TEACHING TORAH to YOUNG CHILDREN: Creating a Community of Torah Learners

Shira Horowitz • South Area Solomon Schechter Day School •

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The development of this case was supported by the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University

Origins of This Work

Many years ago, when I began teaching parshat hashavua to kindergartners, I began looking through resources for teaching parshat hashavua to young children and found that there were very few (First Steps in Learning Torah with Young Children was a notable example). Most early childhood resources seemed to suggest that we should use the Torah as a source for “Bible stories,” emphasizing Creation and Noah’s Ark while skipping non-narrative sections entirely. While I understood the reasons behind such choices, I wanted to find a way to teach each week’s parasha, thus linking my kindergarten students into a much bigger cycle practiced throughout the Jewish world. I wondered how this would work throughout the school year. How would I make time each week to “fit it all in” to an already crowded day with a very full curriculum? How could I teach the Torah text in an intellectually honest way, staying “true” to the text, while keeping my teaching developmentally appropriate?

I had come to teaching with a strong background in early literacy as well as a personal interest and connection to Torah learning and teaching. At the urging of our Head of School, Jane Cohen, I decided to take all that I knew about good early literacy teaching and apply it to teaching Torah. My goal was to create an integrated approach that would enhance both my teaching of Torah and my teaching of early literacy skills by teaching the two simultaneously. I never imagined at the time that the routines I was introducing to that group of kindergartners would develop into a structure for teaching Torah that I would still be using ten years later.