A Source Book and Practical Guide to the Jewish Year
The JDC Jewish Curriculum Handbook is intended for teachers, families, and community workers serving young Jewish children. It is the outcome of a JDC project, "Kindergartens, Families, and Community", developed to bring Jewish children and families in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) closer to their Jewish heritage and traditions. The book represents the collective efforts and experiences of JDCs early childhood education team that, for many years, has conducted training seminars for teachers, directors, parents, and community workers in the FSU.
Throughout this project, we met regularly with local kindergarten educators, primary school teachers, and parents. This process provided an insight into the real, everyday problems that Jewish educators face in teaching children their Jewish traditions. It appeared that there was a lack of suitable learning materials for young children. The Handbook is an attempt to meet this need.
In this book, we have prepared teaching materials of practical use. There is an emphasis on our Jewish holidays, as holidays are an integral part of Jewish life. This book consists of thirteen chapters. The first is dedicated to Shabbat and the other twelve deal with the months of the Jewish calendar. Each chapter starts with an introduction followed by practical suggestions for activities, stories, illustrations, and songs, all compiled or written by our team of early childhood experts. In addition, there is information about the spiritual essence of the holidays, as well as related events in Jewish history.
Young children acquire knowledge through practical activities. Thus, readers will find a wide selection of activities that not only contribute to the development of the childs Jewish identity but also promote his/her intellectual, artistic and emotional development. Making holiday greetings, "Challot", "Hannuka Menoras", studying "Megillat Esther", preparing Mishloah Manot for Purim, collecting "tzedaka" money for the needy, decorating the Succah, etc. — are a few of the many learning activities suggested for children and their families. Selected stories and fables enable teachers, parents and others to discuss issues such as good and evil, justice, commitment, honesty within a framework of traditional moral and ethical values.
We would like to point out that the Handbook was prepared to serve as a reference source. Teachers, parents, and community workers can select techniques and materials, then modify, combine and/or develop their own new ways of working based on the suggestions in the book.
We hope that this JDC Handbook will contribute to building a positive sense of Jewish identity among children, families, and communities in the Former Soviet Union.
Shoshana Kligman, Director
Project "Kindergarten, Family, Community"