Shaarey Zedek revamps its religious schoo
ongregation Shaarey Zedek
has adopted a new curricu-
lum model and hired a new
director for its 630-student
Beginning next fall, students will
attend religious school for two days each
week, instead of three.
The new curriculum also requires
attendance at a certain number of
Shabbat services and family education
activities. The extent of these require-
ments varies with the student's grade.
"I want them to have two great days
instead of three OK days," said Bonnie
Winkler of West Bloomfield, co-chair of
the parent committee that recommend-
ed the curriculum change at the
Co-chair Diane Orley of Bloomfield
Hills said she hoped the Shabbat pro-
gram would be "a nice family time."
The new curriculum also includes a
social action requirement. Each grade
will be paired with a community service
organization in Detroit and will partici-
pate in periodic programs. Most of these
programs will take place during the reg-
ular religious school hours.
"This new curriculum is something
we've been talking about for five or six
years," said Tobye Bello, Shaarey Zedek's
school administrator. "We studied
schools across the United States and
found we can do more with a two-day
week plus a Shabbat and social service
director and administrator of the syna-
gogue's religious school.
This week, she was joined by Jennie
Allan, who is taking over the director's
position. Her official title is educational
Although Allan just received her mas-
ter's degree in Jewish education from the
Jewish Theological Seminary in New
York, she comes to Shaarey Zedek with
several years of teaching and administra-
Most recently the assistant director of
education at New York's Central
Synagogue, she also has worked as a
consultant for Project Etgar, an experi-
mental curriculum developed at JTS'
Melton Research Center and tested in
two Conservative synagogues in New
England. While studying at JTS, she
also served as a mentor to new teachers
at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New
A native of Ann Arbor who earned
her bachelor's degree at the University of
Michigan, Allan participated in Project
Otzma, an intense 10-month Israeli
experience for post-college-age young
At Shaarey Zedek, she will lead a cur-
riculum that's one of six alternatives rec-
ommended by United Synagogues of
Conservative Judaism, the association of
Conservative congregations in North
America, in its Framework for
Excellence in Jewish Education.
In April, Adat Shalom Synagogue
adopted a new curriculum for next year
that includes both two- and three-day
At The Helm
A Shot In The Arm
Since the departure of Shaarey Zedek
educational director Michael Wolf near-
ly two years ago, Bello has been both
Most recently, Shaarey Zedek's religious
school had reserved Thursdays for elec-
In the lobby of Congregation Shaarey Zedek's Laker Center are Tobye
Bello, administrator of the synagogue's 630-student religious school,
and Jennie Allan, who took over this week as the congregation's educa-
The new program eliminates
Thursdays altogether. Students will
attend classes Tuesdays and Sundays,
except for high schoolers, who will con-
tinue their Monday night schedule.
"When it started four years ago, the
Thursday electives were excellent,"
Winkler said. "Today, the program is
declining in numbers and sort of losing
its 'oomph.' Basically, it needed a shot in
Winkler, whose three children will be
in 12th, seventh and second grade next
year, said she is a strong advocate for the
program's social action component.
"We're hoping parents will get
involved and work on these projects
with their kids," she said.
Orley, whose children will be in sev-
enth, fifth and second grade, said today's
families are pressured with schedules and
activities and could use the extra day.
For the 2003-2004 school year,
Shaarey Zedek students in first through
fifth grade will meet Sundays at the syn-
agogue's Southfield facility and Tuesdays
at the Irving and Beverly Laker
Complex in West Bloomfield. Sixth-
graders will remain at the Laker Center
for both Sunday and Tuesday classes.
Seventh-graders must choose between
a Tuesday afternoon or Monday night
option at the Laker Center, along with
their Sunday classes, while eighth-
graders will attend classes Sunday morn-
ings and Monday nights, both at Laker.
The Laker Center has proved an
attractive draw for Shaarey Zedek's
young people, Bello said.
"Even though classes don't start till
4:15, kids are dropped off starting at
2:45," she said. "They go to the corn-
puter room or the gym; they play pool
or study. On Sundays, they stay after
and play basketball.
"Having the Laker Center has
changed kids' attitude toward religious