Kids Don’t Benefit from “Dumbed-Down” Torah

We recently got this note from Rachel Margolis, a new educator at University Synagogue in Los Angeles. This year, she added Being Torah and I Have Some Questions About God to her curriculum. How’re things going? Read for yourself:

This past Friday our third and fourth grade students gave presentations to the synagogue at Shabbat services. The fourth graders also worked on a poster project that showed what “Torah stories” they have learned already this year. Students worked in groups of two to illustrate or explain the various chapters of Genesis they have studied.

Many congregants told me how impressed they were with the students’ work. I was proud to say that the kids aren’t simply learning Torah “stories” — it’s not like they’re studying from some dumbed-down version of the Torah. They are using a fantastic kid-friendly translation in Being Torah, which helps them to be “detectives” with the text and find patterns, repetition, and gaps in the story, which they then use to analyze the Torah.

Clearly they’re learning a lot — in many cases congregants were learning from the students’ work!

I met with my third grade teacher last week, who told me how much she loves using the Torah Aura materials. She explained that in the past she had spent hours researching information to supplement what was in the old books and teachers’ guides. The materials she was assigned were not complete both in content (material wasn’t rich and engaging) and timing (not enough material to fill an hour). This is a teacher who was nervous about teaching a new subject this year (God, using I Have Some Questions About God), who is telling me how much she loves the materials — the Teacher’s Guides are complete and full of great ideas. She will often teach lessons according to what is suggested in your guides, but each class includes a journal entry (for when the kids arrive), and she creates questions from your materials that help frame the day. What a great way to use the Torah Aura materials and one’s own strengths as a teacher! These materials are really working for her and her class.

Here are pictures of some of the students’ work.