“Panim el Panim” (“face to face”) begins the day for every class, with sharing and activities and conversation about the weekly parasha (Torah portion).
Based on a responsive classroom theory, Panim el Panim fosters friendships and respect. We begin every day at Berkman Mercaz Limud with this ritual — Pre-K students and 12th grade teens and everyone in between! Interpersonal connection and Jewish content weave together to create the foundation for everything we do.
“Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it.” Pirkei Avot 5:25
Torah is the shared stories of the Jewish people and the source of our values, rituals, and peoplehood. As Reform Jews, we believe that Torah is the understanding of many people, evolving over the course of centuries, about God and our relationship to God and our place and responsibilities in this world. We continue the process begun thousands of years ago, interpreting the words of Torah to make meaning in our own lives. For Jews, the study of Torah never ends. Each student brings to Torah study their own unique perspectives and experiences.
At Berkman Mercaz Limud, our students at every age engage in the weekly practice of parashat hashavua – studying the weekly Torah portion. Every Sunday, teachers select an aspect of the weekly Torah portion to share and discuss with their students during Panim el Panim, and help their students make meaning from what they learn so that they can apply it to their own lives. Second graders might look closely at the meaning behind the story of Noah’s ark to draw parallels with ecology and environmental sustainability, and fourth graders will consider the story of Abraham following God’s call to go to a new land in light of the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel. Seventh graders might debate whether devotion to technology or celebrity is akin to the forbidden practice of idolatry in the Ten Commandments, and 10th graders consider how the commandment to welcome the stranger provides a lens for thinking about immigration policy, and 12th graders can learn about sexual ethics by studying the story of Judah and Tamar.
We do not shy away from challenging aspects of Torah. As students mature, they are ready wrestle themes like the role of women in ancient religious practices, the tension between tribalism and universalism, and the question “what is God.”
Our students learn to reinterpret Torah in light of our current understandings, to see that Torah is a living text, and to bring it into their own lives as a source of guidance and inspiration and curiosity.
Worship is an essential aspect of Jewish community. Our goal is for students to feel comfortable worshipping in a Jewish setting, knowing the words and melodies and prayers that bind us together.
Every Sunday morning at Berkman Mercaz Limud, we hold three distinct t’filah services:
- Children in PreK-2nd grades enjoy a lively
- Students in 3rd-5th grades
- Students in 6th-7th grades
Parents are welcome and encouraged to participate in t’filah with their children each Sunday morning.
We also request that students and families participate in worship with the Rodeph Shalom community at Shabbat services on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings on a regular basis.
- At Berkman Mercaz Limud, we teach and live Reform Judaism. We believe that understanding about Israel show grow and deepen in developmentally-appropriate ways from PreK through the teen years.
- Origins of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and our historic and religious connections to Eretz Yisrael;
- Changing narratives of Israel in Jewish life throughout the ages;
- The rebirth and creation of the modern State of Israel;
- Life in Israel now
- Israel as a citizen of the world.
- Israel’s responsibilities for peace and a two-state solution for Israelis and the Palestinian people.
- An emotional and intellectual appreciation for the place of Israel in Judaism and Jewish life.
- Developing a meaningful personal relationship with Israel