As a Reform Jewish independent school, Rodeph Sholom School takes pride in children experiencing the fall holidays as part of our curriculum in an intentional way. Following Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we continue to celebrate with Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Each fall, we celebrate Sukkot, a harvest festival that reminds us of our ancestors’ nomadic past. In our outdoor spaces, a sukkah is built and all of the students at RSS have the opportunity to learn and grow under its roof. In the Twos and Threes, students are taught the symbols and blessings of the holiday while experiencing this sacred space, and in Pre-K and Kindergarten students incorporate those blessings as part of Kabbalat Shabbat in the sukkah. In the Elementary Division, students have Jewish Studies classes in the sukkah, sowing the seeds of understanding about the impermanent nature of a dwelling like a sukkah. These seeds grow to fruition in Middle School where students deepen their understanding of the privilege of having a permanent home alongside their understanding that our ancestors and many people today did/do not have one. In addition, 6th graders give back to the greater community through an environmental service learning project cleaning up local parks during Sukkot, while 7th graders, using edible materials, build a sukkah. And finally, 8th graders using the lens of Sukkot, reexamine the three days they recently spent in the wilderness on a grade-wide camping trip.
Students in Nursery through 1st Grade begin their study of Simchat Torah by learning about the importance of the Torah in Jewish life and history. They learn that we read the Torah in its entirety over the course of the year, returning to the first chapter as soon as we complete the last one. Visits to the Torah scrolls in the 83rd Street sanctuary are a highlight for our youngest learners. Students in 2nd through 4th Grades study aspects of the Torah scrolls themselves, which may include what they look like, who writes them, and how they are handled and cared for. They also celebrate the holiday in a most traditional way, with celebratory hakafot (dancing with the Torah) or Israeli dancing. Our 5th and 6th graders participate in a special Tanachim ceremony in which 6th graders present a tanakh to each 5th Grade student; this is their tanakh for the remainder of their career at RSS. As they annotate it over the years, it becomes a record of their studies and their growth as Jewish learners. Our 7th and 8th graders have the unique opportunity to celebrate Simchat Torah by reading Torah with CRS Senior Rabbi Levine. Together as a group, surrounding the Torah scrolls, their joy is palpable, as is their comfort and confidence in being up on the bimah.
Rodeph Sholom School is proud to challenge students as learners and encourage them to become informed and thoughtful Jews who can ask questions and find meaning in the world around them.
To learn more about these holidays here are some resources that might be useful to you: