In May, Stamford’s Bi-Cultural Day School won the 2015 Jewish Education Innovation Challenge, a major competition among North American Jewish day schools. According to the competition sponsor, the Mayberg Family Foundation, 62 schools submitted programs for consideration during the year-long competition process. Bi-Cultural’s new Masora Program in Judaic Studies was presented by its co-creators, director of Judaic Studies, Michal Smart, and teacher-administrator, Rabbi Yehuda Jeiger.
As one of the two awardees, Bi-Cultural received a $50,000 grant. The foundation will evaluate the program as implemented at Bi-Cultural and share it with other schools across North America.
“We are very excited to receive this prestigious award for innovation in Jewish education,” says Jacqueline Herman, Bi-Cultural’s principal and head of school. “Our school, our parents, and our students were looking for something different to make Jewish studies engaging, relevant, and exciting. Beginning several years ago with a survey of our parents, Bi-Cultural’s Judaic Studies team worked diligently to create the unique Masora Program that we rolled out last fall in the 5th and 6th grades. We are constantly testing, reevaluating and innovating as the program evolves.”
Offered as an alternative to the school’s text-based Matmid learning program, Masora offers a new approach to traditional Torah study. “In the Masora Program, Judaic studies are integrated rather than divided into discrete subjects,” says Smart. “Masora’s emphasis is on the content, meaning, and relevance of the material. Lessons are interactive, hands-on, technologically–based and most important, relevant to students’ lives.” The Masora Program curriculum is based on the “Understanding by Design” model and built around eight or nine “Big Ideas” that are the essence of Jewish education, identity, and experience, according to Jeiger.
“It’s amazing to hear my 5th-grader talk about Jewish issues and topics,” says Bi-Cutural parent, Celia Offir of Westport. “She really understands, has confidence, and can discuss big Jewish ideas in a deep and serious way. Our daughter is loving it, and so are we, as parents.”
Masora will be expanded to the seventh grade in September.
CAP: Michal Smart and Rabbi Yehuda Jeiger.