Curriculum and Values
MASKIT mixes a traditional and non-traditional approach to Jewish education, focusing on community and identity building. We see Jewish education as a project of creating a love of Judaism, a sense of identity, a confidence in questioning, and a safety in Jewish spaces for each child.
In line with our long standing mission, current best practices, and trends in Jewish eduction, our curriculum is creative, project-based, experiential, and intergenerational. This sets the stage for our young Jewish students to become confident Jewish adults who feel at ease in many types of Jewish communities, in addition to building strong Jewish literacy.
MASKIT is an exciting place where Jewish children can freely learn about their culture, traditions, and histories from a Jewish perspective, giving students the tools to feel confident in both challenging and thriving in their Jewish identities.
What is Project Based Learning?
MASKIT uses project based learning to instill a deep understanding of Jewish community, history, and identity. Project based learning is a pedagogical method that engages students in critical thinking, successfully drives specific learning outcomes, and creates opportunity for personal connection and meaning making.
In the Jewish education application of this strategy, cultural and religious markers like holidays, calendar, ritual, Tanach, Hebrew language, Eretz Yisrael, and t’fillah (prayer) are taught through experiential and multidisciplinary approaches.
The MASKIT curriculum is divided into themes, which cycle throughout the year and build on each other as students rise through the program. Teachers develop age-appropriate content that ties together (1) the theme, (2) specific skills, and (3) our overarching goals.
Through our project-based approach, MASKIT classes gives students tools to learn and/or practice:
- Jewish/Israel heritage, from ancient Jewish life in Israel and Diaspora cultures through the present day. Topics include agriculture, various Jewish languages, the movement of Jewish people across milennia, and Jewish creativity.
- Jewish history, including key cultural turning points, encounters with antisemitism, comparative study with other cultures, mapmaking, and key figures.
- Torah, Tanach, and Talmud. Topics include text study, character analysis, commentaries, the science of Torah, geography, the diversity of opinion, and meaning-making.
- Jewish arts and Judaica, including folk art, formal artistic movements, museum visits, ritual art/objects, and archeology.
- Synagogue skills, including t’filah and Torah reading.
- Hebrew reading and writing, in addition to vocabulary related to the above Jewish topics. Additional Hebrew tutoring for conversation, modern Hebrew is available.
The Doña Gracia Mendes Project: a Jewish heroine from the 16th century who escaped the Portuguese Inquisition, travelled to Antwerp, Venice, Constantinople (Istanbul), and T’veria (Tiberius), rescued persecuted Jews, directly fought the Pope on an Inquisition order, and more! Through her story, we stage age appropriate explorations of Diaspora and Jewish movement; encounter various Jewish dress, food, music, and language; discuss antisemitism in historic forms; and engage in pre-modern history of Eretz Yisrael.
Exploring Kol Nidrei: This middle school level project engages students in the skills of text decoding and interpretation, making connections between ancient times and modern day, and creating meaning in liturgical and religious experiences. Students study ancient and modern oaths, compare illuminated Hebrew manuscripts for differences in spelling and word choice, read about Kol Nidrei during the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and discuss their own personal experiences with promises. View the lesson overview.
Shivtei Yisrael: A MASKIT ArtSpace lesson on the shevatim (tribes) of Yisrael and their symbols, experienced through salt dough, scultpure, and etching. View the parent guide here.
Rabbi Pearl created the name “MASKIT” (pronounced ‘Mah-skeet’ – the Hebrew word for ‘Mosaic’), which carries with it three special meanings. First, the view of Judaism as a mosaic: the myriad, multi-faceted, and far-reaching components of Judaism which when pieced together form a picture – a mosaic – of great magnificence. Additionally, the word Mosaic plays off a suggested connection to Moshe (Moses), a pivotal figure in the origins and development of our people and heritage.
And finally, MASKIT refers to the six parts of the program which when pieced together form a solid basis for Jewish life: Mitzvot (Commandments), Avodah (Synagogue and Jewish practice), Sacred Language, K’dusha (Holiness), Israel, and Torah.
משכית: מצוות, שפת הקןדש, כבוד הקדושה והעבודה, ישראל, תורה.
Our teachers are experts in Jewish history and diverse artistic fields, with professional training in Jewish education, as well as in meeting needs of diverse learners.
At MASKIT, we invite our teachers to participate as full faculty. We meet regularly to brainstorm school-wide content, contribute our skills to each other, and support each others’ learning and growth. Teachers are provided opportunities for professional development, as well as personal skill growth.
Full teacher bios will be posted closer to the start of the year.
Shabbat is a critical piece of community and identity building, allowing students to form intergenerational relationships and connections with their kehila (synagogue community), as well as set the stage for their personal Jewish growth into adulthood. All our programs have a Shabbat component, or meet exclusively on Shabbat. Our focus on Shabbat is how we take part in our ancient heritage that has given us a day dedicated to community, rest, spirituality, growth, prayer, learning, and liberating joy.
דְּרוֹר יִקְרָא לְבֵן עִם בַּת. וְיִנְצָרְכֶם כְּמוֹ בָבַת. נְעִים שִׁמְכֶם וְלֹא יֻשְׁבַּת. שְׁבוּ נוּחוּ בְּיוֹם שַׁבָּת:
Liberty will be proclaimed for every son and daughter; relax and rest on Shabbat!
– from the piyyut by Dunash Ibn (Ben) Labrat, written in 960 in Córdoba, Spain.
Activism and Politics: Yes or No?
There are many spaces, especially in Astoria, for students and families to contribute to political and social movements; there are very few spaces for Jewish students to freely learn about their culture, traditions, and histories from a Jewish perspective. We see it as a radical act to provide this space. Our activism is Jewish, and our mission is to maintain a Jewish communal space that is focused on spiritual, cultural, and personal Jewish growth and education. MASKIT, therefore, is intentionally an apolitical space, empowering students first to grow in their own Jewish identities and feel the strength of their communal heritage.
Accessibility and Inclusive Learning
Many of our teachers have experience working with students of all needs, but we do not have dedicated learning specialists. We will work with you to ensure that your child can benefit from MASKIT programming in some way – whether it is attending events, sitting in on a class, working with teachers to create specialized learning plans, or developing a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony with the Rabbi.
Please reach out to us with any questions about how we can best include your child.