Religious School Pivots, Pivots Again

Ali King

Religious School thrives with online electives (chugim) and family engagement.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, while people are kept home and interactions are virtual, Bet Shalom Religious School is thriving with its new model in response to COVID-19. Instead of core (grade-level) classes meeting 1-2 days per week in our building, students now meet once a week virtually and take supplemental chugim (electives) as well. These include such diverse topics as Jewish cooking, yoga, music, photography, book clubs, origami, challah bakes, and modern Hebrew. They are planned in 2-month rotations, so adjustments can be made as the situation surrounding COVID evolves. This model allowed us to start the year offering both in-person classes in our parking lot and virtual options so families could customize their personal interactions. But when outbreaks increased and public schools were shut down, we were able to put a pause on in-person chugim without disrupting the entire program.

“We knew we needed a model that allowed us stability to plan effectively, while remaining flexible in this ever-changing situation,” said Ali King, the Religious School’s Assistant Director. “And it’s let us realize our ultimate goal of keeping families connected and engaged with peers and Bet Shalom staff and clergy.” 

The chugim classes are scheduled throughout the entire week (not just on Wednesdays and Sundays as before), allowing students to choose what interests them and fits in their schedules. Students can even coordinate taking classes with friends! Teachers are able to plan more effectively, and staff development can be dedicated to training on best practices in engaging students over screens. 

Students and families thoroughly enjoy what is being taught virtually as well as our chugim offerings! Maddie Edlavitch, a second grader, says, “I enjoy Sunday School class because my teacher is fun. I like going into break-out rooms because we get to play games. I like Chugim because I like cooking.  My favorite recipe we made was Julie’s Kugel.” And Raya Feder says, “I love crafts with Maddie Kerch because I get to spend time with her when I normally wouldn’t be in her class. The crafts we get to do are really fun!“

So while the world has pushed “pause” on so many things, Bet Shalom continues to bring our youth and families together to learn, sing, create, and build relationships with one another.