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It is the goal of San Diego Jewish Academy to engage our students in learning about the rich traditions, history and experiences of the Jewish people. In so doing, SDJA seeks to create a positive, Jewish learning experience for all of our students and to instill in them a love of, and pride in, their Jewish heritage. SDJA wants its students to graduate with an understanding of Jewish beliefs, values, concepts and traditions. SDJA seeks not only to instill academic learning, but also to help empower and inspire the students to embody what they have learned and to acquire the knowledge and skills for meaningful Jewish living.
We take to heart the Rabbinic teaching, “On three things does the world stand: Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim”, each being central to our Jewish educational philosophy.
Torah (teaching, study): In the context of our school, we view TORAH as encompassing the teaching of the broadest aspects of Jewish civilization. This includes classical Jewish texts as well as Jewish literature, history and culture, Hebrew language and the State of Israel. SDJA wants its students to be able to apply the teachings of Jewish texts to contemporary issues and to each student’s individual lives. Wherever possible, relevant Judaic content will be integrated into the general studies curriculum.
Avodah (literally "service" and often translated as "worship") denotes ritual skills and practices that have the capacity to nurture the spiritual dimension, including tefillah (prayer) and observances related to Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. SDJA want its students to develop an understanding of and competency in these skills and practices, and to appreciate the capacity of these observances to enrich ones life and nurture ones own soul.
Gemilut Hasadim (Deeds of Loving Kindness) are the Jewish teachings and practices regarding our ethical responsibilities to our fellow human beings. SDJA wants its students to internalize the value of derekh eretz (respect toward others), Menschlichkeit behavior (a person of good character) and the responsibility of participating in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). The goal is for SDJA students to view their Jewish heritage as a meaningful guide for ethical living in a complex world.
The seven core values of San Diego Jewish Academy’s overall philosophy statement including Torah, Menschlichkeit, Gemilut Hasadim/Tzedakah, Avodah, Israel, Klal Yisrael, and Ahavat Adonai expand on the three pillars that give direction to San Diego Jewish Academy’s guiding values. We strive to incorporate all seven values into the Judaic Studies and general studies curricula throughout grades K–12.
Menschlichkeit is acting in a fair and just manner and being compassionate towards other people. Menschen put the needs of others before their own, show humility, and seek out ways to help those in need.
Torah is the study of Jewish texts that reflect the values, history and beliefs that are at the core of Jewish religious civilization. Study of these texts enables us to understand our tradition, participate in it, and contribute to its ongoing development.
Avodah is prayer and other ritual mitzvot that offer ways through which individual Jews and the Jewish people express their covenantal relationship with God and nurture their spiritual needs.
Gemilut Hasadim teaches us that a serious faith in God and commitment to religious life cannot exist unless they are expressed in acts of kindness toward our fellow human beings, Jews and non-Jews alike. Alone, one cannot achieve holiness – only through just and caring interactions with others. Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for righteousness and is what Jewish people are commanded to do to support those in need.
Klal Yisrael is our sense of connectedness to one another, to our family and to the Jewish people. We are linked together through our history, values and traditions. This connectedness transcends our differences, leading to the realization that we are all beneficiaries of the same past even though we have chosen to use our inheritance in different ways.
Ahavat Adonai (Love of God) allows us to nurture a personal relationship with God, and to understand how that relationship affects our interaction with the world around us. We look to our tradition as well as modern day thinkers to understand the Divine and what it means to be partners in creation with God. Although Jewish people connect with God in many different ways, it is our ongoing covenant with God that binds us to act in the ways of the Divine.
Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. For thousands of years, Jews have used Israel as the central theme of their hopes and dreams, as it embodies our spiritual, religious and national identity. Because God gave us this holy land through a covenant with Abraham, we are obligated to preserve and protect this land of our ancestors.
As a pluralistic school, we recognize that our students and their families reflect a broad spectrum of Jewish backgrounds and practices. We seek to engender respect and appreciation for the various approaches to Judaism and, at the same time, to emphasize that our Jewish heritage is a common bond that unites all Jews. The following Judaic subjects are taught to our students K – 12:
The Hebrew language program at San Diego Jewish Academy is taught through the immersion method (ivrit b’ivrit) whereby the teachers speak in Hebrew and the students ideally do the same. By using the immersion method, students acquire the desired language skills more effectively. SDJA seeks to have students develop facility in understanding, speaking, reading and writing Hebrew. It is also believed that Hebrew is the key that opens the doors of Jewish learning and connects us with Jews past and present. It is both the language of classical Jewish texts – from the Tanakh (Bible) to the Siddur (prayer book) and the modern, living language that unites us with Israel.
An integral part of the Judaic Studies curriculum at San Diego Jewish Academy is the study of the TANAKH (Bible)* because it is the source of the spiritual history, literature and values of our people. It is the foundation of our Jewish civilization and the source of the ethical and ritual MITZVOT (commandments), which have been central to Jewish life throughout the ages. It is the record of what the Jewish people have understood as the basis and meaning of the covenant between God and the Jewish people.
We teach both the simple, literal understanding of the text as written (pshat) and the interpretive understandings of the text (drash) at appropriate grade levels, always maintaining the distinction between the two. While both are integral to the study of Torah, teachers are expected to distinguish between them when teaching Torah to their students. Through the study of classical and modern day commentaries and interpretations, alongside the literal text, SDJA encourages its students to analyze, interpret and internalize the original text as it relates to their lives today, and to use it as a guide for their lives in the future.
As a pluralistic school, SDJA recognizes that the students and their families reflect a range of perspectives on Torah. As a community school, we acknowledge a variety of perspectives in our teaching and share this with our students in age-appropriate ways. We concentrate our studies on the content and meaning of the text.
San Diego Jewish Academy strongly believes that observing the Jewish holidays enhances Jewish life on a consistent basis. To that end, each year students are engaged in studying the meaning and observances of Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simhat Torah, Hanukkah, Tu Bishvat, Purim, Pesah, *Yom Hashoah, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Lag Ba’Omer, and Shavuot through a variety of teaching methods and practices. In addition to this, and with the assistance of SDJA’s PTO, the school is able to provide unique opportunities for the students to mark these special occasions on the calendar with various special programs and activities so they can actively experience each of the holidays in both a formal and informal manner. Through SDJA’s holiday programs, students learn that Judaism is rich in tradition and culture and that Jewish holidays are yet another link that connects us to one another and to each new generation of Jews.
*Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is taught age appropriately to third grade – twelfth with great care and sensitivity.
Recognizing the significance of the State of Israel, its national institutions, and our strong bonds to the land and the people of Israel, we seek to instill in the students a connection to Israel as well as a sense of responsibility for its future. Students are regularly involved in learning about various projects in Israel and help to contribute to worthy organizations such as Yad L’Kashish (Life Line For the Old), A Package From Home, Alyn Hospital and Magen David Adom. Additionally, over the past five years, we have developed a very strong connection to San Diego’s sister community in Israel, Sha’ar HaNegev. Teacher exchanges, high school student exchanges, student pen-pal writing and Sha’ar HaNegev’s inclusion in various SDJA programs have helped to strengthen our relationship with the elementary school in Sha’ar HaNegev and give SDJA students and faculty an opportunity to connect with the people of Israel on a very personal level.
Tefillah links Jews from the past to the present. Students participate in prayer services on a regular basis. During this time, students learn both the kevah (fixed words and times) and kavannah (meaning and intention) of the prayers for the weekday and Shabbat service with the ultimate goal of students being able to navigate their way through the siddur in a synagogue setting and be able to obtain personal meaning and spiritual experiences during these prayerful moments.
Jewish Life and Thought
Building a foundation for Jewish ethical living is integral to the curriculum of San Diego Jewish Academy. The school teaches these values through a unique approach that includes a wide range of Jewish perspectives about our relationship with one another, our relationship with God, and our responsibility as Jewish individuals. Embedded in this curriculum are projects that help our students put these Jewish values into action. SDJA views this aspect of the curriculum as a unique opportunity to focus on many different aspects of Jewish culture, history and theology, providing students with a strong foundation in their Jewish identity.
The policy of San Diego Jewish Academy in regards to kashrut on its campus is delineated in our Kashrut Handbook. The policy requires that food served to students and/or adults; whether from our own kitchens or brought from off-campus for groups to share, must be kosher. Students who bring their own lunch from home may only bring vegetarian, fish or dairy lunches. This alone does not insure adherence to all laws of kashrut, however it does allow for the non-mixing of milk and meat.
Tikkun Olam - Repairing the World
Participating in Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, teaches students that we each have a responsibility to make the world a better place. Students learn that each individual working to do something good can lead to a community collectively making a difference in the world in which we live. Understanding what community means and feeling a sense of obligation to and respect for community are important goals at San Diego Jewish Academy. SDJA will often use current events and crises as learning opportunities to teach students that everyone has a responsibility to help when there is a problem or need.
All grade levels participate in many tzedakah projects (fundraising efforts for non-profit organizations) throughout the year. Projects may be interactive, such as collecting and giving food for the needy, and giving of goods, such as clothing, books or toys to the needy. Kesef Katan (small pocket change) is collected on a regular basis and donated to a variety of Jewish and community organizations annually.
Weekly Parsha (Torah Portion)
As a pluralistic school, we recognize that our students and their families reflect a broad spectrum of Jewish backgrounds and practices. We seek to engender respect and appreciation for the various approaches to Judaism and, at the same time, to emphasize that our Jewish heritage is a common bond that unites all Jews. Please see below for some different perspectives of this week’s parsha (Torah portion):