What is Noar?
Noar is Temple Sinai’s preteen and teen educational initiative. The program’s structure is founded on principles of informal education. 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.
In addition to academics, Noar also focuses on building a teen community at Temple Sinai. Through informal dinners and social events, we strive to make Temple Sinai a place where students want to come in order to see their friends and interact with their teachers. Our teachers are mainly in their twenties and are engaged and involved Jewish young adults. We hope our students build strong relationships with them and see them as Jewish role models and mentors.
This year, we are pleased that the 10th grade confirmation class will be moving to Tuesday nights as part of the Noar program. While this class is still taught by the rabbis, 10th grade students will take place in several all Noar events throughout the course of the year. At Noar, 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 graders study the modern history of Judaism, with a focus on why Jewish history should matter to us today. Students start by learning about the haskala (Jewish enlightenment) and beginnings of Reform Judaism and then explore their own feelings about being both a Jew and a modern American. In the second semester, students study the Holocaust, the founding of the state of Israel and modern day Israel.
- 8th graders study Judaism’s texts, starting with the Torah (and, in fact, their own Bar or Bat Mitzvah Torah portion). Throughout the year, they are exposed to lesser known texts which have ancient parallels or present moral quandaries. They discuss how to make these texts relevant in their own lives. In addition to the Torah, students learn about the Talmud (Jewish laws and stories), Midrash (stories which explain Biblical texts) and Responsa (modern day answers to contemporary questions).
- 9th graders study Jewish thought and practice in the realm of personal relationships, with a focus on the fact that all relationships have the potential to be holy. They examine their relationship with their people (their peers and their family), with the environment and with God. Throughout the year, they will explore what is Jewish about their various relationships and how these fit into their own identities.
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, burritos, breakfast for dinner (bagels and fruit) and water, lemonade, tea or hot chocolate 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 teams for the duration of the year – though these units are often grouped together as well. There are some constants that students can expect. Dinner is served from 7:00 to 7:25 (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, Noar Social, and Sinaites?
Noar offers a fall retreat, which current students may register for during the summer enrollment process. In addition, Noar hosts field trips through the “Noar Social” program. 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.
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. Applications must be submitted to Cantor Robins, the Director of Lifelong Learning. They will be reviewed by the Independent Study Committee.
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. If we notice that students are gone for three classes in a row, we will contact parents to have a conversation about absences.
How does Teen Choir interact with Noar?
Teen choir meets every Tuesday evening from 6:30 to 7:00. Students then go to dinner at 7:00 with the rest of their classmates.