Shabbat School Family Cooperative and Curriculum Treasury

Primary Contact: Deborah Eisenbach-Budner

All of us who work as Jewish community and identity builders know what recent studies confirm: Jewish educational experiences, speaking broadly, are more vital and have a long-lasting impact when they are integrated into the rest of a child or adult’s life. Kaplan knew this long ago when he wrote “If Jewish education is to prove its worth…the scope of the Jewish teacher must be enlarged to include the home of the child s/he teaches…” In the Havurah Shalom Shabbat School Family Cooperative, the parent truly embodies  the “Jewish teacher,” bridging the learning, community, and the home, helping integrate Judaism and life in a holistic way.  

Inspired by their vibrant, positive camp experiences, founders of Havurah Shalom designed the K-6 Shabbat School as a Family Cooperative, bringing families together for learning and teaching. Now, with the direction and support of our education staff, Shabbat School parents work together in 28 teams; each team collectively plans and implements 4 class sessions for their child’s grade. The 90-family program serves 127 students in Grades K-6, with 100 parent-teachers (some teach 2 grades), and has a rich online Curriculum Treasury,  robust support for parent-teachers, and systems that promote and support strong community bonds. (Please see the 20 minute film “Celebrating 40 Years of Shabbat School!” for visuals, interviews, and to see the model in action.)

Our project is to make our model, including  both the curricular and administrative resources we have developed, accessible to other communities to adopt or adapt. Some may want to adapt the parent-teacher cooperative model. Others will find the Curriculum Treasury to be a helpful tool for hired teachers to use. A school could adopt the entire curricular, as well. Enlarged and refined each year, the Curriculum Treasury currently contains 28 curriculum frameworks for 7 grades, 1003 activities, 261 sample lesson plans created by parent-teachers, and 653 additional curriculum resources.  

We are inspired by the impact of our model on parents, children, families, and our community. It has been tested in real-time on hundreds of students and parents (similar to other families in Jewish communities throughout the U.S.) evolving over many years to meet changing needs. We would like to share the model and Curriculum Treasury in a comprehensive and helpful way, including learning about the potential settings and needs of interested communities.