Posted on March 17th, 2016

Library in Religious School

I love books. As a Jewish educator, providing Jewish books for my students has always been a priority. I have always felt that the annual Temple Book Fair is not enough exposure to the wonderful selection of Jewish books out there. I decided about ten years ago that building the children/teen library at my synagogue was another way to expose my students to Jewish authors and Jewish books. I also decided that building our temple’s library and integrating library sessions into our weekly Sunday School program was the way to do it. After discussing my idea with the rabbi and religious school committee, I was able to get a small amount of money into the budget to put towards the purchase of books to grow the library, as well as to hire a librarian to run the program.

The library program met every other Sunday, opposite music, in grades K – 5. We purchased a library cart specifically for the program. Some weeks the teacher would bring the cart into the classrooms, and some weeks they met in the library. The library teacher worked in partnership with the classroom teachers on topics they were covering, and during library the children had a story read to them, as well as had the opportunity to borrow books — like they would from any other library. In this way, the children would bring Jewish books home and read them for fun, and sometimes even for a secular school class assignment when they had free choice of book. I saw the children become excited about library and about choosing a new book to bring home after they had read the one from the previous class two weeks before.

Over time, I had madrichim running the library program, which was another great way to give the appropriate students leadership roles in the religious school. I did this because the extra budget money I was able to secure only lasted a few years.    

I still believe that adding library to a religious school program is extra added enrichment, and plan to do the same in my new position.

Melissa Cohavi, RJE,  is the Director of Jewish Identity Development at Congregation B’nai Yisrael in Armonk, New York.  Prior to this she was the Director of Education at Temple Sinai in Stamford, Connecticut.