Humanistic Jewish Education for Children
The goals of a Secular Humanistic Jewish education are to develop the ability to formulate a personal philosophy of life and a realistic, positive secular Jewish identity through the study of human experience, in general, and Jewish history, culture, and experience, in particular. These goals are pursued in an atmosphere of free and intellectually honest inquiry, in which children pursue their natural quest for answers that make life meaningful and satisfying.
Through frequent, open discussion, Humanistic schools challenge dogma, stimulate intellectual growth, and encourage a spirit of free, rational inquiry. A Secular Jewish education teaches children to use critical thinking and scientific reasoning to assess inherited truths. We want our children to know and understand our Jewish heritage and tradition. When examining the Jewish traditions, we apply the same intellectual scrutiny that we would apply to any body of knowledge. The idea of integrity, teaching our children about a Judaism consistent with our true beliefs — being honest, authentic, and sincere, making conscious choices based on reason and reality, being responsible and reflective — describes our Jewish educational values, Jewish educational approach, and Jewish educational philosophy.
A Secular Humanistic Sunday school curriculum is flexible and reflects the composition, interests, and priorities of the particular community. We teach our children about family and Jewish holidays and life cycle ceremonies in the early grades, move into the study of Jewish history and the study of Jewish literature in the middle grades, and introduce such topics as the Holocaust, Israel, comparative religion, and humanistic philosophy in the upper grades. Or students might choose their own topics for study, with teachers serving as guides and resource persons. Creative, innovative methods and a variety of concrete, hands‑on activities (such as dramatization, Jewish cooking, exploring all aspects of Jewish culture, field trips, family involvement, and camp retreats) make a secular Jewish education a stimulating, challenging, relevant, memorable, fun, and enjoyable experience. Our children learn to value and appreciate their Jewish identity and heritage.
In some secular Jewish schools, the parents teach; others employ professional teachers, often from within the membership. The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism offers a training program for educators, which consists of a series of weekend seminars leading to certification.
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