TV/TC Midrasha Curriculum

TV/TC Midrasha Curriculum

Tri-Valley/Tri-Cities Midrasha (TV/TC) is an innovative Jewish educational program for teens in grades 8-12 with teens from Congregation Beth Emek, Temple Beth Torah, Shir Ami and unaffiliated. The program supports, empowers and challenges our teens to look at their lives and the world around them through a Jewish lens. By connecting our teens to Jewish mentors/teachers, to other Jewish teens from around the East Bay and to a consistent Jewish environment where they feel safe and welcomed, we strive to provide our teens with a model of what it feels like to be in a strong and supportive Jewish community.

TV/TC Midrasha meets on Sunday evenings from 7:15 to 9:15p at Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton. In addition, TV/TC students can attend one or more optional Midrasha retreats that are held during the school year. The retreats attract students from all four Midrasha campuses, providing an opportunity for the TV/TC teens to get to know their East Bay peers.

We want our teens to have a seamless flow from their religious and Hebrew school experience into Midrasha. Our hope is that teens participating in the program will forge lifelong friendships with teens from partnering synagogues and from the other Midrashot in the East Bay. Ultimately, we want our teens to take with them Jewish skills, traditions and connections when they graduate and as they join the larger Jewish and global community.

The core-class curriculum is unique to this Midrasha and was developed to engage and retain the very busy teens in our community who make attending Midrasha a priority in their lives. The innovative core curriculum benefits our teens by drawing them in and shaping each individual to have a stronger and more invested relationship with themselves, Jewish education, current events and their Jewish community. We inspire our teens to initiate their process of Jewish self-exploration by offering them skills, resources and encouragement that are carefully built into our core curriculum. In the past few years the curriculum for TV/TC has broadened to include “big picture” exploratory questions and our community offers a starting off point for who our teens will become. we emphasize the support of  home, community, history, and the teens place within the larger Jewish community.

8th Grade: Jewish Ethics
How do you decide what is the right thing? Does it matter if you lie, cheat or steal? Is there a better way to treat your dog, your parent, your friend or a stranger?
Staff: Hannah Lesser

9th Grade: Connecting Jewish Texts to Contemporary Issues
Who am I? What do I believe? How do I fit into my family, my community and my culture? What are my responsibilities to others in the world?
Staff: Asher Litschwartz

10th/11th Grades: Israel People, Places, History and Culture through the Lens of Social Justice
What are the big Jewish theological questions and why should they matter to teens today? At its core, what is Judaism asking of Jews? What is going on in Israel today? What place does Social Justice have in Israel’s history?
Staff: Aliza Minkina

12th Grade: Preparing and Empowering our Teens to Face a World of BDS and Anti-Semitism
What is happening on college campuses concerning BDS and anti-Semitism? What can they do as young adults (college students) in a hostile world? How can we empower them with educated responses in the face of conflict? What role will their Jewish community play in their post high school lives? What role will they play in their Jewish community?
Staff: Danny Farkas

ELECTIVES / 50 minute class
This year, our Midrasha elective curriculum continued to support our goal to strengthen Jewish identity and education through elective classes such as:
• Yiddish Yoga – a course using Yiddish and our history through movement-based learning.
• Jewish Leadership – an experiential course on how to become better Jewish leaders by facing tough group team building challenges. The leaders focus on communication skills, problem solving, and explore historical Jewish leaders.
• Food for Thought – Jewish history through the food we eat, they history of our traditional foods, and preparing foods from different Jewish communities around the world.

The opening and closing circles provide an opportunity for our community to gather together as a whole, make important announcements/ acknowledge simchas, and pray together. During our closing circle, we light candles to represent the learning happening in each class. The tradition is that each class sends up a representative who is asked to summarize and teach the whole program what was taught in core class that night. We find this to be an incredibly helpful tool to A) allow our teens to review what they learned and B) allow the whole program to hear what’s going on in the other classes. We always conclude our program with everyone singing Sh’ma and Hashkiveinu.

We take pride in our dedicated staff, many of whom return year after year, which is a testament to the strong relationships they build with our students. Over the past seven years, we have had staff with degrees from Harvard, Tufts, Brown, Columbia, UC Santa Cruz, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and the American Jewish University. We’ve had staff with Masters degrees in Jewish Education, Hebrew, Theatre, Conflict Mediation, Social Work, and Psychology. Many of our staff are involved in the broader East Bay Jewish Community, having worked for organizations including Congregation Beth Emek, Temple Beth Torah and Congregation Rodef Sholom; Berkeley, Contra Costa, and Oakland Midrasha; Wilderness Torah; Tikkun; The J Weekly; Urban Adamah; The Moshe House; the Jewish Film Festival; and Hazon.

Our staff meets throughout the year to discuss the program’s successes as well as challenges. We learn together and enjoy social time with each other as well.  At our staff meetings a few we dig deeper into the curriculum and continue to learn together as a team.

As part of the Midrasha learning experience the four Midrasha campuses (Tri-Valley/Tri-Cities, Contra Costa, Oakland, Berkeley) offer our students three outstanding weekend retreats and an optional backpacking trip. All three retreats are open to 8th-12th graders. The retreats are designed to complement our weekly classroom curriculum and provide a powerful experience of community, learning, and tradition. Retreats are run through the Midrasha in Berkeley office, in partnership with the other three Midrasha campuses.

The retreat weekends provide a vibrant experience of Jewish learning and traditions for both student and staff participants. Part of the magic of Midrasha retreat weekends is the community we create when we join together for the weekend.  Together we build upon classroom learning in a remote, safe, and supportive environment, which allows for exploration of ideas and development of identity within a Jewish framework. We share a Shabbat weekend that supports all levels of observance and is inclusive of a wide range of Jewish practices. Retreats are a unique opportunity for teens to share Jewish community with teens from all over the Bay Area with all sorts of backgrounds and interests. In fact, Midrasha is one of the only Jewish youth programs that is truly pluralistic in this way.

The retreat staff uses creative and effective educational practices to provide students with breadth and depth in their learning during the weekend, including non-formal education; social and personal exploration; and Jewish teen programming.  The staff, which is made up of Midrasha classroom teachers plus other educators and specialists dedicated to Jewish identity development, values student feedback and interests. We create engaging retreat programming in response to what we hear from our students.

The Midrasha community is fortunate to have this special opportunity to celebrate Shabbat together. We sing. We dance. We study. We pray. We play. We relax. We continue old traditions and create new ones. We ask big questions and look for answers. We are with friends – old and new.

As past and present students continue to tell us, the retreat weekends are a vital part of realizing the social and educational potential of the Midrasha program.

We are proud to say that we continue to strengthen a sense of community, Jewish identity and education through our supplemental and affiliated programs such as the Midrasha system-wide retreats at Camp Newman, the revival of our Shabbat in the City program, our participation in the International East Bay Jewish Film Festival, our parent classes, Shalom Bayit’s 9th grade and 12th grade programs, our Chanukah Talent Show, and a Jewish college night taught by our sponsoring congregations’ rabbis. We believe that the more our population feels connected to each other, the stronger our community becomes.