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What to do when your kid hates Hebrew school?

Sept 2015

My child has been attending Hebrew school for a couple of years and hates it. I was raised fairly religious (and not in a positive way at all) and my husband is not Jewish and does not care for religion. My parents nagged me for years about sending my kid to Hebrew school so we joined a synagogue and have been sending him for a few years and he is miserable about the thought of starting in a few weeks. Needless to say I have not helped this situation at all as I have not participated in any activities. There are no kids in his grade from his school and he has not bonded w/the kids he has been in Hebrew school with.

The only point I can see in any of this is just giving him some exposure to the culture, have a Bar Mitzvah (again mostly so I am not disowned), and then he can drop it all at 13 if he wants. He does go and love Camp Kee Tov and we do celebrate a few holidays. But I am spending a lot of $ between membership and Hebrew school and it just seems like a gigantic fight at this point.

Are there ANY alternatives? My siblings never joined a temple and just basically paid someone the year of Bar Mitzvah to get their kids through it (basically so they wouldn't get disowned). I know there is a service in the east bay where you can pay for consultation about this but I am not interested in doing this. My parents are getting older, are on the other side of the country, and are not in great shape health wise. We are also not close but do see each other 2-twice/year.

IMHO, they are picking up on your negative vibe. If you don't value the Jewish education, they aren't going to either. When my kids were going to religious school, I attended the concurrent adult classes because 1) I got a lot out of the classes and 2) I was walking the talk.

You might want to find a program that you all can get behind. For example, Temple Sinai in Oakland has a family program where the entire family studies together. There are so many ''alternative'' programs in the Bay Area. I challenge you to find one that is enriching and meaningful for all of you. The Jewish Federation of the East Bay has Sprout - a youth a family concierge (http://www.jfed.org/youth_and_family_services.html): ''Liora Brosbe, the Jewish Federation’s NEW Youth and Family Concierge is now available to help families with preschool through high school aged children explore Jewish life in the East Bay. Whether you are interested in learning about early childhood programs, religious school, teen engagement, or summer camp, or simply connecting with other Jewish families with similar interests we are eager to help. Our personalized referral service is free for all families in Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Napa Counties.

Please contact Liora at concierge [at] jfed.org for more information, and join our new Facebook group @ Sprout East Bay to stay up-to-date on opportunities for families.''

That being said, no 12-year-old is happy to do extra studying. So don't expect too much. Good luck!

I would try another synagogue (there aren't any Jewish kids in his regular school class?). Or find a fun one on one tutor, or consider the after school program, Edah, in Berkeley...or maybe Wilderness Torah programs? Marina

Try Wilderness Torah and see if their program feels like a better fit. I also have east coast parents. I was also forced to go to Hebrew school. I have a strong willed energetic boy and I was not going to instill in him the idea that his Jewish identity sucks b/c it has to do with boring Hebrew school where he would likely get in trouble. He likes B'Hootz (the younger wilderness torah program); it's basically woodsy California camp Jewish stuff-they go up in the Redwoods, hang out with other Jewish kids, talk about the origin of Judaism and its connection to nature and how holidays connect to the earth cycles and stuff. My east coast parents aren't here so they can't really tell what we're doing. They seem to like that he's in a Jewish program when he's not at Jewish summer camp. Wilderness Torah has a coming of age program for 11-13 yr olds. It would not be a bar mitzvah per se and they say some kids do bar mitzvah too but it does for me have the right spirit and none of the oppressive 'cause you have to' spirit of my youth in Hebrew school. My husband is also basically an atheist and not raised Jewish and Wilderness Torah seems to resonate fine with him too. happy hippy Jews

I am coming from outside Jewish culture, so my advice may not be worth much -- take it or leave it. But all this talk of ''disowning'' just sounds unloving and hateful. I understand that the inheritance of Jewish culture is important, but there are ways to be Jewish that do not involve Hebrew school. Camp Ki Tov is an example of a place where your son experiences his identity joyfully. Maybe you could design a ritual for him to enter adulthood using Jewish customs: a non-religious Bar Mitzvah. There are lots of people in your situation looking for that kind of fulfilling ritual without the religious content and without the Hebrew language component: http://www.reclaimingjudaism.org/teachings/four-approaches-barbat-mitzvah

If what your family desires is Jewish identification and acknowledgement of Jewish traditions, perhaps a good faith (so to speak) effort of that kind would ease their minds and hearts. One of the things that struck me in reading your post was that you yourself are not involved in Jewish traditions and that they have not been pleasurable for you -- so why force them on your son? Is this a patriarchal kind of thing? To me it seems that he is being forced to pick up the slack. Anyway, I say phooey on threats of disowning. Religion, if it is present, should be felt, not empty performance. mama who didn't force her kid to church

OH Honey!!! I hear you. I was a Hebrew School drop out....This was in the 1950's...so maybe a different story, but I still remember my Hebrew School vividly. I HAAAAATED going and I was forced to go. I didn't learn a thing and in my 2nd year I ABSOLUTELY refused to go back. I had no friends there even though it was our family synagogue. None of my friends from school went. My parents laid a huge guilt trip on me that ALL my friends would be Bat Mitzvah'd and I wouldn't. Well, the truth was....I didn't care, and secondly, none of my close friends were Bat Mitzvah'd.

What this did to me was push me away from Judaism until I was an adult. I wanted nothing to do with the religion...never went to temple. When I left home to go to college and live on my own I started to celebrate Christmas...I even went through a Jesus stage...(probably to drive my parents crazy).

Not until my 1st son was born did I feel drawn back to Judaism. And...btw...I got Bat Mitzvah'd when I was 44....never too late.

Is it worth making your son miserable and possibly push him away from Judaism altogether just so he can have a Bar Mitzvah at 13? Are you wanting to do this for yourselves or to please your parents or other people? It's nobody's business what decisions you make for your child as long as he is not being harmed. He already goes to school, and I assume has some homework. I think you mentioned other activities....so he sounds like an active healthy kid.

I have 2 boys...20 and 24. My 24 yo was Bar Mitzvah'd with no complaint or problems (our temple is VERY different then the one I grew up in) and our 20 year old had learning differences that made it hard for him to do the kind of studying required let alone learn another language....we told him if he wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah he would have to be the motivator of it and that he didn't have to do it at 13, he could do it any time in his life. He chose not to and none of us has regretted that decision, even attending many of his friend's Bar/Bat Mitzvah's.

Is it possible to go to another temple? What about the Hebrew School does he not like? Would another temple be a better fit for him and maybe even the family?

I'm going on and on here, but at 62 I still have strong memories and feelings about that year plus that I had to go to Hebrew School and how miserable my life was because of it.

Good luck. I know it's a tough decision and no easy answer. Hebrew School drop out and no guilt.

You should contact Liora Brosbe, the Jewish Federations new Youth and Family Concierge at concierge [at] jfed.org. I know her personally, she is incredibly resourceful and non-judgmental in her approach of assisting Jewish families find their place and may know of institutions and possibilities you may not be aware of. Best of luck. Jewish mother

I think you know the answer and want support and coaching: Making your son attend Hebrew school is not a good idea. He's already getting exposure to the culture from family and camp, and the exposure he's getting from Hebrew school is negative in his experience and your's, and will distance him from Judaism. And what kind of example is that - all of you doing something you find distasteful (especially a spiritual thing) so you won't be disowned (monetarily, I assume)?

If the threat of disownment is the deal-breaker, maybe there is an alternative Hebrew school that speaks to you all. jessica

Beth El Chug Mishpacha Program. This is a family learning program that meets Shabbat mornings and it is not what you think. You go with your kids, but for most of it you learn separately. Kids in one group and you with adults and a rabbi in another. I have developed good friends based on commonality of experience (and no commonality of experience!!). Many are not Jewish. There is such a mix of people that have arrived in that program. It is pretty cool.

I feel like I belong to the synagogue and a group, and have learned so much about Judaism, and have come to really appreciate and am in awe of the beauty and complexity of it. And then I came home and practiced with my kids and it is now something we all do together. And that is the secret to the whole thing. You, as parent, have to lead the way and let your kids know it is important, but also, joyous and meaningful!

Regular Hebrew School does not work and I do not recommend it. How would you like it if you were dropped off twice a week after a long day to be with people that you don't really know because Mom says you have to do it until you are 13.

To me, if you don't lead the way yourself, you are bound for a miserable and unfulfilling relationship with your child, your parents, your religion.

Beth El will let you sit in on a few sessions. If your child is not comfy in one of the classes, he/she can sit with you. Try it!

I, too, hated Hebrew school growing up. We belonged to a big, impersonal temple that felt like a bar mitzvah factory. My bat mitzvah was a big party for my parents' friends. UGH!

I'm glad we've found a smaller, more personal and intimate experience for our twin boys at Temple Beth Hillel, a reform temple in Richmond right off 80. They actually *like* Hebrew school. The rabbi and cantor know them and all the kids really well so the kids are comfortable with them and are open with questions.

My boys are starting their bar mitzvah year, but already know the service. They'll be doing the entire service, but every kid's bar/bat mitzvah is unique and tailored to their needs. We've had special needs kids whose parents feared would never be able to go through this rite of passage proudly stand on the bima with their families.

So sure, you can have your son tutored to get him through his bar mitzvah, but if you're looking for more of a community for him, check out http://templebethhillelrichmond.org . There's a religious school open house Sept. 20. Hope to see you there! wendy

Well, you kind of give the problem away when you say you don't participate yourself! That was my mom's MO -- YOU go to Hebrew school, I'm staying home and drinking Tab -- and it wasn't until college that I connected with Judaism, and I greatly, greatly regret missing out on all those years of rich learning and experience.

(I'm gently teasing you, not being finger-waggy about it.)

You don't say what shul you go to -- I have to highly, highly recommend the program we are in at Beth El in Berkeley. We have this thing called Chug on Saturday mornings: We meet at 10am for coffee, then have a short family service together, then the kids go off to a hebrew school lesson while the parents have a Torah-study-talky-thinky thing, and then we reunite and the kids show us what they learned or we work on a family project. It is really, really awesome, and it has done a ton to sort of smooth over the holes in my own Jewish education, as well as giving us some very loving, mellow family time together.

I think the new ''season'' starts up on October 3. You can pop me an email if you want more info or someone to sit with and try it out. Amy K.

Hi - We had a similar experience with Hebrew school. We switched to the Chug Mishpacha family Hebrew school at Beth El on Saturday mornings (10:15 - 12:30). Our whole family goes together, but often families have just 1 adult who attends. There is a short service, then classes for the kids (and a nice discussion for the adults), then a family activity. It shows the kids that this is something important to the family, and then we can come back to the topics together during the week. We sometimes miss due to soccer or baseball games, but we find it's generally easy to fit in. And us adults have met some great people, too.

For us, we wanted the kids to have a positive feeling about being Jewish, and having this be something we do together really elevated the meaning of it. To find out more, call Rabbi Mike, the head of education at Beth El, at (510) 848-3988. It begins this year on Oct 3.

Good luck to you! Laura

Whatever decision you make regarding your child's exposure to Judaism, it should be your decision, and not pressured by your parents. Keep him attending Camp Kee Tov. He likes it. If you add something else, it should be joyful. If you expect your child to participate, try to find a way to participate too. Sharing the experience with you can be as important as finding his Jewish peer group. I know of one synagogue that has a family program on Saturday mornings you may want to check out. Kids and parents learn together. If you expect him to learn about Jewish practices, then look for ways to share what he is learning with you.

I understand that this may be difficult to do alone, but maybe your husband would be interested in serving at a homeless meal. There is a synagogue in Berkeley that serves a monthly meal to 200 clients. Or spend a day working on an evironmental clean up project, these sorts of projects heal the world, the Jewish principal of tikkun olam. Share a family dinner on Friday night and include a challah.

Whatever you choose to incorporate for him, embrace it yourself. Jewish education has changed a lot since you attended religious school and the East Bay has many options. Midrasha and Jewish Youth for Community Action are great teen programs. Wilderness Torah is an organization you might want to look at. Urban Adamah does Jewish programming on their farm in Berkeley (but I don't think they do Bar Mitzvahs). There are many opportunities for Jewish community and learning . Ask the moderator for my email if you want to talk further. Ruth E.

Yes there are other options. Go to Urban Adama for their family events-urbanadama.org/. For Jewish education that weaves in wilderness skills, nature awareness, and community building check out Wilderness Torah's B'hootz and B'nature programs at wildernesstorah.org. Another option is an afterschool program called Edah, edahcommunity.org/. I think your child might be more interested in Judaism if you did something Jewish together, such as going to some of the public events at Urban Adama or Wilderness Torah. You could also try Chochmat Halev, www.chochmat.org for another alternative religious school, and alternative Jewish services, with drums and dancing. I don't know which shul you go to, but I love mine, Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. (Netivot is Conservative, so lots of singing, lots of Hebrew, and very participatory, with members leading most of the service). Claire S.

I would encourage you to check out our synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom, in San Leandro. The director of the religious school is fabulous and has experience working with all types of learners, temperaments and kids at varying levels of engagement (ahem). Your kid is not the only one to hate Hebrew School! You can ask the moderator for my info if you would like to come to Family Shabbat, regular services, or religious school with my family. Our congregation is diverse and welcoming, and frankly, the dues are very reasonable.

For what it's worth, I expected to be in your situation (pleasantly astonished that my son never asked to quit and now has really become invested in the process), and was completely prepared to let the whole Bar Mitzvah thing go. People can become b'nai mitzvahs whenever they like. If you and your kid are ambivalent, there's no reason to do it now. The relatives will get over it, or at least they should. It's way too much work and expense to do for someone else's satisfaction. My two shekels

Hi- I feel your pain! This issue is very loaded.

The most striking thing about your post is your heavy guilt and feelings of obligation to your parents. Would your parents really disown you and your kids if you pulled them out of Hebrew school? Truly? Have you had a heart to heart with them about this? It seems to me this is the major driving force here. I had a similar issue with my father regarding my son and my ambivalence about circumcision. In the end, we decided to go ahead with the Bris since it was causing such a rift. But I doubt we would have done it had my father not been alive. Parental pressure is no small thing, even as an adult.

There are some wonderful Hebrew school alternatives in the Bay Area. I don't have the website, but if you Google ''wilderness Torah'' in the East Bay, you'll see a lovely non traditional option. I'd call the East Bay and San Francisco JCC to get some advice.

The other thing to consider is the long term effect of forcing your kids to continue until after their Bar/Bat Mitzvot. I do not have good memories of Hebrew school. I went 3 days a week until after my Bat Mitzvah and particularly hated Sunday school. I remember many whining sessions with my mom about being forced to go. Now, as an adult, I'm glad that my parents made me go. I am not religious, but I identify as a Jew and my Jewish roots ground me and make me feel rooted.

There is a lot to consider here---family obligations, Jewish guilt, conflicts with your kids, decisions about precious after school time, identity formation......You are not alone! I wish you best of luck in figuring out what is best for your family.

Shana T. secular humanist liberal Jew

Dear Confused,

I'm sorry to hear how trapped both you and your child are feeling by the need to do what your parents want in terms of his having a bar mitzvah. You ask about alternatives. There are a number of ways you could go, including the one you mention -- your son having an independent bar mitzvah, like your siblings' children did.

It sounds like that idea is unappealing, though, as is continuing the Hebrew school he's been going to, and so is the consultation service you know of in the East Bay. (I'm not sure what service you mean. Perhaps Jewish Milestones? If so, they've closed down.)

Rather than making other suggestions that might be equally unappealing, I'd like to invite you to contact me for an open and judgment-free conversation. I'm a rabbi and Jewish educator, and I founded and direct Jewish Gateways, an open network for exploring Jewish wisdom, spirituality, and celebration. I've spoken with many families about how they might connect with Jewish tradition in ways that would be authentically meaningful for them, and Jewish Gateways helps people explore Jewish tradition from that same point of view.

My basic approach would be to see if I could help you clarify your priorities and choices, so you're not in the position of forcing Judaism on your child, as it was forced on you, which is understandably making you both pretty miserable.

If you'd like to be in touch, just go to our website, www.jewishgateways.org, and click on the Contact link.

Warmly, Bridget Wynne

The short answer is look for other options that work for you as a family. As a kid, I was in the same position as your child and it didn't turn out well. Even at an early age, I could sense that my parents were only sending me out of obligation, and I really resented them for it (and still do). I didn't get much out of the education when my parents were completely absent from it and from Jewish life outside of the holidays. It took me a long time to find my way back to Judaism and my brother never did. I look back on the entire experience as a miserable one. Now that I have kids of my own, we looked for something different and found something that works great for our entire family. We belong to a reconstructionist congregation that welcomes inter-faith couples and centers it's programming around building community. At the Sunday school parent kickoff meeting last year, the Rabbi asked how she should measure success in the program. The consensus was that success means our kids want to go to Sunday school. Simple as that. At least half the parents there found this group because they wanted something opposite of their childhood experience. My kid loves it and has made some great friends, as have I. I live in the Midwest now, but can see there are other posts with great suggestions to look into in your area. Your parents may not understand, but you have to do what is best for your family. Shana T

Hebrew school with focus on tradition more than religion

Aug 2014

We are looking for a Hebrew School that focuses more on tradition than on religion. I searched the archives but couldn't find a current viable option. We currently go to Beth El and are looking for another option. Thanks anon

I would check out Kol Hadash. It is a community in Berkeley for humanistic Judaism. It focuses on traditions and ethics the most and I think it's what you are looking for! Anonymous

Check out Temple Beth Hillel. tele: 510 2232560. They are right off the Hilltop Ave exit. When all my daughter's friends were saying they hated religious school, hebrew school, my kid was saying I like mine! They are reformed but I am basically not a religious Jew and it was a wonderful match. You can sit in on the session, speak to the head person, who teaches Hebrew (Malka). I think they are having an open house soon. I live in Berkeley and after checking out the neighborhood synagogues, I chose Temple Beth HILLEL. We even had my daughter try it out for a year before commitment. good luck

Looking for Hebrew school for 2nd grader

Oct 2011

Hi! My son is in 2nd grade and really wants to go to Hebrew school. We haven't yet connected into the local shuls & I don't know where to begin with choosing which would be the best fit.

I grew up conservative but resonate most with Carlebach sound & more traditional Israeli customs & views. Learning hebrew is very important as well as the traditions and spiritual aspect of the religion. We are not very observant, but no less connected to our religion.

Any reccs on which East Bay (Berkeley would be ideal) synagogue offers Hebrew school classes that may be a fit? Are there any places that offer scholarships or sliding scale fees for the struggling single parent?

Thanks for any advice. I've been wanting to connect into the Jewish community since moving out here 2 years ago, but have always been overwhelmed by all the choices! Any current break-downs would be most appreciated!

Congregation Beth El has a great Jewish education program. Deb Massey, the ed director, is just wonderful and has done a tremendous job at building a great program. There is a family ed program as well as a traditional after school program, which has transportation from many of the berkeley public schools. Both the Rabbi's, Rabbi Yoel Kahn and Rabbi Reuben Zellman, are vey committed to the education, and the needs of the kids and their families.

In my experience, Beth El is great about financial assistance, and making the necessary accommodations to insure that folks are able to engage fully. good luck! Happy Beth El Family

What age for Religious school?

Sept 2008

We are wondering what age people start sending their kids to Jewish religious school. Our daughter is in 3rd grade, and we are non-religious Jews, who do not belong to a temple. However, our daughter attended Camp Kee Tov at Temple Beth El this summer and LOVED it. We want her to have a Bat Mitzvah when she's older, so I'm wondering if we should start now, or next year or..?. My husband waited til 5th grade, and was behind, but caught up. Any words of wisdom? Thanks. Culturally Jewish Mama

We were not practicing Jews at all, but started sending our daughter to Hebrew school in 4th grade. She just recently had her bat mitzvah, and it truly was wonderful. She was completely prepared, I think 4th grade was a great time to start. I am very glad we did it. proud mom

3rd grade is probably the lastest age to start religious school to prepare for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. At our synagogue (Temple Beth Hillel, Richmond) they have a pre-school rs program once a month on Sunday morning, and then after that it's every Sunday morning. When the kids are in 5th or so grade they start Hebrew School in addition to RS to prepare for the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Some synagogues require kids to be in RS for 2 years before their B/B MItzvahs if you are going to be a member there. TBH does unless the kids go to a Jewish Day School. If you are interested in more info about the BEth Hillel RS please contact me. good luck, June

Hi Culturally Jewish Mama, Don't wait! Kids are already bonding with each other in Hebrew school. A big part of religious school, just like public school, is social. So you want her in there making friends. Many synagogues go from once a week sessions to twice a week right around third or fourth grade. So the education is amping up. Call Beth El and see if you can still get in for fall. They have a new Rabbi-Educator and you'll want to go in and introduce yourselves. You'll need to join the synagogue so you might as well get in there in time for the High Holy Days and get to know the other parents and members. 510-848-3988 is their number. Best of luck and shana tovah! If you want more info feel free to call me at Building Jewish Bridges, 510-663-8350 www.buildingjewishbridges.org Dawn

I think each temple has a different program. Our kids started Religious School in Kindergarten. That is Sunday School. It's been nice because the kids are ''growing up'' together with other Jewish kids. In preparation for the Bar Mitzvah, we had to start mid-week Hebrew School in 3rd grade and my kid HATES it. My husband insists that he go because that is what we do in order to have a Bar Mitzvah. My son likes being with his Jewish friends, however, and since he has been going to Religious School since Kindergarten, he knows this is the drill. We belong to a temple in Walnut Creek, B'nai Tikvah, and are very happy with the philosophy and programming. Jewish Mama

3rd grade is a good time to start, particularly if she enjoyed jewish summer camp. The point of religious school is to make friends with other Jewish children, as well as the skills they learn -- in most schools, the Jewish children can feel a little odd, particularly if you celebrate any holidays, while religious school gives them a peer group. We belong to Netivot Shalom, and have enjoyed the religious school, and the families we've met. Beth El might be the right religious school for your daughter since she loved Kee Tov -- some of those kids are probably in the religious school. sc

If your daughter enjoyed camp @Beth El, you might consider sending her there now. She will enjoy religious school more if she knows some of the kids. It is a nice Temple, diverse, socially committed, & people seem sincere in their observance (we are not members of Beth El-this is just an observation). What\x92s the point of a Bat Mitzvah for her if it is just a cram course to learn her Torah portion & enough Hebrew to skim by? Learning about Judaism can be a wonderful, life-long journey. Why not give her a ticket for the trip? I speak as someone who was kicked out of several religious school as a kid & learned all I know (& love knowing) as an adult. Happy Grandmother

As a ''culturally Jewish family, we started our daughter in 1st grade where they would read books together, do Jewish related art projects, learn about the holidays, all in a fun way. Now in 5th grade, she just started Hebrew lessons in prep for Bat Mitzvah. (most other families started in 3rd or 4th) We love our Temple. The religious school has programs for the real little ones.(age 4??) Temple Beth Hillel is in Richmond (we live in Berkeley) and is right off of the Hilltop exit on 80. Besides the community being great, the religious school is once a week on a Sunday (some months only 3x month). When I researched some of the other Temples, I couldn't see putting my daughter in a program where you have to sit in religious school class 2x a week for a couple of hours each day, after sitting in school all day. The Sunday program at Temple Beth Hillel is perfect, for the amount of time spent, quality of teachers/program and wonderful community. TBH is having a special Rosh Hashanah Family Program and Religious School Open House for parents and children (ages 4 and up) on Sunday September 28th from 9:30 - 12:30 p.m. Come join us! You can email me if you have any questions. Betty

Sunday School for ''Cultural'' Jews?

May 2008

We are looking for a Jewish Sunday school (preferably one that meets on Sundays rather than during the week) which will introduce our son to Jewish values, culture, and history in a group setting, but without a lot of focus on learning how to pray, which really turned him off last time we tried this. We also don't feel strongly about his learning to read Hebrew. We'd like this experience to be able to culminate in a non-traditional bar mitzvah, e.g., a talk or presentation he designs rather than the traditional reading a passage in Hebrew. We live near Berkeley and would prefer something in our general area. A Jewish Mom

Kol Hadash is the place for you. It is a small congregation for secular, humanistic Judaism. They have a Sunday school. Most meetings take place at the Albany Community Center. Check them out on line. Also, you can participate for free for a while to check them out. culturally Jewish atheist

Kindershule sounds like what you're seeking. It's a secular, cultural Jewish school that meets every other Sunday morning in Berkeley during the school year. The curriculum focuses on stories, art, cooking, holidays, music & Yiddish. There are 3 classes for children in grades K-5 in this program run by Gerry Tenney. Gerry also teaches a 2-year bar/bat mitzvah class. It is definitely an alternative to the religious, synagogue experience. My children went through the elementary program, one had a bat mitzvah & the other is in the bar/bat mitzvah class now. The program is wrapping up for the year but contact Gerry for more info at gtenney at earthlink.net. I'll be happy to talk with you further as well.. Rebecca

There is a gem of a Sunday School for ''Cultural'' Jews who want to give their kids a sense of Jewish history, culture, and values, in a secular setting. I think it could be just what you are looking for. It is part of Kol Hadash , a congregation that is part of the national society for humanistic Judaism. Our children (7 and 11) have been going for a few years and are having a very positive experience. The teachers are really excellent and really make it interactive and get the kids engaged. I think the best testament is that my kids don't resist going which is saying a lot. It also has a terrific non-traditional Bar/Bat Mitvah program. Instead of focusing on learning Hebrew and reading from the Torah, the kids, with the guidance of the teacher, research an area related to Judaism that is also of interest to them and that becomes the centerpiece of their presentation. The school also only meets twice a month on Sunday mornings (from 9:30-11:30) which is significantly less of a time commitment than traditional schools. The School (along with the general congregation) meets at the Albany Community Center on Marin Avenue in Albany. Please feel free to email me if you would like to get more information or have questions. I'd be happy to talk to you (or anyone else who is interested). Kol Hadash also has a good web site that you can check out - and it has info on the Sunday School. It's www. kolhadash.org. The school is small right now but I think it's mostly because most people don't know about it. Karen

I too am a ''cultural Jew'' and would actually rather my child learn ''Yiddish'' than ''Hebrew''. Before having a child, I frequented Temble Beth El, Kahilla, Aquarium Minyon. And while I enjoyed some aspects of each, when I had my daughter I didn't feel it was the right match, especially for ''religious school''. I especially didn't want my daughter to sit in a school setting 2 days per week, 2 hours at a shot after being in school all day. So I found ''Kol Hadash'', which has ''religious school'' on Sundays. They are a humanistic synagogue (doesn't believe in god basically). Since I wasn't sure where I fit with that, I figured I'd try. They do hebrew but not heavy. We didn't stay though because I had a hard time with the school (if you want details you can contact me) Then we joined Temple Beth Hillel in Richmond (I too live in Berkeley) TBH is only a 10 minute drive. Their school is on Sunday's starting with a beautiful (singing mostly) service for the family and then the kids are off to their classes. They do talk about god, but as the teacher and the rabaii (both who are great) have said, god is whatever you make it to be, within you, in nature etc. They do teach Hebrew for the mitzvah services but I would think they would be open to a discussion with you regarding your wishes. We love the Temple. Not too big, where you feel lost and not too small where, everyone knows if you don't show up! We really like the community alot. Very down to earth, all welcoming and my daughter loves the school. If you'd like to know more, call me at 526-3266 or email me. Good luck. Betty