Hebrew High B’Yachad Program and Beyond
The Pine Brook Jewish Center Hebrew High B’Yachad is a unique educational program designed for students enrolled in secular schools in 8th through 10th grade.
B’Yachad, the Hebrew word for “together,” is a community of young people continuing to explore their Jewish roots and the world around them. In a non-judgmental, accepting and open atmosphere, students are encouraged to become “learners” while they share their views, discuss a wide variety of topics, and tackle some of the issues that they must confront in today’s society.
During this experience, those in the program bond with their peers and embrace their Judaism through ethics rather than through ritual. Everyone at B’yachad is welcomed and acknowledged for who they are, not for what they believe or how they approach religious practice. The goal of the educators is to have students feel respected, valued, engaged and empowered while they lear
To Build a Community, we must all share in our accomplishments and celebrate each other!
B’yachad- graduated its largest class to date in 2016!
Last June, our synagogue joined others around the world to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. This sacred holiday, commemorates the time on Mount Sinai when the Jewish people received the Torah over 3300 hundred years ago. In ancient times, our people would return to Jerusalem to celebrate and renew our acceptance of G-d’s gift. Scholarship also believes that each year, He “re-gives” us the Torah and we, in turn, re-pledge our devotion to Him. The receiving of the Torah is so important to us that our sages have compared it to a wedding between G-d and the Jewish people, with both parties pledging everlasting loyalty to each other.
Here at PBJC, our Clergy and our Education Department believe that the gift of Torah is diminished unless it is taught and studied. With that in mind, one could say that we celebrate the idea of Shavuot every time we walk into our building. Our schools use the lessons and the ethics of Torah in all of our classrooms and our programs. This holds true from our Nursery School to our Religious School and throughout both of our B’yachad programs. Even the way that we treat our students, parents and each other is a reflection of the magnificence of Torah. I guess one could also say that Pine Brook Jewish Center values G-d’s gift of Torah on a daily basis and consistently pledges our loyalty to its principles.
Last year however, our holiday was illuminated and our joy expanded as we celebrated Shavuot by honoring the 11 tenth grade students who have completed the first three years of their post B’nai Mitzvah education by studying with B’yachad. These students were joined by the other 26 B’yachad participants and conducted an abridged Maariv Shavuot Service and openly talked about their Jewish education since Kitah Hey.
Now, if you have never been to one of our B’yachad commencements, you missed a wonderful event! We sang, we danced and we tried to convey the joy of learning to the other children of the congregation, while at the same time striving to give our parents the opportunity to understand why we, all of a sudden, have a fire burning desire to learn and attend a B’yachad class!
We celebrated Sam Brummer, Andrew Feinstein, Liora Finkel, Eric Freeman, Danielle Fuchs, Josh Katz, Matthew Shupack, Max Simmons, Yuval Toren, Max Weinstein and Hayley Zwiekel, as they joined those before them, and become B’nai Torah, Children of the Torah. Your presence was living proof that you commended them for their continued studies and value them as a member of our community.
On another note, I would like to thank Heather Lutz, who lovingly taught the B’yachad classes while I recovered from my surgery. I owe a “special thank you” to Mary Sheydwasser and Robin Mangino for their constant support of me and the B’yachad program. Without the help of both individuals, our program couldn’t possibly grow, succeed or even exist!
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.
And so Josh, as we always do, B’yachad, has taken the lead from our student driven program and has added more activities to this year’s agenda. Maybe that’s why we have record breaking registration. In the end, it’s like you have heard me say a thousand times before, “If you’re not having fun being Jewish, you’re not doing it right!”
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
I hope that you will examine the value of continuing your child’s Jewish education and encourage and discuss with him or her the importance of Jewish ethics, values, and community, and why good choices will lead them to a richer, more meaningful life. I promise that if you encourage him to register, we will, through respect and courses of his own choosing, inspire him to stay.
May the seeds that you have cultivated, continue to bear you healthy fruit!
As always, I am available for any questions and can be reached on my cell or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to learning with you.