Friday, May 30, 2014

Please Sir, Can I Learn Some More -- Flipping the Bar/Bat Mitzva

By now many people have seen the story about Lisa Kudrow's son who, during a visit to the mall, was given the opportunity to don tefillin and a kippa and "have a Bar Mitzva."

Most Bar and Bat Mitzva celebrations involve more serious preparation than Lisa's son experienced, but sometimes you have to catch Bar/Bat Mitzvah age students where they are.  

Temple Emanuel of Pascack Valley piloted a new type of  "flipped" religious school program this year. Bar and Bat Mitzva students split their Temple School attendance – meeting at the Temple one afternoon each week and alternating that with a distance learning program that allowed them to study online in their own homes about Judaism and Israel over the course of the winter and spring months.

Using a variety of elearning tools and dynamic subject material the students explored,  debated and reflected on subjects which focused on "Remembering and Rebuilding", and ranged from how we memorialize the Holocaust to Holocaust heroes and from the rebirth of the State of Israel to what makes Israel a Jewish and democratic state.

One of the most unique aspects of the program centered on the involvement of parents in their childrens' studies. As students studied at home, the parents had a chance to observe the curriculum and, frequently, participate with their child.

To conclude the unit the students created a class book of poetry and artwork that summarizes their learning experience. The majority of the students inquired about continuing the program next year. 

"They were interesting."
"I just love learning about israel and this is probably the best way I've learned about Israel."
"I enjoyed everything."
"It was better than going to Hebrew School."
"It was fun and different."
"I enjoyed learning about them and the activities we did."
"Fascinating. very interactive."
I think that it was great in every way.
"There's not much to improve because it's already amazing."


  1. Reminds me of my mother who taught Judaic studies to four or five kids who had graduated our day school and had moved on to a private prep school in the area. This is in about 1976. They were in 7th grade, so their parents wanted them to continue studying.They were ambivalent about having a lady come teach them, having been taken out of class for this, and they were really not interested in learning. She got them involved in interviewing holocaust survivors in the town and recording their memories. This really resonated with the kids and they felt proud and important with the work they did. They produced a beautiful little book with hand drawn illustrations that went along with the interviews.

    1. Sarah,
      Thanks for your comments and these memories; the activities sound similar and I'm glad to see they are still useful. In which area did your mother teach?