Do you want to be part of a synagogue community and give your child a Jewish education?
Portals brings an experienced teacher from Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s widely respected Religious School to your home for weekly sessions with your child. Designed for children in third 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 – anywhere in New York City.
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.
If you are interested in the Portals program, please contact our Religious School at or 212-877-4050, ext. 230.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have to live on the Upper West Side to participate in Portals?
No! One of our experience teachers or tutors will travel to you anywhere in NYC.
When can I start the program?
Families are encouraged to begin Portals in September at the beginning of the academic year. However, we are happy to accommodate you at any point during the year if needed.
Do teachers have to come at the same time every week?
Absolutely not. Families can schedule Portals sessions for different times each week, so long as teachers receive at least seven days advanced notice to confirm the timing.
Can I request a different teacher than the one my family was assigned?
If after three sessions with your assigned teacher you are interested in making a change, we will arrange for a different teacher who will be available to teach your child.
Can my child have a bar/bat mitzvah service in the main sanctuary?
Yes! Our b’nai mitzvah services are among the most special experiences a family encounters. Here’s how it works: In the sixth grade families come together once a month to learn, connect, and discuss details of the b’nai mitzvah experience. In the seventh grade, your child will be immersed in the learning process with private tutoring at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue and individual meetings with our rabbis and cantor.
Can I participate in events for children and families at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue?
Yes, we hope you will play as active a role in our community as your schedule allows! You will have access to the same range of activities as families enrolled in our Religious School. There are a myriad of ways to take part in the warm and inclusive community at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue for both you and your child. We invite you to participate in our Shabbat services, programs specially designed for families with children, volunteer opportunities, community gatherings and much, much more.
CURRICULUM BY GRADE LEVEL
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 or 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.
COST AND ENROLLMENT
Portals requires an annual tuition of $3,000 for 18 sessions/year. There is also a $175 materials fee. Participating families must be members of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue.
Portals enrollment is on a rolling basis: students may join the program at any time throughout the year.
To learn more about Portals, please contact our Religious School office at or 212-877-4050, ext. 230.