This is my seventh year as Beit Sefer director and I’m very excited to let the curriculum of the past years take a rest (it’s a shmita year after all) and plant some seeds of a new program that centers outdoor, environmental and experiential learning.
The Beit Sefer will still meet weekly on Sunday mornings, but one Sunday each month will meet out at Carole Caplan-Sosin’s farm on Jennings where we will learn Torah straight from nature. On the other Sundays we will focus on Hebrew, t’fila (prayer) and finishing our monthly creative projects begun out at the farm. Of course, stories and songs will round out each of our gatherings.
We will return to meeting at the JCC when we aren’t at the farm, but we will learn outside under the tents as long as possible, and in the spring, as soon as possible we’ll be outside again. At all times we will follow COVID safety measures, including wearing masks.
Last year, the AARC Beit Sefer/religious school spent a good deal of time learning on Zoom, but we also did many activities outdoors. It was inspiring to break down the walls. The contemporary movement for outdoor Jewish learning has created many resources: books, lesson plans, and curricula. “Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability” website has over 500 excellent lesson plans that use Jewish traditions, rituals, and texts to teach compassion for all life on earth and environmental responsibility. While our AARC Beit Sefer will not be inventing the wheel of Jewish environmental education, we will be creating a dynamic new program.
Over the course of the school year, we will visit The Farm on Jennings nine times, on the second Sunday of each month. Each month will have a different theme based on the yearly cycle of trees as taught in Rabbi Jill Hammer’s The Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons. The themes of our Sundays at the farm will include “Seeds,” “Roots,” “Branches,” “Leaves,” “Flowers” and “Fruit” and each will include learning from a song, psalm or blessing, exploring fields, trees and crops on the land, and a creative craft or project.
Our Beit Sefer year will begin with a trip on August 29 to the Barn Sanctuary in Chelsea, a refuge for abused and neglected farm animals. Last year we did a virtual tour, and this year we will start off the year with an in person visit to celebrate, a bit late, Alef Elul, the first of Elul, which is the Jewish New Year for Animals where we learn deeper and deeper compassion for all creatures.
The full schedule for the AARC Beit Sefer will be available soon, as will an enrollment page on the AARC website. Please contact Clare Kinberg firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.