Judaic Studies

Rockwern Academy is emphatically a Jewish js_mainday school, where cultivating Jewish identity and a love of Judaism are central to our mission. We impart knowledge, appreciation, and thorough understanding of Jewish history, the Torah, Tanakh, holidays, laws, customs, oral and written traditions, ceremonies, prayers, the history, the role and geography of Israel, and much more. Students are taught to lead prayer services and learn the meaning of special prayers and blessings.In addition, at Rockwern, each grade undertakes a special service program that helps students to internalize ethics, charity, and service – the values of tzedakah and tikkun olam.

Rockwern Academy serves its students and the community by promoting a culture of academic excellence, developing a strong Jewish identity, and actively pursuing Tikkun Olam (making a difference in the lives of others).  The strong Jewish identity is rooted in our students’ study of prayers, Jewish holidays and history, sacred texts, ethics and values, and modern Israel.   Their connectedness to Judaism begins with this learning and continues with the respect for others that is taught throughout their years at Rockwern Academy.

Our dedication to developing a strong Jewish identity in our students is grounded in their study of Torah, Jewish history, the holidays, daily prayers, and our connection to the land of Israel.  Our students leave Rockwern Academy as knowledgeable Jews, proud of their heritage and able to take leadership roles in the Jewish community.  Their connectedness to Judaism begins with their experiences and friendships at Rockwern Academy.

The ability to understand and interact with sacred Jewish texts is fundamental to our educational goals at Rockwern Academy.  Our students are taught to honor the past, to understand its achievements, and to appreciate its relevance to our lives today.  Our biblical stories and history teach the important values of tzedakah (charity), chesed (kindness), kavod (respect), and kedusha (respect for things holy) in the face of challenges similar to ones we face today.

Prayers and blessings are an important part of our students’ day.  We teach the chanting, sequence, concepts, and structure of the traditional liturgy (See Addendum 1: Prayer Scope and Sequence). Our students are introduced to the core of the Shacharit (morning) service as well as to creative ways of expressing their spirituality.  Our students also learn and practice the brachot (blessings) for such things as the Torah service and each of the holidays. Our students thank G-d for sustenance by chanting Birkat Hamazon (Grace after meals) every day at lunch and blessings are recited when eating different foods.

The students of Rockwern Academy participate in several learning opportunities which reinforce some of our important values, including food drives, recycling, visits to nursing homes, and collecting school supplies for “Crayons to Computers”. The students’ service learning is integrated into their general and Judaic studies curricula.

Examples of this would be the Thanksgiving Food Drive which involves the Judaic Studies and Math departments working together, or the All-School Read which has brought Language Arts, Judaic Studies and Art together in producing an original puppet show on the theme of kavod (respect/honor).

Torah trope (chanting) is taught to students in 5th grade and Haftarah trope is taught in 6th grade. As an egalitarian school, both boys and girls participate fully in all aspects of the religious life of the school. Parents come to watch their children chant Torah for the first time and it is always a special moment.

Our parent population and the general community are invited to celebrate all the holidays with our classes at the school. They are also welcome to attend the Kabbalat Shabbat program on Friday afternoons to welcome the Sabbath with the students and staff. During that time, we say the Shabbat blessings, sing songs, and listen to the Parashat Ha’shavua (the weekly Torah portion) presented by classes on a rotating basis.

The Chaverim (emissaries from Israel) are students from our sister city of Netanya, who spend a year in Cincinnati working with the Judaic Studies teachers to broaden our students’ understanding of Israel. By learning from young Israelis who are between high school and the army, Rockwern Academy students deepen their connection to Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel).

It is our goal that the students will understand the concepts behind our Jewish symbols and traditions so their religious practice is informed and not mechanical.  Knowing that students have very different learning styles, we assess our success using a variety of modalities and classroom configurations such as project-based learning, presentations and tests, in-class work and participation, and homework assignments.  Students may be working independently, with a partner, in small groups, or as a whole class. Problem solving rather than memorization guides our choices as we assess and stimulate learning. In all these approaches, we seek to create a safe environment and focus on fostering a sense of joy and excitement in being Jewish.