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Kesher: Our Religious School

Pillars of our Program

Kesher is the Hebrew word for "connection." Everything we do in Kesher promotes a close connection between students, families, teachers, clergy and caregivers. We believe that Judaism provides the framework and the language for spiritual development that strengthens a person, our temple community, and the world at large. We are proud to do this through a Reform Jewish lens.

What makes us different? We are:

  • Unequivocally egalitarian. We believe everyone should be fully included in all aspects of Jewish life.
  • Proudly inclusive. LGBTQ+, interfaith, people of color, and special needs folks are welcomed and cherished as part of the community.
  • Thriving post-B-Mitzvah. Our students stay involved well past the B-Mitzvah ceremony. Our goal is for everyone to be lifelong participants in Jewish life, constantly discovering how ancient wisdom speaks to our modern lives.

Click the titles below to learn more about what makes Kesher unique.

For more information, including to set up a tour, contact Sarah Canfield-Dafilou, our Director of Congregational Learning, at school@wct.org.

Community Time and Tefilah

Community building is an important aspect of all Kesher initiatives. Every Kesher session includes a half hour of “community time” where students experience prayer, music and bonding activities together.

Each Saturday, our K-3 community joins for songs, stories, prayers, and some sillies. Many adults choose to stay for Community Time and then study in our weekly Hevra Torah class.

On Sundays and Wednesdays, our students learn creatively about the prayers in a worship service with our clergy and participate in weekly Tefilah, an afternoon prayer service at the beginning of each session.

Family Learning

Learning is not just for students. At least once a year, we invite families to learn together on a special topic unique to each grade. This is an opportunity for families to connect with one another and spend time learning about Judaism together.

In preparation for lifecycle moments, family learning programs are connected to learning about and preparing for the lifecycle ritual. This sometimes means that additional family learning programs are added to the curriculum. Our first grade family learning focuses on preparing for consecration, the ritual the recognizes students for officially starting their Jewish education. Our sixth grade year includes several B-Mitzvah family sessions. In 7th grade, students and parents participate in family Torah Study with Rabbi Mara six times throughout the year. Our tenth grade families prepare for Confirmation together. And students who continue throughout our program participate in a special graduation ceremony during a Shabbat in May. 

Family Shabbat Experience

Each grade participates in a Family Shabbat Experience at least once a year. Families in each grade are invited to join us for a Shabbat dinner. Then, in partnership with the Social Action committee the grade participates in a social action project. Previous projects have included creating snack bags for Lifting Up Westchester, collecting and sorting toiletries for Breakfast Run, and writing advocacy letters on behalf of Asylum Seekers. Families are encouraged to stay for Shabbat Evening services where the students will have a role leading part of the service that they learned and practiced during Kesher. These evenings are a wonderful way to celebrate Shabbat, build community with the larger temple congregation, and help make the world a better place.

Experiential Learning and Community Building

Woven throughout our curriculum are opportunities for experiential learning. We have field trips to museums, synagogues and Jewish spaces where students can explore their curricular goals by “doing.” In addition, our Director of Youth Engagement creates retreats for classes to bond socially. We have a 3rd and 4th grade Late Night, a 5th and 6th grade Day Trip, and an 8th grade outing. This is all in addition to our Teen Youth Group, WoodSY, programs planned throughout the year.

Our Kesher Vision

Kesher at Woodlands Community Temple is a warm, welcoming, inclusive, joyful experience. The program seeks personal resonance with learners in order to inspire a deep relationship with Judaism throughout their lives, providing a foundation for strong Jewish identity and active participation in Jewish life.

Kesher means “connection” and building an inclusive community is one of the central tenets of our program. Families are key partners in their child’s journey of Jewish living and learning throughout their time at Kesher. There are many opportunities to build a sense of belonging and shared experience: from community time filled with music and prayer, to family learning, to tzedakah (righteous giving) and social action projects. Students and their families are integrated into the larger synagogue community for Shabbat dinners, Shabbat services and other holiday festivities.This helps Kesher students and families to not only learn to feel comfortable in the synagogue, but also gives them the opportunity to experience authentic Jewish rituals and traditions, giving real-life application and deeper meaning to their learning.

We are proud to see a great majority of our learners participate in temple life well past B-Mitzvah through Confirmation, Graduation and into their lives as adults. We aim to create a robust, inclusive community of lifelong Jewish learners by making Kesher accessible with differentiated learning. Our professional staff and teachers provide an enthusiastic, stimulating learning environment while aiming to understand and accept individual differences and incorporating the latest insights in Jewish and secular education. We celebrate the wholeness of each student, appreciating their diverse family stories as well as their personal learning needs.

Key components of our Kesher curriculum include: God, Torah, Israel and Hebrew. We encourage Kesher learners to explore different pathways to and concepts of God, focusing on our evolving, individual relationships to God. In order to do this, our learners become familiar with the Torah and other major Jewish texts. Engagement with these texts provides strong insights into the history of our people and the development of values we treasure including a connection to Israel in all its forms: Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), Am Yisrael (the Jewish people), Medinat Yisrael (the modern State of Israel). We learn to decode Hebrew in order to access Jewish thought, history, and prayer. We prepare learners for active participation in Jewish lifecycle moments and rituals, while understanding the deeper meaning behind our people’s prayers, customs, and holidays.

At Kesher, students learn to think critically about Jewish ritual and values. This happens through music, art, experiential projects, holiday celebrations and text study. We believe it is important to incorporate fun and joy (ruach) in our learning, while encouraging thoughtful discussion, personal expression, and spiritual connection.

 

Registration, Tuition, and Schedule

Membership is required to enroll in our Kesher program (grades Kindergarten through 12th grade). Membership at Woodlands is done through a pledge system, where each household is asked to complete a commitment card, pledging the amount of financial support they will provide to Woodlands in the coming year. Become a member and make your pledge here.

Kesher Tuition and B-Mitzvah Fees

While your member pledge amount is at your discretion, Kesher and B-Mitzvah fees are fixed.Our B-Mitzvah fees (currently $5,150), separate from the Kesher registration costs, are amortized over three years (5th grade through 7th grade) so that the full cost isn’t a hardship for our families. This covers all of the support and expenses associated with a child’s B-Mitzvah preparation and ceremony. If a child enrolls in our program after 5th grade, the cost is amortized accordingly. It is billed after your child is enrolled in the fifth grade.

If you require financial assistance in order to make participation in Kesher or B-Mitzvah's possible, please contact our Executive Director (haya@wct.org) to make a confidential arrangement.

Kesher Tuition 5785 (2024-2025)

Temple Tots: $54
K-Grade 3: $275
Grades 4-7: $1000
Grades 8-12: $1050

B-Mitzvah Fees
5th grade: $1,800
6th grade: $1,800
7th grade: $1,550

Kesher Registration

Registration for Kesher 2024-2025 is open! Current Kesher families and members with Kesher-aged children can register for the fall at wct.org/kesher5785. You must be logged in to your WCT Portal to access the registration form. 

For more information, contact Sarah Canfield-Dafilou, our Director of Congregational Learning, at school@wct.org.

Kesher Schedule 2024-2025

Click the link for our full Kesher Calendar.

  • Shalom Storytime meets once a month on Saturdays from 9:30-10:00am.
  • Temple Tots meets once a month on Saturdays from 9:00-10:00am (4yo) or from 10:05-11:00am (3yo).
  • Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades meet every week on Saturdays from 9:00-11:00am.
  • 4th, 5th and 6th grades meet every week on Sundays from 9:00-11:00am AND Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00pm.
  • 7th grade meets every week on Mondays AND Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00pm.
  • Academy (8th-12th grade) meets on Mondays from 6:00-8:00pm. Dinner is served.
 

Our Curriculum

At Kesher, students learn to think critically about Jewish ritual and values. This happens through music, art, experiential projects, holiday celebrations and text study. We believe it is important to incorporate fun and joy (ruach) in our learning, while encouraging thoughtful discussion, personal expression, and spiritual connection. Key components of our Kesher curriculum include: God, Torah, Israel and Hebrew. We learn to decode Hebrew in order to access Jewish thought, history, and prayer. We prepare learners for active participation in Jewish lifecycle moments and rituals, while understanding the deeper meaning behind our people’s prayers, customs, and holidays. Our program seeks personal resonance with learners in order to inspire a deep relationship with Judaism throughout their lives, providing a foundation for strong Jewish identity and active participation in Jewish life. 

Early Childhood Programs

Shalom Storytime (ages 0-2) 
Parents/grandparents/caregivers and little ones will make friends at this FREE program, as we enjoy singing and hearing stories about the Jewish holidays. This class is taught by Laurie Leibowitz, our fabulous early childhood educator, with music provided by our renowned song leader, Kenny Green! No need to be a temple member or to RSVP, just come be a part of the fun (we do start on time, though!)

Temple Tots (ages 3 and 4) 
Through music, stories, and hands-on projects, these Jewish holiday-oriented sessions are designed to meaningfully engage children at a young age. This class for children with their parent/grandparent/caregiver is taught by Laurie Leibowitz, our fabulous early childhood educator, with music provided by our renowned song leader, Kenny Green! Registration for the year is $54 - no need to be a temple member. Register at wct.org/templetots.  

Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grades

In our Shabbat school, our goal is to build community among families, to develop a child’s comfort level in the synagogue, and to begin to build a solid foundation as the students learn about Judaism. Our curriculum focused on Jewish values, mitzvot, holidays, Torah stories, and Israel. While formal Hebrew decoding is introduced in our two-day a week program, Hebrew is used authentically throughout our curriculum when singing prayers, naming middot (Jewish values), discussing the weekly Torah portion, or learning about places in Israel.

4th, 5th and 6th Grades

As students come to WCT twice a week, they begin to develop a deeper understanding of Jewish prayer, language, calendar, history, and peoplehood. Hebrew learning deepens in these grades as students master the aleph-bet and learn blessings and prayers in anticipation of lifelong Jewish engagement. Our Jewish studies curriculum focuses on Jewish role models, Jewish history, leadership, tzedakah and Israel.

7th Grade

Seventh graders spend their year preparing to become B-Mitzvah and to pursue lifelong Jewish engagement. The students continue to develop their Hebrew language skills as well as uncover what it means to “become a B-Mitzvah” through text study exploring the Prophets. Our curriculum also includes learning about denominations of Judaism, Israel and the Holocaust in order to understand their connection to Judaism and the Jewish people.

Academy

The majority of our teens continue their Jewish education post B-Mitzvah by attending our renowned Academy program. Acknowledging our students’ growing maturity and knowledge of Judaism, Academy is a combination of special programming, elective courses, social action, and peer mentoring. Students explore how to engage thoughtfully with their peers and society, becoming thoughtful, motivated Jews. 10th grade year consists of the milestone of Confirmation and 12th grade culminates in a special Graduation ceremony.

For Kesher Parents

School Board

The Religious School Board is comprised of diverse individuals from our temple. The school board oversees the vision and implementation of our school program and sponsors various community-building events like our annual Book Fair.

Kesher Parent Handbook

Click here to view our Kesher Parent Handbook.

Kesher Parent Information

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Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784