Shabbat Centered Model: Shabbat Family Study

Temple Beth Sholom (TBS), Roslyn, NY

Model Description | Update 2017

Temple Beth Sholom, Shabbat Family Study
Model Summary:

Shabbat Family Study for 3rd-7th graders and their families is an innovative way to get families to learn, eat and pray together 10 times a year. Shabbat Family Study provides families with an opportunity to engage together in Torah study that is relevant to their everyday lives as they build closer relationships to family members, community and the synagogue. Students in grades 3rd-7th also attend school an additional 2 times a week for Hebrew study and Judaics. What is learned in the classroom is then supported during Shabbat Family Study and vice versa.

Who are the Learners?
  • Learners are 3rd-7th graders and their families.

  • 2nd graders and their families are invited from January to June for a “Taste of Shabbat Family Study.”

Who are the Educators/Learning Facilitators?
  • Those who facilitate the learning are called “Shabbat Family Educators.”

  • The Assistant Rabbi facilitates the learning for the 6th and 7th graders and their families.

  • Some facilitators are teachers in the religious school.

  • The majority of facilitators are lay leaders (there are currently 3 lay leaders) who are volunteers.

  • A teacher on staff helps to prepare the students for their important roles in reading Torah or leading the service.
When Does the Learning Happen?
  • Learning happens on Shabbat - either Friday night, Shabbat morning or Saturday night so that families can appreciate the full Shabbat (and Havdalah) experience.

  • In the past, it was the norm at TBS to have just one Shabbat experience for each grade, now the experience of Shabbat in community is integrated through the whole year.

Where Does the Learning Happen?

Learning happens in the building. Since there are large groups of people, by necessity, learning usually takes place in the social hall, Lifelong Learning Center or open spaces in the halls.

What is the Learning? How is it designed?
  • The learning is related to the weekly parasha or the upcoming chag (holiday).

  • The learning includes both text study and experiential hands-on Jewish living.

  • Tefilah (prayer) is a component at all times, but it is always given in a different format.

  • Usually families stay together as family groups for the learning; sometimes the families are divided by grade level.

  • For each Shabbat Family Study, the 6th and 7th graders are assigned a Torah reading and the families come up for the first time for an aliyah. If they don’t get to read Torah in 6th grade, they are assigned to lead Ashrei or other tefilot. This helps them feel prepared for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

  • The kids see the Shabbat facilitators as role models for all aspects of this experience.
What Were You Trying to Achieve with this Model?
  • Parents wanted to have a chance to celebrate Shabbat with their families, to deepen their learning and shared experiences and to have a chance to spend quality time with their families.

Key First Steps and Recruitment Plan:

  • The Shabbat Family Study model is advertised in the parent handbook, monthly to the specific grades via email, on Facebook and on our website. Announcements about Shabbat Family Study are part of the regular emails to each grade.

  • In addition and most important, classroom teachers call each family with a friendly voice at the beginning of the week that there is Shabbat Family Study.

Role of Governance and Clergy:
  • When TBS did a study a few years ago of what parents want, the survey uncovered that parents most want a relationship with the clergy. TBS has paid special attention to answering this well-articulated priority of parents.

  • The Assistant Rabbi teaches the oldest grades in this program. She is able to make a connection with both the learners and families at this Bar/ Bat Mitzvah age/stage.

  • The Shabbat Family Study community is often blessed with the presence and participation of the Senior Rabbi, the Assistant Rabbi as well as the Hazzan.

  • This model is simply a part of the school; families don’t pay additionally for it, it is included as part of the general tuition parents pay for their school fee.

  • Presently, there is one teacher with a salary of $1,800.

  • The cost of the Shabbat dinners is covered by PTA; families are asked for a $10.00 voluntary donation.

  • The entire budget includes an additional $1,800 for materials and supplies, bringing the total budget to $3,600.

Hiring Needs:
  • Our ideal educators are our lay leaders.

  • They have a proven track record in that they have also run Minyan Y’ladeinu (Our Children’s Minyan), our TBS minyan for children ages 8 and up.  

  • They are people who are skilled and can sing and lead tefilot and read Torah; they are well-respected and beloved by the community.

  • They have good people skills and relate well to people of all ages.
Relationship of Model to Congregational Learning System:
  • This model replaced the 3 day–a-week traditional model.

  • The Shabbat Family Study came into being to deepen and extend the learning beyond what is possible in a 2 day-a-week situation.

How Do You Describe Your Congregation?
  • Conservative, large, 3 clergy, 20 educational staff members (both full and part time).

  • Educational Vision: Temple Beth Sholom is dedicated to the pursuit of lifelong Jewish learning. Built on the principles of Torah, we strive to inspire learners at every age to live a vibrant Jewish life in the home, within the congregation and in the greater Jewish community.
Supplementary Materials Include:


Related Resources

Learners come together within the context of Shabbat to worship, study, eat together and connect to one another. A list of Shabbat Centered Models has been assembled here.
Model Adaptation
Temple Beth Sholom, Roslyn, NY. Learners in grades 1-6 are paired. A child in an older grade serves as a mentor for a child in a younger grade. The pairs, Yedidim (friends/buddies) live Jewish life together and share everyday experiences.

Related networks

Ellen Rank
This continuing network will bring you together with other educators for peer support and critical colleagueship. You will share and get feedback on new ideas you are developing as well as challenges you are confronting. This network is a great opportunity for you to engage in text study, to build new collegial relationships, and to learn about new resources and the work of your fellow educators. Network activities will include: text study; case studies; reflection; protocols for sharing both new innovative learning experiences as well as challenges; and resource sharing. You will identify and work towards a professional goal as well as contribute to the field by designing and/or implementing innovative strategies in your own setting or in the larger community.
Suri Jacknis
This continuing network will help you develop best practices in the field of family education. You will set your own goals for enhancing your model of family learning, for experimenting with various strategies to engage the whole family, and /or for increasing parental/family engagement in Jewish experiences and learning. Together we will consider ways to help parents and families see Judaism as a gift that can add connections, meaning, and joy to their lives. In this way, more Jewish children and families will thrive as human beings and as Jews.