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Helfman Religious School

Curriculum & Overview



Judaics Curriculum

Hebrew Language Studies


Hebrew language skills are a key component of our program. In Kindergarten to 3rd grade, emphasis is placed on learning Hebrew letters and becoming familiar and comfortable with the aleph-bet and Hebrew “Jewish Life Vocabulary” (JLV).

Students also have weekly sessions of Hebrew through Movement (HTM), a language acquisition strategy in which students learn Hebrew by hearing and responding to Hebrew commands. For our innovations in PK-3rd grade Hebrew education, Helfman has been recognized as an On the Way school in the Onward Hebrew consortium. For more information, please visit www.onwardhebrew.org.

Beginning in 4th grade, our Hebrew program transitions from learning the foundations of Hebrew to a focus on liturgy. Students begin to attend small-group Hebrew classes in addition to their Sunday Hebrew and Judaics classes. Hebrew 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.

Our Sunday Hebrew curriculum, Hebrew in Harmony, is an innovative, music-based program in which students learn in depth about prayers and make personal connections to t’filah (prayer). Small-group Hebrew classes are focused on Hebrew reading, giving students the opportunity to practice and develop their skills in a supportive environment.

Our students’ Hebrew learning is enriched by weekly creative t’filah experiences led by our clergy. Students in grades PreK-7 attend t’filah on Sunday mornings. B’nei Mitzvah students meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

STEAM Labs & Electives


Our PreK-3rd grade curriculum is enhanced by STEAM Labs, through which students explore Jewish values through each of their senses. Instructors in Movement (dance/yoga/drama); Visual Arts; Music; Science & Technology; and Cooking each bring their discipline’s perspective to the study of Jewish text and tradition.

We are pleased to offer a chugim (electives) program, which offers students in grades 4-6 the opportunity to choose a course of study. From 11:30-noon on Sundays, teachers and clergy will offer different mini-courses such as choir, Modern Israeli dance, technology/coding and cooking. Students may also choose to have their small-group Hebrew class during this time period.

Holiday Happenings & Special Events


Students have access to all-school holiday happenings throughout the year, with programing that often includes cooking, dance, art, and music, including:

In addition, we will continue with our beloved special grade-level and family education programs including: Kindergarten and 1st Grade Petting Zoo, aligned with Parashat Noach; 2nd Grade Make Your Own Torah Project; 3rd Grade Service; 4th Grade Model Wedding; 5th Grade B’nei Mitzvah Date Setting workshop; 6th Grade B’nei Mitzvah Retreat and Art Projects; and 7th Grade Houston Holocaust Museum Field Trip.

Teacher Assistants


Students in 8th – 12th grades are eligible to work as teacher assistants (TAs). All TAs must be enrolled in Helfman Religious School and maintain regular attendance or be enrolled at a Jewish day school. Please contact Becca Schwartzberg, Youth and Young Adult Engagement Coordinator, at beccas@emanuelhouston.org with any questions.

Apply to be a TA:




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 at the religious school t’filah service closest to 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.


In 6th grade, students begin their b’nei mitzvah journey toward leading the congregation during Shabbat services. For more details 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.


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 Shirley Barish Memorial Israel Experience Fund, given in loving memory of Shirley Barish, is to promote: the education of Congregation Emanu El members 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 BIF will grant scholarships to members of the current Helfman 10th and 11th grade class for Shirley Barish Memorial Israel Experience, an Emanu El sponsored trip to Israel in the summer. The ultimate goal of this educational trip is two-fold: to see and experience many aspects of life in Israel firsthand and to foster and encourage a love for the Jewish homeland. Participating students are required to continue their studies at Helfman Religious School through high school graduation and to present programs based on their experiences during this Emanu El trip to Israel. To be eligible for this trip students will need to become a B’nei Mitzvah at Congregation Emanu El and continue their studies through the 12th grade. For further information on eligibility, please contact the Director.


Awards & Camperships

Esther Slotnik Award

Esther Slotnik was the first Hebrew teacher at Congregation Emanu El. Her family established this award for Hebrew language excellence to reward a 6th grader for extraordinary achievement in Hebrew studies.

Ellen Furst Award

The Ellen Furst Hebrew Award is conferred annually by Diane, Larry and Michael Furst in memory of their daughter Ellen.

Harold Reingold Award

Harold Reingold was the first Religious School Director at Congregation Emanu El. He retired as Education Director Emeritus after more than 30 years of service to Emanu El’s students and parents. He continued teaching B’nei Mitzvah until his death in 2002. During Mr. Reingold’s tenure, he reached out to every Jewish youngster that came to the school. This was true for both those students to whom Hebrew and religious instruction came naturally and for those students who had to struggle to achieve excellence. His family established an award, in his honor, to reward students who show the greatest improvement. The Harold Reingold Award is given to one religious school student in each of the following age brackets: 4th-5th grades, 6th-8th grades and 9th-12th grades.

Gail Shapiro Mensch Award

Gail Shapiro served as the Administrative Assistant to Helfman Religious School for over 25 years. The Congregation Emanu El Sisterhood has established the Gail Shapiro Mensch Award in her memory, to recognize two students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade for exemplary citizenship and kindness, the values that Gail held dear.

Ben and Bertha Steinberg Confirmation Award

The Steinberg Award is given annually in memory of Ben and Bertha Steinberg, who were founding members of Congregation Emanu El. This award honors the top 10% of the confirmation class as determined by their teachers and the director. Students are recommended for this award based on their participation, behavior and attendance in high school.

Honor Roll Award

The Honor Roll award honors the 2nd 10% of the confirmation class as determined by their teachers and the director. Students are recommended for this award based on their participation, behavior and attendance in high school.

Ben and Esther Noble Campership Award

The Noble Campership Award is presented to Confirmands who have exhibited outstanding leadership in youth group or in class. The award is given to attend a NFTY-TOR event held at Greene Family Camp or can be used for any Israel trip.

The Rose Goodfriend Award

The Rose Goodfriend Award was created by her children, Norris and Dr. Barry Goodfriend and their families, in memory of their mother. The Goodfriend Award is given annually to a Confirmand who has achieved academic excellence, has been a leader, and who commits to continue his/her Jewish education through high school graduation. It can be applied to any Jewish program.

The Emanuel and Cecile Wulfe Confirmation Award

The Emanuel and Cecile Wulfe Award is given by their son, Ed Wulfe, and his family in their memory. It is awarded to a Confirmand in good academic standing who has proven to be an outstanding participant and leader in Religious School. The money can be used for any Jewish youth group, camp, or Israel trip experience.

Chester Marcus RSCC Fund 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

This award is given annually based to a student who will benefit from a Jewish camp experience. It is based on enthusiasm for Judaism, Religious School attendance and participation in activities.

Connie Reischer 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

Kay Schwartz Feldt honors the memory of her daughter Connie Reischer. The campership is awarded based on financial need, desire to attend camp and overall attitude.

Ricky Schnurr 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

Gladys Schnurr honors the memory of her son, Ricky Schnurr. It is awarded to a student with special needs who will benefit from a Jewish camp experience.

Adele Buchman 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

Jason Buchman honors the memory of his mother, Adele Buchman, and is awarded to a student from a single-parent home who will benefit from a Jewish camp experience.

Sisterhood and Brotherhood 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Awards

Four camperships are awarded based on enthusiasm for Judaism, Religious School attendance and participation in activities.

Helfman Awards & Campership Winners


Esther Slotnik Award

  • 2023: Emerson Brynes
  • 2022: Alex Fiman
  • 2021: Ava Silk
  • 2020: Adrienne Smith
  • 2019: Lindsey Kronowitz
  • 2018: Noah Friesen
  • 2017: Ryan Dorfman
  • 2016: Lindsay Frankfort
  • 2015: Rebecca Rock
  • 2014: Olivia Robbins

Ellen Furst Award

  • 2023: Aliya Kottler
  • 2022: Hannah Mermelstein
  • 2021: Mason Mendelovitz
  • 2020: Aria Tonan
  • 2019: Maya Storch
  • 2018: Leah Hoffman
  • 2017: Scout Brooks
  • 2016: Madeline Rose
  • 2015: Mattie Pogach
  • 2014: Madeline Canfield

Harold Reingold Award

  • 2023: Indiana Newman, Sam Dickerman, Dean Mills
  • 2022: Anna Taylor, Danielle Simon, Cole Nodler
  • 2021: William Burger, Noah Friedman, Megan Carlson
  • 2020: Samuel Friedberg, Braden Susman, Daniel Cohen
  • 2019: Hannah Marmo, Benjamin Slater, Josef Lazar
  • 2018: Hannah Boucher, Zoe Kasman, Jonah Weber
  • 2017: Brayden Friedman, Max Kalba, Robin Russell
  • 2016: Camryn Kleiman, Ronnie Ostrin, Jake Pinsky
  • 2015: Bethany Lew, Mitchell Boniuk, Jason Levine
  • 2014: Sarah Gerlich, Brausten Estes, Evan Pfeffer

Gail Shapiro Mensch Award

  • 2023: Ava Nicolayevsky, Davis Hyatt
  • 2022: Annabel Grefe, Harris Bronstein
  • 2021: Mia Sonabend, Andrew Kruger

Chester Marcus RSCC Fund 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

  • 2023: Owen Blumberg
  • 2022: Logan Mendelovitz
  • 2021: Eli Friesen
  • 2020: David Jacobs
  • 2019: Spencer Arouty
  • 2018: Larkin Boucher
  • 2016: Samantha Rosen

Ben & Bertha Steinberg Confirmation Award

  • 2023: JJ Silk, Hannah Turner
  • 2022: Isabelle Pesikoff, Ellie Pogach
  • 2021: Anna Chaikin, Riley Greene
  • 2020: Zoe Hirschfeld, Wyatt Cyprow
  • 2019: Megan Cowan, Joel Schoenberg
  • 2018: Daniel Eastman, Eliana Estes, Nicole Sax
  • 2017: Ethan Boniuk, Hannah Boucher, Frances Zuckerbrod
  • 2016: Melissa Alter, Brianna Burgan, Andrew Burger
  • 2015: Noah Mattiuzi, Shelly Schaffer
  • 2014: Matthew Baker, Aaron Feldstein, Erica Schoenberg, Michelle Barr-Meyer

Honor Roll Award

  • 2023: Addison Berger, Sam Rudin
  • 2022: Evelyn Arouty, Jack Applebaum
  • 2021: Jack Ringold
  • 2020: Norah Feldman, Bonnie Robbins, Sarah Wechsler-Kelly
  • 2019: Dina Owers, Daisy Serebrin
  • 2018: Emily Herbst, Isaac Levit, Jacob Weber
  • 2017: Adam Myers, Mitchell Robbins, Saige Broadwell
  • 2016: Ilana Vines, Joe Lipper, Sam Weiser
  • 2015: Jason Rosenthal, Rebecca Sax
  • 2014: Beth Suttin, Sara Suttin, Eli Winter, Isaac Winter

Ben & Esther Noble Campership Award

  • 2023: Ethan Taylor
  • 2022: Cole Nodler
  • 2021: Scout Brooks
  • 2020: Leah Lynch
    2019: Taylor Kleinman
  • 2018: Dmitry Didyk
  • 2017: Rachel Feldman
  • 2016: Madison Brewer
  • 2015: Marisa Papell
  • 2014: Jennie Daum

The Rose Goodfriend Award

  • 2023: Eli Freeman
  • 2022: Larkin Boucher
  • 2021: Talia Kalmans
  • 2020: Jason Gerber
  • 2019: Emma Langkjaer
  • 2018: Madeline Canfield
  • 2017: Adam Schoenberg
  • 2016: Melissa Alter
  • 2015: Jason Klein, Robert Klein
  • 2014: Emma Dorfman
  • 2013: Rebecca Klaff and Ben Mattiuzzi
  • 2012: Jeremiah Leventhal
  • 2011: Dena Jo Lipper
  • 2010: Sarah Orsak
  • 2009: Eric Lynn
  • 2008: Gabriella Hauser
  • 2007: Kailey Caplan
  • 2006: Austin Grogin
  • 2005: Alyssa Linares
  • 2004: Jennifer Mills
  • 2003: Jason Reiner
  • 2002: Jason Busch
  • 2001: James Longhofer
  • 2000: Aron E. Low
  • 1999: Jason Spitz
  • 1998: Carrie Chess
  • 1997: Michael Schwartz
  • 1996: Julie Anna Zweig
  • 1995: Joshua Steven Pasternak
  • 1994: Emily Hoffman
  • 1993: Eric Bormaster
  • 1992: Darren Baum
  • 1991: Tara Pellenberg
  • 1990: Stephanie Perin and Rick Miller
  • 1989: Ava Lena Davila Waldman
  • 1988: Lori Introligator
  • 1987: Devyn Pollock
  • 1986: Sarah Berkson
  • 1985: Adam Pollock
  • 1984: David Pesikoff

Established in 1983

The Emanuel and Cecile Wulfe Confirmation Award

  • 2022: Noa Granoff
  • 2021: Hailey Jane Frank
  • 2020: Braden Burgan
  • 2019: Spencer Berger
  • 2018: Akira Clark
  • 2017: Kendall Kalmans
  • 2016: Jason Levine
  • 2015: Evan Pfeffer
  • 2014: Eli Winter, Isaac Winter

Connie Reischer 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

  • 2023: Maiara Kahn
  • 2022: Truman Wasserstein
  • 2021: Lexie Rose
  • 2020: Levi Kasner
  • 2019: Micah Gabelnick
  • 2018: Addison Rosenthal
  • 2017: Camryn Kleiman
  • 2016: Mia Septimus
  • 2015: Kris Potaraju
  • 2014: Maddie Rose

Ricky Schnurr 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

  • 2023: Hannah Lurie
  • 2022: Danielle Simon
  • 2021: Noah Septimus
  • 2020: Daliah Gabelnick
  • 2019: Ariana Bell
  • 2018: Ethan Canfield
  • 2017: Jonathan Curl
  • 2016: Maddie Rose
  • 2015: Ellie Pogach
  • 2014: Dina Owers

Sisterhood 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

  • 2023: Lindsey Pittsford, Deborah Mermelstein
  • 2022: Elizabeth Eisner, Madison Rose
  • 2021: Sabrina Eisner, Hannah Mermelstein
  • 2020: Brynn Cabe, Zoe Kasman
  • 2019: JJ Silk, Sophie Blitz
  • 2018: Ava Silk, Erin Bray
  • 2017: Evelyn Arouty, Caden Warren
  • 2016: Isabelle Pesikoff, Grey Warren
  • 2015: Joseph Mazella, Natalie Walters
  • 2014: Bonnie Robbins, Mattie Pogach

Brotherhood 1/2 Tuition GFC Campership Award

  • 2023: sunsetted
  • 2022: Nathan Kruger
  • 2021: Wyatt Greenberg
  • 2020: Sam Slobin
  • 2019: Bryce Dunn-Kahn
  • 2018: Halle Jacobs, Jacob Sacks
  • 2017: Ethan Van Nostrand, Alex Mantel
  • 2016: Ava Slobin
  • 2015: Marlon Spiwak, Elijah Levit
  • 2014: Bayle Vines, Ben

Erdmann Religious School Committee

  • 2023: Natalie Rubenstein
  • 2022: Ryan Wasserstein
  • 2021: Evelyn Krohn, Maya Sacks
  • 2020: Emily Pesikoff, Misha Marmo
  • 2019: Dylan Canfield, Nava Silverman
  • 2018: Benjamin Turner, Evyn Rudin
  • 2017: Sydney Kasman, Hannah Turner
  • 2015: Megan Cowan
  • 2014: Lindsey Peleg, Aidan Buchman