Beth Torah Building

P.O Box, Hyattsville, MD 20788

Office Phone: (301) 927-5525

 Mendel Abrams Hebrew School Frequently Asked Questions   
Do I have to be a member of the congregation to enroll in the Hebrew School?

No. Membership in the congregation is encouraged, but not necessary, for Hebrew School enrollment. Members do pay a lower tuition. For example, in the 2002-03 school year, Beth Torah members pay $500/year for the Upper School (3rd grade and up) where non-member tuition is $750/year. The difference is not as great in the Lower School (K – 2nd grade), where member tuition is $300/year and non-member tuition is $350/year. Students, whether from member families or non-member families, receive the same benefits and high-quality instruction.

In our family, I am Jewish and my spouse is not. Can our child come to Hebrew School?

At Mendel Abrams Hebrew School, we have a large number of students from interfaith families. The population at Beth Torah Congregation reflects the diversity and mix of cultures that is Prince George’s County, and which has also been part of the Jewish faith for thousands of years. Children from interfaith families are welcome and not alone at Beth Torah.

Why is there school on Saturday morning? Isn’t that the Sabbath?

We bill ourselves as a "learning community", and what better way to become a community than to gather together and learn on Shabbat? It is very difficult to find a Hebrew School where students feel as comfortable and as much a part of the synagogue as they do at Beth Torah. Students attend services for 20-30 minutes each week and get a chance to put their Hebrew into practice. School on Saturday is very different from school on Wednesday – it is filled with singing and dancing, drama, discussion, art – and no writing, which means that teachers end up teaching to all learning styles, not just the verbal/linguistic style that is traditionally focused on. Mendel Abrams Hebrew School students experience Shabbat, not just learn about it.

What is the "Shabbat Morning Meeting"?

School begins at 10:00 every Saturday morning with a meeting of all the students in the school. We gather in Ross Social Hall, share our joys and triumphs of the week, sing songs, dance, and maybe even do a mini-lesson about tzedakah or a holiday. School wide announcements are made, comments and questions are addressed, and the school community comes together on Shabbat. At the end of the meeting, students wish a hearty "Shabbat Shalom!" to each class as they depart for the rest of their day. The meetings last from 20 to 30 minutes, and contribute to the "learning community" that is Mendel Abrams Hebrew School.

My child is in a lot of activities and may miss some days. What do we do about making up work?

Finding out what was missed in class has never been easier! Just visit this very same website and click on the "What Happened in Hebrew School?" link. Each class will have a brief description of what went on that day, as well as any homework assignments.

Speaking of homework, what is the workload like?

Homework is all based on reading – both in Hebrew and in English. Every Wednesday, the teacher gives the Hebrew Daily Reading Assignment – a short passage (1 page or less) that needs to be read Thursday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. This way, the student is exposed to the language every day of the week, something necessary for integration of new reading and comprehension skills. Also on Wednesday, students are given a Shabbat Family Reading Assignment. This is generally a longer (3 – 4 page) reading in English, perhaps a Bible story, a text from Jewish history, or a reading about holiday customs. This is designed to be read with the entire family on Friday night, giving families an opportunity to get together on Shabbat and discuss something meaningful. Parents and children get the chance to exchange opinions, to learn something new, and perhaps most importantly, to share something of their heritage on Shabbat. The Friday night reading is then discussed and extended in class on Saturday morning.

You mean the students actually do the reading? How do you manage that?

There are no report cards at Mendel Abrams Hebrew School. There are no graded assignments, no high-pressure tests. Students are rewarded for completing their reading through the Anachnu Korim! ("We are readers!") incentive program. Students are awarded "steps" for each reading assignment completed, and when they reach a certain level, they are recognized for it before the entire congregation. Certificates and small prizes are awarded as well, but the students seem to respond best to the public recognition of a job well done. We have found this strategy of positive reinforcement to be extremely successful.

We live pretty far away, and are not crazy about driving all the way to Hyattsville in the middle of rush hour on Wednesday evenings. Is there a one-day attendance option?

There are several students at Mendel Abrams who only attend on Saturdays. We encourage everyone who can to come for both days, but the miracles of modern technology have made it possible for parents and teachers to communicate better than ever before. Our teachers e-mail, fax, and phone in lesson plans and materials to far-flung students all over Maryland. Some students do extremely well in this situation, others do miss out on the second day. Mostly, it depends on the parent’s involvement in the student’s education.

Do Saturday only students pay full tuition?

In the upper school (3rd – 7th grade), yes. Kindergarten through 2nd grade students pay the regular Saturday-only tuition.

What kind of connections to the larger community do you have?

Mendel Abrams Hebrew School is an active participant in the Jewish community of greater Washington. Our students attend events sponsored by the Board of Jewish Education’s Experiential Education Department, such as "The Immigrant in Each of Us" (a simulated Ellis Island) and "Experience Israel" (a simulated tour of Israel). The school also has ongoing relationships with other local organizations such as The Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County and Heartland Healthcare Nursing Home of Adelphi. Our students, teachers, and parents all participate in Tzedakah programs with these and other organizations. We understand very well that education does not end with the four walls of the school.

What textbooks do you use?

For Hebrew, we are currently using the Z’man L’tfilah ("Time for Prayer") series from A.R.E. publishing. We find that it mixes religious concepts, grammar, and vocabulary quite well, and the students seem to respond to it favorably. For the younger children, Tanach is taught through the Child’s Bible series from Behrman House Publishing. The older children’s textbooks vary depending on their curricular area of focus for that year. This past year, for example, the 6th/7th grade class has been studying the founding of the modern State of Israel, and their textbook has been A Young Person‚s History of Israel from Behrman House.Teachers base their Middot/Mitzvot curriculum with the aid of two sources, Teaching Mitzvot and Teaching Jewish Virtues, both published by A.R.E. All student textbooks are included in the cost of tuition.