Deepen your child’s Jewish identity at our Religious School. Students, parents, and teachers engage with core Jewish values and their shared heritage, and take part in a dynamic community.
We provide meaningful opportunities for Jewish learning for children ages five to 18. Our programs allow students to make friends while building a positive connection to the synagogue and to the Jewish people in a comfortable setting. Sunday, weekday, and home-learning options are available.
Jewish education is a partnership with the entire family and we understand that family education is an integral part of developing Jewish identity. We offer many opportunities for families to join together for Jewish learning and experiences. We look forward to accompanying you and your family on this Jewish journey.
To enroll your children or learn more about admissions, including signing up for an open house or info session, please visit our Religious School admissions page here.
If you or your family are facing special circumstances or challenges, our clergy, administrators, and teachers are always available to privately discuss educational, emotional, religious, or financial concerns, among others.
Challah Club (Pre-K and Kindergarten)
This enriching Jewish educational experience is open to member and non-member pre-k and kindergarten students not enrolled in the Religious School. This is after-school drop off class is a great way for your child to begin to be integrated into our Religious School and deepen their Jewish identity by exploring Shabbat and Jewish values.
The schedule and tuition for this class will be released in August 2019. To learn more, feel free to contact the Religious School office at any time.
Grade-Level Curriculum Summaries
For more detailed descriptions, visit our resources for parents.
Taste of Religious School (Pre-Kindergarten)
Children take part in a community of learners who can reflect deeply on Jewish narratives at a developmentally appropriate level. Students begin to interact with Hebrew words that are core to our Jewish lexicon and show Hebrew as a living language. Additionally, throughout the year, students participate in Hebrew immersion games and activities that will begin to acclimate them to the Hebrew language. Students join with our kindergarten, first, and second grades at the end of each session for tefilah (prayer services) specifically framed for our youngest students. This last period of the day allows the children to engage in Jewish prayer, learn Jewish music, and meet the larger community.
Our kindergarten curriculum examines our relationship with Jewish values and holidays. Students will delve into values of tzedakah, btzelem Elohim, welcoming the stranger, being appreciative, and more. Through arts and crafts, drama, games, and other activities, our students explore the ways that we live Jewish lives and act as God’s partners in the world. As they engage with Jewish values, students contemplate how we can make the world a better place and how we should treat ourselves and others. Students will also begin to interact with Hebrew words and participate in Hebrew immersion activities that will begin to acclimate them to the Hebrew language.
The synagogue is a beit tefilah (house of prayer), beit knesset (house of meeting), and a beit midrash (house of study) and during first grade, our students think about how we can take advantage of each of the synagogue’s functions. While our students explore the physical synagogue and meet various people who work here, they will engage with the Jewish values of community, prayer, and study.
Our first grade students will also spend time at the end of the year studying our Jewish homeland. They will discover the richness of Israeli culture, the unique geography of Israel, and the amazing contributions that Israel has made to our world. Students will also begin to interact with Hebrew words and participate in Hebrew immersion activities that will begin to acclimate them to the Hebrew language.
Our second grade curriculum focuses on the stories of our most sacred text, the Torah. Students will learn the stories from the Torah, analyzing the characters who teach us important lessons about relationship, responsibility, and being your best self. Students will also explore the physical Torah during their study and learn about the parts of the scroll that is in our ark. Together, they will engage in conversations about why this text is so important to the Jewish people. These foundational stories of our people will help our students to create a solid foundation to their Jewish identity.
Students will also begin to interact with Hebrew words and participate in Hebrew immersion activities that will begin to acclimate them to the Hebrew language.
Students will spend the year thinking about the concept of kadosh (holiness.) Through their examination of Jewish ritual objects, our students will confront questions such as: How do we decide what is sacred and holy? How do we treat holy objects differently than everyday objects? Students will have the opportunity to touch, feel, find, and create various Jewish ritual objects throughout the year.
We then reflect on holy living. Together, students learn the Jewish people’s traditions and customs for how to make each day special and holy. We will study Shabbat, Havdalah, Kashrut, and more. We will end the year by thinking about what it means for human beings to be holy. Our students will debate what it means to be created in God’s image and think about how we should treat one another and ourselves if we are truly created in the image of God.
Third grade is the beginning of our formal Hebrew program. We work to ensure that every child is capable of decoding (reading without full comprehension) Hebrew prayers and blessings, and that they know and can define common Hebrew words and phrases. Students focus on learning the Hebrew letters and vowels. Once students have mastery of the entire Aleph-Bet, we work on their ability to combine letters and vowels to read basic Hebrew words and phrases. Students have the opportunity to reinforce their Hebrew skills and learn more about our prayers during tefilah (prayer services) each week.
Our students will closely examine Jewish prayer. Students will study the different parts of a prayer service, the prayers that we say, and their meaning. Students will engage with not only the prayers themselves but what it means to pray. We will struggle with questions such as: Can I participate in prayer if I am not feeling focused on praying? How does my prayer change when different things happen in my life? Our classes will discuss the difference between individual and communal prayer, intention in prayer vs. fixed liturgy, and even have the opportunity to create their own prayers.
Next our fourth graders will focus on Israel. Students will learn about the history of the Jewish state, the people who live there, and the amazing things that Israel has to offer. Throughout the year, the students will create their own relationships with the land of Israel, and begin to gain a deeper understanding of why we have a Jewish state and how we can support it.
In fourth grade, students will review the basic Hebrew reading skills they learned in third grade and continue working on their reading proficiency. Students have the opportunity to reinforce their Hebrew skills and learn more about our prayers during tefilah (prayer services) each week.
As students start to think about their bar/bat mitzvah, we spend the year thinking about how to contextualize this one event within the larger Jewish life. At the beginning of the year, our classes will learn about Jewish lifecycle events. They will get to think about all of these Jewish lifecycle moments as one continuum in order to see how they all work together to build and mark someone’s life within a spiritual community.
Next, students will do in-depth study of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible.) They will explore the different books that make up the Bible, how they fit together, and how to navigate the text. Finally, students will spend the end of the year working on their parasha projects. The parasha project is an innovative and unique approach to Torah study in which each student has the chance to deeply engage in the text and become the teacher for their peers. During our Family Program, students and parents will uncover the ways that Jews engage in Torah study. Each student will come up with a way to teach their fifth grade community about the text.
We work to ensure that every child is capable of decoding (reading without full comprehension) Hebrew prayers and blessings, and that they know and can define common Hebrew words and phrases. Our teachers strive to make Hebrew accessible and to ensure that every child’s ability to decode improves each week. Students continue to improve their reading proficiency and increase their Hebrew vocabulary. Students have the opportunity to reinforce their Hebrew skills and learn more about our prayers during tefilah (prayer services) each week.
In the sixth grade we focus on theology and personal belief systems. Through texts and multimedia, students confront different images for God. Students will engage with Jewish theological texts, Star Wars, and more as they think about the role God plays in our world. We will ask our students to think about the ways their belief in God has changed throughout their lives and guide them to create a theology that will help them to grow into their teenage years.
At the end of the year, students will spend a few weeks studying the mitzvah of tzedakah. They will learn about what it means to create a more just and righteous world and how the act of donating time, money, and energy can do that. It will be their responsibility to learn about and research various organizations that they believe are important and make our world a better place.
We work to ensure that every child is capable of decoding (reading without full comprehension) Hebrew prayers and blessings, and that they know and can define common Hebrew words and phrases. Our teachers strive to make Hebrew accessible and to ensure that every child’s ability to decode improves each week. By the sixth grade, we expect our students to be able to effectively read and manage most prayers in our siddur.
Our seventh grade curriculum focuses on the concept of Jewish responsibility and the Jewish texts that create the foundation for this idea. We will engage with these concepts through the phrase, kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh (all of Israel are responsible for each other). We will delve deeply into questions of how we care for ourselves, the Jewish people, and the world.
Throughout the year, students will have the opportunity to go out in the world and do tikkun olam. Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah means becoming a responsible Jewish adult. We must take seriously the responsibility that God has entrusted us with to make the world a better place. Students will prepare meals for the guests at our Next Step Men’s Shelter, plant trees throughout New York City, care for those who are sick, and more.
We work to ensure that every child is capable of decoding (reading without full comprehension) Hebrew prayers and blessings, and that they know and can define common Hebrew words and phrases. Our teachers strive to make Hebrew accessible and to ensure that every child’s ability to decode improves each week. By the seventh grade, we expect our students to be able to effectively read and manage most prayers in our siddur. Students will also have the opportunity to choose from a few different Hebrew courses to continue their Hebrew learning.
When Does Religious School Meet?
For specific dates, please check the Religious School calendar.
Taste of Religious School (Pre-Kindergarten)
Two Sundays each month (9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.)
Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade
Sundays (9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.) or Tuesdays (4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.)
Third Grade, Fourth Grade, Fifth Grade
Sundays (9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.) or Mondays (4:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m.)
Sixth Grade, Seventh Grade
Sundays (11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) or Wednesdays (4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.)
Portals: A Synagogue of Learning — at Home
Our Portals program brings an experienced teacher from our Religious School to your home for weekly sessions with your child. Designed for children in kindergarten through seventh grade across Manhattan, Portals covers the same robust curriculum as our Religious School, with lessons that can be tailored to your child’s strengths and interests. If desired, participants can learn with siblings or other families.
Portals is ideal for students who would benefit from one-on-one instruction or those with challenging schedules. Upon completion of their sixth-grade year, students can work directly with our clergy and staff to prepare for a bat/bar mitzvah at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. Families take part in the warm and inclusive community at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, which hosts children’s services and special events for families throughout the year.
Tuition and Enrollment
To attend Religious School, every family must hold membership in the synagogue and every child must be registered. Registration information and forms are sent to parents in April and should be returned as soon as possible to reserve the child’s spot.
Returning/current Stephen Wise Free Synagogue members may enroll their children in the Religious School for the 2019-20 school year using our online form.
If you are a new member or are in the process of becoming a member, or prefer to register using a paper form, please contact the Religious School or download this printable PDF form.
Rabbi Rena Rifkin, director of the Religious School, is always available to meet individually with families to discuss needs, programs, and other concerns. Sandra Divack Moss, the synagogue's executive director, is available to discuss any financial concerns.