Experiential Education for Social Justice
B'nai Mitzvah class of 2019 with teacher Lainie Basman
Our program strives to inspire in its participants a love of Jewish culture, history, wisdom, and ethics, imbuing a strong sense of Jewish identity, as well as identification with the struggles and achievements of the Jewish people.
Driven by the students' interests, the year is dedicated not only to our curriculum but also to a long-term research project where the student can pursue whatever topic they are interested in, finding its Jewish connections. Previous projects were on as wide array of topics as the Jewish labour movement of the 19th century, the Jewish history of Basketball, The life and work of Albert Einstein, and more.
Our curriculum stresses the importance of Tikkun Olam - acts of kindness which “repair the world” through dedicated social action. The students volunteer throughout the year for an organization they feel repairs the world, and reflect on the experience during their graduation ceremony.
The year culminates in a group ceremony, celebrating what the students achieve and learn throughout the year, and organized by their parents in association with the school. The ceremony is a beautiful, communal event of approximately two hours in length and includes a number of key components:
Research project presentations
Candle lighting ceremony
Tributes to the students (by individuals chosen by the families)
B’Mitzvah of Remembrance Twinning Project presentations (optional)
Recitation of the Morris Winchevsky School credo
Cultural presentations in the form of music, poetry, drama and/or visual arts
Meaningful, student-driven end-of-year ceremony
What we Learn
What do the creation stories of the Algonquin have in common with Adam, Lilith, and Eve? What can we discover from the Samson in all of us about how we learn tough lessons? How did Jewish practices of Gemilut Hasidim evolve in Europe? In Northern Africa? In the Middle East?
Our new curriculum intersects ancient history, Jewish mythology, culture, art, and social justice. It helps students understand context and make meaning from Jewish practices, and to link Jewish history with contemporary social issues. From the Jewish revolutions by the Maccabees to the 19th century’s Labour movements, students learn about economic justice and freedom of worship. On the theme of Indigeneity and migration, the students examine the Canadian context as well as that of Israel/Palestine. Going back to antiquity, they follow how the Jewish community evolved from the tribe to the nation to the family, and how LGBTQ2S movements continue to push that evolution.
By practicing, planning, learning history, and brainstorming, students tackle some of the important social justice questions of our time, from the rise of xenophobic politics to the indigenous struggles against oil pipelines in Canada. By planting trees and re-examining the food cycle, students will
connect environmental struggles to the United Jewish People’s Order other five social justice priorities and examine in an intersectional way the disproportionate way climate change affects the planet
and its people.
Each class incorporates context from the long history of the Jewish civilization, an experiential learning component, and a discussion period, driven by the Socratic method. As educators we foster an environment of engagement and movement, embracing the multifaceted ways learning takes place. We encourage the students to tackle challenges from the past and the present, to put themselves in their ancestors’ shoes, and to find their own paths to what it means to be Jewish.
Unless otherwise indicated, all classes held at 918 Bathurst Street.
Keywords: communist, socialist, labor, labour, women’s, workmen’s circle, Jewish, Jew, Jews, Secular Jewish, progressive, Non-traditional, non-religious, social justice, climate change, atheist, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, education, experiential, learning, Sunday school, part time, discussion