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Upper School 9-12 Curriculum

GENERAL STUDIES

English

Our college-preparatory curriculum stresses independent learning skills. We teach our students not only to read critically and to listen actively, but also to write and to speak with cogency and confidence.

Hebrew

In every HHNE Hebrew language course, students engage in discussions, search for information, express thoughts and exchange opinions through listening, speaking, reading and writing in Hebrew.

Mathematics

Our goal is to help our students to learn and to uncover the meaning of the core principles of mathematics.

Science

Science, as a discipline, provides a unique educational environment for students to develop critical thinking skills. It is the philosophy of the Science Department that all students can do science at a high level. Student-scientists will go beyond solely collecting facts by trying to understand natural phenomena and their interrelationships.

History

Students progress from World History through American Government to include AP Government & Politics, U.S. History, AP European History, AP Comparative Government and senior electives such as Current Issues and History & Film.

JUDAIC STUDIES

New England Jewish Academy offers an extensive Judaic studies program that exposes students to a range of our most sacred texts and ideas. We have a carefully tailored curriculum that supports all students regardless of prior Jewish knowledge and aims to give them the skills to continue their Jewish learning beyond high school. Our classes are enhanced by a stimulating program of informal Jewish education and cultural activities, tzedakah and other community service opportunities. Many of our students attend a variety of gap-year Yeshiva and Seminary programs in Israel.

Judaic Studies Course Descriptions

Click here for full course descriptions

Chumash (Torah)

Students study all five Books of Moses (Chumash) over a four-year cycle:

We aim to teach translation and analytical skills that allow students to understand the text and apply the ethical lessons of the Torah to their daily lives. Students have the opportunity to study Midrashim and commentaries by medieval and modern commentators.

 

Talmud (Rabbinic Literature)

The Talmud Department strives to inculcate our students with a recognition of the Talmud’s significance and how its lessons shape every aspect of Jewish thought, Jewish ethics and Jewish law. The Talmud, through its teachings and format, sets the foundation for building successful Jewish communities and instills caring and respect for God’s laws and all of humanity. It ignites a passionate love of learning, fosters higher critical thinking skills and contains within it the knowledge that Jewish leaders require for leading the next generation. We encourage students to engage in debate and analysis in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of the text and of their peers’ perspectives. In order to facilitate this, students are given the opportunity to study b’chavruta, with a peer, during class time.

Students study a selection of masechtot (tractates) from Zeraim, Moed, and Nezikin.

 

General Judaic Studies:

NEJA also offers a range of general Judaic studies:

 

Mechina (Preparatory Judaics Program)

Our Mechina program introduces students with limited Jewish knowledge to the beauty of Torah and Jewish tradition by studying Hebrew, Chumash (Bible), Tefillah (Prayer), and Jewish law and thought, with focus on textual skills such as translation, understanding, and interpretation.

Students study Parshat HaShavua (weekly Torah portion) in order to understand the role of Torah in Jewish life and become familiar with the text, teasing apart verses, translating and understanding their context. Students begin to delve into how important commentators such as Rashi and Ramban explain the text.

Prayer is a central component of what it means to practice Judaism. Students focus on navigating the Siddur (prayerbook), the prayer service, its history, ritual, and developing a connection with God.

A life which revolves around Judaism is filled with meaningful life cycle events and guidelines for daily living.  Yediyot Klaliyot (general Jewish knowledge) is required in order to develop a deep understanding of Judaism.


General Judaic Studies Course Descriptions

Jewish Philosophy and Ethics

½ Credit, 1 Semester course

 

This course will introduce students to a variety of philosophical and ethical issues that concern contemporary society. We will do this by studying Jewish responses surrounding the beginning of life, end of life, relationships, why bad things happen to good people, war and peace and the environment. Students will also delve into arguments on the existence of God, various Jewish religious movements, Jewish approaches to other religions and personal values and identity. As we reflect on and discuss these issues, we hope to demonstrate the relevance and timeliness of Jewish teachings and our holy Torah.

Megillah/Haggadah

½ Credit, 1 Semester course

This class will study the primary texts associated with the festivals that occur in the spring and summer. The first is the Book of Esther which forms the basis for the holiday of Purim. The students will study the entire book, with a focus that they learn to understand it in the original Hebrew, together with many comments on the book that appear in the Talmud and classical commentaries. This will enable the students to appreciate the Purim holiday on a much deeper level. Approximately 10 weeks will be devoted to this topic.

This class will also study the Passover Haggadah, the book through which Jews fulfill the Biblical commands to retell the story of the exodus each year at the Seder. The students will study the Haggadah, with a focus that they learn to understand it in the original Hebrew, together with insights culled from an array of sources that may provide a deeper and more meaningful lesson about the exodus, the holiday of Passover and its related Mitzvot. Approximately 4 weeks will be devoted to this topic.

 Finally, this class will study the Book of Rut which is read in the synagogue during the holiday of Shavuot. The students will study the entire book, with a focus that they learn to understand it in the original Hebrew, together with many comments on the book that appear in the Talmud and classical commentaries. This will enable the students to better understand why this book is connected to the Shavuot holiday and better appreciate the main theme of the book which is the performance of charity and acts of kindness. Approximately 4 weeks will be devoted to this topic.

Nach - Sefer Melachim (The Book of Kings)

1 Credit, Year-long course

 

This course is a study of the first and second books of Kings. At the beginning of the semester the class will learn an introduction to this book where much background information related to the book will be presented. In the introduction, the class will review the history of the Jewish people until the final days of David, and also discuss several important issues that will emerge during the study of Kings.

The first book of Kings, historically, the fourth book of the prophets, contains the end of the story of the prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha. It continues to chronicle the troubles that beset the northern kingdom of Israel and Judea and ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Beit HaMikdash (Temple)

Jewish History, Philosophy and Law

1 Credit, Year-long course

 

In the first semester, this course will examine a Jewish approach to theodicy, faith in the face of tragedy and post-Shoah theology. Torah thinkers through the ages have wrestled with halachic and philosophical issues arising out of communal tragedies such as the Crusades, pogroms, and the Holocaust. We will delve into some of this material with an eye to understanding the role of faith in the midst of communal trauma; and how individuals and communities may come to terms with the mundane and spiritual questions that follow such events.

In the second semester, we will focus on the history of the Religious Zionist movement in Europe and then in pre-State and independent Israel. Viewing Religious Zionism through the lens of connection to Torah and Eretz Yisrael, we will delve into the various political and philosophical viewpoints that came together to create this movement. We will examine the teachings of Rav Kook and his disciples, as well as the components of our tradition that connect the Jewish people to Israel. In the latter part of the semester we will also look at the historical development of the movement over time since the 1967 war and the reclamation of Jerusalem.

Jewish Law

½ Credit, 1 Semester

In this class, students will learn aspects of Jewish law that can be particularly relevant while living on a college campus. The topics included in this course will include details of keeping a Kosher kitchen and avoiding non-Kosher food, how to “kasher” utensils or appliances that have come in contact with non-kosher food, the rules of instructing a non-Jew to perform forbidden labor on behalf of a Jew on Shabbat and holidays, and the rules of seclusion between members of the opposite gender. This class will provide students with a basic understanding of which circumstances can potentially present a problem with regards to Jewish law and how to circumvent them.

Chumash Course Descriptions

Bereishit - Genesis

1 Credit, Year-long course

In this course, students study the parshiyot (portions) of Bereishit. Topics include the definition of and importance of Torah, why God created the world, Shabbat and the meaning of “man is created in the image of God.” Students explore the meaning behind the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve, apparent conflicts between modern science and the Torah, free will, Cain and Abel, the flood and the tower of Babel. Students delve into the lives of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs; the uniqueness of Abraham, the meaning behind the commandment of Brit Milah (circumcision), the binding of Isaac, the ten tests of Abraham, the search for a wife for Isaac and the lessons in love and marriage. Furthermore, this course includes the birth of Jacob and Esau, the sale of the birthright and subsequent blessing of Jacob, Jacob’s marriage to Rachel and Leah, the foundation and development of the Jewish people, the confrontation between Jacob and Esau, the abduction of Dina, the dreams of Joseph and his relationship with his brothers, Judah and Tamar, Joseph in the house of Potiphar, Joseph’s rise to power and plan to reconcile with his brothers, the Jewish descent to Egypt and the final blessings of Jacob.

 

Shemot - Exodus

1 Credit, Year-long course

This course is an in-depth study of the topics that are found in the Book of Shemot, the Story of the Exodus. The goal of this course is to understand not only its general structure through a simple, linear, verse-by-verse style of learning, but to clearly comprehend the thematic and historical facets of the book. Topics include enslavement in Egypt, Moshe, the making of a Jewish leader, the Burning Bush, the Ten Plagues, the Exodus, the splitting of the sea, the Ten Commandments and the Sin of the Golden Calf. Finally, students learn about the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and sacrifices.

Bamidbar II - Numbers II & Devarim - Deuteronomy

1 Credit, Year-long course

This course covers the Book of Bamidbar, from the story of the Spies until the end of Devarim. In Bamidbar, it includes such topics as Challah, Tzitzit, Korach, Balak and Bilam, Pinchas and the Daughters of Tzelafchad, In Devarim, students study the four speeches of Moshe. Namely, Moshe’s introductory speech, main speech, admonition and promise and call to repentance. The goal of this course is to understand the structures of these books, not merely with a simple, linear, verse-by-verse style of learning but with an emphasis on the thematic and historical facets of the sefer. Thus students deepen their appreciation of their uniqueness.

 

Vayikra - Leviticus & Bamidbar I- Numbers I

1 Credit, Year-long course

This year-long study encompasses the books of Vayikra and Bamidbar until the story of the “spies.” The theme of Vayikra throughout is holiness and purity. We show God that we do our very best both in actions between God and man and man and man. The book of Vayikra affirms the Sinaitic experience and teaches us the purpose of Hashem’s Torah. In essence, Vayikra teaches us that we don’t love other human beings because we connect with them. The world is vast and multicultural. The impossibility of such an idea is self-evident. Rather, we love our fellow because we are all connected to Hashem - we are all from the same source. It then becomes less about universal brotherhood and more about holiness. If we view learning Chumash in this vein, we then see Vayikra in a totally different manner. Whereas Vayikra has always been the one book of Torah glossed over, it now becomes a crucial link.

Sefer Bamidbar is often referred to as Sefer Hapikudim, the Book of Numbers. It is so entitled to remind us of the uniqueness of each Jew in the context of his/her community. While the B’nei Yisroel prepare themselves to enter the land, each one receiving a portion of land, they see the necessity to understand their individual contribution to community. This duality is presented and codified in Bamidbar.

 

Talmud Courses

Talmud: Trachate Brachot

1 Credit, Year-long course

This course is a study of the Talmud, specifically, the fifth chapter of Tractate Brachot. The fifth chapter of Tractate Brachot deals with, among other things, the proper focus, concentration and respectful manner one should have during prayer. It also deals with many laws relating to the actual procedure of prayer, such as the need to actually verbalize our prayers and not merely think them, the need to pray quietly and the prohibition to pray while intoxicated. Many of these laws are derived from the famous Biblical narrative of Chana, the mother of the prophet Samuel, and her encounter with Eli, the high priest, when she approached the tabernacle to pray for a child. As such, the Talmud has a lengthy and important discussion of those verses in the book of Samuel as understood by the rabbinic tradition which will also be studied in this class.

Talmud: Tractate Kiddushin

1 Credit, Year-long course

This course focuses on the text of Mesechet Kiddushin, the tractate of Talmud that discusses the laws pertaining to Jewish marriage. The students study a portion of the first chapter, beginning with a Mishna describing the obligations a father must perform for his son. Among these obligations is the commandment of circumcision as well as teaching his son Torah. The Mishna also describes commandments a son must perform for his parents, such as honoring and fearing them. Additionally, the students are introduced to aggadata, homilies of the Talmud.

 

Talmud: Tractate Pesachim

1 Credit, Year-long course

This course is a study of the Talmud, specifically, the tenth chapter of Tractate Pesachim.

The tenth chapter of Tractate Pesachim deals with, among other things, the rabbinic prohibition to begin a meal in the afternoon preceding the holiday of Passover and the lengthy Talmudic discussion related to that prohibition. In addition, there are several lengthy discussions related to specific laws and procedures for the Kiddush and Havdala rituals. Another topic of special interest is what the correct procedure is when a holiday, such as Passover, begins on Saturday night, the conclusion of the Sabbath, when both Kiddush and Havdala are recited together over one cup of wine. There are several interesting stories of what occurred when certain students were visiting with their teachers, and many laws and customs we follow in our own time are based on the outcome of those stories.

Talmud: Tractate Succah

1 Credit, Year-long course

This course focuses on the text of Mesechet Succah, the tractate of Talmud that discusses the laws pertaining to the Jewish holiday of Succot. The students study the second chapter of this tractate, which discusses a variety of interesting and relevant topics, but particularly those who are exempt from sitting in a succah during the holiday. Included in this category is a mourner, a groom, a person engaged in the performance of another Jewish commandment, women, and a person experiencing physical or mental discomfort due to the succah. The text delves into the rationales behind each of these exemptions, and as a class we discuss and debate them. Aside from studying the text, students learn about the development of the Talmud, and the entire corpus of what is called the “Oral Law.” This is generally done in the first few weeks of the school year. The students purchase the volume of Talmud they are studying in class at the beginning of the year, and it is theirs to annotate and keep.

 
Talmud: Tractate Bava Kamma

1 Credit, Year-long course

 This course of study involves the topic of damages as outlined in the 3rd chapter of Bava Kamma entitled “HaMainiach.” HaMainiach discusses damages occurring in public domain via person, animal or object. Subject matter on “intention” is presented according to case. The Talmud concerns itself with the responsibility of the “baal,” the owner, whether deliberate or negligent, and compensation for four types of restitution; humiliation, pain, medical costs, and loss of livelihood.