Over the course of the past several decades, reams of reports and piles of papers have been written about what's wrong with complementary Jewish education in North America.
The hours are inconvenient….parents are uninvolved….the subject material doesn't relate to the students' lives….participation often requires mandatory Temple/Synagogue membership which pushes up the price….discipline is lax….staff members are not always well-trained…..
There is, however, much that is right in Hebrew School education. This is particularly evident when looking at some of the educational models that have been developed over the last 10 years or so in which Religious school professionals have recognized the problems in the system and have taken steps to rectify the issues.
The new online Hebrew School offers one such model. Suddenly, as students study Judaism online, they find that they are actively-engaged in an interactive and engaging online complementary school where they have the opportunity to learn meaningful subjects through stimulating experiential activities.
Online religious school offers students the opportunity to learn about their heritage from the comfort of their own home. Parents can easily be involved, to the extent that they wish, by simply joining the lesson. The lessons can be scheduled at a time that's convenient to the child and family, and the instructors, can be located anywhere in the world, ensuring that professional and proficient educators facilitate the classes.
JETS has been running the online JconnecT Hebrew school for 3 years. Each year the school grows as more and more families recognize the benefits of online Jewish learning and decide to offer these advantages to their children.
Judging by the evaluation comments of this year's students, the 2013-2014 school year was the most successful year yet. Students from North Carolina, Omaha Nebraska, and other far-flung regions "met" virtually every Sunday morning with Michal Lashansky, a professional educator based in Israel.
Throughout the course of the year, the students learned about Jewish traditions, holidays, ethics, language, culture and more via participatory project based learning activities which included discussions and debates, online presentations, collaborative projects, posters, online bulletin boards and audio and video casts. Some of the highlights of the year included
· ordering a falafel (in Hebrew)
· hearing people in a local mall describe how they celebrate Chanukah
· reviewing celebrities who embody Jewish values
· presenting about Judaism and healthy living
· identifying Jewish heroes
· discussing Israeli leaders
· examining the question of what makes Israel a Jewish state
When asked whether they would recommend JConnecT to a friend, the entire class answered in the affirmative.
JconnecT will begin again for 5th – 8th graders in September 2014. Registration opens June 2014.
" I learned so much about this then i ever could before and i really like this school because i learned more then i learned before." JConnecT student, course evaluation, 2013-2014
" I love shopping!!!!! and I thought that it was cool to learn about all the different things Israel has made in such a short time." JConnecT student, course evaluation, 2013-2014
"Interesting and not too difficult …. I learned a lot of new things from this class.". JConnecT student, course evaluation, 2013-2014