BZBI, where you learn

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

DOES BZBI’S NEZINER HEBREW SCHOOL (NHS) MEET IN-PERSON?

YES! Our Hebrew School returned to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year, and we are looking forward to continuing to build community together during the coming 2022-2023 school year!

We continue to work closely with lay leaders and health professionals in our community, and consult local and national health and safety guidelines. We will be ready to move learning online in the future if the public health situation should call for that at any point during the school year.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HEALTH AND SAFETY MEASURES BEING TAKEN TO FACILITATE A SAFE RETURN TO IN-PERSON LEARNING?

The Director of Youth and Family Education works closely with health professionals and lay leaders, as well as the Youth and Family Education Committee and the rest of the synagogue’s professional staff, to intentionally craft policies and procedures. While these policies are subject to change during the school year, some of the ways we will help keep our students and teachers healthy this year include:

  • Requiring all teachers and staff to be fully vaccinated
  • Encouraging all vaccine-eligible students to be vaccinated
  • Requiring face masks at all indoor programs, including Hebrew School

NHS 2022-2023: WHEN DO CLASSES TAKE PLACE?

Classes meet on Shabbat (Saturday) morning, and on Monday and Wednesday afternoons (depending on age – please see the detailed schedule below).

The regular schedule of the Neziner Hebrew School is as follows:

Neziner Hebrew School Class Schedule

Class/ProgramSaturdayMondayWednesdayTuition
Tot Shabbat
11:15am-12pmFREE
Bonim (pre-K)10am-12pm$360
Gan (Kindergarten)10am-12pm$980
1st - 3rd10am-12pm4-6pm$1,480
1 - 3rd Enrichment Class4-6pmincluded w/ tuition
4th - 7th10am-12pm4-6pm
$1,480
4th - 7th Enrichment Class4-6pmincluded w/ tuition
Hebrew High6-8pm$1,120

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ELEMENTS AND APPROACHES THAT CHARACTERIZE  LEARNING IN THE HEBREW SCHOOL?

  • Learning that is interactive, multi-dimensional, and collaborative
  • Gamification: learning through educational games that makes learning fun
  • SESL: Social, Emotional, and Spiritual Learning that
  • Intentional community building in the school and classroom
  • Utilizing technology and media in the classroom to engage students and help them learn how to access the wealth of Jewish resources and sources available online

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION THE HEBREW SCHOOL, AND THE YOUTH AND FAMILY, CALENDARS?

You can access the 2022-2023 Youth and Family and Neziner Hebrew School calendar on the “Youth and Family Calendar” page of the website. You can also access the calendar by clicking here.

Please note that the calendar is subject to change throughout the year.

ARE THERE ANY PROGRAMS FOR MY CHILD(REN) AND FAMILY OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM?

There are many special Youth and Family programs throughout the year, many of which are generously sponsored and organized by our Youth and Family Education Committee. Most of these programs are open to families whether or not their child(ren) is enrolled in Hebrew School, and help all our families build community together and connect. 

Some programs we have held in the past include:

Cohort Family Shabbat Dinners

During the year, families with similarly aged children are invited to celebrate Shabbat with other BZBI families over Shabbat dinner. Please Note: Shabbat dinners are temporarily on hold pending the completion of our brand new kitchen and a shift in synagogue COVID policies. We hope to bring families together for Shabbat dinners at BZBI later in the spring, and will keep you posted!

Coffee and Conversation

A great opportunity to socialize with fellow parents, engage in thought-provoking conversation with clergy, and nosh on pastries and coffee while children are downstairs learning. These take place on select Shabbat mornings while Hebrew School is in session.

Sleep Under / Parents Night Out

BZBI children in grades second through seventh are invited to spend an evening of fun at the synagogue, while parents spend some time together at a nearby restaurant.

Holiday Programs

Members of all ages come together to celebrate holidays with a special meal and a fun program. These include the Erev Simchat Torah dinner, Community Hanukkah party, Purim Se’udah, and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebration.     

Information regarding dates, timing and location are updated regularly on our website. A full calendar is available on our website. Please email Rabbi Max Nissen, Director of Youth and Family Education, if you would like to receive Youth and Family Update emails (education@bzbi.org)

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE I INTERACT WITH IN THE OFFICE/ON ZOOM?

Rabbi Abe Friedman

Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Abi Weber

Rabbi, Director of Sacred Music

Lynne Balaban

Executive Director

Rabbi Max Nissen

Director of Youth and Family Education

Sara Goldfuss

Director of Early Childhood Education

Phyllis Kramer

Temple Administrator  

Leslee Schwartz

Bookkeeper

Liat Kovnator

Engagement Director

Julia Pollock

Communications Coordinator

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

Send an email to Rabbi Max (education@bzbi.org)

Give us a call at the Temple Office: (215) 735-5148

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM IN A NUTSHELL?

The Neziner Hebrew School is a learning community committed to engaging our students in a collaborative atmosphere that is safe, dynamic, and fun. We strive to help learners, and their families, build knowledge and skills that will empower them to take ownership of Jewish tradition and identity; curating experiences that will foster a deep and abiding faith in God, Israel, and Torah. Our program is animated by the belief that Jewish learning, community, and tradition are powerful tools that contribute to human flourishing. To that end, we work (and play!) with learners to develop an understanding of Jewish beliefs, values and ethics, culture, spiritual practice, and history.

WHY IS THE HEBREW SCHOOL CALLED “NEZINER”? – A SHORT HISTORY “LESSON”

Neziner was the name of the third congregation to join what we know today as BZBI. Their official name was Congregation Ahavas Achim-Anshe Nezin, which meant “Congregation of Friendly Sons of Nezin,” a small town in southern Russia from which many of them arrived in the late 1800’s. They joined temple Beth Zion – Beth Israel in 1984. You can still see their original Ark and Bimah when you visit our school, both still being used during our Shabbat morning Junior Congregation service, and their chandelier is in the Kahaner.

WHAT IS THE CURRICULUM OF THE NEZINER HEBREW SCHOOL?

In keeping with Neziner Hebrew School’s mission of providing the knowledge and experience necessary for its students to make a commitment to live a Jewish life, our program focuses on the themes of Torah (Jewish stories, texts, traditions and values – ancient and modern), Avodah (prayer and meditation), and Peoplehood/Israel. Each grade explores these theme through a specific lens, with a focus on active learning, bringing our tradition to life, and community building. The program follows a spiral curriculum, with learning taking place within each class as well as across the grades, as students share ideas creatively. Every topic intertwines with the other, and students build their knowledge based on what they learned the year before.   

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HAVING A SHABBAT SCHOOL?

Shabbat is a central pillar of the Jewish experience. Combining observance of Shabbat with prayer and learning, allows us to experience this cornerstone of Judaism together in a meaningful way. Having all generations of BZBI members in the building at the same time, engaged in worship and hearing words of Torah, makes our mornings very special.

How is Shabbat different?

Much like dressing up to go to shul, our Neziner Hebrew School also takes on a slightly different form on Shabbat. The air is slightly more peaceful, the activities are calmer in nature. We all show up a little dressier than usual, start the morning together with Asefa (gathering), and then engage in learning, Kiddush and an abridged weekly Shabbat service.  Students in Gimel (third grade) and older participate in Junior Congregation, a slightly longer service that includes a short Torah reading and is led entirely by the students.  

HOW DOES THE HEBREW SCHOOL COMMUNICATE WITH FAMILIES?

We strongly believe that ongoing communication with families is crucial for the success of our program. At the start of the school year families receive information on how to get in touch with their teacher, and will hear from the school regularly.

The Director of Youth and Family Education sends a weekly newsletter called The Youth and Family Update. The newsletter offers a glimpse into our programs, including Kadima and USY youth groups, family events, and Neziner Hebrew School (NHS). It includes program highlights, upcoming events, mazal tov “shout out’s” for special occasions, and some topics to talk about at home. When relevant, the newsletter may also include resources for families related to current events and outside opportunities that may be of interest.

The teacher of each NHS class sends a monthly class email to their families, typically on the last Thursday of the month. This email includes more specific information on the learning that takes place in their class, and any messages that are relevant to them.

How do I let the school know if my child will be out?

The best way to get in touch is to email the child’s teacher, and copy the Director (education@bzbi.org) with as much advance notice as possible.

How do I find out about school closings?

Any scheduling information is posted on our website and regularly updated, including a complete school calendar (also included in the Enrollment Packet). If there is an unscheduled cancellation we will send an email to all families and update the homepage of our website (www.bzbi.org).

In the event of inclement weather on a weekday, the Neziner Hebrew School follows the decisions made by the School District of Philadelphia.  With regard to Shabbat mornings, we have decided that if there are 4 inches of snow on the ground, then the Neziner Hebrew School will officially be closed. Typically if school is cancelled on a Shabbat morning, the synagogue will still be open, and you are always welcome to join us for services.

WHAT IS KAVOD?

The Hebrew word כָּבוֹד (kavod) can be translated into honor, respect, or dignity, reminding us that we are all created in the image of God and should be regarded as such. We should honor one another, respect our surroundings, and value the importance of helping each other maintain a sense of dignity. As we and our students interact with one another inside and outside the synagogue’s walls, we strive to do it in a way that lives up to the value of Kavod.

How do we make sure that Kavod is reflected in everything we do?

Kindness – We treat each other, adults and children, with kindness and courtesy. This includes students, parents, teachers, BZBI staff, and other community members.

Awareness – We take care of our space by having awareness of our surroundings and keeping them clean and undamaged.

Appearance – We wear appropriate clothing, especially on Shabbat and holidays. Both male and female students are expected to wear a Kippah (or other head covering) when they come to Hebrew School.

Fair Play – We avoid being physical and make sure we don’t hurt, bully, or exclude anyone.

DO I HAVE TO BE A BZBI MEMBER IN ORDER TO ENROLL?

The short answer is NO. Many parts of our program are open to the community, so members and non-members alike are welcome to join us! A slightly more detailed response:  

  • You will still be expected to register your child for Hebrew School and/or Youth Group programming, and send us all contact and health information, by completing our Youth and Family Education registration form.
  • There may be a suggested donation for certain programs that are supported by our General Fund.
  • Membership IS required in order to be given a Brit Mitzvah date (assigned three calendar years in advance).

We are not members of the synagogue and our child is not enrolled in Neziner, but we would like them to participate in some activities with other Jewish children. Do you offer such programs?

Your child is welcome to join one of our youth groups. They offer monthly activities that provide an opportunity to build relationships with other youth, away from Hebrew school. We have a Kadima (grades 5-7) and USY (grades 8-12) chapter, both open to children and teens who are not BZBI members or students at Neziner.

CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT LOGISTICS?

Of course we can! And you can also contact us to learn more! 

Structure

On Shabbat mornings, our students spend part of the time with their peer-group discussing the week’s Parasha (Torah portion), and part of the time with other groups in a worship experience. In their Gimel year (third grade), students start participating in Junior Congregation and Hebrew Ma’agalim (elective Hebrew learning circles, read more in the “Milon” section).

In their peer-group weekday, student spend one hour studying Hebrew and one hour on Judaica studies. In their Adasha weekday, they engage in a mix-aged learning experience. A detailed breakdown of each class’ schedule can be found on the back of this document.

Calendar

Our school year typically starts the week after Labor Day and ends the week before Memorial day. A tentative calendar-at-a-glance is included in our Enrollment Packet, and an updated one will be given to families at the beginning of the school year. A complete calendar is also available on our website, which is updated regularly.

Food

Our schools are vegetarian and nut-free, and are kitchens adhere to Kashrut guidelines. Students are provided with a light Kiddush on Shabbat and a kosher snack before school on Monday/Wednesday. We ask that families avoid bringing in food, unless specifically requested. Please make sure to inform us of any allergies so we can make accomodations when needed.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS THAT WE CAN GET INVOLVED?

As a parent, we consider you a part of our community and offer various ways for you to be engaged. You can do so by being a Parent Ambassador, joining the PTA, attending “Coffee & Conversation” or getting involved in the Education Committee.

What is a “Parent Ambassador”?   

A Parent Ambassador helps connect the Youth and Family office with the parents of their child’s class. Over the course of the year, we offer several social events, holiday programs and special school days, and our Parent Ambassadors help the Youth and Family office get the word out. You can indicate whether you want to be one on the registration form.   

Are there any opportunities for parents to learn and socialize with other adults?

Absolutely! Adults can engage with each other during our PTA Coffee & Conversation and Parents Night Out (see descriptions on the back of this document), as well as some of our special events and holiday programs. Of course, you are always welcome to participate in any of the adult classes offered by BZBI and keep an eye open for updates on additional opportunities that are specific to Youth and Family.   

My child attends a Jewish Day School. Can s/he attend any of your programs?

We consider BZBI children who attend Jewish Day School to be part of our family, and welcome you to participate in any and all parts of our programs. Outside of the classroom, you can sign up for one our Youth Groups and/or join us for holiday programs and special events. In the classroom, you have the option of registering for Shabbat mornings only, with a suggested donation to help us offset our cost.

Where can my child sign up for a Youth Group?

That’s easy, just complete the Youth and Family Registration Form by clicking here. You can also contact Rachel Beck (teens@bzbi.org), our Teen Programs Coordinator, with any questions. Rabbi Max, our Director of Youth and Family Education (education@bzbi.org) is also happy to help. 

LIFE AFTER BRIT MITZVAH? TEEN UNIVERSE AT BZBI

In keeping with our mission of motivating students to make a commitment to live a Jewish life, we offer various opportunities for our teens to engage with each other and the community at large. Some are described below, others are shared throughout the year.   

Learning

Our program continues after b’nai mitzvah and the 7th grade year. We encourage our learners to continue on to Hebrew High (8th-10th grade). Hebrew High offers an opportunity for participants to build community together, develop their own Jewish voices through group discussion and individual exploration into topics and ideas they are interested in and passionate about. 

Socializing

USY (United Synagogue Youth) offers BZBI teens an autonomous space to explore their Judaism in a meaningful way in a modern urban setting. BZBI USY programs include social, religious, educational, and service-based initiatives. BZBI USY provides a variety of peer-led and peer-planned programs that enable each of our teens to find a comfortable affiliation point to USY, and to develop their own identity as community leaders. BZBI’s Teen Programs Coordinator, Rachel Beck, serves as our USY advisor. 

Teens at BZBI also have the opportunity to participate in Rosh Hodeh and Shevet groups for self-identifies teen girls and boys, which offer the opportunity for teens to build an intentional community together with an adult mentor, have fun, and explore how Jewish wisdom speaks to their lives as teens. We partner with Moving Traditions to offer Rosh Hodesh and Shevet groups. Moving Traditions also offers resources for non-binary teens, including an online community called Tzelem. Non-binary teens are welcome to participate in a Tzelem in addition to a Rosh Hodesh or Shevet group.

Leadership

Teens have an opportunity to volunteer in various capacities in synagogue life, from guiding younger age groups to helping with administrative tasks, giving them a hands on involvement in the community. They are also offered roles in our different programs and special events, like the Sleep-Under and the Purim Carnival.    

What if my teen did not undergo a Brit Mitzvah process, or became Brit Mitzvah at another synagogue? Can they still participate?

Whether or not your teen was called to the Torah and/or had a ceremonial celebration, they are considered a Brit Mitzvah in the eyes of the Jewish law. That means they are responsible and accountable for their own Jewish identity and actions. So, not only are they “allowed” to participate in our programs, they are encouraged to.

DOES THE SCHOOL PLAY A PART IN OUR FAMILY’S SIMCHA?

We love to share everyone’s Simcha (celebration) with our Youth and Family community! This includes birthdays, Brit Mitzvah, new additions to the family, and other big events in your family!   

How does the school participate in the Brit Mitzvah Shabbat service?

One of the benefits of having a Shabbat school is having the ability for all our children to witness this significant rite of passage and have a small role in it. On Shabbatot when we have a Brit Mitzvah service, Neziner students in Alef and older join the sanctuary for the rabbi’s blessing and Haftarah reading. We toss candy at the Bimah, listen to our fellow student read Haftarah, and go back downstairs to have our own Kiddush and prayer.  

While we’re on the subject, when is my child assigned a Brit Mitzvah date?

Children of BZBI members are assigned their Brit Mitzvah date three (3) calendar years in advance. Families are notified with a letter from the Director of Youth and Family education.    

TELL US ABOUT YOUR SIMCHA, so we can share it with the community, by contacting us.

MILON – GET FAMILIAR WITH OUR LINGO

Adasha means “lens” in Hebrew, and it is what we call our multi-age learning experience, available to students Alef-Dalet (Wednesday) and Hay-Zayin (Monday). The name captures the essence of this class being an active learning experience of exploring ideas from multiple perspectives, i.e. through different lenses.

Bonim means “builders” in Hebrew, and at Neziner it refers to our Shabbat morning Pre-K class. Students 4-years-old and up begin to explore Hebrew, Jewish Values and Holidays through play, stories, art and music.  They also engage in an abridged weekly Shabbat service partnered with our Gan (Kindergarten) class.

Ma’agalim means “ circles” in Hebrew, and it is an essential part of the Hebrew curriculum in our program. Students in Gimel and older are grouped based on their skill level and personal interest, and challenge themselves by working directly with Hebrew texts. The students in each Ma’agal (circle) are exposed to a different type of Hebrew text (Mishnah, prayer, poetry, etc.), work together on translating it, and use it as a trigger for discussing history, culture, and tradition.   

Sole’lim means “paving the way” in Hebrew, and is often used to describe those who are in the process of laying a foundation. It is the name of our 8th grade class, a crucial bridge year that lays the foundation for post B’nai Mitzvah students for what will become a more mature relationship with the synagogue as teens. Solelim is designed to guide them through this process, and help them understand and redefine their new role in the community, focusing on leadership and engagement.

 

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