Experiential Education for Social Justice
B'nai Mitzvah class of 2019 with teacher Lainie Basman
A one year intensive weekly program committed to enriching students’ understanding of their Jewish heritage and identity.
The program culminates in a group ceremony that showcases the individual talents and group achievements of our students. This unique coming-of-age event produces a joyous and meaningful experience, both for students and their families.
With staff guidance, students select a Jewish topic of their choice, research it, and present their
papers as part of a community celebration that involves creative, academic, philosophical, and ceremony components.
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