We offer age-appropriate classes for children 5 – 13 years old. Some, but not all areas include the Hebrew alphabet and words; stories from Genesis to the present; Israeli folk and traditional holiday songs; and arts and crafts. Together, the children and the parents put together the sukkah for Sukkot. In non-COVID times we have multiple events for the children to showcase their talents.
Children in preparation for their bar or bat mitzvah are eligible to join beginner through advanced levels of education, with special training in the year before they are called to the Torah. Many children practice leading parts of services in the year preceding their bar/bat mitzvah. All family members, congregation members, out of town guests and friends are welcome to attend both services. The oneg reception in the social hall that follows the Saturday event is open to all who attend the Torah service. Some families opt to have the reception at local hotels or banquet halls. We support every family’s decision.
Bar / Bat Mitzvah Education
We offer Hebrew language training in oral, written and ritual classes designed for the 10–13-year-old. Once the children are ready with their Hebrew reading skills, they are transferred to teachers who coach them for a comfortable performance.
Temple B’nai Shalom partners with the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley, located in South Bend, Indiana (about 45 minutes from Benton Harbor/St. Joseph), to produce Camp Ideal. There are two sessions of a three-week-long summer camp for kids that includes outdoor activities, games, fun learning, field trips and meals/snacks. Transportation and scholarships are available for member children.
The Jewish Federation also sponsors a week of “camp” for children the last week of December, Winter Ideal, involving fun vacation activities.
In non-COVID time this has included field trips to the Holocaust Museum in Chicago, adult Hebrew language classes, adult bar/bat mitzvah classes and more.
From time to time, we are asked to help children or adults prepare for an understanding of Judaism that will inform an acceptance of Jewish religious life. For children, this is usually done in preparation for a bar or bat mitzvah. However, we offer training for multiple levels of awareness. For adults, the critical element is the intentionality of the decision. As the “Chosen People,” Jews take the responsibility to “repair the world” (Tikkun olam) seriously; we don’t proselytize. But when approached by someone who freely responds to the values we espouse, we welcome them and help them understand our history, traditions and spiritual commitment.