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Judaics Curriculum

For the 2018-19 school year, Helfman Religious School is proud to utilize the Institute for Southern Jewish Life Curriculum. 

The basic curriculum topics are as follows:


Jewish Life & Love of Judaism


Community; Holidays; Values; Torah

1st Grade

God; Hebrew & Prayers; Holidays; Mitzvot & Jewish Values

2nd Grade

Community; Culture & Symbols; Israel; Lifecycle Events; Holidays

3rd Grade

God, Hebrew & Prayer; Holidays; Mitzvot & Jewish Values; Torah

4th Grade

Hebrew Bible- Torah Prophets & Writings; God; Holidays

5th Grade

Israel; Lifecycle; Mitzvot & Jewish Values

6th Grade

God; Hebrew Bible; Torah

7th Grade

Community; Hebrew Bible; Prophets & Writings

8th Grade

Jewish History

9th Grade

Jewish Ethics / Character Development

10th Grade


11th Grade

Comparative Religions

12th Grade

Making Jewish Choices

For more information on the curriculum subject matter and texts, click here.

Hebrew Language Studies

Hebrew language skills are a key component to our education. In kindergarten to third grade emphasis is placed on learning Hebrew letters and becoming familiar and comfortable with the Aleph-Bet. Initially, students will be expected to recognize the name and sound of each letter. When this is mastered, students will learn to print the Hebrew letters and to read short sequences of letters that form words or sounds. Additionally, we have a Hebrew through Movement specialist, who visits kindergarten through second grade classrooms. Hebrew through Movement is a language acquisition strategy in which students learn Hebrew by hearing and responding to Hebrew commands.

Beginning in 4th grade, our Hebrew program transitions from learning the foundations of Hebrew to a focus on liturgy. Students begin to attend classes on both Sunday and Wednesday and are placed in classes according to their Hebrew ability. Classes are designed to allow students to progress at a comfortable pace. Students will be continuously evaluated to make sure that they are placed at the appropriate level.

This year we are introducing a new Hebrew program called Hebrew in Harmony, an innovative, music-based program in which students learn in depth about prayers and make personal connections to T’fillah.

Our students’ Hebrew learning is enriched by weekly creative T’fillah (prayer) experiences led by our clergy. Students in grades Pre-K through 3 attend T’fillah services on Sunday mornings; grades 4-6 meet on Wednesday afternoons; B’nei Mitzvah students meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Parents are always welcome at T’fillah services.

Cultural & Fine Arts

Helfman Religious School is very proud to offer several cultural and fine arts programs as part of its curriculum. Art, music, dance, cooking, and computers have been developed and integrated in such a way as to allow our students a fully rounded Jewish education.

New Chugim Program (4th-6th grades)

This year Helfman Religious School is excited to begin a new program where students will have the opportunity to choose a course of study. For the final 30 minutes on Sundays, teachers and clergy will offer different mini-courses such as choir, Modern Israeli dance, technology/coding, and Hebrew enrichment. Students may also choose a “taste track” of our classic specials: art, music, dance and cooking.

Holiday Happenings & Special Events

Educational and fun school-wide holiday happenings are scheduled throughout the year. Programming is developed based on the theme for the year and often includes cooking, dance, art, and music. These Happenings include:

  • High Holy Day and/or Sukkot Happening
  • Chanukah Happening
  • Tu B'Shevat Seders
  • Passover Happening
  • Yom Ha'Atzmaut Happening
  • Lag B'Omer Happening

In addition, we will continue with our beloved special grade-level and family education programs including: Kindergarten and 1st grade Zoomobile; 2nd grade Make Your Own Torah Project; 3rd Grade Service; 4th grade Mock Wedding and Houston Food Bank Field Trip, 5th grade B’nei Mitzvah Date Setting workshop; 6th grade Houston Bus Tour and Arboretum Field Trips and 7th Grade Houston Holocaust Museum Field Trip.

Retreats & Overnights

  • 6th grade B'nei Mitzvah Retreat
  • 8th grade Overnight
  • 9th grade Overnight
  • 10th grade Confirmation Retreat in Galveston



All kindergarten students, including children of Emanu El members who attend Jewish Day Schools, and students who are just beginning their religious school education in 1st-3rd grade, are consecrated on Simchat Torah. They are welcomed during the service as they embark on their educational journey in Judaism. Each child is given a little Torah, and the Mishkan T’filah for Children prayer book. The children sing songs and dance with the Torah and their families.

B’nei Mitzvah

In 6th grade, students begin their B’nei Mitzvah journey of studying toward leading the congregation during Shabbat services. For more detailed about this experience, the goals and expectations, please see our B’nei Mitzvah page.


All 10th grade students are confirmed in a ceremony held on Shavuot. The Confirmation students lead the Shavuot service and share their commitment to continuing to live a life grounded in Jewish values and traditions.

Shirley Barish Memorial Israel Experience

The Shirley Barish Memorial Israel Experience Fund is given in loving memory of Shirley Barish to promote the education of Congregation Emanu El students to become dedicated advocates on behalf of Israel, to strengthen the bonds between Israel and the Diaspora Jewry, and to enhance the US-Israel relationship. In order to deepen Jewish identity and involvement in Jewish life, the Fund will grant scholarships to current members of the Helfman 10th and 11th grade classes for the Shirley Barish Memorial Israel Experience, an Emanu El sponsored trip to Israel in the summer. To be eligible for this trip students need to become B’nei Mitzvah at Congregation Emanu El and continue their studies through the 12th grade.


The graduation ceremony for high school seniors is held on an Erev Shabbat at the end of the academic year. The 12th grade students lead the congregation and give meaningful sermons in which they reflect on their past, present and future as Jews. The evening continues with dinner together, closing remarks and a slideshow of photos over the years.

Teacher Assistants

Students in 8th-12th grades are eligible to work as teacher assistants (TAs). All TAs must be enrolled in our Upper School and maintain regular attendance. Please contact Jamie Aaron, Experiential Educator, at with any questions.

Thu, October 17 2019 18 Tishrei 5780