Jewish & Hebrew Studies
The Jewish Studies curriculum remains faithful to the school’s founding philosophy. Comprehensive and enriching, the curriculum encourages students to view personal and social relations, achievements and responsibilities in the light of the Torah. Through our experiential educational programmes, students learn to apply their knowledge to every day life.
The curriculum aims to provide a broad perspective of Jewish history, culture and religion through the study of festivals, laws and customs. As well as being taught as a stand-alone subject, Jewish Studies are integrated into the wider curriculum. Where appropriate, Jewish Studies focus on practices in Israel as well as in New Zealand and the importance of Israel in Jewish life is considered.
If there is one very special aspect of Kadimah that stands out, it’s the warm Jewish spirit that is in evidence throughout the school.
Kadimah School is a Jewish Day School and enrolment applications from children with Jewish heritage are prioritized. Our students are from diverse backgrounds but all children participate in the compulsory Jewish Studies programme.
Hebrew is taught in Kadimah as a second language. The Hebrew language programme encompasses both the written and oral aspects of the language and has been designed specifically for us by an applied linguist specialist at the University of Waikato, Dr Di Johnson.
A booklet containing information about Jewish festivals and customs and how they are observed at school is available to all Kadimah parents via the school office.
Each day begins with Tefillah (Prayers). This is conducted daily for 20 minutes from 8.25am in the morning. Tefillah encompasses an affirmation of the belief in a True and Just God, thanksgiving for being granted a new day in which to enjoy the Lord’s bounty, acknowledgement of His Wisdom, Guidance and Protection and thanking Him for His Benevolence. The students sing the prayers and new tunes are taught regularly. As the children progress through the school additional prayers are studied. All children are expected to participate in morning prayers as part of the school curriculum.
Each week some time is devoted to the contents and values contained in the weekly portion of the Torah (the Law), called the Parasha or literally in English, portion. In the junior classes, children make the contents of the Parasha more tangible and meaningful through age appropriate activities such as arts and crafts. In the older classes, the themes of the Parasha are handled with more depth, including some explanation and commentary from appropriate Jewish Religious teachings.
The Jewish calendar is replete with Jewish festivals and commemorations – some of which have an equivalent in the general calendar. By and large the Jewish festivals are colourful times complete with a variety of experiences that stimulate all the senses. One such example is Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) that is celebrated in a sukkah (booth). Students have an opportunity to go into the Auckland Hebrew Congregation community sukkah on the campus and smell the fragrances unique to this festival. Similarly, the festival of Pesach (Passover) will be accompanied by student performances and participation in a model student Seder (Passover meal).
Kadimah students learn to read, write and speak Hebrew in its modern form. The teaching of Hebrew also provides a means of introducing traditions and values. It also strengthens, the children’s ties with Israel and its history. Jewish festivals and traditions often become enlivened by the knowledge and understanding of the language. An unswerving commitment to education is a fundamental element of the Jewish tradition.
Games, quizzes, songs, dance and art as well as traditional learning are all used to encourage a positive attitude towards the successful mastery of the language. Students work at their own pace on individualized programmes. In the Junior School children start with a programme called Chalav D’Vash, and from Year 5 the children start to learn using the Ulpan Or programme.
An observation of Kadimah’s special Jewish character
In 2013 Kadimah was part of a research study undertaken by Professor Zehavit Gross from Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv and Professor Suzanne Rutland, from the University of Sydney. They were reviewing Jewish identity in schools in the Asia and Pacific region, looking specifically at the factors that contribute to a successful Jewish day school and in particular, Jewish continuity.
They said “We were deeply impressed with what we saw … Kadimah is succeeding to maintain a Jewish ethos … every effort is made to incorporate Judaism within the school curriculum. We observed the morning prayers and found the students completely engaged. Through song, the energetic young Israeli shaliach managed to involve the students, whether Jewish or non-Jewish. The children understood the importance of learning Hebrew for their future and were insistent that it was something ‘cool’ to do.”
The two Professors noted, “the non-Jewish staff members are very committed to maintaining the special character of the school.” They also noted that the mix of Jewish and non-Jewish children did not detract from the school’s special character. They saw that the children, the majority of whom are Jewish, were exposed to different backgrounds, resulting in richer learning experiences.