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ShalomLearning provides continuity and flexibility to rural synagogue

May 2024

Congregation Kol Shalom located in Bainbridge Island, WA has always found innovative ways to teach Jewish education in their small community. Finding educators isn’t easy when your synagogue is on an island, but ShalomLearning has helped them maintain a consistent education program even when they have had limited access to Jewish educators.

Established Curriculum Increases Pool of Qualified Educators

When Kol Shalom could not find an experienced educator with Jewish learning experience who was willing to travel to Bainbridge Island to be their Education Director, they had to think outside of the box. In 2021, they were able to hire a Director with a background in education, but not Jewish education. They purchased the ShalomLearning curriculum to help ease her transition to Jewish education.

Lori Weise, a board member, says, “Having a set curriculum is extremely helpful.  You don’t have to create a curriculum and you don’t have to find someone with the expertise to do it.”

Kol Shalom currently uses the curriculum in its three different age-based classrooms. After Sunday classes, the students from all grades and their families join together for school-wide activities, prayer experiences, and other programming. The Religious school coordinator uses the supplemental ShalomLearning materials to help plan the additional activities each week, like preparing for a seder. 

Maintaining Continuity with No Educators

ShalomLearning was a success in the classroom. Teachers, parents, and students found it well organized, professional, and engaging. However, when Kol Shalom’s education director left in 2023, they had a major gap.  According to Lori the parents were “committed to having a religious school and supporting Kol Shalom any way they could.”

CKS Board leadership reached out to ShalomLearning to explore options. They were already committed to the ShalomLearning curriculum and concept, so they were open to the idea of transitioning from onsite to online to maintain their Jewish education program. They decided to use the Shalom LinkedED online program facilitated by the Union for Reform Judaism in collaboration with Shalom Learning. 

Kids at Kol Shalom still attend Sunday school in person but use remote teachers provided by Shalom LinkedED. This hybrid solution still allows the entire community to engage in group activities after the classes. Lori says the program “saved us this school year for sure. We wouldn’t have school without them.” They’ve also offered Hebrew with remote Hebrew tutors via Zoom using the Shalom Learning curriculum as the basis.

Why Parent Loves ShalomLearning

Kol Shalom has asked the parents in their community what they are looking for in Jewish education. The overwhelming response is they want Jewish kids to connect with other Jewish kids and learn in a fun manner. Being together builds community and having a curriculum sets the structure and learning calendar whether that is in-person or hybrid. Parents report that their kids have engaged well with the remote instructors.

Overall, ShalomLearning has provided both structure and flexibility, so Kol Shalom can continue to provide a professional Jewish education program with less work for the congregation.

Check out ShalomLearning for Free

If your community could benefit from a structured curriculum that provides flexible options in how students learn, check out a free lesson plan or browse our other free resources. We want to make Jewish education relevant, meaningful, affordable, and accessible to everyone.  Contact us to learn more.

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