Hebrew High B’Yachad Program and Beyond B’Yachad
B’YACHAD, the Hebrew word for “together,” is a fitting title for our Hebrew High School. Our unique program for 8th to 12th grade students has grown tremendously over the past five years, and we’re looking forward to another wonderful season of bonding, learning, sharing meals, discussing a wide variety of topics, and embarking on new adventures.
Our B’Yachad students learn to embrace Judaism and Jewish values as they relate to their lives and the world- at- large. We encourage an atmosphere of acceptance and respect with a commitment to open sharing without judgement. Each grade meets separately twice a month on alternating Tuesdays or Thursdays, and we join together for special events and programs.
B’Yachad members and their parents are empowered as they help develop the course curriculum and select topics of interest. Students also decide where to head for the annual three-day trip. After successful jaunts to Boston and Washington, DC, the group will be heading to Philadelphia in the spring! The trips are always packed full with stops at important landmarks, Jewish-related sites, lots of exploration, and entertainment.
This past May on Shavuot, we celebrated our first Beyond B’Yachad graduation. As our 12th graders spoke from their hearts, we kvelled as they described the closeness they felt to their fellow students, the growth they experienced since entering the program, and the gratitude they felt to teacher and coordinator, Hershey Jaffe . As Religious School director, I was also very moved by their praise and acknowledgement. They helped shape this program along with our guidance, and it keeps getting better and better!
Our students’ graduation speeches were so meaningful. Here are just a few of the highlights:
“When all of us first joined, it would seem like we were a bunch of “misfits” who never should have belonged together. But by our last class, we’re better than good friends. We’ve shared views on everything from Israel, college fears, and even personal information with each other and we were never judged on any of our opinions…. B’Yachad has given me a voice….”
“This journey…has been unlike any other. One of the most special things about this Kahal (community) is that we not only learn from our teachers, but we learn a lot from each other.”
“Being a part of B’Yachad has been a vital part of my coming of age throughout these past five years…B’Yachad has given me a new family.”
“The lessons I’ve learned throughout the years are invaluable and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. We learned what Judaism says about a variety of social issues throughout the world, but the most important thing we learned was easily the concept of community.”
“We have made so many memories and had so many experiences together that I could be here all day telling you different anecdotes….I will definitely miss B’Yachad and leaving behind this wonderful community we built.”
“…I really feel like being here has helped me mature and become a kind, respectful, proper and more intellectual person. To be part of such an amazing group of peers with the most inspirational and influential teacher is really something that I will surely cherish and take with me for the rest of my years…I cannot explain how grateful I am to have a community like this in my life”
Yasher Koach to one and all!
Visit our Religious School Calendars & Dates for the 2017-2018 Schedule
Together: A Retrospective on B’yachad by: Max Simmons
High school can be stressful. There’s loads of homework and studying to do, for one. There are extra-curricular activities, many of which are massive time sinks. There’s the pressure of maintaining an active social life while balancing all of those things. However, once every two weeks, teenagers come together to discuss contemporary topics through a Biblical lens and, in the process, put all the stress of high school behind them for two hours. This is what B’yachad is all about.
In simple terms, B’yachad is a group of study groups. Each study group consists of a varying number of students from grades 8 through 12 (although only one of those grades is represented in each group). The constant is Hershey, who is always there (barring medical issues, of course) to teach, amuse, moderate, and hold the whole thing together. Originally B’yachad involved grades 8-10—that is, until the inaugural class reached sophomore year. They loved it so much, Hershey was forced to expand the program to grades 11 and 12. (Not that he minded, of course.)
However, the bare-bones description given above doesn’t do it justice. B’yachad isn’t just a biweekly study group; it’s an experience. This is in large part due to Hershey, whose razor-sharp mind and wit grow stronger than ever, even as his body is unfortunately beginning to break down. He’s an incredible teacher, a hilarious sparkplug, and a grandfather figure all in one. I honestly can’t imagine where I would be in life without B’yachad—and especially without Hershey.
I would keep on talking about B’yachad, but quite frankly, words can’t really do it justice. It’s just… an evening of togetherness, again and again and again and again. There are many reasons I’ll cry when I graduate in June; that there’s no B’yachad in college is one of them.
by Hershey Jaffe
Not only does B’yachad strive to educate the post B’nai Mitzvah children of Pine Brook Jewish Center, but we work hard to keep them connected to each other, to PBCJ and to the Jewish Community at large. As educators, we often wonder if we ever meet these goals or if our students are even aware of our efforts.
Below is an unsolicited column written by Joshua Katz, one of our students, who answers that question for us and reminds us why informal education is so important to the learning process.
On May 30th-31st, members of B’yachad went on a trip to New York City. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn in East Rutherford on Saturday night and played a variety of group games, such as charades, and ate snacks as well as participated in making ice cream sundaes. Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel, and boarded a bus for New York City. Once arriving in the city, we went on a two hour double-decker bus tour around Midtown Manhattan, seeing sights such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, China Town and Little Italy, Greenwich Village, and many, many more. After completing the loop, we boarded our school bus, which took us to Lucky Strike Lanes for a couple hours of bowling, pizza, and fun. After lunch and bowling, we left Lucky Strike Lanes for the grand finale of our trip, Broadway. We went to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, which was currently showing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The play, which has 6 Tony Award Nominations, was a hit among all the members of B’yachad. After we left the Barrymore Theatre, it was unfortunately time to leave the city and go back home.
One thing that this trip definitely helped with was building a sense of community around all of the levels of B’yachad. There were a total of 14 kids on this trip, with two being 8th graders, six 9th graders, and eight currently in the 10th grade. Myself, being a 9th grader in a different school from the others and a generally shy kid, only knew about half the kids’ well-enough to call them a friend. After this trip, I definitely know some of the other kids a little bit better. From charades Saturday night to bowling Sunday afternoon, the sense of community among all the kids on this trip was stronger leaving PBJC for home Sunday night than leaving PBJC for the hotel Saturday night.
B’yachad, as a class, is an incredible thing. But the classes are done on a grade by grade basis. This leaves only the B’yachad events to create this sense of community. Most of the B’yachad events still leave us split up by grade. But this trip did so well to create a strong sense of community throughout all the people on the trip, from myself to the 10th graders to Hershey that I feel as though all the B’yachad classes are connected. Thank you, Hershey and Mrs. Sheydwasser, for an incredible trip, and I hope we go on another soon.
They loved learning and they wanted more! In fact, they were the impetus for our new 11th- 12th grade program called beyond b’yachad. Listen to what some of them had to say;
Being in B’yachad for three years has been an amazing experience. After working in school and doing after school activities, I love coming here and being with my friends. We always know that we can discuss anything without being judged on our opinions. Look, it isn’t about learning Hebrew, it’s about learning what Judaism has to say about issues. I look forward to every week and I will always continue to come. Carly
B’yachad allows me to be in touch with my Judaism on my own terms. Hebrew High rocks!!! – Lindsay
Three years ago seven unlikely candidates, started on this ‘journey of learning’ b’yachad, together. Most of them weren’t close friends, some lived in the same community, some started preschool together at PBJC. Yet before B’yachad they still hadn’t forged a true friendship, where they could trust and respect each other. What could have been a disaster filled with already existing bonds, friendships and clicks, instead became a welcoming sharing community!
I have included a few of the currently enrolled eleventh grade student’s comments so that you can hear what they have to say about B’yachad and why they choose to attend;
• This class gives you a new view of Judaism. You can open up and discuss any topic judgment free. I am not a religious person to begin with and have found myself questioning my belief in G-d until now. Hershey is a fabulous teacher and teaches life lessons that I will never forget. – Jared
• Our class discussions are deep, meaningful and enlightening. It is something that should not be missed and that everyone should experience!- Sara
• The community we have created is so open in communicating with each other. I like how the conversation of each class can lead us to new ideas and perspectives that we had never considered before. The way each idea and topic sparks debate and conversation is so exciting. I think that is the one thing that keeps me coming back ever week. – Sam
• I love Hebrew High because it always gives me a place to talk about things I know won’t leave the classroom. Hebrew High allows me to be in touch with my Judaism, on my own terms. Hebrew High Rocks!– Lindsay