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Bet Midrash: Our Principles

What is Bet Midrash?
Bet Midrash, House of Study, is a traditional term that refers to places of Torah learning and may serve students of all ages.  The word “midrash” is built on the Hebrew root dalet.resh.shin, which means “to seek” or “pursue.”  We learn best of all that we seek out, what serves our own needs and wants, what we can hold in our hands and feel in our own spirits.  The traditional Bet Midrash was a place of learning, but also the location of prayer, community action, and communal support - we strive toward the same goals at BK.

  • Our children are present-tense Jews.  We hope to develop thinking and ritual skills which will serve our children for a lifetime, but first and foremost we encounter each child's current Judaism: their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors.  Rather than just tell children what (adult) Jews believe, we start from reflections on their own experiences in the home, the synagogue, and the classroom.  Likewise, children need authentic prayer experiences in order to learn both the mechanics of the liturgy and to learn what it means to be a spiritual being.  Real prayer comes first and learning prayer language flows organically from this experience.
  • Hebrew is the evolving, living language of the Jewish people.  From Torah to the prayer book to Israeli street slang, Hebrew reflects the evolution of Jewish civilization and the values and ideas that have made Judaism tick for millennia.  Our students encounter Hebrew through prayer, but also through rabbinic literature, Bible, and modern conversation starting in the youngest grades.  Hebrew literacy opens doors to Jewish ideas and is therefore a foundation of our program.
  • Community is the first step.  In spiritual education, belonging comes first.  We build strong classroom communities as a first step to helping children understand that they are members of our larger, intergenerational community.  Our tikkun olam (world repair/social action) efforts in the classroom also spring from a sense of community - a desire to help our Montclair neighbors through MESH and Toni's Kitchen, to help our Jewish neighbors through the kosher food pantry, to help our Israeli friends and relatives through tzedakah (righteous giving) directed toward Israel.  We unpack what it means to be part of intersecting communities, all of which require our investment and concern.
  • Learning flows in every direction; we all have something to learn and to teach.  Congregation-wide themes impact both the structure and content of children's classrooms.  Texts taught to adults are also brought to our younger students.  Ideas sparked in classroom conversations inspire divrei Torah (sermons) given in the sanctuary.  Educational initiatives touch every level of the learner at BK.  Adults and children also learn together through holiday celebrations, family education, tikkun olam (world repair/social action) work, and yes, even in the classroom. 
Sat, March 28 2020 3 Nisan 5780