label. Students build on their learning in the Juniors class, engaging in higher-level study of the Torah/Tanakh, Jewish history, and Jewish identity from a humanistic perspective that encourages critical and original thinking. Reading/writing/discussion and creative hands-on activities connect to these themes and help students prepare for B’Mitzvah.
The Or Emet B’Mitzvah (Bar/Bat Mitzvah) Program is for students in their final year before B’Mitzvah. Students attend an additional monthly meeting to take part in Jewish cultural, service, and tikkun olam activities chosen by their group. As preparation for their B’Mitzvah, each student conducts an independent research project on a topic of their choice pertaining to Jewish history, culture, arts, values, or identity. This becomes the centerpiece of their B’Mitzvah service. Or Emet members offer a mentorship option to provide students with guidance and content background in their area of research. To participate, the family must be Or Emet members and the B’Mitzvah candidate must be actively enrolled in the Jewish Cultural Sunday School. Interested families should contact Or Emet as soon as possible.
Ian Zukor began teaching the Littles in fall 2023. He is studying to be a teacher and will graduate from the University of Minnesota in December 2023. He has long been involved in the Or Emet community and was bar mitzvahed through the congregation in 2015. He also worked for Or Emet as a teacher’s aide for two years and is looking forward to getting started in a new role with Or Emet this year.
Colline Roland teaches the Middles class. She is a classroom teacher and travels to Israel frequently.
Renee Dorman teaches the Juniors class. 2023-24 will be Renee’s 12th year teaching for JCSS. In that time she has enjoyed teaching students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Renee lives in St. Paul and is a high school ESL teacher. She loves books, coffee shops, swimming and traveling.
Eva Cohen teaches the B Mitzvah Prep class and leads Or Emet’s B’Mitzvah Program. She is also Or Emet’s ritual leader, and will be ordained as a Humanistic rabbi in May 2024. This will be Eva’s 15th year teaching Or Emet’s 11- to 14-year-olds. She loves doing art and creative activities, critically analyzing texts, and discussing the big questions about truth, justice and the Humanistic Jewish way with her students.
Our small class sizes and once-a-month format offer an excellent educational program at a considerably lower cost to families than a traditional Jewish education program. We rely on volunteer help from families when possible. This builds community, helps families become involved in their children’s Jewish education, and exemplifies Humanistic Judaism’s emphasis on human resourcefulness.
Enrollment Fees and Options
JCSS enrollment in open to both members and non-members of Or Emet. JCSS families who join Or Emet pay membership dues and enjoy a lower tuition rate. A non-member, tuition-only option is available for new students, allowing families to try the JCSS. The tuition-only option does not extend to bar or bat mitzvah candidates, whose families must be members of Or Emet to participate in the bar/bat mitzvah program. Please consult the tuition chart below for details. Single parent and part-year rates are also available, and scholarships or rate reductions are available for those in need.
|2022-23 Tuition Rates
|Or Emet Members
(With family membership)
|Additional prep sessions for students in their B’Mitzvah year
|Same as first child rate
|$220 (available for one year only)
|Same as first child rate
|Drop-In & Guest Visitors
First visit is free; additional visits are $31/sessionFirst visit is free; additional visits are $19/session
Visiting the School
Families are welcome to visit any of the Sunday School sessions planned for the year and get to know us better. Please contact the JCSS Director one week in advance so our teachers know to expect you, and have adequate supplies to accommodate your child in the classroom.
Questions? Ready to Enroll?
To enroll, or learn more about Or Emet’s Jewish Cultural Sunday School, contact our JCSS Director.