What is Noar?
Noar is Temple Sinai’s preteen and teen educational initiative. The program’s structure is founded on principles of informal education best expressed in the Jewish world today by summer camps. Noar prioritizes opportunities for constructive, experiential learning, rather than instructional learning. Today, the program is at the forefront of a much wider shift within the institutional Jewish community toward educational programming that focuses on Jewish participation, identity, and experience.
At Temple Sinai, Noar is the bridge between our Sunday program and our 10th grade confirmation class. We challenge students to integrate the knowledge they have absorbed over many years in our Sunday program into their own identities, and ultimately to take action as Jewish adults.
What do students learn at Noar?
The Noar curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from European enlightenment and the foundations of Reform Judaism, through environmental sustainability and belief in God. Ultimately, however, Noar de-emphasizes instructional learning to some degree, in order to prioritize community engagement and identification. In other words, our first and foremost goal is to help preteens and teens at Temple Sinai connect with their community and their individual Jewish identities, however they choose to define them. We help them undergo this process within an educational setting that breaks down roughly to the following:
- 7th grade The modern history of Judaism, from the haskala through modern Israel.
- 8th grade Judaism’s Biblical and post-Biblical textual foundations, including Talmud, midrash, and modern responsa.
- 9th grade Jewish thought and practice in the realm of personal relationships, from family to God to the environment.
What’s for dinner? Will Noar accommodate my child’s dietary needs?
While we strive to provide a palatable menu, parents should understand that Noar is not a catering service, and food will always be a lower priority than learning for our staff. Parents and students also need to know that we have significant budget, kashrut, and allergy restraints that limit our options for meals. With that said, we try to provide food that is kid-friendly, reasonably healthy, and safe for the vast majority of our community. Typically, this means pizza, falafel, salad, and/or pasta, with other options for special occasions, and water or lemonade to drink. We encourage students who aren’t enamored of the food we provide to bring their own sack dinners, as long as they abide by the Temple’s kashrut policy (no pork or shellfish, no mixing of milk and meat) and Noar’s allergens policy (no nuts.) Noar does not serve any nuts in its food and makes an effort to provide options for students who are lactose intolerant. We do serve products containing sesame on falafel nights, but also provide alternatives for students allergic to sesame. Each week’s menu will be indicated to parents in advance via email.
What does a typical Noar class look like?
The short answer is that there is no typical Noar class. The program is designed to be unexpected and surprising. There are no classrooms or classroom teachers, and grades are managed as entire units, whether they are made up of 6 students or 60. The only exception to this is our 7th grade program, which is divided into 10-student units for the duration of the year – though these units are often grouped together as well. There are some constants that students can expect. Dinner (required) is served from 7:00 to 7:20 (and no later), and classes are generally informal and interactive, with an emphasis on games, student participation, and discussion. We end every week promptly at 8:45. The Noar program does not assign homework.
Does Noar offer special events? What is Noar’s relationship to NFTY, Jr. Sinaites, and Sinaites?
Noar offers a fall retreat, which current students may register for during the summer enrollment process. In addition, this year NOAR began hosting field trips through the “NOAR Social” portal, which has replaced Jr. Sinaites. These weekend excursions are a chance for NOAR students to spend quality time together outside of the classroom. Past trips have included a night-time adventure at the International Spy Museum and a Hadag Nahash concert.
9th graders at NOAR, and 8th graders in their second semester, are also eligible to participate in Sinaites and NFTY events.
What is Noar’s relationship to the bar mitzvah process, especially concerning student tzedakah projects?
At Noar, 7th graders completing independent tzedakah projects for the Machberet Mitzvah portion of the bar or bat mitzvah preparation work with our faculty to earn tzedakah money for their projects. Students completing the 13 Mitzvot project, rather than working independently, also participate in this program. Near the end of the semester, the Noar faculty selects the most promising independent and 13 Mitzvot project entries to be presented to the entire lower school. Lower school grades, with help from their teachers, then choose to allocate their collected tzedakah funds for the year to one or more of these projects. This additional component of bar and bat mitzvah preparation takes place entirely within the framework of Noar, and, with the exception of projects selected as finalists, does not represent a significant increase in workload.
Is Noar required for Temple Sinai teens?
Noar’s 7th grade program is required for all teens who intend to have their bar or bat mitzvah at Temple Sinai, regardless of the date of the simcha. 8th and 9th grade are optional, but highly encouraged, elements of the program.
What if my 7th grader is unable to attend Noar?
Under extreme circumstances, such as health issues, an independent study program is available for students who would otherwise enroll in 7th grade. These exceptions are rare, and made on a case-by-case basis by the Noar Coordinator and Cantor Educator.
Does Noar have an absence policy?
Noar has no official absence policy. However, because the program is founded on the principle of community-building, extensive absences during the year will significantly dampen the program’s impact. As a staff, we make the program as flexible as possible – we are very aware of the incredible pressure placed on our students and their families during the middle and high school years. In return, we only ask that parents make an honest effort to get their children to as many sessions as possible. We do our best to make Noar a fun, pleasing destination for our students, and hope that you will be able to meet us half way.
What is the “zero hour”?
The zero hour is every week of Noar class, from 6:00 to 7:00 PM on Tuesdays. Students may arrive at the Temple any time within this window and expect to find teachers and other students. We offer an informal study hall every week in the social hall foyer. Throughout the year, Noar teachers and other Sinai staff and volunteers will also offer short-term projects and classes during this time block, including study sessions with our clergy, book clubs, art projects, and more. You will be kept apprised of these options via email throughout the year. If you have a knowledge specialty or skill that you think would be of interest to our teen community, and would like to volunteer some of your time to share it with us, please email Rabbi Goldstein. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to partner with parents at Sinai.